Apprentice Trails Guides
We are more than halfway through our Apprentice Trails Guide course – where has the time gone!
We had a fantastic week. We left for a three-day, two night sleep out on Wednesday morning at 8 AM, on Amakhala Game Reserve. Whilst on this walk with Shani and Schalk, we came upon a perennial pan (body of water) which had filled up after the recent rains we have had. There was an old mature giraffe bull that was wanting to come down to the waterhole to drink, as well as four zebra behind him. Giraffe are most cautious of danger and predators when coming down for a drink of water due to their enormous height. During this time, they are very vulnerable as they need to bend their knees, putting them off balance, and cannot hold their heads down for longer than 5 minutes due to the pressure the heart is put under to keep blood pumping to both the head and the legs simultaneously.
So as animal behaviour tells us, as soon as the giraffe saw us, he stopped in his tracks, being a bit unsure of what he was seeing. We then quickly retreated into thicker cover, and then sat down and observed from where we were. He stared at our spot for quite some time, before finally making his way down to the water. What really interested and amazed me, was that every time the giraffe stopped to stare, so did the zebra. After having decided we were not a threat, he lowered his long neck down to drink and only then did the zebra follow suit as well. What a magnificent experience!!
Theoretically in class this week, we watched a few DVDs on how quickly things can go wrong in the bush as a trails guide, regarding encounters with potentially dangerous animals (PDA). There are sadly some guides throughout the industry over the years, who have made these mistakes that have been captured on film, so that we can learn what not to do. These actions are what can cause serious injury to both humans and animals. The key to being an ethical guide, both from a vehicle and on foot, is to always do the right thing – even when no one is looking.
On to my new skill I’ve acquired, tracking! What a privilege to be under the mentorship of Schalk, Pieter and Shani. Their skill and knowledge of the bush is phenomenal. I thought I knew something of tracking but after spending time with the three of them I have realised how little I knew. But now with the skills that have been passed on by them, my own knowledge has increased dramatically.
The three day sleep out was by far my highlight of the week. It was tough, both mentally and physically. We walked roughly 36km during that period, roughing it for two nights out on the reserve. It makes one realise how much we human beings take for granted. The toughest and most challenging part of the three days for me was the 15km walk back to Ulovane campus whilst I was on the role of Back-up rifle. It was mentally and physically one of the toughest days of my life. One must be constantly aware of your surroundings, guests and positioning of your rifle. It was a phenomenal character-building experience for me as I know I pushed myself to the limits of both mental and physical capacity.
For me, tracking is an educational process that opens the door to an animal’s life – and to our own.” – Paul Rezendes
Apprentice Field Guides
Where do I start without getting emotional about these last four weeks that have completely changed my life? How blessed can one be to have God’s beautiful creation right on your doorstep? And then to top it off, He will show what beautiful people are here, people who bend backwards to help you wherever they can.
Being a bit older and at a later stage in my life, has been a bit challenging to get my head back to learning and studying all these awesome new things about nature. I have continued to push and work hard each week, so I have definitely discovered new things about myself, seeing what I have achieved this far. I have learned too that there are a lot of things we take for granted every day.
I take my hat off to Justin and Shani, who are by the way the best and most knowledgeable teachers I have ever met! Trust me, to have taught me what I have learned currently and not have strangled me, they must be God sent!!!
We had a very busy and interesting week; on one of the evenings Candice conducted an awesome hospitality evening with our Field Guide group – maybe I’ll call it cheese and wine paring 😊 She shared some very valuable tips with us from her years of experience in the industry. And even though I don’t drink, it was a wonderful evening activity to do all together. It is just one example of the lengths Ulovane goes to, in order to enhance our learning experience here, going above and beyond stipulated requirements to make sure we have a well-rounded experience and more. And by more, I mean the 5kg of weight I’ve picked up in 5 weeks because of Jacques and Mama Thabs 5* cooking!
Justin our instructor also took us fishing in the ice-cold dam, so that we could do our fish practical and try to catch water creatures to discover and explore using the fishnet – which had a hole in it – so there were many laughs and great fun was had by the whole group. Being a fisherman my whole life, I thought I knew all about fish, only to learn in fact that there is a lot I didn’t know! You’re definitely “Never too old to learn!”. We also had flowers and trees, as well as arthropods as subjects for our week, and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the wildflowers and the variety of medicinal uses of trees. It was good too to learn about my ‘favourite’….. NOT…. Spiders! Well, at least now I know more about how they fit into the ecosystem and which ones exactly I must stay away from!
For me, it isn’t a simple path this, but in life, the things worth having always take hard work! With great people helping you every step of the way and the Lord holding my hand, all I can say is “I am truly blessed!!”.
The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself. –