Earth Hour 2020

Beyond the Bright Lights | Earth Hour 2020

What is the meaning of Earth Hour?

Founded in 2007, Earth Hour was conceptualized around a think tank in Australia. The initiative is now organized annually by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and is a voluntary one-hour lights out with the focus on drawing on the power of the masses to drive environmental awareness. Anyone and everyone is invited to join the movement and has grown to include millions of supporters worldwide.  The energy savings have been remarkable however the purpose goes way beyond the measurable kilowatts. The movement is a symbolic drive to take conscious action for the preservation of our planet.

How can you be a part of it?

This Year, Earth Hour is planned for 28 March between 20h30 and 21h30 and the goal is to switch off as many lights as possible. As South Africans, we will all be in our homes with our loved ones and this is a great opportunity to recreate the original think tank. As families, why not brainstorm other ways in which we can take accountability for our households’ environmental footprint? Are you recycling? Have you stopped using plastic bags when doing your groceries? Have you switched to eco-friendly cleaning products? Are you committed to saving water? These are just a few small ideas to get you started… We challenge you to really invest in doing what you can to contribute to the movement, way beyond just the hour.

As a company, EcoTraining is wholeheartedly dedicated to nature. We have a deep awareness of her importance and how necessary it is to protect her. During South Africa’s 21-day lockdown period, guides and guardians of nature will undoubtedly experience an overwhelming yearning to be in the wilderness: a withdrawal from her mountains and her wide open plains.

This year’s Earth Hour is especially symbolic and about so much more than just switching off our bright lights. If anything, it is pivotal that we shine a bright light on all that we have done to harm our home, our planet.  And we have to change. If we want to have the freedom, once again, to immerse ourselves in wild spaces we need to come together in solidarity.  We hope that this message will light a fire in each and every person that reads it; light a fire of determination to change for the better. The onus is on us, all of us.

Please stay safe and stay home South Africa!

In the meantime, here is what you can look forward to when the lock-down comes to an end.

Earth Hour 2020

Sitting around the bush TV in Mashatu, Botswana (c) Jan Wilke

 

Buffalo Quiz

EcoTraining Quiz: Buffalo

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EcoTraining Lock-down

Lock-down got you down?

We know that as you self-isolate during this lock-down period of 21-days it will be hard, especially as most of you love the outdoors and the idea of adventures in the African Bush, we are on your page.

For those of you who are at home, we feel you and want to assure you that for the next coming weeks we are going to try keep you as entertained and immersed in a ‘bush experience’ as possible, just because you will be at home doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the magic of the wilderness!

We will continue with our weekly trivia questions, our quizzes and add some word search and crossword fun in there for you to keep your mind’s busy and the brain sharp.

In the meantime, for the sake of your sanity, we have come up with a list of things that will entertain you and your family while you wait out the lock-down:

Something for the nature enthusiasts:

and to keep you entertained…

  • You can never go wrong with Sir. David Attenborough. When you can’t get into the bush, he brings the bush to you, learn, be moved and feel a part of an incredible journey. Watch the Planet Earth Series.
  • We have a new series coming your way: Tarry & Tayla Birding 101 or as we are calling it Bird.I.Y. Keep your eyes peeled on the EcoTraining YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/EcoTraining this series will keep you entertained and even make you pee a little bit with all the laughter. Starting on the 6th of April @ 16h00 (GMT).

Reading and brushing up on your nature skills:

Something for the kids:

  • Reading: Here are a few of our top picks for kids who love animals and wildlife.
EcoTraining Children's Book Recommendations

Exciting Books for Kids during the lock-down

Where you could find these books: Exclusive Books or Takealot.com

  • Audio: Here are our top audio/audiobook picks for kids who are adventurous and love the outdoors.
EcoTraining Children's AudioBook Recommendations

Exciting Audiobooks for Kids during the lock-down

Where you could find these audiobooks: Audiobooks or Audible

Should we add an Ugly Five Quiz? It could be quite funny – here is a test in the meantime (for you or the kids).

Can you name the ugly five

Can you name the ugly five (c) The Ugly Five by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

We know you would all rather be in the bush and outdoors but in the meantime, we hope we play a little part in lightening up your day and who knows you might be smelling the fresh smells of acacia trees and hearing a hippo grunt before you know it.

STAY SAFE!

Alex van den Heever and Renias Mhlongo.

Tracking towards brotherhood

World-renowned wildlife trackers Alex van den Heever and Renias Mhlongo have spent more than two decades working together, tracking leopards and lions at Londolozi, jaguars in South America and grizzly bears in the United States. With a passion for wildlife, tracking and the natural world, this is a partnership that is set in stone.

Rhino on Safari

Human Rights Day 2020

On 21 March 1960, a peaceful crowd of South African citizens were subject to open fire from the police. They were protesting in solidarity against Apartheid’s discriminatory Pass Laws. Every year on the 21st of March, we commemorate the ordinary people that fought for the recognition of our basic rights as human beings. As a nation, this day gives us the opportunity to reflect on the progress made in the promotion and protection of our human rights. Every single person regardless of age, race, gender or creed is entitled to these rights and they are ours by the simple virtue of being human.

All around the world, we as human beings distinguish each other’s worth on the basis of our differences. Mother Nature does not – in her eyes, we are all the same and are all worth the same. Being in nature alongside other human beings very quickly strips us of our separateness and powerfully unites us on the basis of humanity, freedom, justice, and peace. We very quickly become equals in the wilderness experience.

“The most powerful part of taking a game drive with guests is that it is the ultimate leveller. In the presence of an elephant, our individual wealth doesn’t matter; our separate nationalities don’t exist; our varying belief systems fade. In that moment, we are all purely human. Together.” Past EcoTraining Student

Mother Nature does not discriminate and this is more evident than ever in the COVID-19 pandemic that we are all currently experiencing. The virus is affecting everyone, regardless of where we come from, who we are or what we believe in. Now more than ever we need to stand united as a human race in facing the challenges that this pandemic has thrown at us. We need to act in service of the greater whole and more importantly, we need to recognise the message that Mother Nature is sending us. A huge change is in order. We need to forget about the divisions we have created between ourselves and work together in protecting our planet, our home. We need to stop sabotaging nature’s natural resources in the pursuit of self-gain and need to begin sharing what we still have.

We are all hyper-aware that certain of our human rights are being threatened amidst the chaos of COVID-19. Freedom of movement has become restricted, our right to life is insecure, freedom of trade becomes almost impossible for certain businesses, access to health care is under huge pressure and with most schools closed, access to education is temporarily interrupted.
Our only choice is to dissolve the barriers we have built and to change the way we do things – as one united human spirit. We need to drastically reduce the pressure we are putting on Mother Nature. We need to care for her and each other deeply. We are her guardians now more than ever and it is our responsibility to act now.

Today, on Human Rights Day, let’s stand together and embrace EcoTraining’s vision of reconnecting people to nature and creating custodians of the wild. Let’s band together and see this as a beautiful opportunity. What responsibility are YOU willing to take?

Pridelands

Rustic Luxury | EcoTraining Pridelands Camp

The EcoTraining Camp at Pridelands can best be described as a camp of rustic luxury. There are not many places left on earth where one can revel in solitude, connect deeply to nature and intentionally immerse oneself in a primitive way of living. The rare opportunity, then, to do these things in a turbo-technological world, can and should be considered a luxury.

Situated on the Pridelands Conservancy just north of Hoedspruit, this camp is privileged to be one of only two EcoTraining camps positioned within the world-renowned Greater Kruger National Park.

Pridelands Accommodation

Pridelands Camp Canvas Dome Tents

During Summer’s lush Eden, the campgrounds are barely visible until one is right on its doorstep. Each canvas dome tent rests below a dappled canopy, mostly hidden from view.  And if it wasn’t for the mouth-watering aroma of sizzling bacon coming from the communal dining tent, the kitchen might go unnoticed as well. The camp chameleons itself into its overgrown surroundings. Any student enrolled here has the extraordinary opportunity to embrace a raw wilderness experience that leaves almost no human footprint on the land. Ablutions are communal but wait until you take a shower after dark below a bejewelled African sky, lullabied by the songs of nocturnal mammals awakening from slumber. Or brushing one’s teeth watching an elephant bull wallowing in the nearby waterhole. This is a rustic luxury.

The camp runs off the grid with power limited to solar energy. On a balmy afternoon between safari activities with no access to a fan, why not string up a hammock between two Marula trees, catching a zephyr that twirls off the dam nearby? Replace scrolling social media with watching a hornbill dedicating hours to finding food for his chicks. Take a long deep breath and know that the inhaled air is pure. Pristine. Perfect. This is rustic luxury.

EcoTraining Pridelands Camp

Afternoon Activity, Waterhole in-front of camp, Pridelands Camp Boma Area

Camp facilities are basic yet leave no student wanting after anything. With a well-fed tummy, access to running water and a dry, safe place to sleep, the environment provokes the need for only one thing. Gratitude.

Simple luxuries are hiding in plain sight at Pridelands and nature just requests that they are noticed and appreciated. Gratitude for the feeling of coarse sand between one’s toes after a long bushwalk. Feeling grateful for the tree frog that finds a temporary home in the soap dish and expressing gratitude for the asymmetrical reflections mirrored in puddles after the rain.

Be grateful; because on returning to the concrete jungle, one will yearn for these magical moments that left one in awe at EcoTraining Pridelands.

Take a virtual walkthrough of Pridelands camp and the wild natural landscape of the reserve and all the wildlife that call it home. With regular visits from elephants, hyena, and warthog, the camp offers a completely immersive experience. Have a look at the courses on offer for 2020.

 

Kenya Safari

EcoTraining Quiz: Become a Field Guide |

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White lion

EcoTraining Crossword: Fun Facts

Is Coronavirus getting you down? Do you need to pass the time during your self-isolation? Don’t fear, EcoTraining is here and we have loads of fun interactive quizzes, word searches and crosswords to keep you busy.

Why not start with this EcoTraining Crossword and test your knowledge:

EcoTraining Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Survey

A letter from the MD & Coronavirus | COVID-19 Survey

A letter from our Managing Director, Anton Lategan

“Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. We as humans are part of a naturally resilient world. Micro and macro organisms in nature have countless interrelationships that keep our natural world healthy and our modern world functional. Through our eyes, we only see the macro-organisms around us but there is so much more going on that actually sustains us beyond our modern perceptions.

We are not voyeurs of nature, we are citizens of the natural world!

Our own bodies rely on and are made up of many microorganisms as part of a healthy system. Humanity is being reminded now more than ever that we are not the owners of this planet. We have the choice to live as respectful inhabitants and behave as responsible guardians of the natural world.

The lessons and solutions rest in nature, our scientific community is valuable but ultimately it is the understanding of our natural world that offers us the solutions we seek. As we seek solutions from nature in times of crisis, let us hope that we remember to protect nature when we continually place nature in crisis.

It is profound to witness humanity acting collectively against a common threat, perhaps for the first time in history at this scale? It is natural because we feel threatened but it gives me hope that we humans are potentially a caring being. I am hopeful that we can extend this care to the natural world as it has cared for us since the beginning of our existence.

EcoTraining is committed to teaching people how resilient nature is and in turn how resilient we are as people”.

With the world in crisis mode and humankind battening down the hatches

COVID-19 Survey

We have all been caught off guard by this current crisis. Certain drastic measures were put in place to keep the Coronavirus (COVID19) from spreading. These measures do have a major effect on everyone globally. Please take a few minutes to answer this 10 question survey about the Coronavirus and the effect it has on YOU personally and your travel plans.


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Makuleke Zeabra

Remember to appreciate the beauty that is around us during this time. (c) Etienne Ooshuizen

Makuleke Zeabra

The Extraordinary Makuleke

As one ventures over the bridge straddling the Luvuvhu River into the Makuleke Concession, the landscape transforms into something extraordinary. Ancient Baobab trees fortify the rugged sandveld, groves of Lala Palms bow to the few stems that have shot skyward and stunted mopane thickets line the alluvial plains in orchard-like symmetry. Legions of elephant patrol this expansive kingdom, countless buffalo herds till the soil with marching intent and abundant nyalas glide around in elegant momentum.

Pel's Fishing Owl

Pel’s Fishing Owl in Makuleke (c) Ross Hawkins

This northern-most section of the Kruger National Park holds seventy-five percent of the biodiversity found in the region and is on the bucket-lists of keen birders and naturalists alike. Visitors come in search of a trove of endemic species like Pel’s Fishing Owl, Racket-Tailed Roller and Arnot’s Chat but almost always leave with so much more than just a pencilled check-list. And almost always leave a sliver of their soul behind.

The natural heritage and history of Makuleke is palpable. Once a trading corridor where distant travellers exchanged gold, animal skins and salt, this land continues to tell the tales of the traditional Makuleke people that once inhabited it and who now benefit greatly from its role in conservation.

Iconic Baobab specimens were not just trees to these people. They were cherished as more than just a source of food and medicine but as spiritual guides. Tribal elders shook trusting hands in their fibrous shade, the Makuleke Chief and his wife dwelled in one regal specimen’s hollowed-out cavity and rite-of-passage ceremonies were conducted in their proximity with the belief that this would pass strength and health to the growing young men.

Baobab Trees

Baobab Valley in the Makuleke (c) Etienne Ooshuizen

Kruger Game Drive

Game Drive in the Makuleke (c) Jessica Watt

It is against the backdrop of this magical place that the EcoTraining Camp is set. The camp itself resembles a tiny forest village. Each raised thatch and canvas tent claims one of the forest trees as its protector from the harsh heat. The tents are generously spacious with private bathrooms and outside decks overlooking the wilderness beyond. There is a constant concert of birdsong to accompany the tranquillity and many other animal heartbeats share the space of the unfenced camp. The main dining tent brings everyone together over hearty meals made with love and where life-long friends are made.

But not much time is spent in the tents as there is a magnetic pull to explore this area on foot or in open safari vehicles. EcoTraining’s twice-daily activities introduce students to the unforgettable beauty of the area with the additional privilege of facilitating an educational experience.
This special place carries an air of wisdom. It requests the best version of anyone visiting it, cradles one in raw beauty and leaves one with an instinctive desire to protect it. Thankfully, this magnificent places alongside EcoTraining’s vision to “reconnect people to nature” inspires a mighty force of wilderness guardians.

Limpopo River

Enjoying the view on the banks of the mighty Limpopo River (c) Jessica Watt

Want to learn more?

Do you want to know more about some of the special birds you could spot in the Makuleke? Try our EcoTraining Lowveld Birds Quiz. Or if you want to know more about the Kruger, we also have a Kruger Quiz. This beautiful paradise as you can feel is a once in a lifetime experience and definitely not to be miss. If this is something you are interested and want to be immersed in the wilds of the Northern Kruger National Park we have a few Easter Special running at the moment.

Lilac-breasted roller

EcoTraining Quiz: Birds of the Lowveld

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Broad-billed roller

EcoTraining Word Search: Makuleke Birds

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Wilderness Trails Skills

Tips and Tricks for the Wilderness Trails Skills Course

Imagine, finding yourself out in the African bush, surrounded by the wilds of nature, from the whoops of hyena as the sun sets to the roars of a lion going into dawn, to the grunts of a hippo in the nearby waterhole.  With all your belongings carried on your back, you will be immersed in nature, become part of the natural system and be forever changed. The question is; do you have what it takes to do a Wilderness Trail?

If you think that you are the type of person who can be absorbed by the natural beauty of the wilderness, have your breath taken away by the beauty of birds in flight and feel utterly at peace in the silence of nature then you are definitely in the right place. On an EcoTraining Wilderness Trails Skills Course, your nights will be spent sleeping under a blanket of billions of stars and you will be able to explore some of the last untouched wilderness areas in Southern Africa on foot. You will have a chance to forget the hustle and bustle of your everyday life and be able to get back to basics and appreciate the solitude and silence whilst being surrounding by the breathtaking beauty of the Makuleke in the Northern Kruger National Park.

Before you start the journey on the Wilderness Trails Skills Course, we thought you might want a few quick tips that may help you along the way…

Wilderness Trails Skills Tips and Tricks

Tips:
  • Ziploc bags are great to have to allow you to store rubbish. Sealing your rubbish will ensure you don’t get ants in your back-pack.
  • Pack a pocket knife or Leatherman you never know when this will come in handy.
  • Make sure you have a good-quality torch, preferably a head torch (that won’t need charging)
  • Throw in a pair of gaiters or you are more than welcome to pick grass seeds and thorns from your socks every evening.
  • Take our EcoTraining Bush Survival Quiz – this will help you prepare yourself for any situation – from digging for water to locating water, or even learning how to make a rope etc…
Wilderness-Trails-skills-buffalo-encounter

Wilderness Trails Skills (c) Ian Glenn

What to Pack:
  • Sleeping bag (check temperature rating)
  • Sleeping bag inner (if needed for warmth & keeps sleeping bag clean)
  • Sleeping mat (foam roll mat) or inflatable hiking mattress (minimalist)
  • Cooking utensils (spoon to cook and eat with is sufficient)
  • Cooking equipment (stackable camping cooking set)
  • Hiking gas stove (plus spare gas canister in case you run out)
  • Personal first aid kit (small)
  • Torch/ headlamp (strong beam) – new batteries plus spare
  • Personal toiletries & sundry – Toilet paper, Toothbrush plus small Toothpaste, Sunscreen
  • Personal clothing (absolute minimal)
    • Neutral coloured: 1 set for walking, 1 set for sleeping
    • Spare pair of socks
    • Fleece and beanie for cold weather
    • Rain poncho (can also be used as a groundsheet to sleep on)
    • Hat (preferably wide-brimmed)
  • Good comfortable walking shoes/boots/trainers
  • Flip-flops for evenings and water travel
  • Backpack (40 – 60L max)
Water:
    • A 3-litre bladder in your back-pack allows you to drink whilst walking and is easier to fit in your back-pack.
    • If you take bottles only, ensure you have bottles equivalent to 3 litres per day.
    • You will need to bring water purification

Trail food – you will need to cater for these:

    • 5 breakfasts; 4 lunches; 5 dinners
    • trail snacks; energy drinks (i.e. game powders)
    • Suggestions:
    • Tea/coffee: Cappuccino sachets; condensed milk sachets (if you like sweetened drinks) or normal coffee, tea bags, sugar and powdered milk.
    • Breakfast: Instant Oats sachets/rusks
    • Lunch: Savoury crackers; Tuna sachets, Nola chicken & mayo sachets; 2 min noodles; Cup-a-soup sachets or Cheese for crackers (best in cooler winter months)
    • Dinner: Dehydrated dinners; 2 min noodles with the tuna or chicken sachets to mix in; 2 min noodles with ‘cup a soup’ to mix in; to any of these, you can add salami or biltong.
    • Snacks: Trail Mix (nuts, dried fruit etc); Muesli/energy bars

So, are you up for the challenge then why not reconnect with nature, rejuvenate your spirit and experience nature on a different level. Join the next Wilderness Trails skills course (04 – 09 April 2020) and spend your days walking in a uniquely untouched wilderness area on foot. Email enquiries@ecotraining.co.za for more info.

EcoTraining Pridelands Camp

A mutualistic relationship | Animals & EcoTraining

Celebrating our mutualistic relationship with the animals of EcoTraining Camps.

When you set up an unfenced camp in a wildlife area or game reserve, you are bound to have animals come into your camp relatively often. With the EcoTraining camps, there is no exception.

In fact, a very important aspect of the EcoTraining experience is reconnecting with nature. By living in nature and being close to nature – and staying in one of EcoTraining’s unfenced camps does exactly this. Waking up to birds singing in the morning, having animals walk through the camp, and the occasional snake that has to be removed from a bathroom all encompass a true experience of nature. It may seem dangerous and scary to people at first, but when animals are given respect, it is possible for both humans and animals to live in close proximity without either party being negatively affected.

Elephant in camp

Elephant in Karongwe Camp (c) Zach Savage

Wildlife around Karongwe Camp

From elephants walking through the camp, lions roaring outside your tent, hyenas breaking into the kitchen and baboons stealing fruit from the breakfast table, it is not uncommon to have an encounter with an animal within the camp limits. Sometimes these encounters are awe-inspiring and sometimes they are nerve-racking, but it is highly uncommon for the encounter to end with an animal or person in danger or disturbed.

The most common animals in camps are those that find safety within the space. Nyalas are a prime example of this, with all EcoTraining camps as well as most lodges having resident Nyalas hanging around. This is because camps offer a degree of safety from predators as well as less competition from other herbivores (so more food).

Baboons and vervet monkeys are also common utilisers of campgrounds – likely using the camp areas for safety as well. As anyone who has stayed in a camp will know, they will also try their luck at stealing whatever scraps of food they can get their hands on. A common phenomenon that has been observed with baboons is that they will often flip the rocks that demarcate the pathways in camps – this is in order to find any grubs, scorpions or general bugs hidden under the rocks for them to munch on.

EcoTraining’s Karongwe camp has a resident genet that is often seen commuting through the campgrounds. She has become very habituated and allows people to come quite close, however she is still wild and does not rely on people or the camp for food and safety. It is a strict policy to never feed animals as we don’t want them to start expecting food from people and losing their instinct to get their own food. We also don’t want the animals to lose their instinctual fear of humans as this can aid in their exploitation – for example, poachers can have an easier target if an animal has learnt that humans do not pose a threat.Animals around Karongwe

Some animal encounters around camp (c) Zach Savage & David Niederberger

Wildlife around Makuleke Camp, Greater Kruger National Park

EcoTraining Makuleke has several elephants that frequent the camp. These gentle giants come in only looking to feed on the Brown Ivory, Umbrella thorns and other trees in the camp. The decks in front of each tent always provide for spectacularly close but safe viewing of the elephants as they make their way through the camp.

Elephant in Makuleke

Elephant in Makuleke & Map of Makuleke Camp, Northern Kruger

Respecting the symbiotic relationship

All camps have a plethora of bird, reptile, amphibian and insect life to excite the interests of students when they are in camp and to keep them learning about the nature around them. Even though you are living in a ‘wild’ area, the ethos of EcoTraining is to provide a holistic and safe experience to everyone who spends time in one of our camps. We respect the nature around us and want to maintain a mutualistic relationship on both sides.

At first, it may feel daunting to stay in an EcoTraining unfenced camp. But once you have had a few nights to settle in, you start to love every moment of it – so much so that even a lion roaring five metres from your tent will not scare you. Instead, it will thrill you to your bones and you will connect with the experience on a very primal level – an experience that your ancestors perhaps once had, now reborn in an EcoTraining camp.

Some Trivia fun;

do you know the difference between the large-spotted & small-spotted genets?

 

Differences between genets

Some differences between large-spotted and small spotted genets

Lions playing

EcoTraining Quiz: The Big Five

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FGASA Trails Guide EcoTraining

EcoTraining Word Search: Trails Guide

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