Ulovane Update: July Semester Week 7

27 Aug

Apprentice Field Guides

Week seven of our course started off with a mammals lecture and I learnt why the ‘Big 5’ animals are called the big five!! They coined their distinctions a long time ago for being the most dangerous animals to hunt on foot. This week we also started with our mock drives in preparation for our final drive assessments in two weeks’ time! One of my fellow classmates Chiracq had his mock drive on Monday, he did an awesome job and I learnt many things on the drive.

We all thoroughly enjoyed Danike’s mock drive as she was very relaxed, confident and did a brilliant drive. I think we all learnt some valuable things from her drive, not only about animals and the environment but also how she conducted herself and her drive. Tuesday was a very busy day as we had our ‘Hosting evening’, so as soon as we got back to the lodge we had to start prepping immediately for it. This is an evening held for the Apprentice Field Guides whereby we get to run an entire evening on our own, right from planning the menu, the décor, the cooking, serving and everything in between, so that we get a real-life feel for what it will be like one day when we work in a lodge ourselves.  Our guests were people from around Amakhala Game Reserve, ranging from lodge owners to management, to front of house and guiding staff from different lodges from the reserve. It was a very good evening, everyone enjoyed themselves even the trails (who were also our guests); I think they were the most stressed since we had tiramisu with a twist 😂 for our pudding. At the end of the night, everyone had a great time and enjoyed themselves thoroughly, even though they were exhausted by the end!

Mid-week introduced us to our HHH (Human Historical Habitation) lecture, which I find very confusing but still very interesting. It was my turn for my mock drive; personally, I was not pleased with my drive. I was quite disappointed in myself but after having spoken to our Field Guide instructor Justin, I learned so much and feel much more confident on what I need to improve on. We also celebrated a Ben from the Trails course’s birthday with some chocolate cake!

It was a busy week for birthdays as Melissa, our campus and marketing assistant, had her birthday on Thursday. This was an amazing day as it was a day set aside for adventuring and exploring the game reserve. Melissa took us out on a game drive for the morning and we went to a section of the reserve we have not yet explored, called the Northern Territory of Amakhala. We saw the large herd of buffalo and that was amazing! I really like the Northern Territory, it is gorgeous and very different in terrain and vegetation to the main reserve.  Then I got to drive us to the section on Amakhala known as ‘the little Grand Canyon’!  I drove much better and I was very proud of myself! The ‘Grand Canyon’ is the most amazing and interesting place I have ever seen because if you had seen it before doing the geology or conservation management lecture you would just think it was beautiful, but since we had done those lectures we had an understanding of how the grand canyon was formed; it is mind-blowing.  While we were in the Northern Territory we also saw eland which was cool since we haven’t seen them yet; and a great sighting of a herd of almost sixteen Oryx antelope with two young ones! Lastly, the coolest thing I learnt this week was told to us by Melissa and it was that an Aardwolf is smaller than a Jackal! That’s crazy I thought they were the size of a Brown Hyaena.

On Tyron’s mock drive at the end of our week, we got to see the lions which was really great! The Trails journey has come to an end, we enjoyed a delicious braai celebration (thanks to Jacques and Francois!) for their graduation on Friday evening here at campus with a few friends and fellow colleagues from Amakhala. The graduation was a fantastic and enjoyable night, even though it was a little bit emotional to say goodbye, as we have made great friends with the Trails! There were some slide shows of pictures and videos reminiscing on the last seven weeks which had everyone laughing together!

A great, jam-packed week with many new skills and interesting things learnt!


“The environment, after all, is where we all meet, where we all have a mutual interest. It is one thing that all of us share. It is not only a mirror of ourselves, but a focusing lens on what we can become.” — Lady Bird Johnson

Apprentice Trails Guides


I started the Apprentice Trails Guide course feeling quite insecure about a lot of things; the only thing I was certain of was knowing that I wanted to complete the course, building my knowledge and skills of the bush as much as possible. As always, life throws you curve balls and you might not get exactly what you set out to accomplish, but at the end of the day it makes you a much stronger person – physically and mentally – especially on the occasions when we were out there in the bush for three days having nothing but one can of tuna, one can of mushrooms (by choice) and a bag of peanuts to survive on!

There were only five of us on our course, so I feel that being the small group we were, gave us time to get to know one another very well, therefore giving us the ability to support and build on each other’s strengths when facing our worst fear. There I was, extremely afraid of heights! But having four other hands and six eyes assisting me and encouraging my will to face it even with shaking legs – and their stomachs aching with laughter, I did it!!

I had a personal goal of academically improving significantly. This goal was made that much more attainable by having the help we needed from the instructors at Ulovane. We were always made to feel comfortable to ask whatever we needed to, so I was not scared to ask, even if it was the most absurd question or the instructors had to repeat the answer over and over.

At the end of the day when you’re stressed out of your mind, doubting your capabilities HUGELY, the hug of your mentor comes, telling you how proud he is of all your achievements; it is an unforgettable feeling of happiness!

I can well and truly say, being at Ulovane, gives you the will to learn, the support to move on, the joy to wake up with a smile and the strength to proceed no matter what lies ahead!


What a journey, I can’t believe 7 weeks have passed us by, it seems like only a week ago we were doing our ‘plinking’ exercises with the air rifle, the ARH drills, the ARH assessment with all the highs and lows that come with it too! Then came the many hours of walking on the beautiful Amakhala Game Reserve, being surrounded by the wonders of nature, big, small and everything in between – what a privilege!

For me, this has been a journey of self-discovery; learning what I am truly capable of, pushing myself to the limits both mentally and physically to the point of total exhaustion. The many hours hitting the books for the theoretical side of things and many a day with tired and aching muscles, especially the feet. The course, however, was a tremendous amount of fun, from the shooting aspects to the discovery of many new things while being out in nature on the reserve.

To my fellow trails’ students, thank you for being professional and serious and fun; it was a privilege to have shared this amazing experience with you all. Special thanks to the fantastic Ulovane team for all the help and support, you guys are the best. When all is said and done, a truly amazing experience!!!

Therien & Craig

“To be whole. To be complete. Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.” — Terry Tempest Williams

Why we believe that our Apprentice Trails Course is one of the best in the industry:

One of the biggest challenges for new guides coming into the industry or even current guides wanting to further their careers with additional training and qualifications is to decide between the big number of academies currently running in the industry. Especially when it comes to trails guide qualifications.

Situated along the well-known garden route in the Eastern Cape, we have one of the most diverse areas in the country. Covering five different biomes on the property the diversity in the smaller components of nature such as botany, insects and birds are absolutely mind-blowing. The concept that bushwalks are there for the big 5 animals is very much incorrect, trails is the time one finally has to submerge oneself in nature and get to start understanding the smaller details and how they all fit together to create this amazing ecosystem. This is something that the Eastern Cape Thicket definitely allows us to do. The knowledge expansion you can go through when experiencing nature in this area specifically is one of the best aspects there is to offer. You deal with such a big diversity in biomes that it prepares you, or at least gives you the fundamental knowledge needed to expand into the majority of South African game reserves and not finding yourself needing to start learning everything about your new area of guiding from scratch. It prepares you to be able to walk in different topographical regions as well, not to mention the different styles one would adapt in a variety of vegetation biomes, from huge rolling grasslands to dense riverine thickets, sparse Karoo succulents to the colourful and fragrant fynbos sections.

A lot of places are hindered (not by fault but purely by location) in the diversity at which they can teach and mentor people to have a more versatile knowledge and experience base to draw from when out there in the field. The industry has a running joke on the Eastern Cape being the so-called ‘slowveld’, and you know what, they are actually right, but what most people don’t realize is that there is so much to learn and to experience that one does not want to move through it too quickly, you cannot help yourself to stop constantly and experience or learn something new…and lets be honest, if we wanted the fast-paced, we would not have gone into the tranquil surroundings of nature as a way of life.

Then there is the aspect of how we train of course. There are a lot of different opinions on what the best way is to train trails guides. Should you put people in dangerous situations to teach them how to deal with it or follow less aggressive approaches and focus more on how to avoid these situations. At Ulovane we definitely opt for the latter. The concept of getting yourself purposefully into a bad situation has always been difficult for us to understand. I fully agree that you gain a tremendous amount of experience when faced with potentially dangerous situations, learn valuable lessons that can save your life in the future, but also firmly believe that nature will teach your certain lessons when you are ready to learn them when you are ready to understand them.

At Ulovane we do not try to teach people how to deal with dangerous situations by purposefully putting their lives in danger, the mindset is that if that is how you train someone, that is also what they will revert back to when sent out into the field on their own with their guests. One of the biggest problems we can see in the industry are trails guides having too much confidence in their abilities, this is largely due to the fact that they ‘came out the other side alive’ from these experiences but not realizing how much different it will be when the mentor is no longer around to deal with the main threats. It is one thing to train someone how to deal with dangerous situations, but it is a whole other story being able to teach people how to not be in those positions, to begin with. You first need to minimize the chances of something going wrong before you can fully develop and understand the skills to deal with a situation when it does go wrong.  We are the only academy to put people through a jungle lane exercise even from the apprentice trails level, this being to duplicate these situations and teach people how to deal with the situation while we can still have control over it and not put human or animal lives on the line just for the purpose of teaching somebody how to react. We are extremely safety conscious in our approach to trails guide training, and with the amount of responsibility on a trails guides shoulder for the safety of their guests and the environment they want to conserve, there is no better way to do it.

If you want to experience nature the way it was suppose to, if you want to increase your knowledge ranging from the simplest aspects to the most diverse and complex, if you want to see the light and the freedom of how we can be in touch with nature without disturbing it or putting anyone’s lives on the line, then Ulovane is definitely the place to choose.

  • Pieter Dunn: Lead Trainer of the Apprentice Trails Guide course

“The beauty of the natural world lies in the details.” — Natalie Angier

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