Bundu Bash Your Way to Become Field Guide

field guide

Do you dream of working in nature while making a difference and educating people on conservation? Does being a Field Guide spark your interest? Take a read and find out how with EcoTraining.

Before I took to the world of the Internet to do some much needed research, a field guide and game ranger, in my mind, were two job descriptions representing the same type of work – cruising around breathtaking nature in a really cool Jeep while telling eager tourists all about the beautiful environment they live in. Yup, basically I imagined that being a field guide or game ranger must be great. Who wouldn’t enjoy that type of work? Waking up to the open stretches of the savanna each morning must be mind-blowing.

Who’s Who in the Zoo?

Or in this case, the wild…

Well, before we get ahead of ourselves here. We should clarify a few terms. It turns out that my idea of a field guide and game ranger weren’t quite accurate. Indeed, they don’t do the same things and actually perform very different roles in the running of game reserves.

I spoke to EcoTraining’s Kath Greathead to discuss the difference between the two roles and what it is that they actually do. The information she gave me, along with my other research, brought me to some descriptive conclusions on how to easily differentiate between the two fascinating wild life careers.

The Game Ranger

A game ranger has more of a managerial role. Their work is very hands-on and practical – all to ensure the conservation of the wild life areas and the game living within those areas (just in case you got confused there, I don’t mean the card games kind of gamegame here refers to wild animals which are hunted or kept on game reserves for conservation purposes).

Rangers focus more on the flora and fauna, in other words the animals and plants, than on the actual tourist or sightseeing experience. Some of their duties include:

  • Managing water supplies
  • Game fencing
  • Disease and sickness control
  • Ensuring the carrying capacity is never breached
  • Capturing and transferring game to prevent interbreeding
  • Ensuring the overall wellness of the game and their living environment

The Field Guide

A field guide, on the other hand, is there to ensure the wellbeing of the guests on the game reserve, and to educate them on its wildlife. Field guides are the people that go with you on the game drive and overload you with fascinating information. Some of their duties include:

  • Help the game ranger if necessary by notifying them of problems they see whilst they are doing game drives with the guests.
  • Conduct wilderness walks through the game reserve.
  • Conduct safari drives in a 4 x 4, day and night drives.
  • Educate guests with interesting facts on the animals and the natural environment
  • Ensure safety of guests at all times.
  • Be prepared and have the know-how in case a dangerous wild-life encounter occurs.

As Kath from EcoTraining explained to me, field guides are there, first and foremost, to give their guests such a great wilderness experience that they themselves end up becoming champions of the environment and nature too. Indeed, field guides are also there to explain and emphasise how important and beneficial conservation is. The aim is to inform and inspire guests to heed the information and take on the role of becoming a caretaker of the planet in their own lives and community.

Environmental superheroes? Yes please. Our planet needs more of them.

Field guides create ambassadors of conservationists, ready to fight for our planet’s wellbeing and our quality of lives on our beloved Earth.

Anton Lategan, managing director at EcoTraining, says this about the role of a field guide:

“A guide is a leader, a guardian of nature, an interpreter, and an honest host to visitors.”

Want to be an Environmental Superhero too?

No pressure, hey? If you have a passion for people and all aspects of nature, then becoming a field guide may be natural to you. It may not even seem like a job at the end of the day, but rather like something you do simply because you’re passionate about it. It can become the kind of job that makes you wake up feeling excited for each and every day.

This job may seem like the perfect solution to your future career aspirations, but one thing to be aware of is that this type of work is not your general 8-5 job. You won’t be living in a city and you will probably need to move quite far away from family and friends. While this lifestyle suits many, it isn’t for everyone. So take that into consideration when weighing out your options on what to study.

But how do you make this kind of dream and lifestyle a reality? Good question.

EcoTraining – Study with One of the Best

EcoTraining is a South African tertiary institution with its head offices in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga. Their courses take place on game reserves across the country, like in the Kruger National Park (yay for you guys who actually get to do one of these courses!).

They are solely focused on training and it has led to the graduation of top-class field guides since 1993. As a result of EcoTraining’s experience and focus, they offer a curriculum of the highest standards. Their courses will allow you to find work in countries across the world as a field guide.

EcoTraining game reserves are located in various countries in Africa. Their training is very personal and in-depth, each class consisting of only 20 students, and each instructor may only be responsible for 10 students. This means that you get more knowledge from an experienced field guide.

EcoTraining is located in some of the biggest and best game reserves in the world, and since these have no fences to separate them from the wildlife, you are permanently in contact with the wild and nature.

Eco Training has campuses in the following areas:

  • South Africa
  • Botswana
  • Kenya
  • Zimbabwe

All of these zones are rich in biodiversity and are well known for their excellent game drives and wildlife. EcoTraining gives you the opportunity to experience all of this while obtaining the knowledge and education needed to be the best field guide that you can be. You’ll walk away from this with great experiences, new friends from all over the world and irreplaceable memories.

 

Prepare to be Knowledge-ed Up

As you probably assume, a course like this is extremely practical. You would definitely need to purchase a good pair of boots and some comfy clothes before starting. But as with most training, theory is included. Don’t worry, it’s nowhere near as complicated as calculus.

To graduate as a qualified field guide that can immediately get work at a game reserve, you would need to take the Professional Field Guide course. Once you have completed this course, you can take other short courses to expand on your knowledge and expertise.

Some of the topics EcoTraining covers in its Professional Field Guide course include:

  • ecology and geology (this is where nature begins!)
  • animal behaviour
  • tracks and tracking night drives (you may find yourself giving an astronomy lesson in the future)
  • basic bush and survival skills
  • theory on all of the different animals (birds, mammals, reptiles, reptiles, fish)

 

They also offer some other courses. These are for anyone who wishes to expand on their knowledge or even for field guides who would like to build on their existing qualifications. Some of these short courses include:

  • Field Guide Level 1

This is a great way to start your field guide career. This a short 55 day course and will provide you with the basic knowledge needed to begin your field guiding career and to see if you’re really interested in pursuing it as a career. It’s also used by many students as a gap year option.

  • Trails Guide

This is a 28 day course. It’s for anyone who wishes to expand their knowledge of trail walking and hiking and who wants to increase the quality of their already obtained qualifications.

They also offer short courses like wildlife photography. Head on over to their website to find out more.

 

Say Yes to the Nest

If you’re anything like me, reading this has given you a huge desire to drop everything you’re doing now, travel to Mpumalanga, and start a course right away.

Of course, these things require some preparation, so if you’ve decided that one of EcoTraining’s courses is for you, then contact the organisation ASAP to book your place. You may be on your way there sooner than you think.

Here’s one last word from MD, Anton Lategan.

“A guide should represent the highest standards of ethics and care for nature and people in the wilderness and in their own community. Guides are the key to sustainable tourism as they passionately take a stand for conservation through steering the people that surround them in their interactions with nature.”

If you feel that’s the type of guide you can be – don’t hesitate to contact them right now. Here are some testimonials from past students, as recorded by Gesa Nietzel, on their experience with EcoTraining:

EduConnect 2cents

If you just love nature and people, want to do something that makes a difference and you can’t stand the thought of an office job, then something like this may be the answer for you. If you aren’t entirely sure if this what you want to do – do a shorter course as a gap year. Or take a look at our Environmental interest page for some really cool information on all things nature and environment related – maybe it’ll inspire you to study something like conservation ecology.

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