Makuleke is a stunning area of northern Kruger with ample photographic opportunities, and when paired with an Instructor that knows where to look and how to go about taking the photo you get a great photographic course.
The utilization of words such as ”preservation” and ”conservation” is widely done across eco-tourism industries as well as eco-tourists and environmentalists. However, both of these words can be doubtlessly confused. Both of their definitions highly differ. Although both of the processes focus on protecting the natural environment, the method of conducting each one of them does contrast.
On World Female Ranger Day, we would like to introduce you to some of the strong and inspiring women who risk their lives daily to protect our wildlife.
Towering above the open plains, grass, and woodlands of Africa, giraffes, with their extremely long necks and legs are the world’s tallest mammals. They are social animals that roam the savannah peacefully in large herds as they forage for food at the tops of trees. Handsome and impressive yet awkward, no safari would be complete without these gentle giants.
Gabriele and I have a keen interest in wildlife and nature photography, therefore the Wilderness Photography course with EcoTraining was the right thing to do at the best time in wonderful Makuleke!
In my year and a half at EcoTraining, I have had the privilege to move around our different camps and experience the unique relationship between humans and the animals that frequently visit the camps. The experience that captivated me, is the troop of baboons in Makuleke. They spend their days interacting with one another in and around camp and then roosting in the big Nyala Berry trees at night.
For years I have loved the northern part of the Kruger National Park. I wanted to do a birding course in Makuleke with EcoTraining. As this was not possible on the date offered, I decided to do the photography course instead. It turned out to be a very good choice.
From the very first time I set foot in South Africa, I knew I had come home. Perhaps not in the literal meaning of the word, but it was something I felt in my very being. My soul, never quite at peace, felt awash with relief that it had at last found a place to belong.
Insects… always a dilemma whether to hate them or love them. On one side where caterpillars are ugly, adults mesmerize us. It’s hard to tell how many species we have and how many we are still trying to discover. Just like their not-so-clear love we still lack a clear vision for them. And one the most important out of them are none other than sweet Honeybees.
After almost six months of training across four different reserves in South Africa and Botswana, it was finally time for our group to disperse on their highly-anticipated internships. For my part, turning up at a beautiful 4* lodge in the northern Kruger, I was a heady mix of anxious and excited.
After completing the first phase of the Professional Field Guide course, our group spent the next few weeks building on some of the wider skills surrounding the guiding industry; navigation, birding, and tracking to name a few. During this time, I was incredibly fortunate to spend time with many passionate and knowledgeable instructors although one moment, in particular, stands out as a favorite.
September 1st is known as the official start of Spring in South Africa. However, in 2017, it heralded a different kind of beginning for me. Having spent years wishing, dreaming, and saving, I was finally seated at a large wooden table with 11 other wide-eyed students as we began our EcoTraining induction.
Even if you have never been to Africa, you probably have an opinion about hyenas. They are ugly, vicious, greedy, dull scavengers. Or you are more like me and love hyenas for their fascinating social structure and impressive features. To me, they are the most interesting mammals on the African plains.
The story of today’s famous wildlife conservationist did not start in university. But in the rainforests of Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania. With passion, patience, and a field journal Jane Goodall set out to become the world’s expert on chimpanzees. She has been a lover and protector of nature all her life. We show you how you can be too.
Although engineering may be a common career, the significance of engineers keeps increasing. Engineers are creative and diligent, they design, innovate and maintain structures. Similar to engineers, the environment consists of its own set of engineers called ecosystem engineers. They are essential in creating, modulating, and maintaining the environment. These fascinating creatures include the mini, mighty mechanics – ants, termites, bees, and dung beetles.
I’ve lived in several countries in Europe and in each of them I was far enough away from Southern Africa to have developed a considerable misconception about that place over the years. Europe holds many gems but unfortunately, the wildlife is not as enthralling as in Africa, and our ecosystems are incredibly different. The role of the field guide is not such a well-known job in our European cities and therefore many things about this job have been unknown to me all these years.
What comes to your mind when you think of rain, I asked a herpetologist. He kept silent for a few seconds and then his face brighten up with a huge smile and he asked me have u seen a frog? That shocked me for a while and I said who hasn’t seen a frog? Yes, I have seen many. He laughed and asked me what do they look like? I replied, “Sticky”, “slimy”, “weird”…
I have always had a love for the bush and photography, nothing beats that combination.
I had the opportunity to work as a media intern with EcoTraining for 2 weeks in February 2022.
One week I spent immersed in the Mara conservancies. Its nature, its community, its wildlife. I walked along the shores of the mighty Mara River, gazed up at the starlit sky of Kenya and experienced first-hand that being in the bush is life-altering. Time and again no matter how many safaris you have been on.
In response to Covid-19 we have been forced to find new ways of staying relevant. Like most companies, people’s lives depend on EcoTraining’s survival. We have chosen to embrace this new season, and in so doing we aim to offer even GREATER value to our students in the future.
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
- 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…
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)
- 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)
- 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 [email protected] for more info.
Animal tracking (also known as spoorsny in Afrikaans) is more complex than most people might think. We invite you to join us on this exciting learning adventure, while you learn to connect with nature and get back to your roots.
Want to know what you can expect from an EcoTraining course? Freelance content creator David Batzofin, chatted with Senior Instructor Steve Baillie to get his opinion about our 1-year Professional Field Guide Course.
David’s first question was “Talk me through what a participant can expect”. Listen to our latest podcast to learn more.
Want to start a career as a Field Guide? Or if you want to learn more about EcoTraining, follow us on social, either Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to be apart of our students’ and instructors’ amazing journeys through the African wilderness.
As part of the EcoTraining Trails Guide Course the students get the opportunity of sleeping out under the vast African sky.
With a sleeping bag and a cooler box of food, they get to experience what it is like to be outside in the wild from sunset to sunrise.
While there is the possibility of animals wandering past, the silence of the bush and the vastness of the African sky is what created an immersive experience that was unforgettable.
Finding a campsite proved to be harder to agree on than actually setting up camp for the night.
After much discussion, a suitable spot was eventually decided on and the task of unpacking the vehicle was dealt with in quick time.
The first task was the collection of firewood to heat water for coffee and tea.
But not just any wood. No, it had to come from places around the site where the use of the wood would not have any impact on the ecosystem.
Sleeping bags were then laid out and tasks were assigned.
The backup guide, Aagia, had brought her guitar along and in the silence of the bush, her chords were clean and sweet, not loud and intrusive, but calming and quieting (Aagia playing guitar). It was now time to start a fire.
With the fire roaring in a purposely dug hole, it was time for toasting marshmallows and sharing stories.
The pasta that the camp kitchen staff had prepared for us was enjoyed with gusto. And the container of biscuits was most welcomed by those on duty in the early hours of the morning.
Ever used a bush loo? It’ very simple, find a nice bush with a good view, dig a hole and there you go!
The ever-changing flames of the ‘bush TV’ were hypnotic and despite the early hour, we were all ready to creep into our sleeping bags and settle down for the night.
But before the final good nights were exchanged a duty roster was worked out as there had to be someone awake at all times to keep an eye open for animals that might take an interest in our sleeping forms.
There were enough people for us to have to only do an hour each between 21h00 to 05h00.
It was soon discovered that all that was required during this on duty time was to keep the fire going and the water in the kettle boiling!
The bush does not sleep and although you might believe it is quiet there is a constant stream of noises that are sometimes difficult to identify.
The lions that walked past our sleeping forms were the easiest to identify. Their guttural vocalizations left no doubt as to whom they were and what they were capable of doing.
The crashing of branches close by signaled the fact that there was at least one feeding elephant in the vicinity.
Warm in our thermal sleeping bags we lay in silence, allowing all these sounds to envelop us without the need for discussion (That would take place over coffee in the morning).
Although the ground was hard and unforgiving, sleep did eventually come. And with it a deep, contented almost childlike sleep.
As the dawn broke and faces began to appear out of bedding it was time to share our impressions about our night and to repack the vehicle before heading off back to camp.
Just as we had set up camp the night before, we had to return it to as pristine a condition as we could before we headed off.
The campfire had to be doused and the ashes scattered.
The wood had to be replaced back into the tree line.
And the area swept with branches to eradicate as much of the traces of our stay as possible.
Personally, I believe that no one who spends a night under the vast African sky can return without a change of some sort.
It might not be a huge ‘Eureka’ moment, but deep in the psyche of each of those present, a change had occurred.
In contrast to our silence during our stay, we drove away in high spirits. Chatting loudly about our experience…and enquiring as to when we could do it again!
Students participating in the Trails Guide Course are working towards attaining their FGASA Apprentice Trails Guide status and have already completed their FGASA Apprentice Field Guide/NQF2 qualification. One of the elements of the course is to pass their ARH (Advanced Rifle Handling).
One of the students are pointing out where the bullet should go. On this particular day, each student was required to fire a total of 10 rounds. These 10 rounds are broken down into 3 exercises. The first exercise was a grouping of three rounds followed by an exercise that required 4 rounds. Finally they were allowed to choose their final exercise that involved 3 rounds.
When you are staring into the eyes of a dangerous animal that is intent on doing you or your guests harm, this is how you want to place the rounds. That being said, firing the rifle and taking the life of an animal is an absolute final resort when all other avenues have been unsuccessful.
Safety is paramount at the range. Seeing that live rounds are being used, expert instructors take the time to explain what is expected clearly and concisely. Each exercise is fully explained to the student at the firing line. Neither a rifle nor the rounds are issued without all the relevant safety measures being in place and that includes ear protection as well.
The rules are simple during an Advanced Rifle Handling course. Keep the rifles pointing down range at all times. Do not turn around with a loaded rifle and if in doubt make the weapon safe and ask for help.
For the uninitiated, the sound of the first shot and the recoil of the rifle butt against a shoulder can be rather daunting. Not all of the students on this particular Trails Guide course had previous experience with a .375 calibre rifle. This can take some adjusting to make certain that the rifle is held firmly and that the trigger is squeezed and not jerked. By the end of the day, the instructors had made certain that all the students were competent to complete the exercises.
Watch for the brass. Look carefully at this image and you can see the cartridge being ejected from the breach. The rifles are single action, which means that each round has to be placed into the breach using the bolt action. There is a standard way of this being done and the students competency relies on all aspects of rifle handling being completed correctly.
For those who transgress the range rules, this was the consequence. Push-ups!
In the beginning, it was 40 repetitions, but by the end of the day, the final transgressor ended up doing 60! Although there was a lot of banter around the punishment, all of the students completed their allotted number without exception.
Have you ever heard a .375 rifle go off? During this Advanced Rifle Handling course there were many. Here’s an audio clip of the sound of the rifle cocking and shots being fired.
EcoTraining, South Africa’s largest and oldest safari guide and wildlife training organisation will be offering the well-known FGASA level 1 (NQF 2) accredited Field Guide qualification in Kenya from the 14th September this year. A recognised accreditation in Kenya, the launch of this course also means lower rates for participants who want to acquire this qualification at a rate of USD 7,970.00.
Over the duration of fifty five days, participants on this course will traverse not one, not two but three different conservancies encompassing over 16,000 hectares, providing students access to a diverse range of biomes and elements that make this a truly sought after course in the industry.
Students will stay in unfenced tented and banda accommodation over the duration of the course. This truly immersive ‘live-in’ experience will allow participants to connect with the natural environment and develop their situational awareness which is an important part of becoming a field guide professional.
This course provides a solid foundation for many environmental careers in the wildlife, lodge and conservation sector. What makes this course so unique is its relevance to the natural environment of Kenya. Covering a broad spectrum of subjects, students also learn about the cohabitation and conflict between the community herdsmen with their livestock, crops and wildlife.
The course contains a combination of formal lectures and practical field experience, affording students the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills whether it be on game drives or on-foot guided walks. Participants will have the opportunity to be assessed for their EcoTraining and FGASA Field Guide (NQF2) qualification which is conducted by EcoTraining instructors who are accredited FGASA assessors.
EcoTraining is of the firm belief that conservation is about people effecting positive change in the world. This is a milestone for EcoTraining in the plight for providing more access to environmental education in Kenya.
For more information about this upcoming course contact [email protected]
Starting out in a new job or career can be a daunting prospect. We at EcoTraining have found that these are some of the most frequently asked questions when students consider joining our 1 year ‘Professional Field Guide course’ or our 55 day FGASA level 1 (NQF2) course.
A year is a major commitment to a future in any industry and getting a guiding qualification is no exception. Proper research and due diligence is an important process when deciding what course is best for you. Before we share answers to frequently asked questions, let us give you a brief background of what FGASA is and what they do.
FGASA, the acronym stands for ‘The Field Guides Association of Southern Africa’. A Section 21 company, it was formally established in 1990 by a group of professional guides aiming to set a standard for nature guiding practice. FGASA represents individual tourist guides; nature, culture and adventure guides; trackers; and organisations involved in offering professional guiding services to members of the public. FGASA is an accredited provider with CATHSSETA. It has set the guiding standards for many years and continues to maintain the highest standards within the guiding industry. In conjunction with CATHSSETA within the National Qualifications Framework, FGASA promotes the standards for guiding throughout southern Africa.
Great! Now take a look at the answers to some of the most pertinent questions that we get asked…
Is the FGASA Field Guide Level 1 (NQF2) the same course as FGASA Apprentice Field Guide?
The ‘FGASA Field Guide Level 1 (NQF2)’ name according to FGASA has changed its name and is now known as the ‘Apprentice Field Guide’. EcoTraining’s programme, FGASA Field Guide Level 1 (NQF2) is the exact same course as FGASA’s Apprentice Field Guide and upon successful completion will achieve an NQF2.
What NQF level is FGASA level 1?
EcoTraining’s FGASA Field Guide Level 1 course (FGASA’s Apprentice Field Guide equivalent) is a NQF level 2 which consists of 41 credits. The National Qualifications Framework (NQF) currently collates credits assigned to various formal courses at a specific level. The EcoTraining FGASA Level 1 (NQF2) course is recognised nationally in South Africa. The FGASA Field Guide (NQF2) must be registered with the National Department of Tourism in order to legally operate as a Nature Guide.
How much does it cost to register for FGASA level 1?
Currently the registration fee for South African membership is R1,760.00. This is done by EcoTraining and is included in the course fees for EcoTraining courses.
Can I do the FGASA training if I don’t have a matric?
Matric is not a requirement for any EcoTraining courses. However, as both the course material and instructions are in English, participants on the course are expected to have a fair command of the English language and must be able to speak, read and write English. If you are unsure if your English is good enough, contact EcoTraining to find out.
What is the pass mark?
Students are required to obtain a pass mark of 75%. There are two elements to the qualification. Theory (which has to be passed first) and a practical. A student is only considered to be competently qualified once both elements have been completed and passed.
Am I allowed to drive guests at South African based lodges?
If you are younger than 21, then the answer is unfortunately not. South African law requires that the necessary license, a Public Driving Permit, can only be obtained at age 21. But do not despair or let that detail derail your guiding ambitions. Consider becoming a Trails Guide and conduct on-foot guiding.
If you want to be a nature guide, get involved in conservation or just want to learn more about nature and the environment, then FGASA is definitely something that should interest you.
We hope these answers help some of the questions you may have. Should you wish to know answers to any other question not listed above, contact [email protected] and we will be happy to assist you with your research.
To find out more about what we offer, please visit our website.
All of EcoTraining’s birding courses dates are carefully selected for an optimal experience. With the coming of each season, along with it brings different experiences. Here are the top 5 reasons why you should do the 7-day ‘Birding in the Bush Course in February:
As the South African tourism industry continues to thrive and the re-establishment of game reserves and natural wildlife areas continues, the opportunities for ecotourism-related careers are on the increase. One such career is field guiding or more internationally known as safari guiding.
The most comprehensive course is EcoTraining’s yearlong Professional Field Guide Course that not only prepares students for all of their official field guide accreditation tests, but also offers advanced bushcraft skills, wilderness medicine, and high-level tracking. Students also receive further instruction on navigation and orientation, handling of firearms, and much more.