Apprentice Trails Guides
With one more week to go of our Apprentice Trails guide course, our second last one was packed with the always exciting and fascinating world of tracking! A qualified Cybertracker assessor Taryn Ingram-Gillson, spent the weekend with us here at Ulovane to conduct the assessment for us. It is held over a two-day period, as we need to answer 50 questions, all varied across a set Cybertracker point system. Once complete, we were all awarded with either a Level 1, 2 or 3 Cybertracker certificate.
We were all looking forward to the week to learn more about tracking, starting our week off with a mock tracking assessment. We did the mock in order to see where we all were and what needed improvement before the final tracking assessment on the weekend. Monday went well for all of us; we got to spend the entire day in the bush looking for tracks and signs, even having a lovely bush lunch at our boat site down by the Bushmans river on Amakhala Game Reserve.
We had some fun earlier in the week trailing the tracks of an animal, all along the way looking and learning what exactly we must focus on to decipher tracks correctly, so as not to become confused with the type of questions asked during the final assessment.
Wednesday morning was an early start to a beautiful, very cold, sunrise drive! Despite the cold, I wouldn’t change it if I could because of what we saw. We then had the chance to explore a cave nearby to us, which was a fun and interesting experience. This day was not my day in tracking; it showed me that you can have bad and good days when tracking. It was a valuable lesson to learn. We came back from our walk and tracking a bit earlier than usual because a few of us were going to Bellevue forest reserve to see the place and potential to work there once we have all completed our studies here at Ulovane.
After a busy and thorough few days of practical tracking on the reserve, we had one day in class to go over theory of tracks to further consider and learn things that may come up in our tracking assessment.
Due to the busy weekend ahead, we wrote our final mock theory exam for our Apprentice Trails guide course on Friday morning. It was a good experience to be able to write this as it often helps us to gauge where we are in our learning of theory, helping us access how much or what we may still need to focus on before the final next week!
We all passed our Cybertracking assessment with each one of us achieving a level; a great achievement for us all!
“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
This week has by far been the most interesting week for me. I have loved learning about bird and animal behaviour and how or why they do the things they do. It has been great to be able to see in real life what we have learned about in our books.
Birds are my favourite subject to learn about. We have to learn about forty different species; learn how to identify them by sight, learn their calls as well as other interesting information about them like what type of feeders they are, or what kind of nests they make. For example, in the animal kingdom, birds can be classified into either filter, nectar, seed, insects, fish or meat-eaters. As we all know, birds fly about us all the time, and sometimes being able to identify them by sight alone is not possible, so it was great to learn about the different flight patterns birds have, which can be very helpful! Bird calls are the next most prevalent thing after sight, that we use to I.D them – and knowing your calls out here in the bush is incredibly helpful, especially so when you can identify alarm calls, like the red-billed ox-pecker! He gives a shrill call to warn animals of danger, but it can help us as a guide when we are looking for buffalo for example, as we know through animal behaviour, that this is one of the animals they spend a lot of their time with. It is really amazing to know that we can identify a bird in more than one way!
Ever since a child, I have found a fascination and connection with birds. Their ability to fly and be free always made me feel happy to watch them, seeing how happy they all are. So naturally, if there was an animal I could connect with, it would be a bird. Everyone wants to be the ‘Big 5’. But to me, birds are more interesting. Without birds there would be an imbalance in our ecosystems. Things would not fall into place. For example, many people would see only the buffalo but not notice the birds hopping along its back, feeding on the ticks and parasites buried in its skin, helping to keep it parasite and disease-free. People can forget that birds are almost an ecosystem by themselves. They are the forgotten or overlooked species. I have a love for them and will ensure to share this special and important role they play in our ecosystems with our guests.
The Trails guide instructor, Pieter, spent quite a bit of time with us this week, teaching us about birds. I learned something new about myself this week, and that is a greater love and passion for birds than I knew I had. I was so inspired by Pieter and his knowledge of birds; I have definitely decided that I would love to specialise in birds just like him, further on in my guiding career. This week was a real eye-opener. Pieter’s knowledge taught us how such a small brain has so much intelligence, skills, and precise expertise in such a small animal. I can’t help but admire all this and notice that we don’t this too. Also, no other species in the animal kingdom has more diversity, colours, and sounds. I was surprised at how sound recognition is a fundamental skill if you want to be a bird expert; a skill that takes a lot of time to master.
What this week has given me, is the motivation and energy to keep moving forward, because I discovered I do not only have an interest in birds, but I am passionate about them, and they have given me the courage to always have a mind that is open to learning more.
The world is the true classroom. The most rewarding and important type of learning is through experience, seeing something with our own eyes. Jack Hanna