How to be a Professional Guide in South Africa

Be Professional, Be proud

All Guides operating in South Africa have to be registered or they are unprofessional and liable for prosecution.

A Guide is…

Any person who, for monetary or other reward, accompanies people who are traveling through or visiting any place within a country, and who furnishes those people with information or comments concerning a place or objects visited is defined as Tourist Guide. Many tourist guides may also wish to run their own tour operations in which they are both tour guide and tour operator.


Categories of Guides

There are three categories of tourist guides:

Site Guides

They have attained the minimum qualification in order to guide in a “limited defined area”. Could be a place or activity i.e. A specific museum, A local attraction, Hiking in the Drakensberg, Paddling the Vaal, Rock Climbing.

Provincial Guides

Provincial Guides are qualified to take tourists around an entire Province and they will have been assessed theoretically and practically in that Province. i.e. Western Cape, KZN etc.

National Guides

National Tour Guides have been and are permitted to conduct tours all around South Africa, crossing all provincial boundaries. They will have knowledge of all nine Provinces.

It does get a little complicated as most Adventure Guides tend to operate Nationally although they are Site Guides, this is due to the site descriptor which is generic to the activity and not the geographical environment. eg. a Archery Guide can do archery anywhere. Some limitations do exist for some activities.

Types of Guiding

The above categories of Guides can then also be classified into three specialities:


A guided adventure experience.

Rock climbing, Paddling, Diving, Bungee, Sand-boarding, Zip-lines, Hiking, Off Road 4×4 Adventures, Canyoning, Camping, Snorkeling etc


A guided nature experience.

These are Nature based guided tours. Game Reserves, National Parks, Nature conservation areas, Nature trails, Birding tours, Butterfly tours, Geology tours, Spoor tracking, etc…


A guided cultural experience.

These are Culture / History / Community based tours which could include: museums, community projects, wine farms, art tours, political tours, historical tours, etc.


 There are only two qualifications registered on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) presently:

  • National Certificate in Tourism: Guiding (NQF2)
  • National Certificate in Tourism: Guiding (NQF4)

Note that a new NQF 5 National Certificate specifically for the Adventure Industry is currently being developed. It is hoped this will become available in 2019.

Sometimes several unit standards, within the different areas of specialisation, have been clustered together to form SKILLS PROGRAMMES addressing areas of specialization, and aimed at persons wishing to only complete the specialized minimum area of learning required to guide.

These skills programmes are registered by CATHSSETA (the old Theta) for certification purposes. The applicable unit standards are registered on the NQF.  In order for you to register as a site guide specialising in culture, nature, or adventure guiding you need different combinations of unit standards, these rules of combination can be accessed on the CATHSSETA (Culture Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority) website,

If you want to register as a regional on national guide you need, as a minimum qualification at NQF level 4 plus the required unit standard for your area of specialization – view these on the CATHSSETA website

Site Guides just need to hold a Skills program and in the Adventure industry this is the Generic Adventure Site Guide program. (GASG)

Guide Trainers and Assessors

All tourist guide trainers and assessors have to be accredited by CATHSSETA to be able to train according to the national recognised standards and qualifications framework.

Please note that assessors cannot issue certificates on their own as they have to be working for/with an accredited training provider who will then issue certificates from CATHSSETA, upon completion of the assessment. The duration of the course, course content, dates and time of training, fee structure is determined by each training provider.

The Mandatory Registration Process

According to the Tourism Act, any person who wishes to be registered as a tourist guide shall apply to their Provincial registrar.


The following documents must be provided when applying for registration: 

  1. Signed code of conduct
  2. 2 x ID sized photos
  3. Registration fee of R240
  4. Certified copies of the following:
  5. SA Identity document
  6. CATHSSETA Certificate of Competence (Competence Certificates are ONLY issued by CATHSSETA)
  7. Valid first Aid Certificate
  8. Drivers license and/ or PDP where applicable.

No person shall be registered as a tourist guide in terms of the Tourism Second Amendment Act, 2000 unless he/she-:

  1. Shows proof of competence; (SAQA registered qualification)
  2. Is within the Republic;
  3. Has no criminal record;
  4. Has permanent residence or work permit in the Republic;
  5. Has passed the prescribed quality assurance process that a tourist guide shall complete not later than two years after the date his/her last registration.

Upon registration, the tourist guide will receive a badge and an ID card. The ID card will indicate which province/region/area/site the tourist guide is allowed to operate in, his/her period of registration.

Renewal of Registration   

Any person registered as tourist guide, may before the end of period for which he/she is registered, apply to the Provincial Registrar for renewal of his or her registration and his/her registration shall, upon the payment of R240 be renewed.

International Guides

This all also applies to International Guides leading trips in South Africa. Guides MUST be compliant with the local laws. For example: a UIAGM Mountain Guide may NOT Guide in South Africa without having registered here and hold the local qualifications.

Thanx to Brendon Wainwright for the some of the pictures on this page.

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