Night game drive from Karongwe Camp

Night game drive is offered to students as an exciting and different experience when it comes to wildlife encounters.

David Batzofin (cc)

When you are driving in the bush and you come to a river crossing, do you

  1. A) Trundle through irrespective?
  2. B) Stop, look, wonder and THEN trundle through?

or

  1. C) Send a student to walk across and back?

Izaan, one of the EcoTraininings’ interns was only too keen to get her feet wet. As it turned out, it was a lot shallower than was first suspected.

David Batzofin (cc)

The roads in the northern area of Karongwe can be somewhat confusing, so finding this small herd of elephants took longer than expected. The search was not wasted, as assistant instructor Michael Anderson was able to use it as part of the EcoQuest curriculum.

This particular individual was rather disdainful of our presence and although she might look aggressive, she actually turned her back on us and continued eating!

David Batzofin (cc)

A breathtakingly beautiful African sunset ends another perfect day in the African bush. Vanishing as it did, first behind the tree line and then dipping below the horizon to awaken the Northern hemisphere. The participants were most impressed.

David Batzofin (cc)

As the sun vanished, the moon rose. Not yet a full moon, but offering enough light to make out more than just shapes in the impending darkness.

David Batzofin (cc)

An exciting sighting. We had actually heard this large lion vocalizing when we stopped for our evening drinks break. He sounded closer than he was but it was decided to cut the stop short to go and find him.

Lying on the warm sand of the dry river bed, he was in command of all that he surveyed. He astounded the group with an extended vocalization that reverberated off the walls of the river bank.

David Batzofin (cc)

Nature has an innate manner of throwing a curve ball when you least expect it. The EcoQuest group was heading back to camp when they surprised this White-tailed Mongoose crossing a road.

The largest of the mongoose family, it stopped momentarily before vanishing into the thick grass on the side of the road.

David Batzofin (cc)

Field guides have a ‘trick’ for entertaining guests by finding chameleons at night. Although not a single one was spotted in the beam of the spotlight, their place was usurped by a plethora of Lesser Bushbabies. These tiny creatures were everywhere and if not sitting quietly staring straight at us, they were leaping from tree to tree with amazing agility.

David Batzofin (cc)

The excitement was not over yet. The EcoQuest participants were treated to this awesome sight just a short way from the campsite. A young female leopard in hunting mode.

David Batzofin (cc)

While sitting at dinner, this male moth decided that he would pose in the torchlight at the dinner table.

A superb ending to an entertaining, informative and most educational night game drive.

 

Home on the range | Advanced Rifle Handling

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).

Advanced Rifle Handling Course

David Batzofin (cc)

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.

Advanced Rifle Handling Course

David Batzofin (cc)

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.

Advanced Rifle Handling Course

David Batzofin (cc)

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.

Advanced Rifle Handling Course

David Batzofin (cc)

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.

Advanced Rifle Handling Course

David Batzofin (cc)

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.

Advanced Rifle Handling Course

David Batzofin (cc)

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.

Advanced Rifle Handling Course

David Batzofin (cc)

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.

FGASA | Frequently asked questions and answers

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 enquiries@ecotraining.co.za and we will be happy to assist you with your research.
To find out more about what we offer, please visit our website.

My life changed in Africa, so I changed with it

“I was born and raised in the Netherlands, amongst the shadows of concrete building and perfectly manicured parks. In a country where at that time had hardly any wildlife left. It was in 1996 when I visited Africa for the first time for our honeymoon and I was eager to see elephants in the wild.”

Always Expect the Unexpected

Professional Field Guide demonstrates safety first in a scary situation!

To Bumble About

“Travel has the ability to show us what we’re really made of, to expand our minds, hearts and spirits, and to transform us, among so much more. “

“Buffel was Here”

Scott Fraser aka Buffel is a young man with a lot of potential. We caught up with him at Makuleke during his last few days as a back-up Trails guide and discovered that despite Buffel’s size and strength, he is the epitome of a gentle giant. “One could argue that he’s more of an elephant than a buffalo”.

Nashville, Tennessee Native, Kiefer, born to effect positive change in the world

Sometimes in life you don’t exactly know where you want to go or what you want to do, but you know the general direction. Other times, you know where you want to end up, but do not know how you want to bumble around until then.

Living the life I choose, one choice at a time

“I have seen the seasons change and lived through that in a much more immersive way and for the first time, I’ve truly understood it.”

Trust

Some days in life we steer the propeller, and other days we ride the waves. There’s a delicate balance between making and allowing.

Matthew Bouwkamp, the lovable Backwoods, Bayou Boy from Miami, Florida, has been fascinated by and has felt protective over wildlife ever since he was a kid. “Ever since I was a little kid, I was always the kid bringing the snakes home, “Mom can I keep it?!” Matt finished his studies in Wildlife Rehabilitation. In September 2017, Matt joined EcoTraining’s yearlong Professional Field Guide course along with his friend, James, who suggested the course. Now traversing through the koppies of Mashatu in Botswana, Matt is gaining practical hours of experience and encounters towards acquiring his lead trails qualification by working as a back-up field guide for EcoTraining. “It’s definitely given my life a new inspiration to push on.” says Matt. Like many people, Matt found himself caught up in a well-paying job and felt himself getting further and further away from his life’s passion: conservation. Coming to Africa was a life’s dream for Matt. What we naturally do as children often sets the tone for what we are destined to do as adults. Some know right away and spend their teenage years honing the skills they need for a career in their passion. Some never realise their purpose and suffer a lifetime of mediocracy and discontentment. Worst of all, there are many human beings of this world know what they’re destined to do but create too many excuses around why they can’t. It’s the truly brave ones who find themselves far along a path, only to admit and accept that they’ve pushed aside their passion and are living an inauthentic life. Matt is one of the brave ones; he left his stable career in order to return to his roots, back to his passion. Matt is now free and easy; he is living out his passion. After his year at EcoTraining, he hopes to go into conservation and anti-poaching. Just like when he was a kid, he wants to spend his life saving and protecting animals. Cheers to passion. Cheers to an authentic life. And cheers to the brave ones.

“The Brave Ones” – Matthew Bouwkamp

Matt finished his studies in Wildlife Rehabilitation, but never had the opportunity to do what he loves, until now. It took him six years, working in construction, to realise what he has been missing. Here he is now, living his dream in wild Africa as a Professional Field Guide.

If you can remember, towards the end of last year EcoTraining ran an exciting and educational radio programme on Pretoria FM. EcoTraining’s very own instructors Jan Hendrik, Quentin Swanevelder and Jasper Visser were guest speakers on the show called ‘Veldfeite met EcoTraining’ with the show’s host, Pienaar Lochner exploring topics about ecology, bush myths, dangerous game approach and much more. We also ran a bush quiz competition in conjunction with the show and our reigning winner of the 7-day EcoQuest Course turned out to be 13-year-old Willie junior Conradie. His knowledge and participation on the show proved without a doubt that he was a worthy winner. Winner Willie Conradie Jnr has lived with his grandmother and grandfather Mr. Willie Conradie Snr since birth. He attends high school at Hoërskool Hans Strijdom in Mookgopong (Naboomspruit) and stays in the school hostel. Since Willie Jnr was too young to visit the bush unaccompanied, we invited his grandfather to join him. Overwhelmed with gratitude and excitement to bond with his grandson on an adventure in the bush, he accepted. EcoTraining sent Willie Jnr and Snr on a road trip to Makuleke camp with… can you guess?... Our media man, Willie van Eeden! I mean, what are the chances?! The EcoQuest took place from 25th to 31st March and we hear that Willie Jnr stole the hearts and respect of EcoTraining staff. His politeness towards others and eager admiration for the bush encompasses all that we try to achieve here at EcoTraining.

What’s better than hanging out with Grandpa in the bush?

This story is a special tribute to grandfathers on Father’s Day. This is a heart-warming story of a grandfather, his grandson and an adventure in the African wilderness!

A wilderness Photographer who became a professional Field Guide

People come to EcoTraining for a variety of reasons. Some want to become safari guides. Some want a gap year of adventure. Some just want to learn. Then you get some who want to be better photographers.

City girl goes ‘wild’

A self-proclaimed ‘high maintenance’ girl from Johannesburg, currently on an FGASA Field Guide course at Selati, enrolled on this course to learn as much about wildlife as she can. She has one mission in life: “pursue your passion, and go do great things in life.”

Course report: Wilderness Photography Course

To run a Wilderness Photography course, you have to find a location that offers a diverse selection of shooting opportunities. The Makuleke concession in the Norther Kruger Park is one of those special locations and it just proved perfect for the first photography course for 2018.

elephant encounter on foot

How do I become a Back-up Trails Guide for EcoTraining?

To be selected to become a back-up trails guide you need to have excelled extremely well in the trails guide module and FGASA Field Guide level 1 component in the first half of the Professional Field Guide course.

Good Work Foundation training

Konica Minolta sponsors field guide students from the Good Work Foundation to train at EcoTraining

In August 2017, EcoTraining welcomed a group of eleven young individuals from the Good Work Foundation (GWF) bizhub Conservation Academy in Mpumalanga. Konica Minolta South Africa (KMSA) in partnership with GWF sponsored these previously disadvantaged candidates to pursue their dream of becoming accredited Field Guides.

Jeffrey as back-up Trails Guide at Makuleke

A British Naturalist in the African Bush serving as a volunteer EcoTraining Back-up

“The reality is that these instinctive influences would have been a part of daily, world-wide, human survival in pre-historic times and in fact remain vital to some indigenous populations today.”

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Matt o’Brien – a calling for adventure

After spending three years at University, Matt still yearned for something more. After doing some research he came across EcoTraining and the rest was history.

Leon Pauleikhof – its been a life changing experience

Through signing up for the Professional Field Guide course, it has been a year filled with new life experiences, lifelong friendships and unforgettable experiences for Leon. “Every time I’ve been to Africa I changed a little bit. This time with EcoTraining I changed even more.”

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Yuka Ota: from Tokyo to the African bush

A passion for wild animals led Yuka to many different countries to participate in various conservation projects until she signed up for a Professional Field Guide course with EcoTraining. The rest is history…

Lodge Life with Varun Taneja

From the moment Varun was introduced to African documentaries, he dreamed of travelling to Africa one day. Little did he know that his dream were about to come true.