"On the Spirit of the Wild progamme I felt as if my journey to live a better life is starting. I learnt about respect, value, life and its obstacles and how to move forward."
Melisizwe Ntombana
Walking on Bergplaas Nature Reserve

Our Programmes

Our Programmes

Bergplaas’ wildlife and environment programmes include:

  1. Spirit of the Wild
  2. Nature Conservation Student Experiential Training
  3. Clear Water Wilderness Trails

Spirit of the Wild

The Spirit of the Wild

The Spirit of the Wild

The Spirit of the Wild Programme or Spirit of the Wild offers a one-to-three-week wildlife, guiding and leadership experience that awakens each participant’s pathways of knowledge, belonging and purpose. It is a profound personal and leadership skills development journey that reconnects people from all backgrounds with the natural environment. In the 21st century, many of us have lost this connection, which is the lifeline to our shared humanity, our collective well-being and the achievement of our full potential.

In 2012 the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA) endorsed Spirit of the Wild as a Specialist Training Provider and Certificate Programme. The range of graduates is remarkable: from young people who grew up in squatter camps with no previous experience of the natural environment to the Chief Executive Officer of the FGASA. Participants from financially disadvantaged programmes can apply to attend at no cost. Bergplaas’ international partners are highly supportive of this.

10 Years of Graduate Success

In 2016, Spirit of the Wild celebrates its 10th anniversary. The programme accommodates groups of up to 18 participants at a time, either for the one-week programme or for the three-week certificate programme, completed in three one-week sessions over the course of a year.

The diverse range of participants includes:

  • Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in South Africa’s urban and rural areas;
  • Young people from the South African government’s job creation initiatives in the conservation sector;
  • University and College Students;

Participants – the experience and gains

The wildlife and personal development skills that participants gain through the Programme and the inner and outer journey they experience on Bergplaas Nature Reserve, include:

  • A deepening of your understanding of wildlife and wilderness;
  • Growth in your awareness of being part of the natural environment;
  • Advancement of your communication and guiding skills; and
  • An awakening of your vital force and life purpose.

This triggers a growing connection with self, a trust in self, a confidence in and acceptance of self, which, in turn, nurtures the ability to lead and share the knowledge, relationship- and communication skills they have gained.

All participants on the Spirit of the Wild Certificate Programme experience these gains.

Clear Water Wilderness Trails

Wilderness trails for leaders in collaboration with Clear Water (

2024 Spirit of the Wild Course Dates

  • 15 - 19 April (to be confirmed)
  • 16 - 20 September
  • 14 - 18 October
Spirit of the Wild in action

Irene van Lippe-Biesterfeld

“The Spirit of the Wild Programme leads to a revaluation of our personal relationship with the natural environment and our place as humans in this unique ecosystem we call Earth.”

Nature Conservation Student

Nature Conservation

Nelson Mandela University

Nelson Mandela University is the largest University in the Eastern Cape, the province in which Bergplaas is situated. Many of the students at NMU are from financially impoverished households and the only way that they are able to achieve a university education is by securing loans, scholarships and bursaries.

Bergplaas and the School of Natural Resource Management, NMU George Campus, have developed a strong partnership since 2011 that was formalised into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 2016.

As part of this MOU Bergplaas offers:

  • One-year internship/experiential training for one third-year Nature Conservation student.

Bergplaas annually selects the third year practical year intern from the second year group.

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