It is a chilly morning in the Eastern Cape, with a low-lying grey blanket covering the horizon over the ridge and a soft drizzle of moisture dampening the soils. The trails students are currently busy writing their final FGASA exam, by the looks on their faces as they are writing it all seems to be going relatively well so far, we are all behind you and wishing you the best of luck. Absolutely incredible that we are here already, it feels like yesterday that the first intake of 2020 started at Ulovane Environmental Training, yet we are on the last day of the Apprentice Trails guide Course.
Sitting here and looking at the students writing their final exam takes me back to the start of my own career, where I myself attended an Ulovane course in 2008. What a journey it has been over the last 12 years, with experiences that warm the heart all the way to those that bring tears to your eyes. Today I want to take some time and dedicate my blog to the people that made all this possible, the people who have changed so many lives and who always put other’s needs in front of their own. Schalk and Candice Pretorius…. where to even begin, what can one even say about these two that somebody has not already said to them before.
As with so many of our students that come on the courses I was in a difficult place in my life before walking through the Ulovane doors for the first time, not really knowing where I wanted to go or what my purpose in life was going to be. 12 years ago all of this changed when Schalk and Candice opened up their family to me, we always say that once you set foot through our doors you become part of the Ulovane family, this is not a statement that these two take lightly; when they utter those words they truly mean it.
The selection of training providers across the country is rather huge, and it can be quite difficult to decide which provider to choose once the decision has been made to start a life in this industry. Through research and weighing up various options, my decision ended up being Ulovane Environmental Training for a variety of reasons. Unknown to me, this would be one of the best decisions of my entire life.
Anyone that is in the industry will know that there are as many opinions on how to do things as there are guides out there, and to each their own, but without any doubt, in my mind, the person I have got the most respect for in the entire industry is hands down Schalk, owner, director and founder of Ulovane Environmental Training. The ethical mindset that this man has got is absolutely extraordinary, surpassed by his knowledge of all living things and a way to reach people that most cannot comprehend. His humble nature might let people underestimate his expertise but spend even just one day with him and you will fully understand just how big of a person he really is. His passion and respect for nature shine through in everything that he does and becomes infectious to all those around him. It is difficult to go through the Ulovane process and not be touched by the way he approaches nature and the way you see nature approaches him in return.
The way he conducts himself when out in nature sets a standard that cannot be matched in my opinion, the fundamentals that he instills in guides, current or new, set them up for success in the industry, guides them to be better than what they thought was possible for themselves while at the same time getting people to believe in themselves and their own capabilities to change those around them for the better.
All of the above is also close to impossible to achieve when you are alone, a partnership of some serious understanding is needed and a support system of the highest degree. This then obviously brings me to the next person, Candice, loving wife, mom (not just to her own three kids but to 100s of students that call her mom) and outright heart of the operation. Usually behind the scenes doing things that none of us ‘bush babies’ can even attempt. If not for her time and effort and constant devotion the rest of us will not have anybody to train. Candice is usually the first person anyone gets in touch with and the last person to still have contact with students long after they leave the Ulovane nest. She works non-stop around the clock, bringing people from all walks of life together to try and reach a common goal. Her understanding of people and her patience with all inquiries and requests is astounding to watch. She can connect with anyone she deals with, whether they are 18 or 80, she is able to understand everyone’s needs and combines so many different factors to end up with a system that benefits and accommodate all.
It is Ulovanes 15 years anniversary this year and I just wanted to congratulate Schalk and Candice on the tremendous achievement they have created. The magnitude of the foundation they set for anyone who attends their courses is of exceptional quality and from all the previous students that has had the privilege to become part of the Ulovane family I want to thank the two of you, without you none of us would have been able to be where we are today, and for those who are still to come in the future, coming to Ulovane will be one of the best decisions of your life and I can guarantee a life-changing experience set together by two of the strongest foundation pillars you can ever ask for….Schalk and Candice.
Thank you again for everything the two of you do and congratulations on 15 years of exceptional field guide training. Looking forward to many more memorable years together.
- Pieter Dunn (Lead Trainer Apprentice Trails Guide Course)
Thank you very much, Pieter, for those beautiful words!! We cannot thank you and the rest of the team for all that you all do. Without all of you, none of this is possible!
We are very proud of you Pieter and all you have achieved in your career, keep on keeping on.
“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”–Phil Jackson