Prior to arrival in South Africa
In order to apply for the guide training, you need to be at least 18 years old and have solid English skills to follow the instructions of your trainers. Furthermore, you need to have a valid driver’s license. It is very important that you are physically fit as your daily routine in the course involves lots of walking and physical activity, often under high temperatures.
When joining the 10-week Apprentice Field Guide, the 4 ½-months Apprentice Trails Guide (including Apprentice Field Guide), the 6-months Marine Guide (including Apprentice Field Guide and Trails Guide) programme or the 4-week Marine Specialization course, you do not need any special knowledge or prerequisites. When you would like to take part in the 7-week Trails Guide Specialization Course, you need to have at least achieved the Apprentice Field Guide qualification.
In each case you need to be flexible, open-minded and willing to work in an international team as well as independently and be motivated to learn and to study. Regarding visa requirements, you should inform yourself in advance at the department of foreign affairs of your home country or ask the Natucate team directly. Last but not least, you are required to get suitable travel health insurance before departing to South Africa.
Prior to your departure we will support you during the preparation phase, assist you with finding suitable travel insurance and flights. Furthermore, we will provide you with pre-departure information material.
During the course, you will be accommodated in a training camp in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, receive full board during course days and have access to drinking water, tea, coffee and juice all day long. Moreover, you will be given a uniform*, bed linen and a towel, can use free laundry service for your uniform and receive all necessary study books. Daily excursions/classroom hours as well as all FGASA-related fees for the duration of the course are included in the programme fee as well. Experienced trainers will instruct you throughout the course and support you in case of any questions. The Natucate team will also be available for you 24/7 if you have questions or problems. Flights, travel insurance, visa fees, airport transfer, accommodation and transport outside programme hours, further drinks (bottled water, alcoholic beverages and soft drinks) as well as personal expenses are not included in the programme fee.
*At the start of your 10-week Apprentice Field Guide course you will be provided with 3 t-shirts, 1 golf shirt, a cap and a polar fleece long-sleeve jacket. Additional uniform is also provided on the other specialized courses.
We always recommend to talk to your doctor and to get information on what vaccinations he/she suggests. In general, it is advised to be vaccinated against morbilli-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus. You should also consider being vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B, typhoid fever, rabies and pneumococci and think about taking prevention medications and/or standby emergency malaria treatments with you – even though the part of South Africa where you’ll be living and working is free from malaria. Before your departure to South Africa you should speak to your doctor about the different ways to prevent malaria. The CDC is also a good source to find recommendations on vaccinations.
Furthermore, you should bring along a small “first-aid-kit”. This kit should include plasters and medication against diarrhea, headache, and nausea. If you take medication on a regular basis please make sure to take enough of it with you, as the medical supply may not be sufficient in certain cases while being in the course. For current information about South Africa you should check out the homepage of the foreign department of your home country. It is obligatory for each programme participant to get travel health insurance that covers the entire duration of your course stay.
The Apprentice Field Guide course is offered for 10 weeks.
The Apprentice Trails Guide course is offered for 7 weeks or 4 ½ months – the ladder includes the Apprentice Field Guide course and is therefore suitable for beginners.
The Marine Guide course is offered for 4 weeks or 6 months – the ladder includes the Apprentice Field Guide and Trails Guide course and is therefore particularly suitable for beginners.
You should pack sturdy shoes and clothes (t-shirts, pants, shorts) which are coloured in beige, khaki, ochre, or similar “bush colours”. Do not forget to bring long-sleeved, light clothing to protect you from insect bites. Since it can get cold during the nights and in the mornings, we recommend you bring some warm clothing as well, a scarf to cover your face and maybe a thermal bottle for a warm drink during excursions in the morning. During the day short-sleeved clothing is most comfortable. Please also pack a waterproof jacket and pants. Other items you should pack include binoculars and a torch/headlamp (essential), personal toiletries, insect repellant, sunscreen, a hat to protect you from the sun, a daypack, your laptop, a sleeping bag, refillable water bottle(s)/bladder(s), a swim suit plus towel and flip flops. A solar rechargeable battery pack for your cell phone is also recommended.
The following books are included in the programme fee (subject to change):
10-week FGASA Apprentice Field Guide Course:
FGASA Field Guide Manual
FGASA Field Guide Workbook
FGASA Guiding Skills Manual
Robert’s Birds of Southern Africa
7-week FGASA Apprentice Trails Guide Course:
FGASA Trails Guide Manual
FGASA Trails Guide Workbook
FGASA Advanced Rifle Handling Manual
Track and Signs Book
4-week FGASA Marine Guide Course:
FGASA Marine Guide Workbook
FGASA Marine Guide Manual
Two Oceans Book
In order to get well prepared for your course we recommend taking a closer look at the following books (in English) – these and a range of other books are also available in the camp library:
*- Emmet, Megan; Patrick, Sean: Game Ranger in your Backpack
- Sinclair, Ian; Hockey, Phil; Tarboton, Warwick: Sasol Birds of Southern Africa
- Estes, Richard: The Behaviour Guide to African Mammals
- van Wyk, Braam; van Wyk, Piet: Field Guide to Trees of Southern Africa
- Liebenberg, Louis: Photographic guide to Tracks and Tracking of Southern Africa*
Yes, of course you can. Participating in the course is also for personal enrichment and education and does not obligate you to receive a professional qualification.
Arrival in South Africa
We will support you with finding a flight to South Africa, but you need to do the final bookings on your own. You will need to arrive in Port Elizabeth one day prior to the official start date of the course. Please make sure that your flight arrives by noon as the transfer service will pick you up at 01:00 PM and takes you from the airport to camp (transfer fee: R250). In rare cases you need to arrange a transport yourself – we can provide you with a company’s contact number that help with transfers. This also applies to the way back to the airport after the course is finished.
After your arrival in camp, you can get accommodated, get to know your team, the instructors and other staff member and learn more about important camp and safety rules and the upcoming course schedule.
During the guide course
10-week Apprentice Field Guide:
Introduction to the ecotourism industry
Grasses and Trees
Arthropods, Amphibians, Reptiles, Fish, Birds, Mammals
Historical Human Habitation
Vehicle skills and 4X4 Driving skills
Wilderness First Aid
7-week Apprentice Trails Guide:
PFTC Use of a Rifle
Advanced Rifle Handling
Walking Experience (Approaching Big Game)
Tracking Skills (Cyber Tracker certificate)
4-week Marine Guide:
Introduction to Marine guiding
Coastal Marine Environments
Geology and the coastal environment
Coastal Weather and Climate
Coastal and Marine invertebrates
Marine Reptiles, Fish, Birds, Mammals
Marine Animal behaviour
Historical Human Habitation of coastal environments
Marine Conservation Management
The broad structure of a typical course day looks like this:
- 05:00 AM: Wake up, meet at main campus area for breakfast and coffee and prepare vehicle and snacks for the drive
- 06:30/07:00 AM: Depart for game drive/bush walk in Ulovane reserve or lectures begin
- 11:30 AM: Return, lunch at 12:00 AM at camp (sometimes lunch on the reserve if students are out for the whole day)
- 12:00-02:00 PM: Siesta or study time
- 02:00 PM: Lectures or head out on game drive/bush walk
- 06:00 PM: Dinner
- 07:00 PM (and onwards): Relax, study, go to bed
Students receive the full programme on arrival. Each week, they will receive a smaller programme for the following week, so they are always informed about what’s coming next.
10-week Apprentice Field Guide:
Apprentice Field Guide Skills Programme (NQF2)
Wilderness Level Two First Aid Certificate
7-week Apprentice Trails Guide:
Apprentice Trails Guide Skills Programme
Relevant PFTC Unit Standards
Advanced Rifle Handling: Lead Rifle
Tracking Skills Specialization (Cyber Tracker)
Apprentice Trails Guide Exam
Apprentice Trails Guide Assessment
5 weeks walking experience
4-week Marine Guide:
Marine Guide Specialist Skills Programme (NQF2)
Marine field excursions onshore and offshore
Marine Specialist Assessment
There are usually two or three courses running at the same time. Big groups will usually be split into smaller subgroups to ensure greater learning outcome.
- 10-week Apprentice Field Guide: max. 20 students per course, usually around 10-15 students
- 7-week Apprentice Trails Guide: max. 16 students, usually around 6-8 students
- 4-week Marine Guide: max. 10 students, usually 4-8 students
Furthermore, several trainers and two wonderful kitchen and service ladies are working at Camp Ulovane.
Life on site in South Africa
In general, your accommodation for all of the courses will be Camp Ulovane. This training camp is located in its own small reserve in South Africa’s magnificent Eastern Cape, bordering Amakhala and Kwantu Game Reserves.
Here, students will be accommodated in shared rooms, together with one or two other students. Each room has access to its own bathroom which is equipped with a shower, a basin and a toilet, including hot and cold water. Furthermore, rooms have a gas geyser, a desk, a chair, lights and bed linen.
Camp Ulovane also has a kitchen, a dining area, a lounge, a WiFi zone and a well-equipped lecture room. Camp Ulovane is a sustainable and ecofriendly training facility – meaning all building material is local, electricity comes from solar power, waste is recycled and water comes from an own camp borehole. Camp Ulovane provides an ideal balance between a pleasant, convenient stay and a conscious way of living.
When taking part in the Marine Guide programme and being part of a larger group, you will be accommodated in a coastal cottage near the town of Port Alfred. The cottage has several shared bedrooms (for two to three students), shared bathrooms, a fully-equipped kitchen, a living-room and an outside braai area.
In general, it is no problem to be accommodated with a partner – in the end, this always depends on the size and constellation of the group, which is why we cannot guarantee you that you can really share a room. Please notify us in advance so we can prepare accordingly.
During programme hours, you will be provided with three meals per day – breakfast, lunch and dinner. Volunteering in the kitchen and supporting the kitchen lady is always welcome. Tap water (coming from the camp’s own borehole), coffee, tea and juice is also offered all day long. Pick and Pay, a supermarket chain, delivers to the camp twice a week. This means you will be able to place an order for supplies (toiletries, sweets, additional drinks etc.). You can pay via card or cash.
When being part of the Marine Guide programme and being accommodated in a cottage near the Sunshine Coast, you may have to prepare meals on your own with groceries that are purchased by your trainers.
Yes, a vegetarian diet is possible. Vegan and gluten-free is a bit more challenging but can be considered as well. Please inform us well in advance in case you need to follow a certain diet.
You will have daily leisure time after lunch, in the evening and usually on a Sunday afternoon, after morning assessments are finished. Furthermore, during the 10-week Apprentice Field Guide programme, there will be a mid-weekend break on the weekend of week 5. When choosing the 4 ½-months Field Guide/Trails Guide programme, there will be a 2-week break between the Apprentice Field Guide and Apprentice Trails Guide training. When joining the 6-months Field Guide/Trails Guide/Marine Guide programme, there will be an additional two-day break between the Trails Guide and Marine Guide training.
You can use your off-hours and -afternoons for relaxing, going for a run, study time, spending time with other students or going on a trip to Grahamstown. Free weekends can even be used for little overnight trips to points of interest. When you join a programme with a two-week break, you are required to leave Camp Ulovane. This is a wonderful opportunity for you to travel around and get to know other parts of South Africa – you could go to Kruger National Park, to Addo Elephant Park, to cities like Cape Town or drive the famous Garden Route. If you need advice on travel routes and destinations you can ask the team at Natucate, we are happy to help!
On site there is always at least one staff member who can help you with questions and problems. You can also contact the team at Natucate whenever needed.
The local currency in South Africa is the South African Rand. While in South Africa you should exchange euro or dollar instead of traveller cheques. In bigger cities (Port Elizabeth, Grahamstown) it is possible most of the times to pay by card. Smaller shops usually only accept cash – it is not possible to pay with another currency than South African rand. The easiest way to exchange money is to take money from an ATM which can find at the airport in Port Elizabeth or in Grahamstown. Please keep in mind that in many cases a transaction fee of 5 $ is charged when taking money from your bank account when you are abroad. We recommend contacting your bank and inform yourself about the regulations. Please make sure to have a certain amount of money available for your time before and after the course as well as for the first days in the course in case of an emergency.
In order to contact friends and family at home, you can use the free WIFI available at the camp’s bush internet café. WiFi can be used for emails and blog updates but is not suitable for streaming videos. Cell phone reception in camp is very good most of the time. You can purchase a South African SIM card at the airport in Port Elizabeth or when going on a trip to Grahamstown. Vodacom or MTN work best.
Temperatures in the morning and evening hours can drop low in the South African winter months (May – September) – down to 3°C – but it is usually very warm during the day, no matter if summer or winter. During the winter months temperatures are around 26°C to 30°C, in summer (October – April) they are often 30°C and can reach 45°C in extreme cases. October is known for sporadic, but heavy rainfalls.
All staff are fully trained in first aid and know the safety measures and emergency procedures. The nearest hospital is in Grahamstown (50km) and some of the best hospitals in South Africa are in Port Elizabeth (80km). Your supervisors will ensure you get there and then contact your relevant emergency contacts.
If a student falls ill, a staff member will take them to the nearest doctor. Please be aware that you need to pay for your doctor’s visit and for the fuel.
All you need to know about FGASA
FGASA ist die Abkürzung für "Field Guides Association of Southern Africa". Zusammen mit CATHSSETA (Culture, Arts, Tourism and Hospitality Sector Education Training Authority) bildet es den Verband, der die Rangerstandards in Südafrika reglementiert. Unser Professional Field Guide-Kurs ist ein FGASA-unterstütztes Trainingsprogramm.
Many countries throughout Africa do not have guiding authorities of their own (such as FGASA in South Africa, BOTA in Botswana and KPSGA in Kenya). As a result, FGASA qualifications will hold some merit. In general, finding a job as a safari guide/ranger can be quite difficult for non-natives, but not impossible. After successfully completing the training you need to be offered a job before you can apply for a work visa. You will need to approach the relevant country's department of tourism/wildlife to determine the exact requirements to legally guide in a specific region. A guiding license may be required and this will need to be applied for. Our partner is happy to assist and support you if you seriously strive for a career in the guiding industry – please keep in mind that, especially as a non-South African resident, it cannot be guaranteed that you will find a job.