The Field Guides Association of South Africa (FGASA) recently interviewed Senior Field Guide and Mentor Guide at Lion Sands Game Reserve, Tovhowani (Tovhi) Mudau.
Tovhi is an NJ MORE graduate, and a shining example of what hard work and dedication can achieve.
Here’s her story:
“I had always wanted to be a medical doctor, however, in my final high school year I found that my physics marks had other plans for me.
Nonetheless, I was accepted to study a Bachelor of Science (BSc), which I hoped would then lead me back to medicine.
As if it was predestined, in my second year the opportunity to take Zoology arose and against all rationale, I grabbed it. It felt like the stars had aligned perfectly and everything was falling into place. I knew I was doing exactly what I should be doing.
As I studied and started to understand more about nature, conservation and existence as a whole, I fell in love. I continued with Zoology as my major all the way through to my final year.
Fast forward to graduation, and I was hyped for my newly elected career path, but had no real idea where to start, or what exactly a Zoologist does. All I knew was that I wanted to study animals and their behaviour more. I also wanted to work with people and share my love for nature with them, and I wanted to live out in the bush where I could immerse myself in nature.
In my search, I discovered the guiding industry. It checked every box I had created and more! I looked into the Field Guide Association of South Africa (FGASA), and how to become an accredited field guide in South Africa. I needed more training – Zoology was not even a prerequisite but it became my ally and set a solid foundation for me to build on.
On FGASA’s website there was a list of training providers, and that was where I found NJ MORE Field Guide College. A few months after graduation I registered to start their one year program (6 months training and 6 months practical).
There I obtained new qualifications that set me on the path to becoming a field guide, as well as skills such as wildlife photography, navigation and orientation, 4×4 driving, survival skills, reserve management, basic mechanics, birding and hospitality in a 5-star environment.
You must understand that I grew up in Johannesburg – the big city was a totally different kind of “jungle”. Every day at NJ MORE was an adventure, and as I lay my head down on my pillow at night, I had lions, leopards and hyenas singing me to sleep.
I was then fortunate enough to be selected by Lion Sands Game Reserve for a 6-month practical placement, so I packed up for my new adventure in the Lowveld. On completion of my 6 month practical I was offered a full-time position as a field guide, which I gladly accepted.
When I started, there was only one other female in a team of about twelve guides (which has now grown to 3). Instead of deciding to hide my femininity in the face of masculinity, I decided to embrace it. When you decide to harness that energy and strength, it automatically puts you at an advantage.
During the period after graduation and before I started at NJ MORE, I poured myself into philanthropy, as I had always been passionate about helping people and giving back. That is when I started a non-profit organisation that I chair to this day, called Acts Of Kindness (A-OK).
Its main objective is to demonstrate acts of kindness that elevate the overall well-being of individuals, communities and the South African nation as a whole, by encouraging the practice of Ubuntu and empowering indigent sections of society.
Over the years I have worked my way up to my current position as a Senior Guide and Mentor Guide at Lion Sands. During this process I equipped myself with qualifications that would empower me in my career.
I also became a registered Range Officer, and after a massive fire at Lion Sands, while the lodge was being rebuilt, I was given the opportunity to live in Cape Town. There I did cultural guiding for More Quarters and Cape Cadogan Boutique Hotel, which are both part of MORE Lodges & Hotels.
During my first month there I obtained my Cultural Guide certification, which I completed through the Cape Academy Of Guiding Services. It was an incredible opportunity and taught me so much, and again elevated my guiding. It has made me more relatable as over 80% of my guests are either coming from Cape Town or are heading there. If they have not made any plans, I can still put together an incredible itinerary for them.
I am currently still in the pursuit of knowledge, studying part time through UNISA to obtain my honours degree in Environmental Management. My advice is always that when given the opportunity to study, take it, as learning is one of the things your mind will never tire of.”