Join GVI’s sister organisation Bushwise for 23 weeks 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 has made a name for itself as a leading field guide training provider for FGASA qualifications and beyond. 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 23 or 50 weeks with Bushwise, gain invaluable wildlife experience, and become a qualified field guide.
Join us in South Africa’s Lowveld region, one of the world’s best big game territories. Train to become a qualified 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 the FGASA (Field Guide Association of Southern Africa) syllabus, which will give you an in-depth knowledge and understanding of Southern African fauna and flora. On this course you can earn:
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 FGASA 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.
Essential FGASA theory and practical exams, extra qualifications, certificates and soft skills so that you stand out from the crowd after graduation.
Witness rare and vulnerable species in their natural habitat, record epic wildlife sightings and understand the intricacies of animal behaviour.
Learn from the best trainers in the industry, including award-winners, who are knowledgeable and professional and genuinely want you to succeed.
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.
Because this program is so intensive and includes many certifications, you can qualify for an industry first – a career guarantee after graduation.
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.
From the Big Five down to the small 5,000, learn species identification, tracking, behaviour and more. Witness incredible wildlife interactions.
Join other students from South Africa and around the world with the same passion for nature and conservation.
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.
Some of the example typical activities you could participate in on this program.
Spend your practical training days in the bush, observing wildlife on game drives or on foot in Big Five territory, led by professionals.
Comfortable shared accommodation with warm meals, real beds, wifi, running water and electricity. Live and breathe bushveld air every day.
Gain your Field Guides Association of Southern Africa NQF2, Track & Sign qualifications, First Aid, Reptile Handling, and more to strengthen your employability.
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.
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.
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.
Some of the partners we work with on base.
|Safe and basic accommodation (usually shared)|
|Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)|
|All project equipment|
|24-hour in-country support from local staff|
|24-hour emergency desks|
|Group introductory call|
|Endorsed GVI Specialisation Course|
|Endorsed Leadership Course|
|Sustainable project work|
|Data collection and research|
|Real projects with partners|
|Weekly group check ins|
|Remote Academic Internship Supervisor|
|Remote Career Internship Supervisor|
|Preferential recruitment on GVI positions|
|Job portal access|
|Endorsed Careers Course|
|Career coaching sessions|
Certificates and achievements
|PDF reference - upon request|
|Linkedin reference and skills endorsement|
|Additional drinks and gratuities|
|Extra local excursions|
|International and domestic airport taxes|
|Medical and travel insurance|
|Personal items and toiletries|
|Police or background check|
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...
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.
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.
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...
Another one of the stunning local waterfalls, including a picnic area and hiking trails....
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...
Here, you are able to assist with the rehabilitation of endangered species during short-term visits to the centre....
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...
A trip through the canyon could include boat trips, kloofing, white-water rafting, paintball, hot air ballooning and camping. This is the perfect...
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...
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...
Visiting Robben Island, Table Mountain, the District 6 Museum and Boulders Beach are all once-in-a-lifetime experiences. A short flight from Joha...
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....
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25 Mar, 2015
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.
Head Trainer at Bushwise
Nico was exposed to the bush early on. His grandfather played a massive role in his life, sharing his passion, knowledge and stories of the Afric ...
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 ...
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 ...
‘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.’
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.
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.
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.
We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.
We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.
We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.
We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.
For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.
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.
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.
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.
We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.
We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Learn about the importance of child and vulnerable adult protection best practices and how to apply them while on project.
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.
Learn about our country locations and further opportunities available to you during or after your program.
To ensure that life on base is harmonious and efficient, Bushwise students are split into groups. Each group will have a week “on-duty” to gain experience in camp management and logistics. Every student will have a week as camp leader and they will be responsible for the group’s obligations for that week.
Also known as FGASA Level 1, this is the first field guide qualification you can earn with FGASA. As an Apprentice Field Guide, you will be able to identify the major living and nonliving features of the natural environment and interpret them at a level based mainly on observation and from an elementary scientific and cultural perspective. As a general guideline, a field guide has a sound knowledge of the history, geology, plants and animals (i.e. birds, mammals, reptiles, etc.) in their guiding area.
CATHSSETA is responsible for the travel and tourism sector in South Africa. The NQF2 enables you to create and conduct a short guided experience, based on local natural and cultural resources, that entertains and informs visitors. It enables you to be a competent guide operating within a local area. Expansion into other sectors of tourism is also possible.
Your Bushwise certificate demonstrates that you’ve gone through a comprehensive and exceptional field guide training program. It is earned in combination with your other certificates when you pass all of the in-house evaluations and exams. In the industry, Bushwise is the leading field guide training provider, so having this qualification makes you stand out from the crowd.
The FGASA Apprentice Trails Guide is an individual who is in training (in an apprentice program) to become a Trails Guide and will learn how to function as 2nd Rifle and later as 1st Rifle during the training phase. During the Bushwise Professional Field Guide course, students will complete their Advanced Rifle Handling and write the theory portions of their trails guide qualification. The practical portion of the Apprentice Trails Guide qualification is an add-on and is not included in the price.
Firearm Proficiency forms part of the theory training for qualifications in rifle handling and trails guiding. This includes all three firearm proficiency unit standards according to SASSETA (Safety and Security Sector Education and Training Authority). These are required for any participant who wishes to pursue trails guide qualifications.
The FGASA Advanced Rifle Handling (ARH) certificate recognizes the knowledge and skills of Apprentice and Lead Trails Guides to react efficiently and safely to unexpected charges by potentially dangerous animals, emphasising maximum safety for their guests, themselves, and the animal.
Bushwise works with SMART First Aid to provide wilderness first aid training. This course is a SAQA Unit Standard ID 119567, including basic life support and first aid procedures. It includes important first aid skills to manage common medical and trauma situations. This course is adapted especially for remote areas and wilderness, and includes CPR certification.
Bushwise conducts its reptile training with the Hoedspruit Reptile Centre. Their FGASA-accredited reptile orientation course is designed to train and prepare field guides to identify snake and other reptile species, understand physiology, health and welfare, venom and venom apparatus, conduct basic snake bite first aid. Participants earn a certificate of attendance.
This course is designed to benefit the novice tracker and fine-tune the skills of an experienced tracker. Aspects covered are the principles of tracking, track and sign identification, the study of animal gaits and movements, tracking techniques, the study of animal behaviour and signs, and animal trailing methods. All assessments are accredited by CyberTracker and FGASA.
The FGASA NQF4 or Field Guide qualification (previously known as Level 2) requires a minimum of one year of guiding experience and is not earned on a course. However, to prepare you for this step in your career, during your Bushwise course you will gain knowledge specific to the NQF4 qualification. This includes more complex topics and theory.
We won’t sugarcoat it — traveling abroad is usually a complex process that carries an element of risk. But this is exactly why we’re passionate about providing extensive support throughout the process as well as the highest safety standards during the in-country phase. We believe that volunteering abroad should not only be impactful, but an enjoyable experience that carries as little risk as possible. This is exactly how we’ve been able to maintain our reputation as the most highly respected volunteering organisations in the sector over the past two decades.
It takes courage to book a GVI program, get on a flight, and head off to somewhere new. Volunteering offers a level of cultural immersion that typical backpacking or holidays ju...
As the saying goes: ‘Expect the best, plan for the worst’. Cliched or not, we take it to heart. This tenet is at the core of how GVI operates when it comes to promoting the heal...
The weather isn’t just a topic for polite small-talk here at GVI. We have emergency action plans in place for all scenarios. So when the weather, or other natural forces, takes ...
Once GVI has matched a participant to a program that suits their passions and goals, our team aims to set the right expectations for them. In the event that false expectations a...
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