Courses » Conservation and Wildlife Management

What is it about?

  • Conservation and wildlife management skills
  • Exposure to diverse ecosystems
  • Preparation for a career as a naturalist, biologist, scientist, conservationist, wildlife manager, or nature guide/ranger - FGASA Level 1/NQF2.

There is a strong emphasis on field work to learn about and enjoy the natural history of the region. Various wildlife management and conservation skills are taught in the classroom, and followed up with appropriate field exercises.

Where? Mostly on the property Craig Doone, with visits to neighbouring properties and reserves.

How long? 6 weeks (excluding the last weekend of the 6th week). It starts on a Monday morning and ends on a Friday afternoon.

And the cost? South African citizens pay R3500 per week. International visitors pay R3500-4000 per week. The fee includes basic shared accommodation, food, reserve entrance fees, course-related transport, tuition and course materials. However, it excludes transfers to and from the site, weekend activities and weekend transport. FGASA membership and associated costs (exam fees, first aid course, marking fees, assessment fees) are also excluded (about R3-3500 for FGASA Level 1 or NQF2).

Who should attend? Any age, plenty of enthusiasm!

What should I bring? See also the kit list we give here.

What will the course cover? The site is ideal for learning about conservation and wildlife management. You may do fence and road maintenance, search for and remove snares, clear alien plants, and conduct basic vegetation surveys. Through regular nature walks on the property, you will get to know the small mammals, plants, reptiles and birds, and learn the history of the region. All of this will equip you to play an effective role in local wildlife management and conservation. And you will be able to use the knowledge and skills you gain here in Africa anywhere in the world.

What, specifically, will I learn?

  • Conservation history of South Africa
  • South African climate and geology
  • South African cultures and history 
  • Identification, evolution, and ecology of plants, mammals, birds, insects, reptiles, and amphibians
  • Mammal behaviour and social organization
  • The art of wildlife tracking, dung and sign identification and interpretation
  • Basic ecology: interactions and interrelationships in nature using local field examples
  • Nature guiding principles, including code of conduct and ethics
  • Camping and wilderness trails
  • Bush survival skills, basic mapping and orientation (including astronomy), safety and health in the bush
  • Fishing: learn about fish morphology, ecology (aquatic food chains), and fisheries management
  • Coastal excursion to study marine and inter-tidal ecology
  • Wildlife research, data collection, and scientific methodology
  • Game reserve establishment and maintenance (economics, fencing and patrols, wildlife diseases, fire fighting etc)
  • Alien plant control and management, soil erosion control and management
  • Hunting (optional): take part in hunting an animal, and skinning and dissecting it to study ruminant anatomy and physiology (mostly in the winter months, and subject to availability)
  • Taxidermy industry guided tour
  • The Cape floral kingdom and biomes of South Africa, including plant biogeography, diversity, and endemism
  • Fire ecology in rangelands and practical application (possibly with practical experience during the fire season)
  • Nature drives to a National Park and some private game reserves
  • Visit to the Born Free Big Cat Sanctuary in Shamwari Game Reserve
  • Nocturnal nature walk
  • Ecotourism and lodge management on private game reserves
  • Tools of the trade: vehicle care and maintenance, 4x4 driving, and firearm demonstration and care
  • Wildlife census, stocking rates, and determining grazing capacity
  • Vegetation surveys to monitor the impact of grazing
  • Forest threats and conservation
  • Game capture (subject to availability in winter months only)

What will a typical day look like?
You will study and work on weekdays. Weekends are off. The day usually starts at 08h30 and ends at about 17h00. The work can be physically demanding at times, with daily walks and an overnight trail, so you need to be fairly fit and healthy.

A typical day might look like this:

  • 07h15 – Breakfast
  • 08h00 – Briefing for day’s scheduled activities
  • 08h30 – 11h00 – Nature walk with binoculars and field guides
  • 11h30 – 12h30 – Lecture on alien plant control and impacts, including safety and the use of equipment
  • 12h30 – 13h30 – Lunch at base 
  • 13h30 – 16h30 – Leave base to cut alien trees, clear up
  • 16h30 – Start trip/walk home
  • 17h00 – Return to base, discuss the day’s activities and review what was learnt, and be briefed on the next day’s schedule
  • 18h30 – Supper; then you can play board games (no TV), read, study, relax, or go to bed

As part of your wildlife management training, work on the property will often involve developing trails, counting game, fixing fence holes, removing snares, chopping out alien trees, or soil erosion control.

Less strenuous tasks may include collecting flowering plants for the species list, calculating stocking densities, or monitoring habitat conditions by means of a grass survey.

As part of your nature guide training, you may be asked to work with tourists or school groups visiting the property by taking part in the environmental training or setting up camp.

Apart from these general points, it is hard to describe a ‘typical’ day! There is a wide range of activities, so the schedule is rarely the same from course to course. However, the core course topics are covered on each 6 week course, and you will go on nature walks at least three days a week.

There are at least three one-hour lectures a week, following by field exercises (such as observation or data collection). Other activities could include game capture, guest lectures, fire fighting, or a visit to the Albany Natural History Museum in Grahamstown. Our flexible schedule allows us to go on field trips at a moment’s notice – for example, when something exciting is happening, or when we need to avoid bad weather.

Please note that the course content and schedule will vary, and is often dependent on the weather. But we try to avoid major changes in the schedule, and these are always discussed with you beforehand.

What qualifications could I obtain?


In our 6 week course we will assist to prepare you to write the theory part of the NQF2/FGASA Level 1 course. The practical assessment is done only after passing the theory exam. The FGASA theory exam dates do not always coincide with our course dates so you may need to write the exam at a centre closest to your permanent residence or stay in the country longer in order to sit the exam. There are usually 3 exam sittings annually. We are willing to assist with the prac assessment and will arrange for a prac assessor in your area if you are not a local (Grahamstown area) student.

The cost of FGASA registration and membership, and of sitting the FGASA theory exam, is not included in the cost of the course. If you wish to take the exams, you will need to pay for them. 

A first aid course through St John’s Ambulance costs approx. R750 per person, and is only required if you do the NQF2/FGASA Level 1  practical exam or the full qualification.

Most people only manage to complete the theory part of FGASA Level 1 in a 6 week course. Please let us know before you arrive if you wish to do the FGASA theory exam, so that you can arrange membership before arrival.

Dr. W.T. Vos
Mobile: +27 (0)84 313 3817  E-mail: