Apprentice Trails Guides
Experiences of the second last week of the Apprentice Trails Guide course, as told by Sandra and Danike, who have both been with us since their Apprentice Field Guide course in July. Danike is from South Africa, Sandra from Switzerland! Danike joined us here at Ulovane to extend her knowledge on wildlife and bush skills and Sandra wished to experience something different and completely immerse herself in the wild and in nature for an extended period!
The beginning of week 6! We had our big Cybertracking evaluation this weekend, where world-renown Adriaan Louw spent time with us here at Ulovane, sharing his knowledge and expertise and assessing us for our Cybertracker qualifications.
Thus, we began our week by focusing on tracks in order to prepare ourselves as best we could for our big weekend ahead. We spent the first two days with Shani on Amakhala Game Reserve, and we had our two new students join us for the week as well! They are Rosie, from England, and Lachlan from Australia, who are here on Ulovanes ‘Nature Enthusiast Programme’. They will spend four weeks here and partake in some of each course and experience on offer here at Ulovane.
It was very interesting to learn more about the tracks and signs animals leave behind. The most interesting track we saw on the first day was a honey badger track! During this day, we also encountered a herd of zebras that had a very young zebra in their herd, which we must say made our day.
Being on foot on the bush allows you to see things that are easily missed from a vehicle, so the next day our walk focused on the little things that we haven’t seen a lot of, like the nest in the ground of a wolf spider. We found that they nest in very specific soils that are favourable to live in, as we encountered several nests within a given area. This was quite a hot day, so we climbed into the vehicle and continued our tracking in another area of the reserve, to try encounter different tracks due to different soil substrates. As we were driving looking for tracks, we came across a herd of elephants who were moving toward a waterhole on Amakhala called ‘hippo pools’. It’s one of their favourite swimming spots! We had the privilege of viewing four of these elephants having a full-on swim in this watering hole. It was quite comical as they were rolling around and playing with each other. Very special to see!
We got to spend a day with Schalk mid-week, and we saw some incredible tracks this day, including a monitor lizard, some spring hare tracks and even the tracks left behind by a toad!! We slowly moved from the main reserve side of Amakhala, across to another section of Amakhala called Carnavon Dale where we saw the male Cheetah for the first time. He was lying peacefully under a bush enjoying the shade. It was amazing to be able to sit and observe him because we learnt physical differences between Cheetahs and Leopards. After lunch, Schalk asked us to find our own track or signs and then to present it to the others.
We are fortunate to be able to write a mock exam before our final exam next week Friday, in order to test ourselves and see where we are all at in our studies, so Thursday was spent studying to prepare ourselves for it.
The weekend of our tracking assessment finally came. We had a great time with Adriaan Louw, our tracking assessor. It was very windy which made our tracking challenging. However, with the preparation we have done this week, we all improved on our tracking and identifying skills which also made our tracking in challenging weather a little easier. A big thank you to all our instructors and Adriaan for sharing all their amazing knowledge, we truly appreciate it. This tracking week, especially the weekend was truly one for the books and one we all will never forget!
Sandra & Danike.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” ―
Apprentice Field Guides
Bastiaan is from Holland and has joined us here at Ulovane for the 10-week Apprentice Field Guide course. He wants to meet new people, be in nature and learn about endangered African animals.
We are currently in week six of our Apprentice Field Guide course, just past the halfway mark! Last weekend we had the weekend off which was great fun as the Rugby World Cup final match was on and a few of us went to the reserves nearby sports club and watched the game with fellow guides and staff from the area. It was great fun to relax and loosen up with my friends and see the Springbokke win!
This week for us, birds were on the program. Prior to this week, I didn’t care much about birds, but since having spent time with Piet, who was our instructor for birds this week, I have really started to like them, and have begun to develop an interest in the subject. On Thursday we had to identify 30 birds by sight and 20 birds by sound. When I first listened to all the sounds on Monday, I didn’t know a single one; this was worrying. But when I started to listen more and more to them it became easier and easier, and by Wednesday I could identify them all. On Wednesday, Pieter took us to this amazing hidden valley with the most beautiful birds I have ever seen! We spent the whole morning there just listening to the birds around us; this is surely the highlight of the entire week! That day we also saw a pregnant giraffe who was almost ready to give birth, so we planned to come back the next day to try our luck at seeing a brand-new baby giraffe.
After our slide and sound exam, we had a game drive in the afternoon in which I was the guide and had to conduct the drive for the afternoon. The slide and sound test went really well and I could identify all of the sounds and slides. We enjoyed numerous sightings I chose to stop at, some of which included impala, zebra, springbok, baboons, wildebeest, blesbok and red hartebeest! I tried to remember as much as I could of what Justin, Melissa and Piet have told us over the last five weeks, and I felt it went well. As I went down an area on Amakhala known as ‘the drop off’, as it is a very steep section of road, we saw a big male elephant which we would all love to see, so I carefully drove towards him. As we crossed over another road towards him, seeing the big animal, my heart skipped a beat for a second, he was so close, and I was driving, which was such an amazing experience!
We moved on to look for the baby giraffe, but the female had not given birth yet. We stopped for a coffee and tea break on top of a ridge which is one of the highest viewpoints of Amakhala; the view is amazing from up there! As I unpacked the cooler box and enquired what everyone would like to drink, I realized, “Oh oh!!!” I forgot to pack milk AND spoons! It was a shame after such a nice drive, but I probably will never do it again! Lucien drove down and then back to camp, and we had a great encounter with a group of giraffes, which did you know, is called a ‘tower’?
Towards the end of our week we went on a morning walk with Schalk which was interesting, as even though we did not see many big animals, we saw a lot of other amazing things such as the ring bummed millipede muncher ants, some big scorpion holes, a couple of trapdoor spider holes and as a highlight, the collared sunbird; a beautiful bird!
Four our sustainable living activity on Saturday, myself, Chris and Chanté went to the entrance gate to Ulovane situated on a national main road, the N2, and picked up all the glass and plastic we could find outside the property. We came back with five full bags of glass bottles and all sorts of plastic. We were happy that we were able to pick up that much and made the environment just a tiny bit cleaner! Every little bit helps!!
“At the end of the day, let there be no excuses, no explanations, no regrets.” ―