Apprentice Field Guides: Week 1
Week one of our Apprentice Field Guides course was a jam-packed, busy and interesting week!
Our week started off with orientation game drives on Ulovane Reserve itself, and then on to beautiful Amakhala Game Reserve to see the lay of the land and get familiar with the roads and areas that we will be driving on during our next 10 weeks. Doug from Medwise Safety joined us at Ulovane Campus for 3 days to train us for our Level 2 Wilderness First Aid qualification. I already have a level 3 First Aid certificate, but Doug’s training was very different from what I had done and I really enjoyed the way Doug trained us. The amount of practical training and practice he includes in the course was something I had never been exposed to before. It is a very important aspect of First Aid as studying theory and having to respond to a real-life simulated scenario, bring about very different responses. It was great to get to know one another better as a group over these last 3 days; it definitely brought us closer! Huge thank you to Doug for his professional, fun, hands-on training he provided us with. We feel ready for any emergency situation!
One of the most interesting things I learnt this week was that one of the first dinosaur fossils found in South Africa was discovered right here in the Eastern Cape, on Amakhala Game Reserve. I also learnt a few new skills this week, doing things I have never had the opportunity to do before so I was unaware I could do them – 4 X 4 driving, vehicle skills, game spotting, recycling, mapping, vegetable garden management…to name a few! It was definitely a week of learning and these new skills have given me confidence in myself!
Another amazing and surprising thing I learned about myself is that I’m not as awkward around new people as I expected I would have been in this setting. We all love and appreciate the same things like nature, bird calls, sunrises and so on, being around like-minded people has made me much more comfortable. Something that has stood out to me at Ulovane is the enthusiasm the instructors here at Ulovane have. They make you feel even more enthusiastic and passionate to learn about nature. They have a way of making you feel comfortable even when you don’t know anyone else and are still a bit unfamiliar with things. They make our learning environment fun and have already taught me so much.
“Don’t be afraid of your fears. They’re not there to scare you. They’re there to let you know that something is worth it.” ―
Apprentice Trails Guides: Week 1
After two weeks of a nice and restful break, settling again in a new room and welcoming the 11 new Apprentice Field Guides last Sunday, we started our Apprentice Trails Guide course with Piet on Monday.
I entered this very new and unknown world to me: the world of firearms and rifles.
To be honest, I was a bit worried to start with this aspect of the Apprentice Trails Guide course. I have never touched a rifle before in my life so was not very sure of being able to manage it.
Our week began with lectures to educate us on the basics, as well as to understand a little bit more about safety rules and the use of the rifle. After some theory, our first day of shooting was on the air rifle, which is referred to as ‘plinking’. It is for us to practice our aim, our stance, and to get a general feel for holding a rifle. I remember feeling so very nervous about “this black metal thing”! There was a lot I felt I had to remember in order to shoot correctly, like stance, grip, aim, squeeze the trigger, alignment and following through always after you have placed your shot. Finally, after settling my nerves because of Piet constantly reassuring me, as well as repetition, repetition, repetition! I became more confident and by the end of that day, I can say I really started to enjoy it!
Mid-week was time to get our PFTC (Professional Firearms Training Council) papers and competency out of the way, so Charlie and Neal from Falcon Firearm Academy in Port Elizabeth spent the day with us at Ulovane to give us our theory class. We learnt some very interesting things about firearm law here in South Africa as well as different situations you can deal with when you possess a firearm. We learnt as well, about having a firearm in the capacity of a Trails guide, an anti-poaching ranger on a game reserve as well as for general business purposes. The next day we travelled to Port Elizabeth to write the final competency exam and have our practical shooting at their range where we shot with a .22 calibre rifle and then a .308 calibre rifle. It was quite impressive shooting with the .308! Especially hearing the noise, it makes!
Piet has slowly through the week encouraged me through his talks, and has made me realise step by step, assembling all the elements together, the huge responsibility that you have as a Trails Guide. You literally have the life of someone else in your hands! The lives of animals will be influenced by how you approach them, read their behaviour and make the right decisions to respect their space and the safety of your guests and yours, too.
The week ended off with a blindfold exercise we had to do with .375 rifle.
We had all day to train and repeat the exercise of loading the rifle with 3 dummy (blank) rounds of ammunition, then we had unloaded, still blindfolded, and put the rifle in a safe state. Repetition is the key to build muscle memory. It was fun! Until now, I am surprised to find myself enjoying it!
“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.” ―