Become an ultimate field guide

Professional Field Guide Course in South Africa

Spend 6 months training in the African bush with an optional 6-month job placement.

GVI Hub: a home-from-home
Durations: 23 - 50 weeks
Fieldwork hours40 hrs of fieldwork per week
GVI experiencesIncludes GVI Experiences

Program information

Join GVI’s sister organisation Bushwise for 6 months of game drives, bush walks, training and wildlife discussions. At the end of it all, you’ll be a qualified field guide (safari guide), ready to work in the conservation, ecotourism, guiding or wildlife industries. Add on a 6-month job placement to get more real-world experience and successfully launch your wild career.


The Bushwise Professional Field Guide course is the most comprehensive field guiding course available. Bushwise is also the exclusive southern African training provider for the International Field Guide Association (IFGA) qualifications. Training is done in Big Five game reserves in the iconic South African Lowveld near Kruger National Park – one of the best wildlife locations in the country. 


Spend 6 or 12 months with Bushwise, gain invaluable wildlife experience, and become a qualified field guide.

Get up to 15% off selected programs before 30 April

Book before spaces fill up!
Book with confidence
Travel flexibility. Transfer for free up to 45 days before travel. Because life happens. Terms and conditions apply.
Dates & Prices
What's Included
Life On Base
Free time
Cultural Immersion
Speak to alumni
Parent Info
Your Impact
Our Ethics
Program ethics
Qualifications & Training Options
Support & Safety

Program overview

Join us in South Africa’s Lowveld region, one of the world’s best big game territories. Train to become a qualified IFGA field guide and knowledgeable conservationist while you experience the African bush at its best. This course is the ideal platform for launching a successful career in the African safari lodge industry or one of many careers in international wildlife conservation. It’s a hands-on experience in the African bush that you will never forget. Broaden your horizons while gaining diverse qualifications, work experience, and transferable skills that improve your employability. The course offers all this and the adventure of a lifetime.

On the course we offer high-quality theoretical and practical training and cover a diverse range of topics, all while situated in one of South Africa’s wildlife hotspots. The foundation of the course is structured around CATHSSETA and the International Field Guide Association (IFGA) syllabus, which will give you an in-depth knowledge and understanding of Southern African fauna and flora. On this course you can earn:


  • CATHSSETA Nature Site Guide (NQF2) qualification
  • Bushwise Professional Field Guide qualification
  • Trails Guide knowledge (practical is an add-on)
  • SASSETA Firearm Proficiency
  • Advanced Rifle Handling certificate
  • Wilderness First Aid certificate
  • Reptile Handling certificate
  • CyberTracker Track & Sign and Trailing certifications
  • CATHSSETA NQF4 knowledge
  • And much more


This, along with your additional training and development, will show potential employers around the world that you have the ability and drive to learn. You’ll have transferable skills to take into your conservation career.

The curriculum includes bush skills such as wildlife tracking, shooting competency, 4×4 driving, outdoor first aid, wildlife photography, wildlife surveying techniques and in-depth knowledge and practical application of subjects such as conservation, ecology, reserve management, geology and animal behaviour. The course is designed so applicants can develop into highly-skilled professionals in the exciting areas of field guiding, conservation, research, adventure tourism or lodge management, by providing a well-rounded, specialised education which focuses not only on the theory but also the practical aspects of wildlife conservation and guiding.

We also focus on practical skills and give students regular exposure to working and guiding around dangerous game, such as elephant, lion, rhino, leopard, buffalo and hippo. This invaluable experience gives students excellent grounding for any of our placements and future employment in Big Five game reserves, as well as research and conservation jobs in Africa and beyond.

The course is known for producing the highest calibre graduates in this demanding industry. Throughout the years, our graduates have consistently achieved the highest marks of all the long-term training providers and are considered some of the best-trained guides in the industry.

Field Guide students have the opportunity to undertake a 6-month placement. This offers real-world experience at lodges, reserves, conservation organisations and wildlife research facilities. Students have the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience, cement the information and skills learnt during the training period, and gain a valuable “foot-in-the-door” to the exhilarating and competitive safari tourism industry and a career in wildlife and conservation.


Do IFGA studies

Essential IFGA theory and practical exams, extra qualifications, certificates and soft skills so that you stand out from the crowd after graduation.

Hear the call of the wild

Witness rare and vulnerable species in their natural habitat, record epic wildlife sightings and understand the intricacies of animal behaviour.

Top-notch trainers

Learn from the best trainers in the industry, including award-winners, who are knowledgeable and professional and genuinely want you to succeed.

Work placement

Spend six months on a work placement with one of our lodge, conservation or reserve partners. Gain real experience and build a list of industry contacts.

Career guarantee

Because this program is so intensive and includes many certifications, you can qualify for an industry first – a career guarantee after graduation.

A bushveld home

Spend your days and nights immersed in the South African bush. Hear lions roar at night, watch wild dogs by the fenceline, and wake to the sound of vibrant birdsong.

Wildlife sightings

From the Big Five down to the small 5,000, learn species identification, tracking, behaviour and more. Witness incredible wildlife interactions.

Lifelong memories and friends

Join other students from South Africa and around the world with the same passion for nature and conservation.

Is this program for me?

This internship is specifically useful for someone who has or is actively studying the below subject areas at school, university or college, or has an interest in these subject areas.

  • Ecology
  • Population biology
  • Epidemiology
  • Biology
  • Environmental science
  • Wildlife management
  • Zoology
  • Animal husbandry
  • Botany
  • Ecology and evolution
  • Geology
  • Wildlife biology and conservation


Some of the example typical activities you could participate in on this program.

Game drives and walks

Spend your practical training days in the bush, observing wildlife on game drives or on foot in Big Five territory, led by professionals.

Live and train in the bush

Comfortable shared accommodation with warm meals, real beds, wifi, running water and electricity. Live and breathe bushveld air every day.

Qualifications and skills:

Gain your IFGA, CATHSSETA NQF2 and Track & Sign qualifications, First Aid, Reptile Handling and more to strengthen your employability.

Front and centre with wildlife

Our campus is home to hundreds of species, from lions to elephants, birds to reptiles. Learn wildlife behaviour and witness sightings that you’ll never forget.

Leadership responsibilities

See what it’s like to run a lodge, guide guests, and lead your fellow field guide students. Learn hospitality and soft skills that transfer to any job.

Work placement

After six months of training, take your new knowledge to the field on a work placement. Get a taste for the industry, make new contacts and start your wildlife career.


  • Leadership
  • Project management
  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • Resiliency
  • Time management


Some of the partners we work with on base.

The Southern African Wildlife College
Lowveld Trails Co.
Colin Patrick Training
The Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve
Safari Wines
SMART Solutions for First Aid
Hoedspruit Reptile Centre
Tzaneen Training Course
Wild Dreams Hospitality

Program details

Dates and prices

Select a start date:

Hot summer savings.

Book in April to get up to 15% off selected programs!

Secure your spot before spaces fill up.
Payment plans. Flexible payment plans allow you to pay in instalments.

What happens next?

Once you apply, a personal Enrollment Manager will be assigned to walk you through the rest of the process.

What’s included?

What's included
Safe and basic accommodation (usually shared)
Airport pick up (unless stated)
All project equipment
24-hour in-country support from local staff
24-hour emergency desk
GVI Experiences
Sustainable project work
Data collection and research
Leadership responsibilities
Personal project
Weekly group sessions
Internship supervisor guidance
Pre-program training
Pre-departure webinar
Pre-departure training (online)
University of Richmond endorsed specialisation course
University of Richmond endorsed leadership course
Welcome training
GVI welcome presentation
Health & safety
Local culture & environment
Impact & ethics
Child protection
Advanced leadership training
Personal development record
Project planning and management
Career services
University of Richmond careers course
Career coaching sessions (x2)
Career guarantee
LinkedIn reference – upon request
Job portal
Program certificate
University certificate – specialisation (University of Richmond)
University certificate – leadership (University of Richmond)
University certificate – careers (University of Richmond)
What's excluded
Not included
International and domestic airport taxes
Medical and travel insurance
Visa costs
Police or background check
Personal items and toiletries
Additional drinks and gratuities

Life On Base

Bushwise campuses are located in the Lowveld region of South Africa. We currently operate on two campuses, both with direct access to Big Five game reserves for daily game drives and training. 

Our original campus is at our Mahlahla location, next to the Greater Makalali Game Reserve. We ran our first ever course at Mahlahla in 2006 and have continued to grow and expand our programs. Our second location is at the Kempiana campus of the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC) where we train field guide students in collaboration with SAWC. This campus is located 15 minutes from the Orpen Gate entrance to Kruger National Park.

Living on a Bushwise campus provides you with the perfect opportunity to trade the office for a work week that unfolds in the heart of the African bushveld. Go on daily game drives, track animal spoor, identify different types of fauna and flora, learn more about guiding, and get to know other students from around the world while sitting around the campfire at night.


Away from the hustle and bustle of modern city life, accommodation in the bush is simple. Students share rondavels, lodge rooms or safari tents o...


All transport will be taken care of by the Bushwise staff on the ground, including game drives, bush walks and visits to additional training prov...


Long distance communication is available on campus, but connectivity in the region is limited. There is WiFi on campus, but signal can be tempera...


Brunch and dinner is provided every day, between activities and typical of a safari schedule. Students prepare their own breakfasts in the commun...


Limpopo is known for having a small amount of rainfall throughout the year. The year-round average temperature in the area is 21.5 °C, with Janua...

GVI experiences included in your program, at no extra cost.

Offered once a month, expand your adventure with GVI Experiences. These are just some of the activities offered on your program!

We want you to make the most of the chance to live in – and contribute towards –  the most diverse and unique wildernesses and communities on earth. Introducing GVI Experiences – immersive adventure, cultural and wellness activities exclusive to GVI that have been specially designed in collaboration with our local partners to support and stimulate sustainable economic development. 

Enhance your impact. Expand your adventure. Explore your world.

Free time

Joining a GVI program not only allows you to collaborate with communities or work toward preserving unique ecosystems – but it also offers plenty of opportunities to explore the surrounding area or travel further to see what other parts of the region have to offer over weekends.

Field staff are a great source of advice and have helped us put together the following information on local travel options. You can choose to travel before or after your experience with GVI (subject to immigration restrictions), solidifying the lifetime friendships you’ve established on the program. Please note that the below options are not included in the program fee, and would be up to you to arrange at your own expense.

Weekend Trips

Mariepskop Nature Reserve

Mariepskop Mountain is the highest peak in the northern Drakensberg. This is a great spot for hikes and views, and is just a short drive from Hoe...

Debengeni Falls, Tzaneen

Another one of the stunning local waterfalls, including a picnic area and hiking trails.


Panorama Route

Bourke’s Luck Potholes, Three Rondavels, God’s Window and scenic waterfalls are just a few things you can see within a single Saturday, should yo...

Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre

Here, you are able to assist with the rehabilitation of endangered species during short-term visits to the centre.


Kruger National Park

Choose your adventure: a solo self-drive or team up with a skilled guide in a custom open safari vehicle (OSV). Opt for a day trip or an overnigh...

Blyde River Canyon

A trip through the canyon could include boat trips, kloofing, white-water rafting, paintball, hot air ballooning and camping. This is the perfect...

Further Travels


Another major city in the country, Durban has a warmer climate than any other city in the country, with lush beaches and its own heritage tied cl...

Cederberg mountains

The Cederberg Mountain Range is an exquisite sight for adventure enthusiasts. Walk or hike your way through an experience that quite frankly, is ...


South Africa’s biggest city, Johannesburg, is roughly a five-hour drive from campus. Emerging suburbs bustling with culture include Maboneng, San...

Cape Town

Visiting Robben Island, Table Mountain, the District 6 Museum and Boulders Beach are all once-in-a-lifetime experiences. A short flight from Joha...

Cultural Immersion

Engaging intimately with a new context teaches global awareness, adaptability and critical thinking – skills highly valued in the modern marketplace. Local and cultural immersion is encouraged on all our programs around the world, and will also be one of the most enjoyable aspects of your experience. Luckily, there are many different activities that you can get involved in during your free time, or before and after your program.

On our community programs, the focus is on cultural topics, while on marine or wildlife programs the emphasis is more on the environmental element. Use your evenings and weekends to explore topics like local cuisine and religion, or how sustainable development challenges are affecting local contexts.


Hoedspruit is a town located at the gateway to South Africa’s Kruger National Park. It sits at the foot of the Klein Drakensberg, in the Limpopo ...


South Africa has celebrated over twenty years of democracy, ushered in by the inauguration of former president Nelson Mandela in 1994. Students a...


South Africa is the largest country in Southern Africa and the 25th largest country in the world by land area, with a diverse cultural population...


While English is spoken throughout the country, South Africa has 11 official languages and the population encompasses a variety of ethnic groups....

Speak to alumni

If you’d like to find out what the experience of joining a GVI project is really like, simply contact us and we’ll put you in touch with one of our many Alumni.

We’ll try to match you to an Alum based on your location, nationality, age, stage of academic career, gender, and program interests. This allows you to gain insights into the experience that is most relevant to you.

Depending on your location you might be able to speak to an Alum over the phone or online, or meet up with them face-to-face at a coffee shop nearby. We also run a series of small events around the world where you can speak to GVI Alumni, Ambassadors and staff members.

Get a first-hand perspective

Meet us

Meet the team

Get acquainted with the GVI Africa, South Africa, Mahlahla, Limpopo family


Head Trainer at Bushwise

Darryn passion for the bush came from his parents, spending many holidays all over South Africa in various game reserves or on birding trips. He ...


Head Trainer at Bushwise

As a child growing up in Johannesburg, Wayne always knew that he would be doing something nature-related when he grew up. Wayne completed his tra ...


Trainer at Bushwise

Sophie has called the South African bush home for seven years and hopes to do so for many more to come. Her career path has been varied, from wor ...


Trainer at Bushwise

Pioneer’s passion for nature comes from his childhood growing up in the remote Nkayi region of Zimbabwe. He would tend the family’s cattle, ...


Trainer at Bushwise

Originally from the Free State, Fred holds a degree in Nature Conservation and is working towards getting his Professional Field Guide qualificat ...

Parent Info

‘If only every student could do this. It changes your life in all the right ways,’ says Chris Heritage, parent of Luke Heritage, one of our teen volunteers who has participated on two GVI programs, one in Costa Rica and another in South Africa.

We are a parent-run organisation that is incredibly serious about health and safety, and increasing the impact, as well as the long-term career benefits of our programs. Our programs help young people develop the skills to select a career path that is personally fulfilling, and live a life aligned to the well-being of our planet and the global community.

GVI is a proud member of the Gap Year Association.

Ken and Linda Jeffrey, whose son Sam volunteered with GVI in Thailand, talk about how the experience affected Sam. He also went on to volunteer with GVI again in South Africa. ‘I know it sounds like a cliche but in a sense, he did go away as a boy and he came back as a young man. Both of us could recommend GVI without any hesitation to any other parent thinking about exploring an opportunity for their children to explore the world and to see different parts of it.’

Parent Info Pack

Download the Parent Pack and learn more about:

Our staff: All our projects are run by staff, selected, vetted, trained, and managed by our central office.
Health and safety: Our safety practices include a child and vulnerable adult protection policy and high participant ratios.
Staying in touch: See what’s happening on base, by following a hub’s dedicated Facebook page.
Free parent consultations: We would love to talk to you about exciting opportunities available for your child.


When it comes to support, we ensure that each participant is provided with unparalleled, 360 degree support, from your initial contact with the GVI Family, all the way through your program, and even after, as you become part of the GVI Alumni Team.

As part of this promise, we will ensure, whenever possible, that one of our dedicated staff will be available to meet you at the airport. In most locations, we also set up a Whatsapp group to help with managing airport arrivals.

We will arrange with you prior to your departure that, should you arrive in the agreed upon pick up window, a member of our staff will be there to welcome you, easily identifiable in a GVI t-shirt or holding a GVI sign and wearing a friendly smile.

This means there will be someone there to greet you as you land, and from there you will be transported to your GVI base to start your adventure and meet the rest of your team.

Your Impact

All of our programs have short-, mid- and long-term objectives that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.

Prior to your arrival on base, you will be educated about the UN SDGs. Then once you arrive on base, you’ll learn about the specific goals we have in this particular location, our various objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these.

Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to be an active global citizen after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.

Our Ethics

Below is a list of core ethics and best practices we believe are essential to the operation of high quality, ethical volunteer and sustainable development programs. We believe that all responsible volunteer and sustainable development operations should focus upon these principles. If you are considering volunteering, these are some of the key considerations you should question, to ensure that your time and money contributes towards positive change.


We want to constantly develop our own understanding of ethical best practice. In so doing, we aim to provide an exemplary industry standard for other education institutions, international development organisations, and social enterprises. Our Badge of Ethics stands for the drive to always do good, better. Find out more, click on the Badge below.

Our 10 ethical commitments


Locally Driven, Collaborative Projects

We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.


Clear Objectives & Sustainable Outcomes

We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.


Impact Reporting

We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.


Working Against Dependency

We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.


Responsible Exit Strategies

For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.


Clear Roles & Specialized Training

We aim to ensure that every participant is assigned a clear role and that they are fully trained and supported to carry out their work by specialized staff.


Respect for all

In all our actions we aim to respect the skills and efforts of all and seek to protect the rights, culture and dignity of everyone who engages with GVI.


Local Ownership

We work to ensure that credit for the results of any project, along with any data collected, research conducted, or Intellectual Property developed, remains the property of local organizations.


Transitioning from the Orphanage Model

We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.


Child and Vulnerable adult policies

We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.

Continual Development

As an organization, GVI is committed to striving toward best practice, and to educating both our potential participants, our partners, and the world at large about them. Both the volunteering and sustainable development sectors are increasingly, and rightly, under scrutiny. Many recent local and global articles highlight poor practices and questionable ethics. GVI is widely recognized for striving to apply global best practice in the volunteering, education and sustainable development sectors throughout our operations by reputable organizations such as ChildSafe.

However, global best practice is always evolving and we dedicate both time and resources to engage with internationally respected experts and learn from the latest research to ensure our programs both fulfil their potential to create maximum positive impact, and minimise their potential to create unintentional negative impact. Along with and as part of the sustainable development and volunteering community, we are constantly learning and applying this learning to practice. We do not always get everything right, but we seek feedback from our community members, partners, participants and our staff, and react accordingly. We know are already doing a great job, and feedback we have received confirms this, but we aim to do even better and are continuously refining our operations to improve upon our already excellent reputation.

Program ethics

No orphanage programs

We don’t support or allow participants to work in institutional residential care facilities, also known as orphanages. We partner with ReThink Orphanages and Freedom United.

Learn more
Child and vulnerable adult protection policy

Our Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy requires all our staff and participants to complete a criminal background check and to learn why you shouldn’t reveal a child’s identifying factors in photographs. We support the ChildSafe Movement.

Learn more
No medical volunteering

We don’t offer any programs where our participants engage in medical treatment. This is because our participants aren’t typically qualified to do this work and would therefore not be able to do this work in their home country. Our participants only assist with public health programs.

Learn more
No disability support programs

We don’t offer any programs where our participants work directly with people with disabilities. This is because our participants aren’t typically qualified to do this work and would therefore not be able to do this work in their home country.

Learn more
Aligned to local objectives

Each one of our initiatives is aligned to objectives set by a local organisation or professional. Our staff and participants work to support these local actors in achieving their specific goals.

Local employees remain employed

Our participants don’t replace the staff employed by local organisations. Rather, they support currently employed staff with achieving their objectives. Our goal is always to increase local capacity to address local problems.

Local employees remain focused

Participants require training and support to ensure that they carry out tasks correctly. Our staff provide this training and support so that local staff can focus on what is truly important to their organisation at the time.

No entertainment-based activities

We don’t support the use of wild animals for entertainment purposes. This includes riding animals, having them perform tricks, feeding or bathing them or getting close to them to take photos

No orphaned animal sanctuaries

We don’t encourage, support or allow the rearing of “orphaned” wild baby animals kept at a “sanctuary”. The conservation value of these types of programs is negligent and would only ethically be used in extremely rare cases

Guidelines for touching or movement restriction

When wild animals are restricted for conservation purposes we follow the guidelines of Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA), approved by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

Animal welfare guidelines

We ensure that the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare are followed. These include the freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from distress, discomfort, hunger, thirst, fear, pain, injury or disease.

Local community empowerment

We ensure that conservation efforts are also always locally led, that community needs are front-and centre of any conservation effort and that our participants, projects and partners work to increase local community engagement in local conservation efforts.

Learn more
No veterinary programs

We don’t offer any veterinary programs or animal rescue and rehabilitation programs. We don’t allow participants to do any work they would not be able to do in their home country.

Learn more


A GVI program is an investment in your career. No matter which you choose, you will be working toward improving your employability by mastering new social skills, gaining further technical expertise and earning qualifications in many cases. Most of our staff are, in fact, GVI Alumni, and we have helped many of our Alumni discover, move toward, and earn their own personal dream jobs. Each program includes introductory workshops, ongoing presentations, as well as on-the-ground professional support provided by our very own trained staff members. In addition, our training programs are critical for helping us to ensure the long-term impact of our sustainable development projects around the world.

For all GVI participants

Orientation: Travelling Responsibly and Ethically

Learn about the importance of child and vulnerable adult protection best practices and how to apply them while on project.

Orientation: UN Sustainable Development Goals

Introduction to the history and evolution of sustainable development, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and how these related to your project work.

Orientation: Further Opportunities for Impact

Learn about our country locations and