Proffesional Field Guide Course

Proffesional Field Guide Course



René and I already booked our Professional Field Guide course with Natucate in 2019 and were excited to go in 2020 when suddenly COVID hit. It was a hard decision, but we postponed the course for a bit. The new plan was to go in February 2021, but again we couldn’t, as I had an accident with the bicycle and haven`t completely recovered yet. So once again the course was postponed. And then, almost two years after decided to do the course, we were finally ready to go. Our excitement was almost unbearable!


We met our whole group in Johannesburg. Everyone was still really shy, but that didn’t last very long. We were a good mixture of people from all over the world – from Austria, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, South Africa, Botswana, USA and even Chile! After finishing some paperwork, we finally made our way into the bush. Our first stop was Selati, to do the First Aid Training. The training was short, but it was also pretty intense. We got to hear many stories about what can happen in the wild and how to handle certain situations. But after a few days we all felt ready for the real adventure.

It was time to pack our stuff again and after a long drive we arrived in Mashatu, Botswana – the place where we were going to spend the first four weeks of our course! And there it began, every morning we went out early on either a Game Drive or a Walk to learn about plants, tracks, birds, mammals and much more. Coming back to camp and strengthened by a hearty breakfast we went straight into theory lessons. And after some free time, which we used to relax, play volleyball or work on our workbooks we went out on activity again. For the first week, our instructors were guiding, but then we “took over” to start practicing, of course still with a lot of help. As we learnt how to drive a 4x4 Game Viewer and at the same time guide our “guests”, four weeks passed really quickly and our journey continued to Pridelands, where our assessments were going to take place.


We started to improve our guiding skills, focusing a lot on interpretation and hosting. At the same time, we were getting ready for our theory exams, learning bird, alarm and frog calls, identifying amphibians, reptiles and birds by picture and a lot more! But it was not all about learning only, we really enjoyed our time in the bush and during our time in Pridelands we got to experience two once-in-a-lifetime events. We were lucky enough to see our first (and so far, only) Pangolin and we were allowed to help during a rhino dehorning. Those are two days we will surely remember for the rest of our lives!


And then, the closer the exams came, the more nervous everyone became. But in the end, all worked out really well and we passed both, our theory and practical assessment. We were now officially FGASA Level 1 guides!


After a well-deserved off-time the group came together again in Selati for Basic Birding and Tracks & Signs. As the name suggests, we had one week fully focusing on birds, followed by a week learning all about the different tracks and signs you find in the bush. Of course, both finished with an assessment to test our skills. From there we continued to Makuleke to do our Advanced Rifle Handling!


ARH was probably the most nerve-racking part of the whole course. Almost nobody from the group was shooting a weapon before, let alone such a high caliber! On the first day it was even a bit scary for some of us, but after a while we started to get used to it and if there wouldn’t have been the pressure of passing the assessments, shooting would have actually been great fun!


Done with ARH, we were now ready to walk. This was the part we were looking forward to the most. Walking along ancient elephant pathways, tracking lions on foot, exploring areas a car can’t reach – it’s a completely different experience than driving around. To start our trails guide we went back to where it all started – Mashatu. And again, we went out on activity every morning and evening, with the little difference that it was only walks now. What’s more, it was ourselves starting to walk second rifle. We learnt to listen to alarm calls, to look at tracks and signs and to consider wind directions and the position on the sun. It required us to combine all the skills we acquired during the past months. We also learnt how to approach dangerous game and how to handle difficult situations. And once again, after all the practice we finished off with theory exams and a practical assessment.


It was now time for the group to part for our second off time. Most of our group went home over Christmas to see their family, but as it was the time when the new omicron variant came up, we decided to stay in South Africa, rent a car and travel around.


After our off time, beginning of January, we still didn’t have a placement. That’s why we decided to start as back-ups for Ecotraining in the meantime. We got really lucky to be with a group doing their trails guide, which means we were walking every day and got a lot of first rifle experience! And then, after around three weeks we finally got the confirmation that they found a placement for us – in UGANDA!


Full of excitement we booked a flight and packed our stuff. Our first three months in Uganda we spent in Toro-Semliki Wildlife reserve. A beautiful Game Reserve in western Uganda, which is home of Uganda Kobs, Giant Forest Hogs, Black-and-white Colobus monkeys and much more. We even saw our first Chimpanzees and Shoebill there! It was quite a different environment than in South Africa, so we learnt a lot about new plants, birds and even mammals.

Then we went for one month to Kidepo Valley National Park to finish our placement. This is one of the remotest places we have been so far. The picturesque National Park lies in the Karamoja region in the far north-east of Uganda, bordering South Sudan and Kenia. Thriving with wildlife we have seen herds of more than a thousand buffalos, we have seen Rothschild Giraffes, Patas monkeys, white-eared Kobs and so much more. Again, we learnt about many different species we haven’t even heard of before.

But also this time came to an end and it was time for us to return to South Africa for the very last part of our course – Advanced birding in Karongwe!


We couldn’t wait to see our friends again and spend some more time together with them in the bush! A lot has happened in the past months, so everyone had many stories to tell. Time flashed past and from advanced birding we went straight into graduation. Finally, we could celebrate together what we have achieved over the past year!

We left South Africa with split feelings. We were sad to say goodbye to our friends again, but we were also thrilled to return to Uganda and start working as Lodge Managers there!


The year with Ecotraining was filled with ups and downs, but it was one of the best years in our lives so far. We achieved so much and learnt endless lessons. And most importantly, this time opened a new door for us to be able to live and work in Africa!

Back to blog