Safari Guide Training
You are on foot in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, walking in a small group. Fresh lion tracks lie in the sand ahead of you; a herd of elephants is moving into sight. Hippos snort from the river. Everyone’s eyes turn to you: it’s your call – which direction do you take? After all, you are the guide.
Safari guide training is rapidly gaining popularity as an alternative to a traditional safari. Instead of sitting in the back of a 4X4 and listening to all the information, travellers are now immersing themselves in experience by learning, training and practicing how to become professional safari guides. And although it’s unlikely that many will end up as a full-time professional guide, the training is both fascinating and challenging, equipping the participant with valuable, practical life skills.
The learning environment is the real deal. This is not something you can do online or in a conference room: our favourite safari guide training is offered by African Guide Academy in the Okavango Delta. Recognised by FAGASA (Field Guides Association of Southern Africa) and BQA (Botswana Qualifications Authority), their training ground is a landscape of open savannah and forest crossed by clear-flowing rivers and home to vast sprawling wetlands. It’s an area famous for its bio-diversity and supports large populations of elephant, buffalo, lion and other big cats. There are no tarred roads in the delta; transport is by light plane, 4X4 and traditional canoe.
If you’re going to learn to be a safari guide, it may as well be here.
The full guide training is a month-long course so it is offered in modular form – shorter blocks of skills training – which you can book individually. The various modules cover topics such as tracking, 4X4 driving, use of a firearm and first aid in the bush. You’ll have to wade through water, light campfires and cook on them, and recognise nature’s alarm calls – birds, squirrels and antelope warning of approaching predators.
There’s no need for prior experience; you just need to be relatively fit and with an adventurous spirit and a deep love for nature. There are plenty of resources available from the academy to provide you with a solid background knowledge before you start, enabling you to spend more time in the field with the basics already under your belt.
And there’s another reason a safari guide training course is a good idea: at the African Guide Academy, a local trainee guide is included on the course. Thanks to your investment, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is given to a promising young man or woman who may well end up guiding professionally, forming part of the local green economy. Think of it as a mechanism to ultimately protect and preserve the Okavango Delta.
This win-win combination of tourism and conservation can also be seen in South Africa where great progress has been made in the fight against rhino horn poaching.
The malaria-free Marataba Private Reserve offers a rhino conservation safari where you mix game drives and boat cruises with conservation field work. And to complete the circle nicely, Marataba also has a Field Guide College, offering FAGASA-recognised courses ranging from a week to a year.