Sabbatical Southern Africa: Field Guide Level 1 meets Volunteering
Your sabbatical adventure with Natucate: Travel to Southern Africa and combine an Apprentice Field Guide training (formerly called Field Guide Level 1) with active work to protect Namibia's endangered desert elephants.
As a field guide student you will spend 55 days in the wilderness of South Africa and/or Botswana and learn from experienced guides everything a real safari guide needs to know – from animal behaviour to professional guest guiding. At the end of the course, you get the opportunity to acquire an official FGASA certificate.
As a conservation volunteer in Namibia, your main tasks are to mitigate the human-elephant conflict and to inventory local elephant populations.
Combine game ranger adventures with volunteering, gain unforgettable wildlife conservation experience and return home with valuable skills and knowledge.
The following description serves to give you an idea of how your conservation sabbatical in Southern Africa may look like. It is up to you which destination you go first and how long you will stay. Just reach out to us, tell us about your wants and needs, and we will create your very own sabbatical adventure in the wild.
- Live and learn amidst the wilderness of Southern Africa
- Acquire valuable field guide knowledge
- Volunteer to help protect endangered desert elephants
- Enjoy daily excursions into the bush
- Observe Africa's animals in the wild
- Spend the night under the stars
- Acquire new knowledge and skills
- Receive an official FGASA Apprentice Field Guide certificate
- Recharge your energy reserves amidst magnificent nature
Species protection sabbatical in Africa
This sabbatical gives you the chance to combine your training as an Apprentice Field Guide, the former Field Guide Level 1, with your contribution to species conservation as a volunteer in Namibia's beautiful Damaraland.
Arrival and orientation in Johannesburg
At the beginning of your sabbatical, you will arrive at Johannesburg Airport in South Africa. You will arrive there one day before the course starts and spend the first night in a hostel in the city. From there, you will be picked up by our partner's transfer service and taken to your (first) camp.
Contents of your sabbatical in Africa
You will spend your sabbatical in Southern Africa in two different programmes: the Field Guide Level 1 course, which takes place in South Africa and/or Botswana depending on the start date, and the elephant project in Namibia's Damaraland.
As a participant of the FGASA Apprentice Field Guide training, you will spend almost two months in various EcoTraining camps in South Africa and/or Botswana and experience interactive theory lessons paired with practical units in Africa's incomparable wilderness.
Experienced guides will train you in topics such as ecology, animal and plant science, animal behaviour, navigation and safety, conservation management as well as safari guiding. At the end of the course, you have the chance to receive an official FGASA-recognised certificate following the final Apprentice Field Guide NQF2 exam.
After the guide course and, if necessary, a transition period (not included in the programme), you set off for your next destination. In Namibia's Damaraland, you will help with the construction of protection walls and the development of new water points as well as the research of the desert elephants living there by means of tracking and data documentation. The itinerary below contains more details about the programme and your activities.
Accommodation during your time-out
Apprentice Field Guide course: During your time as a Field Guide Level 1 student, you will get to know one to three of a total of six course locations in Southern Africa. In Makuleke, you will be accommodated in stilt houses with a double room and attached bathroom. In the other camps, you will stay in two-man tents and use shared bathrooms.
All camps have common rooms where people eat together and classes are held. You are provided with three to four meals every day; coffee and tea are also always available. Generally, there is no electricity in the camps; lighting is provided by solar lamps. Mobile phone reception is very limited or not available.
Namibia: During the so-called "Building Week", a base camp is usually set up near the project site. Here you spend the night in two-man tents or around the campfire, where you also cook and eat together.
During the following "Patrol Week", you and your team will follow the desert elephants of the region. You will spend each night in a new awe-inspiring place in untouched nature under the open sky. Sanitary facilities are generally limited in your wilderness camps – in the "Building Week", outhouse toilets and bucket showers are used; in the "Patrol Week", no permanent facilities are available.
Free time as a volunteer in Southern Africa
During your stay in both programmes, you will have some time for yourself in between. In the game ranger course, you will usually have some free time after returning from the first game drive of the day, which you can use to sit together, rest or study.
In Namibia, if you stay for more than two weeks, you can take the opportunity to make a trip to Swakopmund on the free weekend and enjoy the restaurants, bars and some sights. Alternatively, you can spend your free time at base camp surrounded by stunning wilderness.
Arrival in Johannesburg
Apprentice Field Guide course
Tests and final exams
Onward journey from South Africa/Botswana to Namibia
Species conservation project in Namibia
End of your sabbatical and departure/onward travel from Namibia
“This year I booked a 9-month trip to Africa, consisting of several Natucate projects, and I am simply thrilled. [...] Each project had its own special something and could not be compared to the other. [...] All in all, the time in the projects and the service of Natucate were simply stunning.”
Ben travelled to Southern Africa with us to become a Field Guide Level 1. In his report, he reveals more about the typical day of an EcoTraining field guide student.
“Africa completely captivated me and that remains with me even now in my native nature. "Safari is everywhere" quickly became the motto of my friends from the course and all of us live it no matter where, in the city, in the countryside or in the Alps.”
“I was thrilled from start to finish. (...) It is an unforgettable experience.”
1. Camp Selati
Camp Selati is located west of the world-famous Kruger National Park. Situated directly on the banks of the Selati River, it is a wonderful observation point for numerous wild animals that cool off from the South African heat in the water of the river.
By participating in an advanced training course in the wilderness of the Selati Game Reserve, you are choosing one of the most interesting regions on the African continent. 33,000 hectares offer plenty of space for a species-rich fauna and flora which you can immerse yourself into during daily game drives and bush walks.
2. Camp Makuleke
Camp Makuleke is located in the Pafuri region in the northern part of South Africa's Kruger National Park. A multitude of fascinating wild animals can be observed in this area and impressive areas can be admired.
If you opt for nature-oriented further education with a stay in Makuleke, you will gain insights into the breathtaking nature of Kruger National Park including its "Big Five": African elephant, black rhino, African buffalo, lion and leopard. Hikes and game drives in open off-road vehicles enable you to experience a superb diversity of flora and fauna – a true enrichment.
3. Camp Karongwe
The South African camp Karongwe is situated at the mostly dried out riverbed of the Karongwe River, in the middle of an area of about 9000 hectares, which will impress you by its biodiversity as well as by its picturesque landscapes.
Nearby you can find the breathtaking Kruger National Park, well-known as one of the largest protected areas in South Africa. Immerse yourself into the spectacular natural landscapes during daily game drives and bush walks, experience the biodiversity of the Karongwe Game Reserve up close and expand your knowledge of the region’s unique flora and fauna under the guidance of experienced field guides.
4. Camp Pridelands
Camp Pridelands is located in South Africa's Limpopo province and has been part of the world-famous Kruger National Park since September 2017. In Pridelands a wealth of fascinating wildlife observations can be made – from representatives of the Big Five to hyenas to the rare African wild dog.
As part of your educational nature adventure, you and your team will set off into the wilderness every day under the guidance of an experienced guide to acquire valuable knowledge about the flora and fauna of the region and to learn more about nature and species conservation as well as current measures and initiatives to preserve biodiversity.
5. Camp Pongola
Camp Pongola is nestled into the wilderness of Pongola Game Reserve in the north-east of South Africa, near the Swaziland border. Endless green expanses and a diverse animal world are characteristic of the region. Four of the Big Five are at home at Pongola – elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino – as well as hippos, crocodiles, hyaenas, giraffes, wildebeest, zebras, warthogs, twelve antelope species and more than 350 bird species.
Every day, you and your team will set out into the beautiful Pongola wilderness to learn more about the unique flora and fauna and to acquire more in-depth knowledge about guiding as well as nature and species conservation.
Damaraland is located in the northwest of Namibia. Characterized by gorges, hills and table mountains, it is one of the most impressive and interesting areas of the country. The extraordinary landscapes and the fauna, which constantly need to defy the region’s drought, surely leave each visitor in awe. Particularly in the west, populations of the highly endangered black rhino can be found alongside the impressive desert elephants.
Damaraland also has a lot to offer culturally: rock and cave paintings from thousands of years ago can be admired as part of a visit to the Spitzkoppe, the Brandberg or Twyfelfontein. Damaraland – a real highlight of a journey through the vastness of Namibia.
Background of your sabbatical in Southern Africa
During this sabbatical you get the opportunity to combine further education with an active contribution and to acquire a great deal of conservation knowledge in the process.
As a participant of the Apprentice Field Guide course, formerly called Field Guide Level 1, experienced guides will not only train you in animal behaviour, tracking and guiding, but also introduce you to essential conservation topics. Furthermore, the official certificate, which can be obtained at the end of the course, serves as a first door opener if you are striving for a career in the safari industry in the future.
The elephant conservation programme in Namibia allows you to get involved in wildlife conservation and literally get your hands dirty.
The human-elephant conflict prevalent in Namibia's Damaraland stems from the fact that the local population often uses the same water sources as the local elephant herds, making them inaccessible to them. As a consequence, the animals push further and further into human settlements in search of water, unknowingly damaging infrastructure.
Attempts to drive the animals away repeatedly result in their wounding or death. The aim of the species conservation project we support in Namibia is to protect the elephants from straying into human settlements by means of construction measures. In addition, alternative sources of water are to be developed in order to provide both humans and animals with undisturbed access to drinking water.
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