So you want to become a safari guide?
Many people from all over the world fall in love with the concept of becoming a safari guide or field guide. I get asked the question all the time over various social media platforms “how can I become a guide?” There is no simple answer to this question because every country has it’s own systems.
What are some of the obstacles to becoming a guide?
For those that dream of guiding in far-off lands, almost without fail, the work and residence permits are the greatest obstacle. Because guiding is a highly sought after career there is a lot of competion within a country for these jobs. Naturally each country wants to protect it’s citizens and therefore does not want expatriates coming in and competing with locals.
So how do you overcome this obstacle? Usually, in order to justify a work or residence permit, you need to posess skills and qualifications not common-place in that country. For many people this is as simple as a language. If I need a guide that can speak French but I cannot find one locally, I can justify employing an expatriate guide. University degrees and higher learning in any field are also a great help. The bottom line is that in order to go and guide in a foreign country, you must be able to bring value.
Getting your foot in the door
As a youngster desperate to become a game ranger, a safari guide or anything else that would allow me to spend my days in the wilderness, I hit a brick wall. “Your qualifications look great, but you don’t have any experience”. “Sorry, we only hire guides with a minimum of a years experience”. How do you get experience if nobody will hire you as a guide to get experience?
How did I do it? I volunteered and worked during my holidays at various places in the bush. Was I guiding? No. I was fixing toilets, repairing dam walls and fence-lines and doing anything else. But, I was gaining bush time and making sure that I had a few great references behind me. The bottom line is there is a lot of competition out there to become a safari guide. The more FGASA or other qualifications you have behind you and the more experience you come with, the better your chances.
Gaining the right qualifications
While every country has it’s own qualifications, the most widely recocnized qualificaiton is the FGASA guiding qualification. FGASA is the Field Guide Association of Southern Africa and has been around for more than 30 years. Despite it’s name including southern Africa it will not qualifiy to to guide in other southern African countries such as Botswana and Zimbabwe. What it does to, is give you credibility that you have studied a solid qualification. The Botswana Qualifications Authority’s Nature Guide qualification covers about 85% of the same subject matter as FGASA. Some schools will allow you to write both the national exam as well as the FGASA NQF2 on the same course http://www.guidetrainingcourses.com/your-classroom-in-the-wilderness/
The life of a safari guide
Training as a nature guide in the unspoilt wilderness may well be the best thing you ever do. Driving around with guests searching for Africa’s iconic willdife sounds pretty awesome doesn’t it? Make no mistake, it is not all sunshine and roses. Being a safari guide is not a job, it is a lifestyle. There is no 8-5 and for months on end, there are no weekends. You wake pre-dawn and put your guests to bed a few hours before mid-night. If you can hack the hours and are great with people it can be an awesome career! Still up for it? Contact Us!