I was one of the lucky ones to attend the 10-week level one course at Ulovane in April 2017. I know that people say this time and time again when reviewing something or writing a testimonial but in this case, I have to say it and when I say it, I truly mean it but… WOW!
I didn’t quite know what to expect on the course but I had a feeling that it was going to be one of the most memorable and exciting things I have ever experienced. they say that you’re gut feeling is never wrong, in this case, it was very far from wrong.
Day one when you arrive you’re warmly welcomed by Ulovane’s amazing team of unbelievably knowledgeable instructors (and let’s not forget Ulovane Master chefs Mama Thabs, who is the Queen of the kitchen and Jacques, who sure knows how to spice up your life ?). Day one is also the day where you get to meet all your fellow students and the people you will be living with for the next 10 weeks. You will feel like you’ve never introduced yourself to so many people and you will definitely be self-conscious of your name after repeating it to so many different people in such a short space of time (hahaha). Repeating your name so many times means that you get as long of a list of names that you will try your hardest to remember, my suggestion is don’t stress about names, it took us all a week before we knew everyone’s names. A thing that I was most fascinated by is the fact that men and women of all ages from various parts of the world all gathered in this one small part of the Eastern Cape and we all shared one thing in common, we all had a passion and a thirst to learn as much as we could about the flora and fauna in the natural environment around us. Oh and let’s not forget the fact that we all wanted to achieve the qualification in Guiding, that comes with the thirst for knowledge.
Over the period of the course, you do admittedly go through the various stages of highs and lows. From the stress of exams to learning 40 different bird calls or having to identify and provide medicinal uses of various plant species found on the reserve. You however get to experience incredible highs of waking up and leaving camp by 6am to reach a certain lookout point that sits above the clouds in order to watch the sunrise which casts a golden sheet over the clouds below you and even the excitement leaving camp after dinner to go swimming in the ice-cold dam in search of frogs for your amphibian practical. The highs heavily outweigh the lows, you get to experience so much you never ever dreamed of or imagined doing, like getting involved in a buffalo capture, watching a pair of lions mate metres away from you and even accumulating a really long list of tequilas after stalling the game viewers (one girl got over 20 tequilas but don’t worry, we don’t end up taking the tequila shots haha). Going through everything with the people that you’re with definitely cements lifelong friendships. You end up with the most amazing support system of friends and instructors that will help you through thick and thin for the rest of your life.
The Ulovane campus is green and “off the grid.” It’s situated on a Ridge overlooking the AmakhalaGamee Reserve which is known for it’s Big 5 and it’s also the reserve where we do all our gain all our practical experience, through game drives, canoe trips and bush walks. However, the Ulovane reserve is free of any dangerous game which allows students to explore the natural environment on their own or with friends. I often went off on my own to explore and discover new things when I needed a break from camp and a little alone time. A couple of us students all got together and formed a running club where we’d run different routes around the farm, on these runs we’d often surprise a herd of unsuspecting zebra or impala. Having this freedom to explore nature really contributes to the experience as a whole. As I mentioned Ulovane is off the grid, before life in camp I was always aware of green living but I never really practised it. After living green (recycling, practising different sustainable living practices every Saturday and bring exposed to various other methods of greener living) for 10 weeks and practising ethical guiding I have developed a passion for practising greener, environmentally conscious methods and I strive to promote greener living as well as ethical guiding. Not many guides realise the importance of guiding ethically, your impact on the environment during a guided experience should always be considered because without the natural environment you don’t have a job and most importantly you lose what you’re passionate about.
Life in camp honestly becomes home, after a while, you start calling camp home. After graduating, I went to visit a couple of weeks later and when I walked in my first thought was I’m home again.. I recently chatted to a guide who graduated from Ulovane a few years back and he had said that he has never met an Ulovane student who has not been passionate about the academy. He then went on to say that he had never met a student who graduated from another training Academy in the country that has been as passionate about their training Academy as an Ulovane student is about theirs.
So if you’re looking for an amazing wildlife experience, a chance to make lifelong friends, an opportunity to learn amazing new things about the Bush and to go on one of the wildest, most entertaining rides of your life, I can only suggest one place and that’s Ulovane Environmental Training.
P.S. Imagine sitting around a crackling campfire (after a long day out on drive where you got to see some graceful ballerina like elephant browsing on some picture perfect African thicket and young cheetah cubs with their tear-stained faces happily play fighting, honing the much-needed skills needed for their futures) with some amazing people while listening to the wild sounds of the African bush after dark. Ulovane…
- Kristin Mace