How to become a field guide

Helen Byron says there is never a dull moment working at Karongwe Private Game Reserve, South Africa.

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Helen Byron, guest liaison guide, Karongwe Private Game Reserve

What are your field guide qualifications? 

My guiding qualifications were granted by an organisation called Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA). The syllabus covers a lot of subjects, including astronomy, conservation management, botany, animal groups and animal behaviour. The FGASA course is available to anyone, regardless of background, experience and qualifications.

How did you get this field guide qualification? 

Bushwise, based in South Africa, provide a 12 month course. The first six months are spent gaining qualifications in guiding, animal tracking, rifle handling, birding and 4x4 driving experience. Once qualified, candidates are placed in a lodge for the remaining six months to gain valuable experience of the industry. Luckily enough, I established great contacts while on my placement, which led to my employment at Karongwe Private Game Reserve where I currently work as a guest liaison guide.

What is a typical day as a field guide? 

There’s no such thing as a typical day out here. Alongside game drives and bush walks with guests, my days can be spent building new river crossings, studying for the next level of guiding exams and chasing elephants out of the lodge! As a conservationist I highlight the threats wildlife face when speaking to visitors. I believe education is vital to ensure species survive. 

What would you say to people who want to become a field guide?

Do it. I recently read a quote from a fellow guide saying that you won’t ever be rich doing this job, but in terms of life experience, the role can’t be beaten. Being away from home is not always easy, but if you’re like me it will be the easiest decision you ever have to make. Jump and you’ll never look back! 

Find out more

  • Bushwise is a company based in South Africa that offers 12-month professional field guide courses. 
  • Other organisations offer shorter three or six months courses. You can find out more about the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa endorsed suggested training providers at http://www.fgasa.co.za/trainingproviders.asp
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