Lodge Life with Callan Neilson

My name is Callan Neilson and I am currently doing my six-month Lodge placement at Singita in the Kruger National Park which is included in my one-year Professional Field Guide course with EcoTraining. I’m fortunate to share this six-month experience with a good friend of mine, Sean Harris, who I am currently studying with at EcoTraining. I’d like to share some of the wonderful experiences I’ve had and what I have enjoyed so far in our first two months with Singita Lebombo.

Both EcoTraining and Singita have given us a chance to work with the best and get the best start to our guiding careers. This whole year course will provide us with a foundation that will help us excel and I could not be more grateful and thankful.


Before arriving at Singita, Sean and myself had and still do have every intention of doing our best and giving us all as we both know how great of an opportunity this is. We have been fortunate to work with amazing and experienced guides and have also been included in a few courses. I myself have done a snake awareness course with the well-known Johan Marais, who is the author of Snakes of Southern Africa, a birding course with Alister Kilpin, and a firefighting training course with Henry Ford. To work with such great people is really an honour. Singita has given us a chance to also see different departments within a lodge and how they all play a role in ensuring the lodge runs at its best. We have seen how maintenance, housekeeping, front of the house, back office and the kitchens do their part to ensure maximum results.

We have also been given an opportunity to interact with guests and have duties much like the guides at Singita. Thanks to Chantelle Venter, who is the Head Guide at Singita KNP, and Sean Bissett, the Assistant Head Guide, we have been doing Staff Educational drives as well as transfers where Sean and I have been able to take and fetch guests to and from the airstrip. The Staff Educational Drives give the staff an opportunity to get out of the office and kitchens and get out onto the concession. I find this highly beneficial as Sean and I are able to guide the staff, giving them an opportunity to learn about nature. This gives us an opportunity to get to know the staff and share the knowledge we have obtained so far. The transfer drives give us an opportunity to interact with the guests, which are usually of high-profile at Singita. We have been lucky enough to meet guests from all over the world, from countries such as the USA, Brazil, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, and more.

When Sean and I arrived, we had no idea how kind and helpful Singita are, from guides inviting us to join them on tracking teams in the mornings, to other staff helping us with small duties we have been asked to carry out. Singita can be described as one big family and Sean and I have been welcomed into this family. It is so nice to know that there is a company that is based on and interested in the well-being of the staff as well as the well-being of nature, and Sean and I are lucky enough to experience this.

I love all aspects of the bush and get the chance to gain experience in something that I love doing and through such a prestigious company is a dream come true. Singita has welcomed us with open arms and their hospitality is like no other. The knowledge that I’ve obtained so far is incredible and I hope to learn much more. I would firstly like to thank EcoTraining for providing us with an opportunity such as this, and what a way to start off our dream of working in the bush, by obtaining priceless experience through Singita. I would also like to thank Grant Oliver and everyone else at Singita Lebombo and Sweni for welcoming us and being willing to help us and share your knowledge and your own experiences with us. This has all aided me and will definitely help me in the future. I cannot thank you enough for everything you have done.

About the Author:
Annemi Zaaiman

Annemi Zaaiman

Explore more

Instructor Richard Davis giving a lecture to several students in nature

Wildlife Conservation with EcoTraining

EcoTraining showcases its commitment to wildlife conservation and environmental preservation by promoting sustainable practices and educating people about protecting endangered species. EcoTraining sets the bar high with its courses, trains field guides, and instils a sense of responsibility towards nature and wildlife.

Read more
a group of students looking at tracks in the sand

Understanding Wildlife Tracking

The ancient art of tracking unveils the secrets of animal behaviour. We explore the key steps of identifying, interpreting, and tracking wild animals in the heart of the South African wilderness.

“Do not be afraid to get dirty. Get down on your knees and have a close look at the tracks. It is essential to take your time. You can make a mistake by being too quick on the trigger when identifying tracks,” said Gerhard Delport, a former EcoTracker student.

Read more
students at lanner gorge

EcoTraining Celebrates 30 Years of Excellence

Thirty years of EcoTraining is a significant milestone. This celebration is a testament to EcoTraining’s long history of promoting field guiding and wildlife conservation. It’s an opportunity to inspire the next generation of passionate individuals who will continue the legacy of creating guardians of the natural world.

Read more

Start your wildlife career

Want to become a field or nature guide? Explore our immersive courses and training programmes for professional safari guides and guardians of nature, taught and led by experts in the industry.

EcoTraining offers career and accredited courses, wildlife enthusiast courses, gap year programmes and customised group travel courses.

Join our nature-loving community.