FGASA Level 1

Nature Guide


Unfortunately, due to the lockdowns and certain international travel restrictions still in place, we will not be running our usual training programme. We are however exploring options to run this course again in early 2022. We will update information on this page as soon as our plans are finalised. In the interim, we have partnered with Dhumuka Training to offer a variety of guide training and apprentice trails guide courses through 2021. Please contact us for more information on these. 

Starting Your Career As A Nature Guide

This three month intensive course is the ideal start for anyone looking to start a career as a nature guide. The program is also well suited to gap year students wanting a taste of life in Africa and nature enthusiasts who want the knowledge and skills of a "game ranger"

We do not just want to train nature guides, we want to train exceptional guides, guides with unparalleled understanding of our planet and her ecosystems, guides that can interpret the magic of a butterfly opening its wings with as much enthusiasm as the magnificence of a herd of elephants crossing a river, guides who can use their time with tourists to spread the conservation message, guides who can become future conservation leaders, guides who can open people's eyes to the power of mother nature and wilderness. But this course is also so much more, it's an opportunity for personal growth, for learning new skills and and an experience of a lifetime.

Don and I are doing a nature guide course and part of the training requires us to go into the bush on wilderness trails. I feel completely honored and privileged to be doing this course and am in the process of learning so much from some truly amazing people. ~ Sharlene Versveld (April 2017 Graduate)

  • We go beyond the minimum 50 days training and minimum "core modules" 
  • Our training is designed to draw on the legacy of the great pioneering conservationists Dr Ian Player
  • Our field training and wilderness experiences are arguably some of the most exciting and authentic field training opportunities.
  • With a 60 year track record and a globally recognized organisation, you can be assured of industry recognition and safety at the highest level 
  • Residential or non-residential options / part time or full time
  • Some of the most experienced trainers in the business 
  • Our training prepares you for the industry and work in tourism / nature guiding sector with focused training around your career opportunities and setting yourself apart in the job market
  • Connections to a global network of wilderness and like-minded sister organisations 
  • Excellent value for money - comparatively speaking, our training costs are extremely competitive.
  • Our course runs over 90 days, almost a month longer than most other courses on offer at similar rates.
  • Small groups - we always have a maximum of 10 people per course. It is advised to apply early to ensure your space.

"I never thought that I'd learn as much as I have in such a short space of time! We had incredible lecturers and guides and our time in the Wilderness was soul enriching. I am so happy that I decided to do this course with The Wilderness Leadership School and I'm both excited and fully prepared to take my next step as a nature guide" ~ Demi Mitchell, April 2017 Graduate

With over sixty years experience and arguably some of the best wilderness guides in the industry, with the Wilderness Leadership School you are assured of training of the highest quality and unrivaled practical guiding experiences, we go way beyond minimum requirements.

Course Outline & Modules

This course is ideally suited to anyone wishing to enter the lodge or guiding business at a professional level and can be completed part time or full time. The FGASA Level I (NQF II) Guide Training Course Includes:

  • All practical training / field sessions in a Big 5 Game Reserve environment (Tembe Elephant Park & iMfolozi)
  • "Leave No Trace" training / Wilderness Trail experience in the iMfolozi Game Reserve Wilderness Area
  • All lectures / theoretical training, transport, meals and accommodation
  • First Aid Level 1 certificate 
  • Weapons handling competency
  • Leave no trace awareness certification 
  • Tidal Tao Snorkel certification
  • All assessments and final assessment preparation 
  • All FGASA membership fees and registrations
  • Lectures, subject matter experts and ongoing access to our trainers and staff (post training) via our various alumni platforms

Upon completing this course successfully, you will be allowed to work as a registered guide in most nature reserves around Southern Africa with a recognized high standard of training and field experience. (Please note that you will need to be 21 years or older to get a public driving permit)

Modules which we cover include: (Several of these are in additional to the minimal FGASA requirements)

  • Creating a guided nature experience
  • Geology
  • Astronomy
  • Weather and Climate
  • Ecology
  • Taxonomy
  • The Biomes of Southern Africa
  • Botany and Grasses
  • Arthropods
  • Amphibians
  • Reptiles
  • Fish
  • Birds
  • Mammals
  • Animal behaviour
  • Conservation Management
  • Historical Human Habitation
  • Marine Snorkel Guide Basics
  • Wilderness Ethics & Leave No Trace Certification 
  • Wilderness Facilitation, Psychology and  Soft Skills 
  • Tracking and advanced bush skills 
  • Weapons Handling 
  • Advanced Cultural Understanding 
  • Guest relations 
  • Career Guidance and Tourism Entrepreneurial Opportunities 
  • Environmental Education Facilitation

Practical Training

Our practical training includes a range of short day outings (for theoretical modules) but also includes a range compulsory longer field outings (for part time and full time students) - this is the really fun, valuable and exciting stuff. Our practical training offers experiences that few people will ever get to have. Including sleeping under the stars in the wilderness, doing night watch duty around the campfire and getting in touch with nature on trail in the same special way Dr. Ian Player designed it over 60 years ago. 

These practicals include: 

  • 7 day wilderness trail experiences in iMfolozi Game Reserve Wilderness Area, including transport and meals from Durban. Possibly one of the most special and unforgettable experiences a guide can have. Here you will learn valuable tracking skills, leave no trace principles and wilderness ethics.
  • Half the course period is dedicated to practical, in the field training in Tembe Elephant reserve in Zululand - this is where you learn valuable bush skills, tracking, how to deal with potentially dangerous wildlife, and skills for interpreting the environment around you. These practicals include transport, accommodation, and meals
  • Subject matter specialist lectures and day outings, including transport for practical outings 
  • Level 1 First Aid Certificate 
  • Snorkel (AUSI) training, marine life and ocean skills
  • Weapons handling competency - (Field and Shooting Range) 

Students must be available for the specified dates for trails and practical training (for non residential / part time students).

Minimum Requirements

Students Should Be:

  • At least 18 years old to be registered as a guide, although you will need to be 21 to have a Public Driving Permit
  • Physically healthy and able to undertake physical activity in potentially dangerous situations
  • Grade 12 or equivalent
  • No criminal record
  • Fluent in English (read and write)
Practical Training

Our practical training is the core of the experience and where as a trainee guide, you get to put your theory into practice.

Our practical training includes:

An initial week training in Tembe Game Reserve in northern Zululand. This is a basic introduction to the skills and knowledge you will have to gain over the coming months

Leave No Trace Wilderness Trail: For many a highlight of the course is a five day Wilderness Trail, on foot, sleeping under the stars in the iMfolozi Wilderness Area. This is a magical experience and where you will learn valuable tracking skills, animal behaviour and the principles of “leave no trace”

Midway through the course students head back up to Tembe for an intensive two week practical field training session. This is where it “all starts to come together” and an amazing time in the bush in one of South Africa’s most remote game reserves.

Just prior to your final assessments, you will head back up to Tembe for another two weeks of practical training and assessment preparation. This period also includes your final on site practical assessment by an independent assessor.

Besides these periods in the bush, each day during theory training includes morning walks in Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve and outings to a variety of locations for specific subject matter training.

Our Facilities

The Wilderness Leadership School Headquarters and training facility is located next to the Coedmore Castle inside the 625 acre Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve. An area steeped in history and amazing biodiversity, including 23 km of trails, over 250 species of birds, various mammals and home to a wide variety of endemic and near endemic fauna and flora.

Residential students are accommodated at our training facility (a registered heritage site) in shared double rooms with communal bathrooms and communal kitchen area. Our training room is fully equipped with a library, plenty of recreational space, WiFi and you get to wake up each morning in one of the most magical places!

On practical training sessions in Tembe Game Reserve, you are accommodated in our exclusive-use bush camp where facilities are basic but comfortable.

All residential students get involved in day to days tasks of meal preparations and cleaning up.

During theoretical training, each day typically starts out with a guided walk aimed at improving ID skills, especially around the “little things” such as birds, insects and plants.

The training also includes ample free time for self study, working on your workbooks and a range of nearby activities to explore during your free time or off weekends.

Career Development

A major part of this course is also drilling down to who you are as an individual, what is important to you, where do you see yourself? Answering these questions, will inevitably lead to a better understanding of what fields in the ecotourism and environmental industry suit you best and careers options that align to what is important to you and where you can make the most impact. 

Learn More About

  • The future of ecotourism and conservation, what will be important in ten years time?
  • Ecological Consulting and the range of specialist fields to follow
  • “Getting your hands dirty“ / more traditional conservation and ecotourism careers
  • Working in the non profit sector, big and small
  • The creative arts, wildlife photography, film making, media in conservation
  • Academic and research oriented conservation careers
  • Technology and related fields working with conservation
  • Corporate social responsibility and SHEQ related careers
  • Social entrepreneurship and how new businesses are making an impact
  • Environmental education and public outreach
  • The many fields and opportunities in the ecotourism industry
Dates & Costs

Course costs includes:

  • Accommodation and meals (when not in the field) at the Wilderness Leadership School on a sharing basis (two people per room, communal ablutions)
  • Wilderness trail experience in iMfolozi Game Reserve, including transport and meals and equipment
  • Practical field training in big 5 reserve in Zululand, including transport, accommodation and meals
  • Final assessment costs
  • Subject matter specialist lectures and day outings, including transport for practical outings
  • Level 1 First Aid Certificate
  • AUSI Snorkel Accreditation
  • Leave No Trace Wilderness Awareness Certification
  • Weapons handling competency
  • FGASA memberships & Exam Fees
  • Ongoing access to trainers and our alumni platforms post training.

Cost per student

  • 2022 Rates TBC


2022 dates TBC. Please contact us for other options with our various training partners for 2021. 

Wilderness Leadership School Trust

90 Coedmore Ave
Yellowwood Park, Durban
South Africa
+ 27 (0) 31 462 8642 / +27 (0) 832 255960

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