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Ulovane Update: Field Guides Week 7 & Final Wrap Backup Trails



Field Guides Week 7

This week has been exciting! It’s unbelievable this is already our 7th week here at the campus, life at Ulovane flies past not leaving you with a moment to blink.

We started off with lectures about mammals which is what most of us have all been waiting for since week 1 as well as Conservation Management, Ethology and Historical Human Habitation. It is incredible how much you can learn in a week, did you know for example that hippo’s cannot swim, but will walk on the bottom of the river? And that the elephant has the longest gestation period of all mammals? 22 months! Obviously, we learned way more than that but then this blog will become more of a book.

This week we also put our hospitality skills into use, we hosted about 40 guests at the Sidbury sports club. We made a whopping 48 burgers, ran the bar, and hosted our guests (who were guides, lodge owners, lodge staff and even Ulovane students doing their practical placements). We set up, cleaned up and ran around like crazy people. The evening was a huge success and it was a real eye opener, learning just how much it takes to host just a dinner at a lodge, never mind the other behind the scenes happenings. Thank you to all that attended!

Some of us went on a walking safari as guests to the backup trails guides for their final Backup Trails guide assessments. It was amazing, thank you guys for the opportunity. Truly a privilege to be with wildlife on foot and not from the safety of our vehicle. Especially with the big game!  Being in the middle of lions, buffalo, and elephants within 100 meters of each other, was breathtaking, to say the least! Saying goodbye to the back-up trails clan was however upsetting, as half of our Ulovane family has left us and the campus feels empty without them. Good luck and enjoy the Marine guide course on the beach everyone!

It is crunch time for us as of next week and things are getting a lot more serious. Our final mock game drive assessments have been completed, we were totally spoiled with incredible sightings! We are now onto to our final exams prepping us for our final FGASA National exam in week 10. We also have real guests joining us for our assessment game drives this Friday, so the pressure is on, we are excited and cannot wait to share all we have learned with our guests.

Saturday morning after our weekly exam we headed out onto Ulovane reserve, for the much anticipated 24 hours ME time. The aim of me-time is to allow us some time alone, to reflect and begin preparing mentally and emotionally for the challenges that are ahead. It was also a perfect time to refresh our senses out in nature for our upcoming practical assessments coming up next week. Me time was a very enjoyable experience even the early morning much needed rain could not damper the amazing experience!

  • Emilie and Nick

“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.” ― Roy T. Bennett

Backup Trails Guides Final Wrap

Our final week was an emotional rollercoaster. From being nervous and excited before our assessment walks on Monday and Wednesday to being stressed out by studying for our final exam on Friday morning and being relieved and happy that we all passed it and therefore can officially call ourselves Back-up trails guides from now on!

Charlie’s and my assessment walk was on Monday morning. Within the last five months we had encountered the buffalo bulls on Amakhala only twice and watched them from a far distance. However, for our walk they decided to give us a bit of a surprise standing directly next to the gate we entered. Fortunately, we were still in the game viewer. I’m saying “fortunately”, because as a trails guide with our level of experience you don’t necessarily want to encounter them on foot. At least we knew where they were now and could keep an eye on them while we went to look for the hippos from a viewpoint. The last hours of our walk passed quickly, as we explored Klipgat and looped around Bushbuck hill making use of the animal pathways.

That’s one of the many enjoyable things on trails, that you get to see what’s going on in the real bush away from the roads. Overall the trails guide course teaches valuable lessons not only to become an excellent guide but also for life in general. You get to learn about the animal’s natural behavior and blending in with nature, but also about your own capabilities and limits.

We want to use our final words for the Ulovane blog to thank our outstanding instructor Pieter for always keeping us safe out there, encouraging us to push ourselves further, and believing in us. Specifically, when it came to rifle handling, Charlie and I were often doubting if we’re capable of passing ARH. Piet was always there to lift us up and reassure us and obviously, it paid off.

As our ways depart now, I wish the best of luck and success to the marine guides and all the Ulovane staff.

  • Charlie and Bianca

“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively” ― Bob Marley

Great start to 2019

The first trails guide course for 2019 has come to an end, and what a course it was. I want to give a big congratulations to all the students of this course, they did extremely well in all aspects and deserve a huge pat on the back.

As always, the bush delivered exceptional experiences, from big to small. We spent mornings watching giraffe and zebras appearing from out the mist, watched an epic battle between two Angulate tortoises and as always had an extremely accommodating potentially dangerous game which allowed us the great privilege of viewing them on foot. We spent a day following three young elephant bulls for hours and even got one of the lionesses on an eland kill the one day. We went from searching for the hippos along the Bushman’s river weaving through the Eastern Cape Riverine Thicket testing some physical and mental skills all the way to some lazy half-day siestas, all of which combined to give all of us experiences and memories we will treasure for life.

We always say there is never a day out in nature where you do not come across something new and exciting, and day after day you realize the truth of this more and more, at the same time however I think it happens very easily where people in the industry forget where they are and what they get to experience. Everyone gets caught up in their day-to-day routine and responsibilities, forgetting to take a bit of time somewhere to just go and sit, sit and listen, look, smell, experience, realize. I want to urge everyone who is not doing so to make that part of your day, allow yourself the opportunity to go and connect with nature again on a more personal level. You see it so often these days where guides only go out into nature when they ‘have to go and do activities with their guests. A snooze or movie has become more important than the passion that started their adventures in nature.

My message today goes out to everyone who finds themselves in a position like this. Go and do yourself a favor, take a day somewhere to go into nature on your own, go find a peaceful place and just be for a while. We have noticed in recent years that very few higher guiding qualifications are still being achieved, the modern-day comfort and technology has slowly started killing guides passion to go out and explore, taken time away from researching new aspects of nature and furthering oneself in this very fortunate world we find ourselves in.

To all guides out there, whether you are the newbie in the industry or whether you already feel like part of the furniture, do not let the flame that sparked your passion die out, if it is still there go out and give it some oxygen, make that spark burn like a fire inside you again, and if your flame has already died out, go re-ignite it, go take the time to remember why you are doing what you are, go remember what privileges you have with what we do. Take a moment to think about when you started in the industry, what were your goals, are you truly where you thought you would be at this point in your career? If the answer is no then I recommend it is time to make a change, time to make those dreams and goals a reality. Take every opportunity to become the guide you always wanted to be, nobody else can do it for you.

We are so blessed to experience what we do and to live the life we are, take time to remember this, take time to invest in yourself and your understanding of the fascinating world we find ourselves in.

Go and rekindle your flame, go and allow your passion to grow to a new extent.

  • Pieter Dunn – Ulovane Trainer