Become an accredited Field Guide and forward your conservation career when you spend 23 weeks training in the iconic South African lowveld; one of the best wildlife locations in the country. You will gain skills and qualifications applicable to many conservation careers and there’s an optional placement to give you the opportunity to gain experience and secure the best possible start to your career.
Join us in South Africa’s Lowveld region, one of the world’s best big game territories and train to become a qualified field guide, a knowledgeable conservationist and experience the African bush at its best. This course is the ideal platform for a successful career in the African safari lodge industry and many international wildlife conservation careers or for a hands-on experience in the African bush that you will never forget. So be proactive and broaden your horizons, while gaining diverse qualifications, experience and transferable skills to improve your employability. The course can offer all this, whilst you have an adventure of a lifetime.
On the course we offer high quality theoretical and practical training, covering a diverse range of topics while being situated in one of the wildlife hot spots in South Africa. The foundation of the course is structured around the FGASA (Field Guide Association of Southern Africa) syllabus, which will give you an in depth knowledge and understanding of Southern African Fauna and Flora. This, along with the additional activities, will show potential employers around the world that you have the ability and drive to learn, and importantly transferable skills to take into your conservation career. Other relevant and exciting activities and qualifications have also been added to boost your CV and show employers that you are resourceful and determined about making it in conservation.
The curriculum includes bush skills such a wildlife tracking, shooting competency, 4×4 driving, outdoor first aid, wildlife photography, wildlife surveying techniques and in-depth knowledge and practical application of subjects such as conservation, ecology, reserve management, geology and animal behaviour. The course has been designed to develop applicants into highly skilled professionals in the exciting area of field guiding, conservation, research, adventure tourism or lodge management, by providing a well-rounded, specialised education which focuses not only on the theory but the practical aspects of wildlife conservation and guiding.
Unlike many other training providers, this course focuses on practical skills and gives students a regular exposure to working and guiding around dangerous game, such as Elephant, Lion, Rhino, Leopard, Buffalo and Hippo. This invaluable experience gives students excellent grounding for any of our placements and future employment in ‘Big Five’ game reserves, research and conservation jobs in Africa and beyond.
All the trainers are from The Field Guide Association of Southern Africa (FGASA) and the course is both theoretical and practical. Students who choose to take the 23 week course and not the work placement will still be professionally qualified if they pass their exams.
The course is known for producing the highest caliber graduates for this demanding industry. Throughout the years, our graduates have achieved the highest marks of all the FGASA long term providers many times and are considered some of the best trained guides in the industry.
Field Guide students have an opportunity to undertake a 6 month placement. This allows students to gain valuable hands on experience, as well as cementing the information and skills learnt during the training period, and gaining a valuable ‘foot-in-the-door’ to the exhilarating and competitive safari tourism industry and, wildlife and conservation careers.
Please remember, the allocation is based on performance, interest and personality as determined by the head trainer. All students MUST pass both the FGASA and course requirements before being placed at any placement.
Living on base in Mahlahla provides you with the perfect opportunity to trade a traditional office environment for a work week that unfolds in the heart of the African bushveld. Spend time in the wild on game drives, tracking animal spoor, identifying different types of fauna and flora, learning more about field guiding and also generally getting to know your fellow international students in front of the campfire at night.
Accomodation in Mahlahla is rural, in the bush, and away from the hustle and bustle of modern city life. Your experience will involve sleeping in shared huts directly on campus....
All transport will be taken care of by the GVI staff on the ground, including game drives, frogging expeditions and general tasks in and around campus. You will however, be resp...
Long distance communications are available on campus, but connectivity in the region is limited. There is WiFi on campus, in the communal study area near the pool, but consideri...
Generally, students prepare their own breakfasts in the communal dining area, which usually consists of toast, cereal and a variety of coffees and teas. The remaining meals are ...
Limpopo is known for having a small amount of rainfall throughout the year. The year round average temperature in the area is 21.5 °C, with January being the warmest month of th...
Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place.
For over 20 years, GVI has prioritised the health and safety of our staff, participants, partners and local community members. In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, GVI has created the GVI health and hygiene team to put in place new standards of cleanliness, norms and behaviours that meet or exceed international recommendations to ensure the ongoing safety of GVI’s participants, staff and communities around the world. Internationally recommended practices, such as advice from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the governments Australia, UK and US, continue to be monitored and the standards are likely to change if and when international advice changes.
The work GVI is contributing to across the globe remains important and the following measures allow our participants to continue to join GVI’s programs and continue impacting positively on their world and the communities we work with. The following changes to our existing protocols have been made by the GVI health and hygiene team to strengthen our health and hygiene protocols and ensure that international standard safeguards are in place to protect our participants, staff and host communities.
Reef Conservation UK 13th Annual Meeting, Zoological Society of London
Reef Conservation UK 13th Annual Meeting, Zoological Society of London
If you’d like to find out what the experience of joining a GVI project is really like, simply contact us and we’ll put you in touch with one of our many Alumni.
We’ll try to match you to an Alum based on your location, nationality, age, stage of academic career, gender, and program interests. This allows you to gain insights into the experience that is most relevant to you.
Depending on your location you might be able to speak to an Alum over the phone or online, or meet up with them face-to-face at a coffee shop nearby. We also run a series of small events around the world where you can speak to GVI Alumni, Ambassadors and staff members.
When it comes to support, we ensure that each participant is provided with unparalleled, 360 degree support, from your initial contact with the GVI Family, all the way through your program, and even after, as you become part of the GVI Alumni Team.
As part of this promise, we will ensure, whenever possible, that one of our dedicated staff will be available to meet you at the airport. In most locations, we also set up a Whatsapp group to help with managing airport arrivals. We will arrange with you prior to your departure that, should you arrive in the agreed upon pick up window, a member of our staff will be there to welcome you, easily identifiable in a GVI t-shirt or holding a GVI sign and wearing a friendly smile. This means there will be someone there to greet you as you land, and from there you will be transported to your GVI base to start your adventure and meet the rest of your team.
Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place.
All of our programs have short-, mid- and long-term objectives that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.
Prior to your arrival on base, you will be educated about the UN SDGs. Then once you arrive on base, you’ll learn about the specific goals we have in this particular location, our various objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these.
Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to be an active global citizen after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.
Below is a list of core ethics and best practices we believe are essential to the operation of high quality, ethical volunteer and sustainable development programs. We believe that all responsible volunteer and sustainable development operations should focus upon these principles. If you are considering volunteering, these are some of the key considerations you should question, to ensure that your time and money contributes towards positive change.
We want to constantly develop our own understanding of ethical best practice. In so doing, we aim to provide an exemplary industry standard for other education institutions, international development organisations, and social enterprises. Our Badge of Ethics stands for the drive to always do good, better. Find out more, click on the Badge below.
We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.
We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.
We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.
We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.
For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.
We aim to ensure that every participant is assigned a clear role and that they are fully trained and supported to carry out their work by specialized staff.
In all our actions we aim to respect the skills and efforts of all and seek to protect the rights, culture and dignity of everyone who engages with GVI.
We work to ensure that credit for the results of any project, along with any data collected, research conducted, or Intellectual Property developed, remains the property of local organizations.
We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.
We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.
As an organization, GVI is committed to striving toward best practice, and to educating both our potential participants, our partners, and the world at large about them. Both the volunteering and sustainable development sectors are increasingly, and rightly, under scrutiny. Many recent local and global articles highlight poor practices and questionable ethics. GVI is widely recognized for striving to apply global best practice in the volunteering, education and sustainable development sectors throughout our operations by reputable organizations such as ChildSafe.
However, global best practice is always evolving and we dedicate both time and resources to engage with internationally respected experts and learn from the latest research to ensure our programs both fulfil their potential to create maximum positive impact, and minimise their potential to create unintentional negative impact. Along with and as part of the sustainable development and volunteering community, we are constantly learning and applying this learning to practice. We do not always get everything right, but we seek feedback from our community members, partners, participants and our staff, and react accordingly. We know are already doing a great job, and feedback we have received confirms this, but we aim to do even better and are continuously refining our operations to improve upon our already excellent reputation.
25 Mar, 2015
Sharin is from South Africa and is our Admin Manager at Bushwise. She joined Bushwise after having been in the corporate world and lodge industry and has now been here for four ...
Sales Manager at Bushwise
Kim handles all the sales for Bushwise and is also involved in the social media marketing. She first stepped onto a game reserve working in hospitality and found that that was t...
Director of Bushwsie
Sophie is the Bushwise Director and helped set up the company thirteen years ago. Since then she has been instrumental in helping to expand and improve Bushwise to make it what ...
General Manager at Bushwise
Trevor is our General Manager at Bushwise. He was born in Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe but grew up in South Africa. After spending most of his life in the corporate world, he...
Trainer at Bushwise
Vaughan is one of our Trainers at Bushwise and has a special interest in entomology, the study of insects and their relationship with humans. He is from the local area, having g...
Trainer at Bushwise
Gerhard is South African with a professional Lead Guide and Field Guide qualification, and a Diploma in Zoology. He is our trainer at Bushwise and our resident singer and songwr...
We don’t support or allow participants to work in institutional residential care facilities, also known as orphanages. We partner with ReThink Orphanages and Freedom United.
Our Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy requires all our staff and participants to complete a criminal background check and to learn why you shouldn’t reveal a child’s identifying factors in photographs. We support the ChildSafe Movement.
We don’t offer any programs where our participants engage in medical treatment. This is because our participants aren’t typically qualified to do this work and would therefore not be able to do this work in their home country. Our participants only assist with public health programs.
We don’t offer any programs where our participants work directly with people with disabilities. This is because our participants aren’t typically qualified to do this work and would therefore not be able to do this work in their home country.
Each one of our initiatives is aligned to objectives set by a local organisation or professional. Our staff and participants work to support these local actors in achieving their specific goals.
Our participants don’t replace the staff employed by local organisations. Rather, they support currently employed staff with achieving their objectives. Our goal is always to increase local capacity to address local problems.
Participants require training and support to ensure that they carry out tasks correctly. Our staff provide this training and support so that local staff can focus on what is truly important to their organisation at the time.
We don’t support the use of wild animals for entertainment purposes. This includes riding animals, having them perform tricks, feeding or bathing them or getting close to them to take photos
We don’t encourage, support or allow the rearing of “orphaned” wild baby animals kept at a “sanctuary”. The conservation value of these types of programs is negligent and would only ethically be used in extremely rare cases
When wild animals are restricted for conservation purposes we follow the guidelines of Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA), approved by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.
We ensure that the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare are followed. These include the freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from distress, discomfort, hunger, thirst, fear, pain, injury or disease.
We ensure that conservation efforts are also always locally led, that community needs are front-and centre of any conservation effort and that our participants, projects and partners work to increase local community engagement in local conservation efforts.
We don’t offer any veterinary programs or animal rescue and rehabilitation programs. We don’t allow participants to do any work they would not be able to do in their home country.
The FGASA Apprentice Field Guide (NQF2) qualification is aimed at achieving the ability of a graduate Field Guide to identify the major living and non-living features of the natural environment in which s/he operates. To interpret them at a level based mainly on observation and from an elementary scientific and cultural perspective. As a general guideline, a Field Guide (NQF2) has a sound knowledge of the history, geology, plants and animals (i.e. birds, mammals, reptiles, etc.) in the specific area of guiding operation.
NQF2 enables you to create and conduct a short-guided experience, based on local natural and cultural resources, that entertains and informs visitors. It enables you to be a competent guide operating within a local area. In addition you will be positioned to further your learning, practice and career within the guiding sector, through, among others, the support and teamwork of members of the guiding sector – either at further levels or in other areas of practice. Expansion into other sectors of tourism is also possible.
These Courses are designed to be of benefit to both the novice tracker and yet at the same time to fine tune the skills of an experienced tracker. Aspects covered are principles of tracking, track&sign identification, study of animal gaits and movements, tracking techniques, the study of animal behaviour and signs, and animal trailing methods. All assessments are accredited by Cybertracker conservation and FGASA.
FGASA endorsed Specialist Training Provider which represents the 4×4 Training Field with regards to the Nature Guide specific training. Following the national SAQA Unit Standard 254 135, the 4×4 qualification you receive is specialized in reserve-based & overland nature, or adventure guides’ needs.
Modjadji First Aid Training offers Level 1-3 nationally accredited first aid courses. The latest audiovisual support and lots of practical training add fin to an exciting dimension of life. Modjadji First Aid only uses highly skilled educators and facilitators to offer the courses.
The FGASA Apprentice Trails Guide is an individual who is in training (in an apprentice programme) to become a Trails Guide and will learn how to function as 2nd Rifle and later as 1st Rifle during the training phase. The apprentice program is a stepping stone in the process for a guide to attain a FGASA Trails Guide Qualification and is not qualified to conduct trails or walks in areas with dangerous game in absence of a FGASA Trails Guide (NQF4), Professional Trails Guide, or SKS (DG) Guide.
A GVI program is an investment in your career. No matter which you choose, you will be working toward improving your employability by mastering new social skills, gaining further technical expertise and earning qualifications in many cases. Most of our staff are, in fact, GVI Alumni, and we have helped many of our Alumni discover, move toward, and earn their own personal dream jobs. Each program includes introductory workshops, ongoing presentations, as well as on-the-ground professional support provided by our very own trained staff members. In addition, our training programs are critical for helping us to ensure the long-term impact of our sustainable development projects around the world.
Learn about COVID-19 pre-departure guidelines, base expectations, personal and area hygiene practices and what we are doing to keep you safe.
Learn about the importance of child and vulnerable adult protection best practices and how to apply them while on project.
Introduction to the history and evolution of sustainable development, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and how these related to your project work.
Learn about our country locations and further opportunities available to you during or after your program.
To ensure that life on base is harmonious and efficient, Bushwise students are split into groups. Each group will have a week “on-duty” to gain experience in camp management and logistics. Every student will have a week as camp leader and he/she will be responsible for the group’s obligations for that week.
Joining a GVI program not only allows you to collaborate with communities or work toward preserving unique ecosystems – but it also offers plenty of opportunities to explore the surrounding area or travel further to see what other parts of the region have to offer over weekends.
Field staff are a great source of advice and have helped us put together the following information on local travel options. You can choose to travel before or after your experience with GVI (subject to immigration restrictions), solidifying the lifetime friendships you’ve established on the program. Please note that the below options are not included in the program fee, and would be up to you to arrange at your own expense.
Another one of the stunning local waterfalls, including a picnic area and hiking trails....
Get up close with huge baobab trees, and don’t forget to try their world renowned pancakes....
Bourke’s Luck potholes, God’s Window and waterfalls are just some of what you can see within a single Saturday, should you be up for the adventur...
Here, you are able to assist with the rehabilitation of endangered species during short term visits to the center....
Orpen and Phalabourwa Gates are less than two hours drive from the campus. Day Trips/overnight camping are available....
A trip through the canyon could include boat trips, kloofing, whitewater rafting, paintball, hot air ballooning and camping. This is the perfect ...
Another major city in the country, Durban has a warmer climate than any other city in the country, with lush beaches and it’s own heritage tied c...
The Cederberg Mountain Range is an exquisite sight to see for the adventure enthusiasts. Walk or hike your way through an experience that quite f...
One of the capital cities of South Africa, Johannesburg is a major city roughly a five hour drive from campus. Emerging suburbs bustling with cul...
Robben Island, Table Mountain, The District 6 Museum, Castle of Good Hope or the Green Market Square craft markets are all once-in-a-lifetime exp...
Engaging intimately with a new context teaches global awareness, adaptability and critical thinking – skills highly valued in the modern marketplace. Local and cultural immersion is encouraged on all our programs around the world, and will also be one of the most enjoyable aspects of your experience. Luckily, there are many different activities that you can get involved in during your free time, or before and after your program.
On our community programs, the focus is on cultural topics, while on marine or wildlife programs the emphasis is more on the environmental element. Use your evenings and weekends to explore topics like local cuisine and religion, or how sustainable development challenges are affecting local contexts.
Hoedspruit is a town situated at the foot of the Klein Drakensberg, in the Limpopo province of South Africa, on the railway line from Tzaneen to ...
The country has celebrated over twenty years of democracy, usher in by the inauguration of former president Nelson Mandela in a historical moment...
South Africa is the largest country in Southern Africa and the 25th largest country in the world by land area, with a diverse cultural population...
The majority of the population of South Africa is divided among a variety of ethnic groups speaking different African languages, nine of which ha...
‘If only every student could do this. It changes your life in all the right ways,’ says Chris Heritage, parent of Luke Heritage, one of our teen volunteers who has participated on two GVI programs, one in Costa Rica and another in South Africa.
We are a parent-run organisation that is incredibly serious about health and safety, and increasing the impact, as well as the long-term career benefits of our programs. Our programs help young people develop the skills to select a career path that is personally fulfilling, and live a life aligned to the well-being of our planet and the global community.
Ken and Linda Jeffrey, whose son Sam volunteered with GVI in Thailand, talk about how the experience affected Sam. He also went on to volunteer with GVI again in South Africa. ‘I know it sounds like a cliche but in a sense, he did go away as a boy and he came back as a young man. Both of us could recommend GVI without any hesitation to any other parent thinking about exploring an opportunity for their children to explore the world and to see different parts of it.’
Download the Parent Pack and learn more about:
Our staff: All our projects are run by staff, selected, vetted, trained, and managed by our central office.
Health and safety: Our safety practices include a child and vulnerable adult protection policy and high participant ratios.
Staying in touch: See what’s happening on base, by following a hub’s dedicated Facebook page.
Free parent consultations: We would love to talk to you about exciting opportunities available for your child.
We won’t sugarcoat it — traveling abroad is usually a complex process that carries an element of risk. But this is exactly why we’re passionate about providing extensive support throughout the process as well as the highest safety standards during the in-country phase. We believe that volunteering abroad should not only be impactful, but an enjoyable experience that carries as little risk as possible. This is exactly how we’ve been able to maintain our reputation as the most highly respected volunteering organisations in the sector over the past two decades.
Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place.
Upon arrival at the airport, participants will be greeted by a GVI staff member. All GVI staff are our own and all our programs around the world are run by our staff. All GVI field staff are background checked, Emergency First Response and safety trained. The minimum staff to participant ratio on GVI’s programs is one to six, although on several bases we have a ratio of one to three. When finishing the experience, participants will provide feedback on all aspects of their program.
Once a participant books, they will be assigned a personal support coordinator who will oversee their pre-departure journey. The support coordinator helps to bridge the gap between program enrolment and arrival at one of our field bases. Your personal support coordinator will ensure that you are provided with all the necessary information required to apply for visas, background checks, and any other documentation.
It takes courage to book a GVI program, get on a flight, and head off to somewhere new. Volunteering offers a level of cultural immersion that typical backpacking or holidays ju...
As the saying goes: ‘Expect the best, plan for the worst’. Cliched or not, we take it to heart. This tenet is at the core of how GVI operates when it comes to promoting the heal...
The weather isn’t just a topic for polite small-talk here at GVI. We have emergency action plans in place for all scenarios. So when the weather, or other natural forces, takes ...
Once GVI has matched a participant to a program that suits their passions and goals, our team aims to set the right expectations for them. In the event that false expectations a...
|24-hour emergency desk|
|24-hour in-country support|
|Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)|
|All project equipment|
|Food (except on long-term internship placements|
|Safe and basic accommodation (usually shared)|
|Group introductory call|
|Endorsed GVI Specialisation Course|
|Endorsed Leadership Course|
|Sustainable project work|
|Data collection and research|
|Real projects with partners|
|Remote Internship Supervisor|
|Remote Academic Internship Supervisor|
|Remote Career Internship Supervisor|
|Preferential recruitment on GVI positions|
|Job portal access|
|Endorsed Careers Course|
|Career coaching sessions|
Certificates and achievements
|PDF reference - upon request|
|Linkedin reference and skills endorsement|
|Additional drinks and gratuities|
|Extra local excursions|
|International and domestic airport taxes|
|Medical and travel insurance|
|Personal items and toiletries|
|Police or background check|