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What it takes to become a trails guide

Jul 31, 20230 comments

South Africa has incredible biodiversity and stunning landscapes, making it a premier destination for safari enthusiasts. Game drives offer an immersive wildlife experience, but there is something uniquely captivating about venturing on foot during a safari bush walk which is available for guests to indulge in after breakfast at all 4 of Kapama’s luxury lodges. This thrilling and educational activity allows visitors to connect intimately with nature, led by expert safari guides who unlock the secrets of the wilderness.

On your bushwalk, prepare for intimate encounters with magnificent wildlife that roam the 15,000 + hectares of Kapama Private Game Reserve. With the guidance of your expert trails guides, you’ll have the opportunity to witness the grace of antelopes as they graze, catch the flicker of zebras’ vivid stripes against the horizon, and even come face to face with creatures great and small. It’s an up-close and personal experience that will leave you in awe of the natural world.

Kapama giraffe

Your trails guides are not just knowledgeable; they are passionate storytellers who will unravel the mysteries of the bush. Learn how the trees and plants have sustained communities for centuries, discover the intricate relationships between flora and fauna, and gain a deeper understanding of the delicate balance that exists in this remarkable ecosystem. It’s an education that goes beyond textbooks, leaving you with a newfound appreciation for the wonders of nature.

While observing wildlife is undoubtedly thrilling, our trails guide’s expertise goes beyond identification. Often guests are not fully aware of the time, effort and dedication that goes into a guide acquiring their necessary Full trails guiding qualifications, which permits them to be able to take guests on a bush walk in the safest possible way on a Big Five Reserve like Kapama.

So, as you lace up your boots and take that first step, let the anticipation build as the ground beneath your feet becomes a living map, telling stories of the creatures that roam these lands. You can rest assured that your guide is more than qualified to give you an unforgettable immersive encounter with the majestic wildlife.

Kapama bush walks

Did you know….?

 Before a safari guide can qualify as a FULL Trails guide, they first need to acquire the apprentice trails guide qualification – or backup trails. Only once this is valid can a guide enter the process of an FGASA trails guide – Full trails and begin to log the required hours and encounters for this qualification. However, achieving the apprentice level is no easy process. 

This includes,

    • A valid First Aid Level 1 Certificate
    • FGASA Trails Guide Theory Exam
    • Advanced Rifle Handling
    • Rifle Competency
    • Min. of 50 Walking Hrs for Apprentice Trails Guide Qualification – (BACK UP):
        • 50 hours as an observer led by an FGASA Trails Guide (NQF4)
        • 10 Encounters as an observer led by TWO FGASA Trails Guide (NQF4). The 10  encounters must be from at least 3 of the dangerous game categories:
            • Elephant Bull
            • Elephant Breeding Herd
            • Buffalo Bull
            • Buffalo Breeding Herd
            • Lion & Leopard
            • Black & White Rhino
            • Hippo
Kapama Bush walk rassie
Kapama wildlife buffalo

As nature is unpredictable, apprentice guides must wait for the encounter to present itself while out with the 2 FGASA trail guides. So this cannot simply be achieved in a couple of weeks, it can take quite some time to ensure the appropriate encounter is observed by the apprentice to be logged correctly.

Only once the above criteria have been met, can a guide proceed with the criteria needed for Trails Guide Qualification – Full Trails. This once again includes numerous criteria that need to be adhered to.

Kapama bush walk 3
Entry Criteria for Trails Guide Qualification – (FULL TRAILS)
    • The guide must be in the FGASA apprentice trails guide (trails back up) programme as described above, and the logbook must be signed off for the apprentice trails guide before the guide can start to log hours and encounters for Full Trails
    • FGASA field guide (NQF4) – FGASA level 2 (exam & practical evaluation passed)
    • Valid first aid level 1 certificate
    • Advanced rifle handling
    • Rifle competency
    • Tracker level 1 qualification. This consists of 2 courses: TRACKS & SIGNS + TRAILING
    • 150 Hours Required For Trails Guide Qualification – made up of the below criteria
1. 50 Hours as 2nd Rifle / Backup with an accredited mentor
a. The 1st batch of 50 Hours as 2nd Rifle must include at least 20 encounters, 1 of each animal category.

2. 50 Hours as 1ST Rifle / Lead with an accredited mentor
a. This 2nd batch of 50 Hours as 1st Rifle must include 20 Encounters with at least 1 of each animal category

3. 50 Hours 1st rifle can be with a Trails Guide (NQF4) who would be 2nd Rifle
a. These 50 hours must be with paying guests from the lodge, not in a training context or walking course, and must include 10 encounters with at least 3 animal categories.
Once again, these encounters are not orchestrated and the guide needs to come upon this situation during the walks. This means more hours than the required min 50 hours will definitely be completed.
The process of acquiring additional guiding qualifications to advance one’s career can be time-consuming, costly and difficult for some local guides and trackers. Kapama’s Safari Manager has passionately pioneered a program to assist trackers in learning the required information to gain this necessary qualification. To begin with, being an accredited FGASA field guide.

Numerous training sessions were implemented, and lecturers and experts were brought in at Kapama’s expense to ensure the trackers were prepared for their exams and practicals. This qualification and upskilling, have resulted in Kapama trackers moving to a new level and our trackers are now assistant guides. Currently, all assistant guides on the reserve have completed their NQF 2 and the majority have completed their practical exam.

This is the first step in helping our assistant guides move up the levels to become fully qualified. Kapama was the first safari lodge to have 2 qualified guides on game drives with guests enhancing their overall wildlife and safari experience. All this has been put in place to assist guides and assistant guides to gain that very interesting qualification of Full trails guide.

To learn more about our Guiding Development Program click here.

Kapama guides and assistant guides
Kapama wildlife rhino
Kapama leopards

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