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The Learner Hunters & Guides Qualification: What is involved?


Training to become a hunter or guide in Zimbabwe begins with examinations leading to the formal qualification of “Learner Hunter/Guide”.

This is not an easy option

Many people think that because you are not required to have O-Levels to write these exams this is a good route for getting a qualification without having O-Levels. Think again. There is an exceedingly high failure rate for these examinations. If your funds are limited and you have not had a great deal of success with examinations in the past you might want to be cautious about the Hunters and Guides route. Many people with  good school results and a great deal of knowledge and experience in the bush and with wildlife have been repeatedly disappointed.

Jobs in this field are extremely scarce

The tourism, hospitality and hunting industries in Zimbabwe do not yield many jobs. For a variety of reasons tourists are reluctant to come to Zimbabwe except for brief visits to Victoria Falls. Hotels and lodges throughout the country have been struggling to make ends meet for many years. There are more qualified and experienced people than there are jobs. Getting a Learner Hunters and Guides License is no guarantee of employment.

That being said if you are still interested these are the STAGES in qualifying as a learner/professional hunter or guide in Zimbabwe:

  1. LEARNER HUNTER OR GUIDE – writing of four examination papers
  2. “APPRENTICESHIP” under professional Hunter/Guide
  3. PROFESSIONAL HUNTER OR GUIDE interview/shooting/proficiency test


(N.B. Most of the process is the same whether you want to become a hunter or a guide – same requirements, exams, etc.)

What can I do with the Learner Hunter/Guide qualification?

These examinations are the first stage in the process of becoming a Professional Hunter or Guide (see above) in the Zimbabwean system BUT YOU DO NOT NEED TO GO THIS ROUTE. There are a number of people (myself included) who are content to remain as a Learner Guide for the rest of their career.

A Learner Guide is permitted to charge money to conduct people on tours of National Parks Estate land in vehicles, on horseback or on foot in those places where tourists are permitted to walk on their own.

An added bonus is that with a Learner’s certificate you are permitted to enter National Parks areas for free, though you still have to pay for vehicle entrance.

And if you do NOT have this license you cannot take clients into National Parks

What you cannot do is take clients walking in areas where they would not normally be allowed to alight from a vehicle. Under those conditions you would be required to be accompanied by an armed Professional Hunter or National Parks ranger who would be able to protect the client(s) in the event of the charge of a wild animal.

What do I need to qualify to write?

You must be:

  • 18 years old or above
  • A Zimbabwean citizen or Permanent Resident
  • Have a First Aid Certificate from a recognised outfit within the last 2 years (MARS, EMRAS, St. John’s Ambulance, etc. ACE offers a 1st Aid course specifically for Hunters and Guides.)

You pay a fee to write the Learner Hunters and Guides exams at one of the National Parks regional offices (registration opens a month in advance of the exams) and you present yourself at the examination venue:

  • Proof of citizenship/residence
  • Receipt for the fee
  • First Aid certificate.

Who sets the examinations and certifies the results?

The Learner Hunter and Guide examinations are organised by the Zimbabwean Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) under the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate. The papers are set by the staff of Mushendike College of Wildlife Management (National Parks’ training institution) and the process is assisted by the Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association (ZPHGA).

How much does it cost to write the examinations?

In February 2020 the exams cost US$50 per paper, in other words, US$200 in total.

When and where are the examinations held?

The exams are written over two days, twice a year, in February and September, alternately in Bulawayo and Harare.

What do the examinations consist of?

There are four short-answer examination papers of around two hours each, on the following topics:

  • Firearms covering ballistics, firearm safety, regulations, etc.;
  • General Paper covering a wide range of questions related to the tourism/hunting industries, aspects of Zimbabwe and local and international news;
  • Habits and Habitats covering all types of wildlife in Zimbabwe and the environments within which they live;
  • Law covering the regulations governing wildlife, hunting, import and export of trophies, the functioning of National Parks and behaviour on Parks land.

(You will find the syllabus for each paper in Syllabus Information)

Additionally candidates may also write a Canoe Paper at the same time as the Learner Examinations if they intend to become a River Guide. They will then need to acquire 250 hours of experience on the river to undergo the Canoe, Kayak or Whitewater Proficiency Test.

The candidate is expected to pass each exam individually and achieve 60% pass mark overall.  If you obtain over 60% on three papers but fail a fourth you may re-write the one you failed at the following sitting. If you fail two or more papers you have to re-write them all.   

What do I have when I have passed the examinations?

You will be a registered Learner Hunter/Guide. On the payment of a fee you will be issued with your Learner Hunter/Guide License.

N.B. The certification is valid for one year and expires every year on the 31st of December. It is essential, therefore, that you go to your nearest National Parks office each January to obtain a valid license for the next year. (There is a penalty to be paid if you are late in renewing – you have 2 or 3 months leeway.  If you fail to renew your license for a full year National Parks reserves the right to require that you re-write your examinations.)

To renew your license you must present:

  • Proof of payment for the new license
  • The receipt for the payment for the previous year
  • The previous year’s license
  • A letter from the Professional Hunter/Guide under whom you are doing your apprenticeship saying that you have performed satisfactorily for the previous year. (You need to have a Professional Hunter to vouch for you even if you are not going to work towards a Professional Hunter/Guide license. )

How do I prepare for these examinations?

There are two parts to your preparation:

A. Syllabus Information (You will find the syllabus for each paper)

B. Study Material and Methods 

Paddy Pacey

Zimbabwean field guide and trainer of aspiring guides

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