field guide

Tovhi Mudau: My Journey To Becoming A Senior Field Guide

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.”

Click here to read more about Tovhi’s time at Lion Sands Game Reserve

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Enjoy the freedom of the bush and gain invaluable knowledge of the natural world with our 60-Day Apprentice Field Guide Course. We're offering 20% off our July intake to the first 4 people who apply, so book your spot now! T&Cs apply. The course starts on the 10th of July.
Email to make a booking.

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A letter to the editor of the Sunday Times ZA, by Robert More.

"There is a limit. A limit to how long businesses that have had no revenue and people who have had no income for 80 days of lockdown can survive.

That statement, made by President Cyril Ramaphosa last week announcing adjustments to the Level 3 lockdown, brought a small, but short-lived sigh of relief from the Tourism Sector; hope that sense would prevail and amended regulations would pave the way for a meaningful reopening so that businesses and jobs could be saved.

This pandemic, which has seen a global health and economic crisis of ever-increasing proportion, has hit Tourism especially hard. One of the first economic sectors, and certainly the one earmarked for reopening last, the Tourism Sector was affected long before the 27 March lockdown date was announced.

Feeling that pain with us have been the communities, associated sectors and informal businesses who rely on an active Tourism Sector for their livelihoods.

At present, the Level 3 regulations allow hotels, lodges, B&Bs, timeshare facilities, resorts and guest houses to host business travellers and remaining tourists, as well as provide accommodation for quarantine and isolation purposes. Travel for leisure purposes has not been allowed explicitly, whether that is across provincial borders or not.

On paper, the accommodation sector seems open, albeit for certain categories of guests only. In reality, many accommodation establishments only serve leisure markets, or a mix of leisure and business. Their survival depends on leisure tourism reopening, and while the gradual reopening of domestic business travel, including inter-provincial business travel, is welcome, it alone will not sustain the thousands of small and large accommodation providers whose businesses are inextricably linked to leisure tourism.

Statistics South Africa indicates that as much as 90% of the domestic accommodation market is leisure, and that 60% of all domestic overnight trips are across provincial borders – in the case of Gauteng, that percentage is higher, 70%. Many accommodation businesses in surrounding provinces rely entirely on Gauteng’s outbound domestic leisure business.

We have seen extraordinary inconsistencies in the gradual reopening of South Africa’s economy. The welcome further relaxing of restrictions on accommodation establishments, as announced by President Ramaphosa, will be well and truly meaningless – yet another inconsistency – if domestic leisure tourists are still barred from travelling, inter-provincial travel remains in lockdown and businesses are unable to trade due to lack of demand.

Travel is happening. Whether it is across provincial borders for business, for study, for funerals or to care for vulnerable family members. These travellers can travel safely because of the stringent health and safety protocols that have been put in place by the tourism and hospitality sector to curb the spread of the pandemic, for all travel. And if these can travel safely, why can’t leisure travellers?

We remain hopeful that, as our regulations are being drafted, our pledge to safeguard our guests and staff through these robust health and safety protocols and the nature of how our Tourism Sector operates will ensure the President’s encouraging announcement will result in the meaningful easing our industry needs right now to survive.

Yours in Tourism,
Robert More
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