Why did you choose Ulovane as your preferred field guide training provider?
I was looking for the best training provider to suit my needs. I was looking for a well established, small & intimate training provider with real earthy people. Also a good family friend of ours, Grant Fowlds highly recommended Ulovane.
When did you graduate at Ulovane and briefly tell us what you have been doing since then?
I graduated a few times for various qualifications between April 2010 and Sep 2013. Completed my Fgasa level 1 in April 2010, Fgasa level 2 in September 2013, fgasa backup trails in May 2014 and full trails in July 2016.
I started guiding at Bush Lodge, Amakhala Game Reserve for 1 year, then traveled to Tanzania with &beyond for 1 month to see the Great Wildebeest Migration in the Serengeti.
Then moved onto Southern Kruger where I guided for around 6 months between Crocodile Bridge & Satara doing 12 hour day trips for Kruger View Lodge and freelance for Mjejane Private Game Reserve. I did this short stint to gain experience towards attaining my Advanced Field Guide qualification.
I then decided to stop guiding and go back into studying full time at Ulovane where I completed my Fgasa level 2 and backup trails qualifications in 2014. Keen for a good reference and amazing job placement I got worked hard at Ulovane during my studies and this led to Schalk offering me a facilitating position at training students.
After a year at Ulovane, I wanted more experience decided to try my hand in lodge management at Chantilly Resort, north coast of Durban. December 2015 I moved onto my own small holding to start an off grid sustainable development project involving an eco backpackers, volunteer program, growing and selling of home grown fresh produce as well as privately guided safaris on the side every 3 months or so. So far so good!
Guiding guests through Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Thanda Private Game Reserve & Tembe Elephant Park. I’ve also done some longer trips throughout Botswana, Namibia & Zimbabwe.
What are your aspirations and future plans?
To turn Nkwazi Eco Backpackers into a sustainably profitable research and training facility for travelers, nature and permaculture enthusiasts.
How did the Ulovane experience prepare/influence you for your current career?
The Ulovane Team set me up with the ins and outs of professional guiding. They are an ethical bunch who pride themselves in keeping it real and authentic by focusing on attention to detail and the smaller more diverse systems in nature. They showed me a specific way of thinking that was very empowering and gave me the confidence to get straight into the guiding industry at a five-star lodge.
What stands out as your favorite memory at Ulovane?
There were so many which makes it difficult to choose one. I loved the sleep outs and bush walks.
What has been your most memorable moment working since studying to become a field guide at Ulovane?
There have been so many great and memorable moments working that it is difficult to choose o, however, I must say my favourite of all times was a 5 night primitive wilderness trail I led through Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve Wilderness area with a bunch of friends and international guests. We got 20m from a pride of lions who had just finished eating a buffalo down at the river.
Why would you recommend a prospective student to obtain their guiding qualification through Ulovane?
Ulovane are very passionate and professional when it comes to what they do. Small groups mean students get a lot of individual attention. The base camp is perfectly situated to overlook the reserve within which Ulovane operates – Amakhala Game Reserve. Ulovane focuses on ethical guiding practices and do not train their students to chase big 5 but rather for them to create a mind blowing guided experience using all 5 senses with guest satisfaction as a high priority.
What advice would you give to someone entering the guiding industry today?
Always put nature’s needs first & she will look after you. There are 2 certainties about becoming a guide. First off you will never be rich. but secondly and most importantly, you will get to see and do things that most people only get to dream about.
How do you ensure that you stay positive, even through difficult times?
Plan holiday trips, socialise after hours, rest, exercise, eat healthily.
Do you have a conservation message for the guides of the future?
Stay ethical and respectful to nature. Study to understand her as deeply as possible. You will find the more you study nature the more you learn about yourself.
You can contact Mike direct via his email address -email@example.com or find out more about Nkwazi Eco Backpackers – click here.