Giving Guided Nature Tours

By Eric Hammer

If you love nature, then giving guided nature tours may be the perfect job opportunity for you. Guided nature tours can be given virtually anywhere, even in densely populated urban areas like New York City (think Central Park), but are most likely to be offered at national parks and monuments as well as at state parks.

The idea behind such tours is that you, as the guide will take people around and explain to them, in the same way that any tour guide might explain things, what there is to see in various locations around the park you are touring. You can point out unusual species, tell stories about some of the wildlife they may encounter and generally allow people to appreciate nature.

There is also a more expanded version of this business known as ecotourism. Unlike traditional tourism, ecotourism follows the mantra, "take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints." The idea here to is to lead people into remote parts of the world where they can experience nature at it's rawest. Ecotourists pay a premium for the privilege of seeing such things and you get to enjoy doing what you do for a living.

How Much Can You Make?

Guided nature tours in state and national parks which last for a few hours typically charge around $75-$100 per person. Often, this includes a picnic lunch which you will need to provide to the members of your group.

There are also longer tourism jobs where you take people on multiple day trips and of course, ecotourism jobs where you go to more remote parts of the world to see nature. Ecotourism guides make anywhere from $12,000 per year (if you have nothing but a high school diploma) to as much as $70,000 per year if you have a degree and a few years of experience.

Ways to Make More | Related Opportunities | Tips

Keep in mind that you are in a service business when doing this job. You need to be able to give people a feeling, after five hours of hiking around a nature preserve that they got their money's worth. This means doing more than pointing out scenic spots for photographs. You need to know the terrain and be able to explain things in a way that everyone will understand. Keep in mind also that many children are likely to come on shorter tours and that you will be expected to entertain them as well. That means being ready with stories and being able to show them the things that make them go "yuck!"

If you love nature and want to work in the world of giving guided nature tours but don't necessarily feel comfortable with the idea of striking out on your own, you may be able to work for an established company, or you could apply for a job with the National Park Service. The NPS is responsible for maintaining the nation’s national parks and nature reserves and park rangers often are called upon to give tours.

In addition to these options, consider working as a nature guide for a summer camp during the summer.

Whatever you do, remember to keep your groups small. More than 10 people is both dangerous since you can't keep track of them all in an area full of natural dangers and likely to result in less than satisfied customers when they have to compete with dozens of others to hear what you are saying and see what it is you are pointing out. If you do decide to take larger groups, consider bringing an assistant who can answer additional questions and help keep an eye on your group.

Qualifications / Requirements

There are no formal requirements in order to give guided nature tours; anyone could hang out a shingle if they so desire. However, to be successful in this business, you'll want to know the area you are giving tours of backwards and forwards. Knowing basic emergency medical procedures and being able to point out dangerous areas along the nature trail are equally important to getting the job done effectively.

First Steps

Start by scouting out areas you might be interested in offering tours of. Learn everything you can about the area and then start by offering small scale tours for a few dollars. Keep your tours lively and interesting so that people will recommend you to their friends. Advertise in local hotels and motels and put up flyers outside of other popular tourist attractions.

Consider contacting local schools as well to see if they would like to hire you to offer tours to their students.


eHow: How to Guide a Nature Tour – This is a good, practical guide to giving guided nature tours.

The Nature Conservancy – In addition to offering a number of jobs in guided nature tours, this organization also offers a great deal of information about nature tours and is an invaluable resource.

The International EcoTourism Society – An expanded view of guided nature tours, ecotourism takes groups of people to the far reaches of the earth for nature adventures.

The Park Ranger Portal – Written by a former park ranger, this blog has some great resources to help you join the national park service.

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Every Way to Make Money | Giving Guided Nature Tours