The last Three Weeks of the Backup Trails Guide course was extremely busy, so we have compacted the last three weeks for you into one blog update! Many Thanks to all the students for your updates, this is your blog about your journey and one day you will look back on this experience and be thankful that we kept your story!
Well done to all of you that successfully completed the course, we are very proud of all of you, you rocked it! Huge thank you to the Ulovane team, Pieter, Shani, Koen and Grant for your guidance, patience and input into these young guides, we appreciate all that you do!
Ulovane update: July Backup Trails Guides
Week 7 Done and Dusted
We have come to the end of our 7 week Trails course here at Ulovane Environmental Training. There is no better place to study and learn both at the same time when your classroom is ‘out in the bush’. With instructors so dedicated and passionate towards the students and nature, one can enjoy and love nature ever so much more. There is a solid family foundation here at Ulovane where such special memories and moments are shared.
Upon arriving at Ulovane, for a second time to the start of a new course, we are always warmly welcomed by staff and feel at home right away. The rooms are always prepared and maintained well. Supplies are always stocked to the maximum and the taste buds are always wanting seconds. We thank you Mamma Joyce, Mamma Thabs and Jacques for always preparing the meals and rooms in top notch and accommodating our needs.
The first 2 weeks of the course was mainly focused on Advanced Rifle Handling (ARH) videos, introduction to a trails walking experience where we participated as guests and all managed to pass our PFTC exams and practicals. It was a nerve-wrecking yet exciting 2 weeks to the start of the course.
Throughout week 3, 4 and 5 we continued with the theoretical side to the course which we completed in our FGASA workbooks. We had our sessions with the .375 Holland and Holland rifle most Wednesdays of every week where we practised the FGASA exercises. We all improved in our aiming by the time the ARH assessments had arrived in week 5. Congratulations to Jaco and Marco on passing your ARH assessments.
During week 6 and 7, we walked an average of 6-7 hours a day and started with preparations for the final exam. We had our Cyber Track and Sign assessment during this past weekend where many of us achieved level 1 and level 2. We even had guides from surrounding reserves join us, it was great to be able to share knowledge and skills with other guides. Many Thanks to Taryn for doing our assessments.
Two manuals were covered during the course divided into 5-7 modules each. The objectives of the Rifle Handling manual included: understanding all the rules of rifle safety; know the basic actions of a Bolt- action rifle; have good knowledge of the internal, external and terminal ballistics including the functions; rifle cleaning and maintenance and understanding the legal requirements pertaining to the use of a rifle for guiding purposes.
The Trails Guide Learner manual covered objectives such as: the responsibilities of a Back-up; orientation skills; Animal diseases in which Dr Emily Baxter from Ikhala Veterinary Services came and gave us a presentation on this module; viewing potentially dangerous animals and dangerous animal knowledge. Thank you Emily!
The knowledge and experiences we have gained over the past 7 weeks has been exceptional, from having breakfast with an elephant on our very first walk to trailing rhino in the thicket. Ones love and passion for nature has grown widely especially when you discover the small things on bush walks and being on foot with general and potentially dangerous game. Our tracking abilities have improved immensely from starting as field guides to what we have achieved now. On doing this course your overall perspective and patience towards nature changes drastically. Being on foot at 80m away from an elephant bull isn’t as easy as you think.
We wouldn’t have been able to gain this experience and knowledge if it wasn’t for Schalk and Candice Pretorius. Thank you for the facilities and offering such courses to dedicated and passionate nature lovers like ourselves.
Special mention to Shani and Pieter for being the biggest inspirations in all those who have had and will have the privilege of being taught and associated with both of you. We cannot thank you enough for all your dedication to the 2018 July Trails Guide Group and inspiring words in keeping us motivated and pushing us to the best of our abilities and capable of knowing what we are able to achieve. Your continuous support and words of encouragement is always needed.
Ulovane is blessed to have such special and inspirational staff members who are always ready to assist in meeting your needs. We thank you for the time and effort you put in ensuring that each individual is happy and comfortable. We as students can all agree that Ulovane has mastered a way in supporting us in finding our strengths and weaknesses through finding oneself in the influence of being in nature. We thank you!
We start a new chapter in our life where we will be joining the Marine Guides course for 4 weeks. We look forward to all that is about to be discovered in our exploratory rock pools and our precious ocean.
Good luck to the July 2018 Field Guides on what is yet to come in the next 3 weeks. Go out there and share all the knowledge you have acquired during your course. Keep calm and remember to support one another. Wishing you the best of luck for your final exam too!
- Amber, Megan and Julia.
“It is in your hands to create a better world for all who live in it.” – Nelson Mandela
Nature: The most qualified teacher
Looking back over the last seven weeks it is difficult not to be humbled by the experiences we have had. What a privilege it is to be able to do what we do, being part of nature and being shown first hand by all aspects of the environment what it means to be a survivor, how to adapt to change or challenges, how to respect one another and how to live a more harmonious life. I realize it all seems a bit cliché but it truly is a lifechanging experience.
With a small group of only five students it allowed us the opportunity to move through nature a bit more secretively, delivering exceptional sightings with animals big and small being unaware of our presence. This is something a trails guide always strives for but as any trails guide will know it is a lot easier said than done. Being able to achieve this really allowed us to observe the animals in their natural environment and allowed us to peek through the window of their actual day to day lives.
Witnessing what these animals go through on a daily base is what makes trails guiding such a humbling experience. The daily struggle for survival with huge odds stacked against you, yet still having a sense of peace and happiness amongst all sharing the same challenges. Humans as a species can benefit so much from observing nature a bit more instead of destroying or even just trying to control it. The more we try to be in control of everything the more we are missing the point of being alive and having the privilege to draw breath on a daily base and experience the wonders of nature.
The mutual respect you see between animals is absolutely amazing, with all of them understanding that conflict can mean the end for either one of the parties and majority of the time both will rather turn around and walk away to ensure they can continue with their gifted lives. This alone is an aspect that lacks a lot with us as a species and also what is the driving force behind so much sadness, loss, injury or even death in our lives. The diversity of life in nature is so huge, yet all things great and small are able to find a place in nature where they belong and where they act out a vitally important role in ensuring the balance of their eco-systems.
In our training there is a good example that can always be used to demonstrate how everything links together and how all live is dependant on one another. It is a question frequently found in exams as well:
Explain the influence when a top predator is taken out of an ecosystem using crocodiles, catfish, tilapia and mosquitos as an example.
The answer to this is very clear and straight forward, if all the crocodiles gets removed then nothing will feed on the catfish, the catfish will then increase in population to such an extent that they eat all of the tilapia. With no tilapia in the food chain there is nothing to consume the mosquitos and with an increase in their population and a huge outbreak of disease can be expected.
The point behind all of this is that everything is connected to each other, whether this is something you want to accept or not, and even changing one aspect can have detrimental effects. So, instead of always wanting to control everything and be on the ‘top of the food chain’, maybe it is time that we as a species take a step back and learn from nature who has been keeping a balance a long time before we became the self-proclaimed ‘top of the pyramid’ species we think we are today.
I thank the stars daily that I have been exposed to the truth that nature is willing to teach us, as long as you are willing to learn.
- Pieter Dunn – Trainer Ulovane Environmental Training
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader” – John Quincy Adams