Volunteer Work Abroad Since 1997

Spend six months training in the African bush with an optional six months working on a game reserve

Course Overview

Join us in South Africa’s Lowveld region, one of the world’s best big game territories and train to become a qualified field guide and experience the African bush at its best. This course is the ideal platform for a successful career in the African safari lodge industry or for a hands on experience in the African bush that you will never forget.

"Bushwise is a great training asset to the safari world" Courteney Blunden, Africa on Foot 

The curriculum includes bush skills such as shooting, 4x4 driving and bush knowledge such as conservation, reserve management, geology and animal behaviour. The course has been designed to develop applicants into highly skilled professionals in the exciting area of field guiding and lodge management, by providing a well-rounded, specialised education which focuses not only on the theory but the practical aspects of safari feild guiding. The one-year course has been structured to allow the student to spend 6 months training on campus and 6 months on work experience at a 3 to 5 star rated safari lodge or research program.

Unlike many other training providers, Bushwise (the course provider) gives students a regular exposure to working and guiding around dangerous game, such as Elephant, Lion, Rhino, Leopard, Cheetah and Hippo. This invaluable experience gives students excellent grounding for placements and future employment in ‘Big Five’ game reserves in Africa.

All the trainers are from The Field Guide Association of Southern Africa (FGASA) and the course is both theoretical and practical. Students who choose to take the six month course and not the work placement will still be professionally qualified if they pass their exams.

GVI is real volunteering

Our projects are constantly evolving according to the needs on the ground at any given time. All the information displayed here will give you an overall feel for the project, but you should be prepared for any changes in the field when you travel. An evolving project means that we can constantly meet the needs and requirements of our partners, who dictate the work that we do. The way it should be.

Course Life

Typically the day will start early at around 5.30 - 6am. You will usually grab a cup of tea before heading out into the bush for a morning of practical training laden with reference books of the African bush and a pair of good binoculars. Each week you will be focusing on a different module such as birds, mammals, 4 X 4 skills etc.

On your practical sessions in the bush, either a walk or a drive, you will concentrate on these modules and put all the theory you have learnt in the classroom into practice in the field. For example, you might have collected some specimens that morning which you will bring back to the classroom for identification before the afternoon practical.

At the end of each week all the students are tested on that weeks module before moving onto the next one. However, learning of each topic is continuous as while you are out in the bush nature is all around you so you cannot help but increase your knowledge and skills as the weeks progress.

Bushwise follows the curriculum of FGASA and we use the manuals as a reference tool as you will be taught by experienced guides and instructors.

After the morning activity you will be welcomed with a hearty brunch. By midday you will be pretty tired and the African heat will certainly make you drowsy so all the students have a break to relax, rest or study….remember you have a test at the end of the week! After a break you will be ready to get some more fresh air and head out for an afternoon practical session building on your skills and knowledge gained in the morning session. All the teams return for an evening meal sat around the camp fire discussing their experiences that day.

The course runs for 4 weeks and then you will have 1 week off to relax, either at camp or you are welcome to go off exploring. This might change at certain times but will basically follow this timeline. There is plenty to do here with Kruger National Park on our doorstep, visits to the Blyde River canyon, whitewater rafting, microlighting, horse back safaris - the list is endless! Please note that during time off, students are welcome to stay at the campus but please note that food, laundry, transport etc is NOT included during this time as the kitchen and cleaning staff will also be having time off.

The course is fun but be warned this is no holiday - days are long and to reach the standard required to pass you need to be dedicated and focused.

Project Details

The course, run by Bushwise Field Guides, is known for producing the highest calibre graduates for the demanding hospitality industry.

The academic curriculum is accredited by the Field Guide Association of Southern Africa (FGASA); the ‘South Africa Qualifications Board’; and the ‘Hospitality, Education and Sports Training Authority’

In 2012 the Bushwise graduates acheived the highest marks of all the FGASA long term providers and are considered some of THE best trained guides in the industry.

One year Bushwise students have the opportunity to be placed at a lodge or research placement for their 6 month work experience period. A few of these placement lodges/research centres are listed below. Please remember, the allocation is based on performance, interest and personality as determined by Head trainer and all students MUST pass both the FGASA and Bushwise course requirements before being placed at any placement.

We place our students at some of the finest lodges and predator research bases in Southern Africa:

Nkambeni Tented Camp

Situated at the Numbi gate of Kruger National Park, guides take guests on whole day or half day game drives into KNP. The concession is open to the KNP and is in a great game viewing area of KNP. All guides who have gone there have had a great experience. It is a great lodge to work at if you enjoy KNP (which we all do) and are interested in getting a lot of sighting experience. The lodge takes quite a few guides, usually for a placement period of at least 6 months.


Makalali Private Game Lodge

Situated on the GMPGR the lodge normally takes 2 guides for the placement period. The reserve is 26000Ha and has the Big 5 even though the Buffalo are not yet free roaming. You would do game drives in the morning and afternoon with guests who stay for at least 2 days. You would be their guide for their entire period of stay. Fantastic experience in sightings as well as guest interaction is gained here. You will be given the opportunity to show your guests a reserve which has come a far way from cattle farm back into a huge Wildlife protected area.


GVI  - Research Placement

If you enjoy more of the research side of things, then GVI  is where you will want to be placed. GVI are involved in predator research and have daily drives whereby they track collared animals with the volunteers. 


Siyafunda - Research Placement

Siyafunda is on the 26000Ha Makalali Private Game Reserve and focuses on many research projects such as monitoring the elephants or monitoring the Ground Hornbill population etc. You, as a guide, would take the volunteers out on data collecting drives for all the big 5 and smaller animals. You may also be able to take part in a Lion darting exercise or some type of animal relocation or release opportunity. If you like research / guiding and not having the pressure of finding Big 5 everyday, then this is a great place for an awesome experience.

More lodge & research placements:

Bonamanzi - www.bonamanzi.co,za

Nambiti Lodge - www.nambiti.com

Africa on Foot - www.africaonfoot.com

Karongwe Portfolio Lodges - www.karongweportfolio.com

Rhino River Lodge - www.rhinoriverlodge.co.za

Ivory Tree Lodge - www.ivorytree.co.za

LEO Africa - www.leoafrica.org

How this program makes a difference:

Those staying for 50 weeks will have the opportunity to gain 6 months work experience. Placements are allocated based on performance, interest and personality (as determined by the head trainer). All students MUST pass the FGASA and Bushwise course requirements before being allocated a work placement which may involve working at a game lodge as a guide or assisting a wildlife research team.


I'm happy I decided to come and do this course, Ive learnt so much about nature and had some experiences I will never forget. I've met alot of good people and made some life long friends. I would...
Diana Farina

I'm happy I decided to come and do this course, Ive learnt so much about nature and had some experiences I will never forget. I've met alot of good people and made some life long friends. I would recommend this course for anyone interested in wanting to know more about the natural world and themselves a little better too!

The bush is not just the Big 5. It is interaction between all living and non-living organisms. This course provides you with the background needed to fully enjoy the wonders of the bush. The passion...
Nico Muench

The bush is not just the Big 5. It is interaction between all living and non-living organisms. This course provides you with the background needed to fully enjoy the wonders of the bush. The passion our instructors show when teaching us about the bush, has not only provided me with a lot of knowledge, which I will be able to use in any forecoming situation in my live, but has also inspired me.

Latest from the Base...

Sleeping under the stars, bush walks, game drives, astronomy... first few weeks of life in the Bush!
Tree-climbing cheetahs on the Makalali Game Reserve, Bushwise!

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Program Details

Safari Field Guide Course in South Africa
South Africa

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Program Cost

  • £7950.00
  • €9540.00


(GBP18 / USD31 / EUR22 / AUD31) The myTsafe online document store keeps copies of your most valuable and private information safe and you can share them easily and securely with others.
(GBP15 / USD26 / EUR18 / AUD26) By making a small contribution to GVI's Charitable Trust you will support conservation projects that can offset the impact of CO2 emissions associated with your international flights.  Visit www.gvi.org for more information.

What's Included

  • Pre-departure support and discounted services
  • 24-hour emergency phone
  • Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
  • Arrival orientation
  • Long term experienced staff
  • Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
  • All meals (unless otherwise stated in field manuals)
  • Welcome meeting
  • Location orientation
  • All necessary project training by experienced staff
  • All necessary project equipment and materials
  • 24-hour in-country support
  • Transfer from Oliver Tambo International airport
  • Limited internet access at no extra cost
  • All compulsory books
  • 2 x sets of uniforms
  • Other activities, such as sleep outs, Kruger trips, etc.
  • Bushwise T-shirt, fleece jacket, cap and beanie
  • FGASA (Field Guides Association of Southern Africa) national certificate - Level 1 - practical and theory
  • FGASA Advanced Rifle Handling Certificate
  • SASSETA (Rifle handling, proficiency, maintaining of fire arms and shooting)
  • THETA (The Hospitality, Sports, Education and Training Authority) National Qualification (Level 2) in Nature Guiding
  • National First Aid Certificate
  • Dangerous game experience
  • 4x4 competency
  • Ethical guiding principles
  • 6 months work experience and testimonial from a 4-5 star lodge or a research program if included

What's Not Included

  • Flights
  • Medical and travel insurance
  • Visa costs
  • Personal kit
  • Additional drinks and gratuities
  • Extra local excursions
  • International and domestic airport taxes
  • Professional drivers permit
  • Transport costs to placement
  • Laundry, food and transport during weeks off
  • Recommended reference books