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

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Jeffrey as back-up Trails Guide at Makuleke
Jeffrey as back-up Trails Guide at Makuleke

After visiting various parts of South Africa and having gained my FGASA Level One, Tracking and Advanced Rifle Handling Certificates, I decided to attend the 28 days Trails Guide Course. I arrived at the Makuleke EcoTraining Camp in 2008 where I met the Instructor Bruce Lawson, little knowing that the extensive knowledge and experience I would receive from him of walking in the African bush would not only enable me to achieve a lifetime ambition but would also enrich and change the rest of my life.

From a very early age in England as a young naturalist and hunter, the prospect of ever having the knowledge and experience to walk in wildest Africa seemed remote but having visited a number of jungle areas on foot in India in the 1980’s, where the late Jim Corbett had described his involvement with the activities of man-eating tigers and leopards, followed by briefer similar visits to Nepal and Zambia, I was later most impressed by the comprehensive nature and extent of the various courses provided by EcoTraining, which I felt would clearly provide me with a full knowledge of the whole of the bush environment.

It was only after embarking upon the Trails Guide course however, while working as a surveyor and farmer at home, that I appreciated that in approaching dangerous game on foot, I was, in fact, learning to make use of many natural phenomena including the wind, the sun and the terrain which most people living busy, urban lives have inevitably forgotten over the years. The reality is that these instinctive influences would have been part of daily, worldwide, human survival in prehistoric times and in fact remain vital to some indigenous populations today.

It was this very practical education, combined with a full environmental training that I found so absorbing and I consider myself very fortunate indeed in having been invited to revisit the camp at Makuleke almost every year since 2008, in order to assist with backing-up the various walking activities, during the course of the whole of which I note from my log books that I have spent over 680 hours in the bush and been able to secure the FGASA Advanced Trails Guide qualification.

Trails Guide back up at Makuleke
Soaking in the beauty of the Makuleke concession while walking as back-up Trails Guide (c) Amanda Hattingh

Many challenging encounters have inevitably involved elephant and buffalo in this particularly beautiful and ecologically diverse part of the Kruger National Park but I shall also never forget one particular early morning meeting a lioness and young male drinking at a bend in the Luvuvhu river and a few years later coming up with a small pride in the rolling wooded hills to the south east of camp.

White rhino encounters were of course much less frequent as were those with leopard, one of the latter of which I especially remember being very effectively camouflaged by vegetation on the rising ground above Mangeba Windmill one day just after sunrise.

I shall never, therefore, forget both the knowledge and experience I gained here in this amazing part of the world, together with the kindness and friendship of Bruce and his wife, Camp Coordinator Dee, without which I would have been unable to achieve a lifetime ambition beyond my wildest dreams.

Thank you so much for everything.

About the Author:
Jeffrey Bowes

Jeffrey Bowes

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