I was one of the lucky ones to attend the 10-week level one course at Ulovane in April 2017. I know that people say this time and time again when reviewing something or writing a testimonial but in this case, I have to say it and when I say it, I truly mean it but… WOW!

I didn’t quite know what to expect on the course but I had a feeling that it was going to be one of the most memorable and exciting things I have ever experienced. they say that you’re gut feeling is never wrong, in this case, it was very far from wrong.

Day one when you arrive you’re warmly welcomed by Ulovane’s amazing team of unbelievably knowledgeable instructors (and let’s not forget Ulovane Master chefs Mama Thabs, who is the Queen of the kitchen and Jacques, who sure knows how to spice up your life 😉). Day one is also the day where you get to meet all your fellow students and the people you will be living with for the next 10 weeks. You will feel like you’ve never introduced yourself to so many people and you will definitely be self-conscious of your name after repeating it to so many different people in such a short space of time (hahaha). Repeating your name so many times means that you get as long of a list of names that you will try your hardest to remember, my suggestion is don’t stress about names, it took us all a week before we knew everyone’s names. A thing that I was most fascinated by is the fact that men and women of all ages from various parts of the world all gathered in this one small part of the Eastern Cape and we all shared one thing in common, we all had a passion and a thirst to learn as much as we could about the flora and fauna in the natural environment around us. Oh and let’s not forget the fact that we all wanted to achieve the qualification in Guiding, that comes with the thirst for knowledge.

Over the period of the course, you do admittedly go through the various stages of highs and lows. From the stress of exams to learning 40 different bird calls or having to identify and provide medicinal uses of various plant species found on the reserve. You however get to experience incredible highs of waking up and leaving camp by 6am to reach a certain lookout point that sits above the clouds in order to watch the sunrise which casts a golden sheet over the clouds below you and even the excitement leaving camp after dinner to go swimming in the ice cold dam in search of frogs for your amphibian practical. The highs heavily outweigh the lows, you get to experience so much you never ever dreamed of or imagined doing, like getting involved in a buffalo capture, watching a pair of lions mate metres away from you and even accumulating a really long list of tequilas after stalling the game viewers (one girl got over 20 tequilas but don’t worry, we don’t end up taking the tequila shots haha). Going through everything with the people that you’re with definitely cements lifelong friendships. You end up with the most amazing support system of friends and instructors that will help you through thick and thin for the rest of your life.

The Ulovane campus is green and “off the grid.” It’s situated on a Ridge overlooking the AmakhalaGamee Reserve which is known for its Big 5 and it’s also the reserve where we do all our gain all our practical experience, through game drives, canoe trips and bush walks. However the Ulovane reserve is free of any dangerous game which allows students to explore the natural environment on their own or with friends. I often went off on my own to explore and discover new things when I needed a break from camp and a little alone time. A couple of us students all got together and formed a running club where we’d run different routes around the farm, on these runs we’d often surprise a herd of unsuspecting zebra or impala. Having this freedom to explore nature really contributes to the experience as a whole.  As I mentioned Ulovane is off the grid, before life in camp I was always aware of green living but I never really practiced it. After living green (recycling, practicing different sustainable living practices every Saturday and bring exposed to various other methods of greener living) for 10 weeks and practicing ethical guiding I have developed a passion for practicing greener, environmentally conscious methods and I strive to promote greener living as well as ethical guiding.  Not many guides realise the importance of guiding ethically, your impact on the environment during a guided experience should always be considered because without the natural environment you don’t have a job and most importantly you lose what you’re passionate about.

Life in camp honestly becomes home, after a while you start calling camp home. After graduating, I went to visit a couple weeks later and when I walked in my first thought was I’m home again..  I recently chatted to a guide who graduated from Ulovane a few years back and he had said that he has never met an Ulovane student who has not been passionate about the academy. He then went on to say that he had never met a student who graduated from another training Academy in the country that has been as passionate about their training Academy as an Ulovane student is about theirs.

So if you’re looking for an amazing wildlife experience, a chance to make lifelong friends, an opportunity to learn amazing new things about the Bush and to go on one of the wildest, most entertaining rides of your life, I can only suggest one place and that’s Ulovane Environmental Training.

P.S. Imagine sitting around a crackling camp fire (after a long day out on drive where you got to see some graceful ballerina like elephant browsing on some picture perfect African thicket and young cheetah cubs with their tear stained faces happily play fighting, honing the much needed skills needed for their futures) with some amazing people while listening to the wild sounds of the African bush after dark. Ulovane….

  • Kristin Mace

 

There really are no words to express my gratitude and happiness for having been introduced to this environmental training centre, and the pride of which I feel for having completed my nature field guide training through Ulovane.

What they offer is so well rounded and all-encompassing, often going completely above and beyond the stipulated quota of what it is we ‘need to know’.

I really have conservation and education very close to my heart, for I believe this is exactly where our world is falling short; if you are educated on something, then you have the chance to positively make an impact.

It was heartening to be involved with some local communities in the area, as well and being able to get real physical and practical with conservation work on the reserve and in surrounding areas too. There are not many more things more rewarding than being able to physically see a difference one has made by just a little bit of attention and care. One of the biggest things that struck me about Ulovane is the attention to the detail they put into every aspect of the course. And for me, that’s important, because, at the end of the day, the Little things ARE the big things!

There is such a support structure that comes with living at Ulovane, it’s home from the second you walk in the door! When I arrived there, I knew I was in for an incredible journey, but I have left these 10 weeks a different person to the one who walked in on the 9th of July! The personal growth and life lessons I have gained were definitely not bargained for – but that’s exactly what makes it so beautiful!

We were a small course, one of the smallest yet for field guides, but the instructors made each and every second worth our while, most times doing so much more than was required! For that, I am so very grateful because of the exposure we’ve had in just two short months.

I can’t compare any other training centre to this; I don’t need to.

We always end up where we’re meant to be, and not for one single second do I believe I would have gotten a better start to my career anywhere else, than what I have gotten here.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for the laughter, the tears, the hard work, the cement mixing, the braais, the walks, the drives, the lessons, the banter, but most of all, for the love and support you’ve shown us! You’re moulding strength and wisdom into many young people, I hope we go forth into the industry and make you all proud!

If you have the chance to make a difference, even by just putting a smile on someone’s face, do it – The world needs more of that!

🐘🐾🌻

Kind regards, Melissa Gomes.

I came to Ulovane on a 4-week program designed for Savannah/Wet Tropics guides in Australia. We participated in class and practical training for field, trail and marine guides. It was very interesting to witness the new generation of guides ” in the making”. I was full of admiration for the professionalism, dedication and deep knowledge of the trainers and impressed with the range of subjects thought during the courses. Every day brought a new adventure, something new to learn and discover. Never a dull moment, like in a big family in a lively household where through character building experiences people bond, form friendships, awareness expands. Exceptional trainers: Shani, Peter, Justin and the adopted parents: Candice and Schalk, people with passion and deep respect and feel for bush and nature. And “behind the scenes” heroes: Jacques, Mamma Thabs and Joyce who were keeping us well fed and clean. Thank you to the Ulovane team for an awesome experience. – Sylvia Pecinska (May 2017 Savannah Guides)

From the moment I stepped out of the plane and into Eastern Cape. I knew I was in for an amazing adventure. However, I didn’t realise the magnitude of the experience that I was about to receive from Ulovane Environmental Training. After the meet and greet, I was ready to settle in at Eastern Cape and to start to paint my new picture of my wilderness experience at Ulovane Environmental Training. With a dynamic group of new friends at this new environment, it took time for me to adjust but it shaped the amazing experiences I had at Ulovane Environmental Training for the last 17weeks. After countless hours absorbing some principles of ecology, fundamentals of using a rifle and other aspects of being in the wilderness, I started to enjoy the beauty of being in the pure wilderness on foot for hours. Sometimes, I would just get up early in the morning and just get lost in the wilderness of Amakhala game reserve, I would sit and observe how everything revolves around another on the horizon, I would track wildlife and feel the footprint they left behind, smell the strong scents of their territories and hear the incredible little creatures above the earth working jointly to shape our environment. This incredible experience moved me, it took my passion for wildlife into a whole new perspective; It taught me to appreciate nature even more than before! My newly acquired knowledge of wilderness was vital to my full comprehension of my surroundings. I felt like this course has unlocked my sixth sense! Thanks to my trainers Schalk, Pieter, Justin and Shani, many new friends that I made through this program and everyone at Ulovane environment training for a lifetime experience! Lastly, it was such an honour to be assessed by one of the legend master tracker in SA Adriaan Louw. – Shatri Mfinanga – April 2017

During this course, I’ve learned a lot of information from books, but I don’t think the amount of knowledge I’ve gained from the people around me could ever be measured and for that I am sure we will all be forever grateful.

Thank you to Retha & Paul, who had accepted us {crazy} humans into your home, and who were such a big support to us during the course, whether it was by just having a chat in the kitchen, or helping to organize amazing food for us, we are super grateful for every little thing you did.

To Piet and Shani, who for all purposes were the greatest mentors, not just for the course, but also for life, THANK YOU for always going just the extra bit to help us, and make life a little easier for us, although I’m sure we didn’t always do the same for you & for that I apologize sincerely.

To Schalk and Candice, I don’t even have words to really explain how grateful all of us are to you. During this course we again saw truly how amazing the two of you are and how dedicated you are to Ulovane as a whole, and I guess that is really what makes Ulovane such an amazing institute, the fact that it is run by two people who have such a passion for their job, that nothing is ever too big of an effort for you!

And then to our peers, like I said in the beginning of the blog, you guys truly are some of the most beautiful souls I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting and I would like nothing more than for you to have a successful life and persevere in all the challenges you may face. You guys have played a big part in the amount of fun and excitement I’ve experienced in the past 17 weeks, and I already can’t wait for the reunion we’re planning. It was great while it lasted, but now it’s time to go and explore the world!

Dominique Janse van Rensburg – 1 Year course – January 2016