Apologies for the delay in getting our updates to you! Sometimes admin needs to take a back seat so that you can focus getting out and about!
In the third week of the fields guides course we have been focusing on; Taxonomy, Biomes, and Ecology. Humans always tend to want, or even need to control and understand the environment they are part of. By systematically placing organisms in some sort of order and category we enter the field of taxonomy. The same goes for the unique biomes that make up the South African environment from the arid Nama Karroo in the western half of the central plateau to the hot and humid Indian Coastal Belt Biome. On Amakhala we are part of the Thicket Biome, more specifically the Albany Thicket, which is thought to contain the most species-rich communities of mid-sized woody plants in South Africa. Ecology being the interrelationships and interactions between biotic and abiotic components in the environment, we are also part of this. And an interesting example that we have encountered is the commensalistic relationship between the game drive vehicles and the Pearl-breasted and Barn Swallows. Since these birds catch insects while escaping the oncoming vehicle. Life can be hard at times…This week was the first time that we got to drive the game drive vehicles ourselves which resulted in a lot of ‘penalties’ for every time someone stalled.
We finally got our long-desired rain, which started on Tuesday afternoon after an extremely hot morning. One of the field guide groups where very lucky to get the open-top Land Rover for the afternoon drive, on which the heavens opened and completely soaked them. Both groups had to take cover in the ACC (Amakhala Conservation Centre), where we hid for half an hour while thunder and lightning surrounded us. The storm was welcoming and fresh, nothing like the smell of the bush after a storm!
We were very lucky considering that we were able to witness the first day in the life of a new elephant. Which was very entertaining to watch stumble around the feet of its mother and have no control over its trunk.
Friday morning, we had a walk on Ulovane with Justin and Pieter, where we had our first look at tracking, everyone seemed interested and excited about learning more on tracking. Week three has been great with lots of new experiences, sightings and above all the continuation of the never-ending learning journey.
Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams. – Ashley Smith
Backup Trails Guides
The Backup trails guide’s had an awesome week, with our first taste of what the ARH (Advance Rifle Handling) assessment would be like.At first there were a few butterflies in the stomachs as for most of us it would be the first time shooting with the dreaded .375 rifles as based on popular belief it is a shoulder breaker. All of us were so caught up in the time restrictions and correct procedures that the drive to the shooting range to practice was a rather quiet one with all the focus set on not injuring ourselves during the course of practicing.
Our journey to the shooting range ended up not being as simple and straightforward as expected as the vehicles we were driving in got stuck because of the muddy conditions created by the glorious rain we had all been longing for. If anything this was a blessing as the tension got relieved and the thoughts of broken collarbones banished as equipment had to be carried to our destination.
When the rifles were unpacked and the practice session commenced there were no longer worrisome thoughts and everyone just shouldered the rifle correctly as per our expert mentor, Pieter Dunn’s advice, and it was enjoyable as it should be. After our first taste of the shooting range it is safe to say we cannot wait to return.
On the Back-up guiding side of things, we were once again up before sunrise and even in the rain, enjoying nature and all its beautiful gifts. We were in close proximity to buffalo with their smell still hanging in the air (unfortunately no sighting) and we were even lucky enough to come across the tracks of a caracal (no sighting once again) but just to be in the area with these magnificent animal’s signs around is just awesome.
You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself. Alan Alda