Ulovane Update: April 2018 Field Guide Week 7 & Trails Guide Final

29 May

Ulovane Update: Field Guides

Here we are finishing week 7 already, the final week before our assessments. We have finished our lectures, the learning part is over and it is time to put our knowledge to the test.

Monday we finally had the long awaited class on mammals, everyone’s most desired topic. Warren and I drove on a game drive and found some nice sightings.

Tuesday, we had a lecture on animal behaviour which was very interesting. This lecture was a confirmation about everything Justin had taught us so well during the previous game drives.

Then came the hosting evening, which was an absolutely success. The mexican theme was a hit especially the to-die-for churros!

Wednesday was the day we learnt a lot about conservation management. It was a long day of fun labouring, digging at the quarry, and improving the road’s conditions.

Thursday was the day of our tracking assessment. Some people were very eager to test their abilities on tracks and signs. Piet, our tracking assessor, increased our knowledge of tracking and helped us a lot to understand the many ways of track identification.

Finally, Friday, we had some good laughs with Koen in our lecture of historical human habitation. Next was the set up for the trails guide’s graduation and opening of the pizza oven! Everyone had a very lekker time!

– Tristan

The ultimate dream in life is to be able to do what you love and learn something from it. Jennifer Love Hewitt

Ulovane update: April Backup Trails Guides Final

How do you say goodbye to a place you have come to love and see as home?”  This is the question on my mind as I sit at the infamous wi-fi bench at Ulovane.  I hear birds scuttle in the vegetation and my first instinct is to find and identify it.  Just this minor detail shows how much a person grows here.  When would this have been my first thought before?

Looking back over the past seven weeks is heart wrenching and heart warming all at the same time.  All the early mornings, late nights, beautiful sunrises (on freezing-open-vehicle-on-the-highway-drives) the moments of laughter and tears, even inside duty – the struggle is real, people!  All of these and so much more makes Ulovane home to so many students each course.  And you cannot help but love it.

Week 7 means Assessment walks.  Monday began with Kyle and Lampies doing their practical assessment walks with a few of the other students going along as guests. Unfortunately on Tuesday, Rachel and Tobias had to postpone their assessment walk due to strong winds until Wednesday when they joined up with James. So instead, they took their guests up to the open plains to enjoy the sunrise with a nice hot cup of coffee! The final assessment walk on Wednesday was extremely interesting and exciting with 4 encounters, which definitely kept the guides on their toes!

Thursday was a study day for the final FGASA exam on Friday.  Finishing it was a relief, but also a sad occasion, as it highlights the end of our trials course.

Graduation was the long awaited opening of the Piet’za oven!  It was a fun Western-themed evening.  Remembering the past 7 weeks through pictures and videos.  Celebrating the students’ accomplishments in ARH (advanced rifle handling), tracking and theory.

For some of us, this is the end of the road for now.  For others they are continuing the journey for a little while yet.  Marines will start on Monday and we wish you good luck.

  • Karien and Rachel

It’s definitely a privilege to be able to do what you love to do; it’s not something that everyone gets to do, so I feel really good about that. Awkwafina

What does it mean to be a trails guide?

I have been asked this question quite frequently the last few months, and every time the answer just gets longer and longer. It is quite a difficult question to answer, there is just so many factors involved it is overwhelming.

The conversation always starts the same, with my most basic explanation of a trails guide. You are no longer just a visitor in the bush, you have become part of nature, part of the daily struggle for survival. You cannot just wander around in the bush not understanding the finest details of animal behaviour and having an environmental understanding of your surroundings to be able to keep all the animals, your guests/students and of course, yourself safe and alive.

There is nothing that compares to being out on foot in nature. Having the opportunity to immerse yourself in the warmth of Mother Nature. Being able to move around without the noises of a vehicle, going at a slower speed, and venturing where others cannot. The things you find and experiences are absolutely mind blowing. The only way to truly know the place you are working on is to experience it on foot. Go off the beaten path and follow the trails the animals leave behind. There are so many secrets hidden in the bush along the network of roads the animals have laid out for themselves.

A lot of people are under the impression that being a trails guide means you spend your days following the Big 5 on foot, but this cannot be more incorrect. Being able to really observe nature and become part of it takes a long time, it is not a job or even a career, it is a lifestyle, and it doesn’t take long to realize the big advantage of being a trails guide is that you have the opportunity to really focus and get connected with all aspects in nature. There is a much bigger world out there than the dangerous game, sometimes the smallest things can create the most unforgettable experiences. The amount of smells, sounds, tastes and sights that goes by unnoticed by so many is actually scary.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying we never encounter the potentially dangerous game, it is a big factor that makes up part of your expertise as a trails guide, finding that lion spoor, still wet sand in it from the early morning dew, following it for hours, reading the full story that took place as you go along. Seeing where he laid down, even the tail making an impression in the sand. Finding his claw marks in the tree and scrapes on the ground with urine still sticky on the leaves, knowing he is patrolling his boundaries. Suddenly hearing the vervet monkeys calling up ahead, knowing they cannot see you and that it is most likely the big boy moving over the grass plains to find a shady spot before it gets to hot.

Sounds great right, but with that comes one of the biggest things of a trails guide. The responsibility a trails guide carries is absolutely enormous. You alone are responsible for every living thing out the, human and animal alike. This is not something that should be taken lightly. I always say things very rarely goes wrong in the bush, but when they do go wrong it goes wrong in a very big way. You as a trails guide is the key to whether you going to have a long trails career, or a very short time spent in the bush.

Why take the risk then, well easy, there is no better way to experience nature, no better way to understand what is happening around you, no better way to get respect for the whole animal kingdom and no better way to spend your life, connected, respectful, peaceful and in complete admiration of mother nature and all that she offers.

  • Pieter Dunn (Ulovane Trails Guide Lead Trainer)

In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous. Aristotle


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