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Be unstoppable: Women breaking barriers on the Big 5’s playground

Female field guides are not as rare as many people think. These women in the wild are committed to changing the face of the industry…

Field Guide Melanie Groenewald
Field Guide Melanie Groenewald Image: Supplied (Bushwise)

We are shining the spotlight on unstoppable women this Women’s Month. This week we’re looking at women in the wild.  

Exploring and working in the wild is not for the faint hearted – it’s the Big Five’s playground and no one can blame you for thinking it’s a career reserved for the masculine.

Think again! It’s not just a man’s world out there; in fact, women have been breaking barriers in this industry for years now and continue to do so.

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Sophie Niemann, founder and director of Bushwise – an academy that offers accredited field guide training programmes, says it is a myth that male guides dominate the industry.

“That can’t be further from the truth, in fact our in-take figures show that there’s a 50-50 split. This demonstrates that women are taking kindly to making their mark on this sector,” Sophie said in a statement.

Here’s a look at some of the women in the field guide industry who are helping change the way the public view the industry.

Field guide Melanie Groenewald says living and working in the bush has always been her childhood dream.

Field guide Tasha van den Aardweg
Field guide Tasha van den Aardweg Image: Supplied (Bushwise)


Melanie says women should not allow anything to stand in the way of achieving their dreams.

“Always remember what Albert Einstein said: ‘do something you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life’. It’s simple, if you love what you do, everything falls into place,” she says.

Field guide Tasha van den Aardweg says the bush has always been her happy place.

The 23-year-old studied for a BSc Biodiversity and Ecology degree, and after completion decided to enrol in a Bushwise course to become a field guide.

“Women can contribute to changing the face of the industry. If women represent 50% of field guides in South Africa, only women can increase this representation. No industry is too masculine or too challenging. Don’t be intimidated,” she urges.

Respect goes a long way in ensuring a successful career as a field guide.

  • Respect the environment
  • Respect the animals
  • Respect guests
  • Respect your colleagues.

“Melanie and Tasha’s comments show us that women really are committed to changing the face of this industry and that’s exactly what we need. We need more young girls to start seeing it as not just a man’s world, but as a career path where they can excel and make a valuable contribution to. That’s how we’ll grow and advance the industry,” says Sophie.

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