Game Ranger Training at Shamwari Game Reserve
Training as a game ranger may sound like a particularly exotic way to spend time out from work or university, but the course offered at the world-renowned Shamwari Game Reserve isn’t just a brief insight into some of the roles and responsibilities that becoming a game ranger entails. No, this course is the real deal and your course mates are just as likely to be currently working part time in some capacity on an African game reserve as they are to be English students taking a gap year in South Africa.
You may think that game ranger training simply involves learning about the various animal footprints that you need to point out to a group of excitable American tourists, but the course is a lot more in-depth than that. Becoming a game ranger involves passing the standard FGASA examination. However, before students can qualify for this certificate they need to take a course in off-road driving, which means that holding a driving licence is an essential requirement. Rangers must also undertake an extensive first-aid examination which covers everything from snake bites wounds, to bone fractures and resuscitation methods.
The course offered at Shamwari Game Reserve is typically six weeks long and students can expect to learn about everything from the botany and biomes of South Africa to historical human habitation and hospitality management. The becoming a game ranger course covers everything from astronomy to zoology and due to the hands on nature of the FGASA course you can expect to spend many an evening camping out under the stars whilst tracking lions or observing the various stars which make up the Milky Way.
Whilst studying at Shamwari Game Reserve you can opt to mix your game ranger training course with a number of community or conservation based programmes. These can be incredibly rewarding and a great way to give something back to the local population. Shamwari offers a number of these projects and you can spend your gap year in South Africa learning the skills needed to become a game ranger whilst at the same time off-setting your carbon footprint by planting trees in the local nursery or teaching ball skills to the children in a nearby AIDS orphanage.
One of the highlights of the course is attending game drives and spotting South Africa’s indigenous animals in their natural habitat. Shamwari Game Reserve is one of the premier game reserves in the Eastern Cape and you can expect to spot everything from lions lazing after a kill to hippos basking on the banks of the river. Due to the nature of working on a game reserve you will often find that your class schedule is interrupted. It is certainly common for a class to be cancelled half-way through so that you can watch a lion kill or visit some newborn cheetah cubs. One thing which you will soon discover about game ranger training is that no two days are exactly the same.
Mark Bottell is the General Manager for Worldwide Experience, an online tour operator offering game ranger training, and various gap years for grown-ups.