A very warm Ulovane Welcome to our October field guides and we are happy to welcome back some familiar faces for their backup trails. We are so excited to be able to share our passions with you all! Thank you to Nicole and Karrie for this week’s updates.
Week One of the Field Guide Course is complete! Arriving at Ulovane last week, I was nervous to meet the staff and my new colleagues, but we have been made to feel so welcome from the start. We are all in awe of this beautiful reserve that we get to live and work on.
Over the past week it has been interesting to discover all the reasons for everyone being here at Ulovane. Some people want to begin their careers as Field Guides, others (like myself) are keen to know more about wildlife and conservation, while some are yet to decide whether field guiding is the career for them. Whatever the reason, it is great to be around other individuals with the same passion for nature and desire to learn.
We were treated to a number of model game drives on Amakhala this week. Justin and Schalk did an impeccable job of demonstrating a good game drive, from the pre-drive briefing, to catering for any special interests, and even hosting coffee stops along the way. They also stressed the importance of ethical guiding and considering the animals’ needs as well as the guests’. Their enthusiasm about the bush is infectious and they seem to have unending knowledge about the natural environment! They definitely set a high standard for us to live up to when we conduct our own game drives with real guests later in the course.
The last three days of this week were dedicated to First Aid. This is a requirement for all guides; our training went above the minimum requirement to prepare us for all kinds of emergency scenarios that might happen when out in the bush with guests. The training was very intense, with lots of practical situations for us to practice our skills on (with very realistic-looking wounds!). I now feel much more capable of dealing with any emergency situations and it has also drastically improved our ability to work as a team.
We have already learnt so much in just one week. Next week brings more game drives, vehicle skills training (another essential wilderness skill), as well as an Astronomy practical out in the reserve! I am proud of what I have learnt already and cannot wait to continue my journey at Ulovane.
Backup Trails Guides
Our first week on Trails has come to an end. How did that happen so quickly? There are only 6 more to go and there is so much to learn in that very short amount of time.
It is wonderful to be back at Ulovane but there are too many missing people from our family. It is profoundly different here without our whole Field Guide unit. Speaking for our small trails group, we miss each and every one of you terribly. We are not whole without you. (Can’t you all just jump on airplanes and join us?)
We have welcomed the new Field Guides – remembering back to what seems to be forever ago when we were all experiencing our first week together. Recalling our impressions of being introduced to the reserve and the pace and way of life at Ulovane. They seemed to have settled in quite nicely and are eager for what awaits.
The seasons have changed on the reserve. As we look out from camp the evidence of Winter becoming Summer is profound – it happened in what seems to be a blink of an eye. The reserve is vibrantly colored with green grasses and blooming flowers in white, yellow, orange and purple.
Perhaps this is all just seems more evident because we move through the landscape at a slower pace. Each step is with more care. Each sound we make, whether it is the snap of a twig, the scuff of a shoe, or a swish of pant leg seems to be an invasion of a serene space. The animals are much more alert to our presence as we are unexpected guests. Heads raise, ears perk, eyes turn to view us. A change in wind direction reveals our scent to their sensitive noses.
There is more time to take in the smaller wonders. Textures, smells, sounds are so much more apparent than when in a game truck. A fresh lion track suddenly has a significantly different meaning when on foot. The sightings are more distant but the experience seems much more intimate. We are more vulnerable. There is no fast retreat to the safety of a vehicle. More care and sensitivity is required to pick up the subtle signs of an animals’ behavior. The goal is to not interfere rather observe and move as one with the animals. We are privileged visitors to their bucolic domain.
I look forward to becoming less visible, less apparent, less of an interference as I learn to be more sensitive, more respectful and more observant of how my presence is felt by the animals on the reserve.
“It’s more than just recycling or picking up a piece of trash, or turning off the water when you’re brushing your teeth. It’s about treating everything with compassion and love, including humanity.” – Shailene Woodley