Apprentice Field Guides
Yannick and Sinethemba are with us for the 10-week Apprentice Field Guide course. Yannick is from and Sinethemba is from the Eastern Cape, from the nearby Addo National Park and is one of the three candidates from our recent partnership with Wilderness Foundation Africa.
This week is a week different from any we have had yet! It is hard to believe we are already halfway through our ten weeks of this course!
Instead of writing our usual weekly exam on Sunday, we wrote it on Friday morning of this week, as we had a whole weekend off whereby a group of us took the opportunity to see more of South Africa and spent the weekend at the nearby and very beautiful Kenton-on-sea. We are very excited for the break, but it also meant the week was shorter and jam-packed full of plenty of interesting information and beautiful sightings!
Week five started out with a lecture on Amphibians in which we learned what the word Amphibian means; ‘Amphi’ means of two kinds in greek and ‘bios’ means life, so amphibian refers to the two stages of life that frogs go through, first being tadpoles and then going through numerous physical and structural changes into an adult frog.
After an early dinner, we went on our first night drive, which was from 18:00 to 22:00, where we saw some amazing animal tracks which were exciting to look at because of all the soft mud around after the wonderful rains we have recently had! We saw some textbook perfect lion tracks and a set of tracks left behind by a really small tortoise. Not to mention all the beautiful stars in the night sky!
Tracking day! The following morning, we both had to get up an hour earlier than the rest of the group as it was our turn to drive the vehicles for the day, so we had to prepare them and pack some cool boxes with food for the day ahead. On these days that we go out onto the reserve to develop and learn all we can about tracks and signs left behind by all sorts of animals, we go out for the entire day in order to maximise on the time we have and increase our chances of finding as many things to learn about as possible.
We left Ulovane camp at 7:00 in the morning and got back at 18:00 in the evening. During this time, Justin and Schalk sought out tracks for us to identify. There was a total of 35 different tracks identified, which ranged from beetles and millipedes to elephants to bird tracks and everything in between. We were off in the evening as we were all so exhausted from being out the whole day.
Mid-week we continued with our lectures for the week; reptiles! Something quite interesting we learnt about was the 3 orders of reptiles; the Shielded Reptiles like Tortoises and Turtles, the Scaled reptiles like Chameleons and Snakes, and the Crocodiles like the Nile Crocodile. We never expected that reptiles could be so diverse and still belong to the same class!
Conservation Management was another lecture we had this week, where we learned about the aims of Conservation Management, which are mainly, to preserve biodiversity, to maintain essential ecological processes and life-support systems and to ensure sustainable utilization of species and ecosystems.
It was quite an intriguing lecture as sometimes people do things that they think are beneficial for a particular environment, but when you look at the finer details and intricacies of how balanced and connected everything in nature is, they are actually damaging it.
Thursday morning’s game drive was superb, with a beautiful sunrise the beautiful sunrise and then shortly after the sun had risen, when the light was golden across the reserve, we encountered a male lion, who was walking across the road about 15 meters from our car. Already a fantastic sighting so soon into the drive. We thought our drive couldn’t get better, but it did as we also encountered an Elephant quite nearby.
The same afternoon, the second group went out on an afternoon drive and they also encountered 2 female lions lying in the shade along the road, which were laying around the kill of young kudu bull, which they had caught that same morning. They also found a beautiful specimen of a scorpion from the ‘scorpionidae’ family, sadly it was dead, but it was a fantastic find to be able to examine up close.
We learned a lot in a short amount of time this week! We are looking forward to the remaining 5 weeks, which are going to be educational and above all a lot of fun!
Yannick & Sinethemba.
“To all young people out there: This is the time you should be fearless but not jobless. Identify the right job, find what excited you the most, find what you are the most passionate about.” ―
Apprentice Trails Guides
Tara is from the Western Cape of South Africa, whom you last heard from during her Apprentice Field Guide course! She is here to give you all a wonderful account of the Apprentice Trails guides second last week of their course.
This weekend we will be writing our last weekly theory exam as Apprentice Trails guides. The days have moulded into one another but there are plenty of moments that I will not forget.
Although we only went out on three walks this week, we were blessed with the sightings we had on each walk. We got the chance to sit and watch how an elephant herd- such enormous animals and so many of them- simply disappear out of sight behind bushes. They move so soundlessly, just the crack of a branch or the tip of their trunk sticking out above a tree, giving away their position. They then made their way into the open, allowing us to see the youngest of the herd playing childishly in the mud.
This week we were also faced with some surprise encounters, which as it suggests- were a surprise! The biggest of the elephant bulls on Amakhala Game Reserve (in musth!) suddenly appeared while we were taking a rest amongst some shady spots. Luckily having females on his mind, he just raised his trunk to scope us out before continuing to pass. Later that same day we had an encounter with another animal, a mother and her calf, who stumbled upon us too!! It was an extremely hair-raising situation but a great learning incident for us all as we got to see how such a situation of that nature can be diffused.
Despite knowing these risks of walking out in the bush and waking up at 4 am to walk in extreme heat that makes us sweat from head to toe, we do it anyway because it’s so worth it.
Each day we see each other grow and change, not only learning valuable lessons but also learning about who we are as individuals.
On one of the hottest days this week, we decided to find some shade and just take in our surroundings. There were some animals in the distance; what seemed to be all the zebra on the reserve coming past us to drink from the dam! Not long after that, the heads of some giraffe popped up in the distance and they made their approach towards us too. Lost in the serenity, before we knew it, two hours had passed with us just simply sitting there and nature providing for us.
The animals seemed to be taking advantage of Valentine’s Day this week too as we got to see an Addo Flightless Dung beetle pushing his perfectly round ball, waiting to impress some ladies that may come his way, and the Cotton Stainer beetles making full use of the tall white squill flowers.
After hearing some lion calls early in the mornings and often seeing their tracks whilst walking, near the end of the week, we were able to finally locate and approach them while they were resting after having indulged in the previous night’s kill of a young kudu bull.
It’s sad to think that there are only two weeks left but I’m excited to see what they hold and how our group can handle what’s to come.
“Dreams keep us motivated and goals keep us going. But we gotta take action to achieve our goals, to make our dreams come true.” ―