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Ecotourism Tour Guide Course

Course CodeBTR301
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Want to be a Tour Guide?

This course develops your ability to organise and conduct ecotourism services including tours and activities. This could range from guided tours, overnight walks and treks, or self guided interpretive walks. Ecotourism is the combination of Ecology and Tourism. Ecotourism is an industry that has developed hugely in recent years. It reflects both of the aims of modern conservation: husbandry of resources and protection of the environment. Modern ecotourism strives to be sustainable, so that the activities that are taking place can continue to do so. This course will introduce you to some of the aspects of ecotourism guiding including environmental awareness, planning tours,displays and interpretive aids, plant and animal interpretation.

" I have never found the staff at any other learning institution as supportive as the staff at ACS. This gives one a lot of peace of mind and confidence to go on - at every squeak from my side, you guys have always been there, immediately to sort me out. The feedback on my lessons has always been really good and meaningful and an important source of my learning. Thanks!..."
- Student with ACS

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Ecotourism Basics
    • Definition of ecotourism
    • Negative ecotourism
    • Ecotourist profile
    • Administrative concerns
    • Safety
  2. Interpretive Services in Ecotourism
    • Interpretation as a key element of ecotourism
    • Interpretation techniques
    • Sign design
  3. Ecology and Conservation
    • Definition of ecology
    • Ecosystem function
    • The web of life
    • Habitat and niche
    • Humans in the environment
  4. Plant and Animal Classification and Identification
    • Classification of organisms
    • Basic taxonomy
    • Using keys for identification
    • Other methods of identification
  5. Geology/Geomorphology
    • Types of rocks
    • Types of minerals
    • Soils
    • Soil formation
    • Soil classification
  6. Interpreting Aquatic Environments
    • Marine environments
    • Freshwater environments
    • Fish
    • Shells
    • Crustaceans
  7. Interpreting Land Environments
    • Introduction to interpreting land environments
    • Relevance of interpreting land environments
  8. Planning an Ecotour
    • Destination
    • Transportation
    • Accommodation
  9. Ecotour Displays
    • Design concepts
    • Zoo design techniques
  10. Leading an Ecotour
    • Advertising
    • Group preparation
    • Planning the tour
    • Group surveys for feedback

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Develop an ability to analyse the structure of interpretive ecotourism in your country.
  • Recognise factors of the environment and their significance to ecotourism.
  • Plan an ecotour.
  • Create/develop interpretation aids for a selected ecotourism activity.
  • Develop a display with an ecotourism theme.
  • Determine the specific name of a range of natural features in a selected wilderness area including:
    • Birds
    • Fish
    • Shells
    • Other animals
    • Plants
  • Lead an interpretive tour with an ecotourism theme.
  • Develop innovative concepts in interpretation for a selected aquatic ecotourism activity.
  • Develop innovative concepts in interpretation for a selected ecotourism activity in a land environment.
  • Determine the specific name of a range of natural features in a selected wilderness area including, where appropriate:
    • Fossils
    • Rocks
    • Land formations
    • Soil types
    • Geothermal features

What You Will Do

  • Prepare identification sheets, containing a preserved specimen, a photograph or a drawing; together with a description of the species/type of organism.
    • This collection is designed to be the embryo of a resource which you may use as an ongoing aid when designing and conducting interpretive activities.
  • You will research the legal and administrative background required to set up an ecotourism venture in your area. You will also look at the marketing and advertising possibilities for this venture.
  • Visit a number of interpretive ecotourism facilities.
  • Prepare an interpretive activities sheet for an ecotourism group.
  • Visit a natural area and classify organisms sighted in a set time period.
  • Identify points of interest in a natural area for an ecotourism group.
  • Research the lifecycles of a number of plants and animals.
  • Design a range of ecotours for ecotourists interested in various natural phenomena.
  • Visit an aquatic environment and make observations on the organisms there and any pollution present.
  • Identify potential ecotourism activities for a marine area.
  • Develop interpretive techniques for minimal environmental impact.
  • Attend an ecotour to assess the quantity and quality of information provided.
  • Plan an ecotour including the destination, accommodation, transport, catering.
  • Construct an ecotour display.
  • Plan and lead an ecotour to a group of ecotourists or acquaintances.

Nature and Scope of Ecotour Activities

Sometimes they are challenging and active; but wilderness activities do not always need to be dangerous and physically challenging. There are many passive activities that can be undertaken by people that are limited in their ability (or by preference) to undertake more rigorous pursuits.

Activities can be relatively passive and virtually anyone can do, including:

  • Bushwalking
  • Beachcombing
  • Landscape or wildlife photography
  • Painting
  • Fossicking
  • Anthropology or history excursions
  • Observing Nature –bird-watching, whale watching, etc. 
  • Scientific Research
  • Orienteering
  • Viewing vistas from lookouts

Observing nature can be done just about anywhere and just about any time. A variety of birds, insects and reptiles can be observed in the busiest of cities such as a suburban backyard or a city park. To observe nature in general, you don’t need to travel deep in the forests. An approach would be to choose one animal, look for details and identify them. To see something specific, like an alligator, you have to go where the alligators are. A little research into where and how they live can increase your chances of observing something specific. Don’t forget, while you’re watching them, they are very likely watching you. The following tips outline two ways to identify nature while avoiding detection.

Not being detected is nearly impossible. Animals are always on the lookout for food or predators and you are always perceived as a predator. If an animal seems agitated, move to a different position or leave if they do not quiet down quickly. For example, nesting birds won’t leave the area unless it’s a last ditch effort to avoid predation. But being off their nests for long periods of time can harm developing eggs. Be mindful of wildlife and respect their comfort zone.

  • Chose to wear colours that most blend into the colours of the habitat.
  • Avoid wearing anything scented like hairspray or cologne.
  • Wear clothes and shoes that allow for long periods of sitting or standing.
  • Never look directly at the object of your attention. You can usually get away with looking at the animal much longer if you look indirectly out of the corner of your eye.
  • Stay as quiet as possible. Wait for the animal to move before you do. Then do so as quietly as possible. Move from one hiding place to another as the animal moves. Peer around, not over, bushes, trees and shrubs.
  • Keep the wind in your face. Animals are less likely to pick up your scent.
  • Keep the sun at your back. You can see better and the animal is somewhat blinded by the sun, giving you cover.

Observing nature can be a rewarding and fascinating hobby. You learn about animal behaviour, social interactions and the habitats where specific animals live. In some cases you may even learn identification skills by using special classification keys. Many scientists observe nature as a hobby, not just a career, and this can develop into a paid career if your skills are up to scratch.  It can also have benefits in your health by being outdoors, keeping fit and relaxing you.





  • Prepare to work as a tour guide (if you are hoping to become a tour guide).
  • Get better at doing your job (if you are already a tour guide)
  • Explore options for starting an ecotourism business
  • Develop knowledge, awareness and build networking in this industry; guided by highly qualified and experienced ecotourism professionals
  • Feed your passion and see where it takes you.




Meet some of our academics

Dr. Gareth PearceVeterinary scientist and surgeon with expertise in agriculture and environmental science, with over 25 years of experience in teaching and research in agriculture, veterinary medicine, wildlife ecology and conservation in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Post-graduate qualifications in Education, Wildlife Conservation Medicine, Aquatic Veterinary Studies and Wildlife Biology & Conservation. Gareth has a B.Sc.(Hons), B.V.Sc., M.A., M.Vet.S,. PhD, Grad. Cert. Ed.(HE), Post-Grad.Cert. Aq.Vet.Sc., Post-Grad. Cert. WLBio&Cons., Dipl. ECPHM, MRCVS.
Marius Erasmus Subsequent to completing a BSc (Agric) degree in animal science, Marius completed an honours degree in wildlife management, and a masters degree in production animal physiology. Following the Masters degree, he has worked for 9 years in the UK, and South Africa in wildlife management, dairy, beef and poultry farming.

Check out our eBooks

Marine AnimalsA heavily illustrated text with seven chapters including: classification, fishes, sea birds, marine reptiles, marine mammals, marine invertebrates, and zooplankton. 110 pages, 133 colour photos
LeadershipWhat makes a good leader? Is it an innate personality trait or a skill that can be acquired? This book is an excellent guide to the theories and practice of leadership. It is full of interesting facts about social dynamics and examples of leadership styles. For those who are curious or in need of some leadership skills, this book will provide both entertainment and advice.
ManagementManagement is the process of planning, organising, leading, and controlling an organisation’s human and other resources to achieve business goals. More importantly though, effective management needs to be a process of human interaction and compassion. Most bad managers don’t know they are bad. They may well admit that they are a bit erratic, or they are sometimes late to appointments, but it is rare that they will recognise that they are ineffective as managers. Never here. This book has something to offer even the best of managers.