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Expect the Unexpected

Expect the unexpected

The closer I got to the date, the more I wondered if I had gotten crazy going to the bush for 28 days without any outdoor or camping experience. But since I’d stretched my comfort zone before, I felt ready when I boarded my plane to Johannesburg on one lovely late summer day.

I chose to make my trip with EcoTraining, which I booked in Germany through Natucate – A shoutout to Daniel, who prepared me perfectly for this trip. I liked the idea of staying in unfenced camps, learning from instructors who taught the “real” soon-to-be safari guides, and getting to know the Mashatu area.

Let the adventure begin

Arriving in Mashatu feels like disconnecting from the “real world” with every kilometre you drive further into the bush in the open safari vehicle. I had never been to a place THAT remote – and I loved it. The camp is equipped with everything you need for four weeks in the bush: tents for two, lovely shared outside bathrooms (and believe me, brushing your teeth under the stars with a bunch of new friends is like the most memorable thing ever), a dining area, a lecture tent with lots of books (and a rock collection that you might find fascinating when the nerd alert kicks in) and a kitchen where the most lovely team of great ladies cooks you three super tasty meals every day.

What a day in the bush looks like

On a typical day (spoiler: average in the bush means anything can happen at any time) of a 28-day safari guide course, you get up around 4.30. You can enjoy your first cup of coffee or tea and a little snack – all prepared by the duty team of the day (and yes, that means you will be on duty at some point, too). At 5.30, when the sun slowly crawls up the horizon, and the bush awakes, you go out for your first activity – a game drive or a walk. 

For about 3.5 hours, you are just exploring: learning about everything big and small out there, enjoying all the wonders that happen in the first hours of the day. From a pride of lions still feasting on their hunt from the night, an army of Matabele ants attacking a termite mount or a flock of red-billed queleas singing their morning song.

You will also look at many droppings, leaf structures, barely visible tracks, and grasses that all look the same. Will you need clarification? All the time. Will you also learn at an incredible speed? Yes, absolutely!

After the morning activity, a beautiful and hearty breakfast will await you, followed by the day’s lecture, from mammals to birds, from insects to reptiles, from climate (who would have thought there are so many types of clouds!) to ecology, from taxonomy to astronomy. Mix in some bird calls and enjoy the ride. And yes, there will be theory reviews and field observations (where you go out in the field and get tested on your knowledge), but no worries: The 28-day course is not FGASA certified, so you can decide how much you want to study.

Before the afternoon snack, you have time to enjoy the beautiful camp. Just read a book in the shadow of the big bourbon tree or do some yoga in the workout area. A little nap is always a good idea as well. In the afternoon, you’ll go out in the bush again, including the daily sundowner on one of the many ‘koppies’ of Mashatu—where you can just take in the stunning landscape and watch the wild getting painted in beautiful orange-purple colours. 

After a warm dinner, you’ll sit by the fireplace, share the stories of the day, or enjoy the silence and take it all in this extraordinary place’s stars, the moon, and the remoteness.

Is there even more?

Yes! As if a “normal” day in the bush isn’t crazy enough, another highlight within the 28-day course is worth mentioning: the sleepout. That means Sleeping under the stars without a tent, cooking your dinner out in the bush, keeping the fire alive all night, falling asleep knowing you are really part of the bush, and connecting with nature on a whole new level. 

My biggest learnings

Yes! As if a “normal” day in the bush isn’t crazy enough, another highlight within the 28-day course is worth mentioning: the sleepout. That means Sleeping under the stars without a tent, cooking your dinner out in the bush, keeping the fire alive all night, falling asleep knowing you are really part of the bush, and connecting with nature on a whole new level. 

Simplicity

I need way less comfort than I ever thought. I woke up daily with a lightness within me (yes, even at 4.30—and I am not a morning person) without worrying about clothes, makeup, or how I looked. I didn’t mind sharing my bathroom, having constantly dirty fingernails, or handwashing my clothes (which helped with the previously listed). The bush shows you what a world without consumerism can look like—and I loved it.

Belonging

No other place helps me (a city person from Europe and a part-time New Yorker) to reconnect with nature more than the bush. It feels right, like you are supposed to be there, walk on the same path as the animals and use this unique opportunity to find a way back. As much as this can be a place for self-discovery, it is also a place of connection with others. You spend so much time out here with the same people you are inevitably bonding with. And it feels right – no matter the job, background, or relationship status. These people are your bush family, even if it’s just for a month.

Being present

In the bush, especially when you are out on foot, you must be 100 % present. Otherwise, you might miss the warning call of a squirrel telling you there is a leopard around. Or the scorpion that just quickly hurries along the way. Or even an elephant blocking the path because they can be reticent (so you had better make sure to notice every crack of branches). Because of that, being in the bush, for me, is better than any meditation – it forces you to focus but keeps you from overthinking,

What comes next?

Doing the 28-day course in Mashatu was more than just a break from everyday life. It was a deep dive into the core of life itself, realizing what’s important, how to listen and trust, and how to be more mindful not only of nature, myself, and the people around me. And once you experience life out in the wild, it doesn’t leave you any choice: You must return. That’s why I did my 55-day field guide course a year later. But that’s a story for another time.

Immerse yourself in the African wilderness, expand your knowledge, and embark on a transformative learning experience with EcoTraining.

Sign up for the 28-day Safari Guide Course today! 

For more information on the 28-day Safari Guide Course, contact [email protected] or call +27 (0)13 7522532

28-Day Safari Guide Course

EcoTraining’s 28-day Safari Guide course is an excellent fit for anyone wanting to have a bush breakaway while learning about the environment. If you have always wondered what being a Safari Guide in Africa feels like, now is your chance to immerse yourself in an environmentally conscious learning environment fully.

About the Author:
Picture of Henrietta Reese

Henrietta Reese

Henrietta Reese is a freelance writer, storytelling consultant, and nature guide. She completed her level 1 field guide training with EcoTraining in 2023 and is currently sharing her time (and passions) between Germany, New York, and South Africa, exploring this one wild life. Instagram: @henrietta_reese

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