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Open your workbooks

"Ladies and gents, open your workbooks..."

It’s happened. You’ve fallen in love with the bush. This story is about how my partner Sofie and I started to dig deeper into our passion from the comfort of our home. Once we’d opened that laptop and EcoTraining’s instructor welcomed us to the Online Theory Course, we never looked back! 

"I look like a porcupine"

We had many training experiences before, and online meetings had become part of everyday life. So, one evening during our Belgian summer, we had a pretty good idea of what to expect—or so we thought. 

“Welcome, everyone!” said the instructor. See, we expected that. “I look like a porcupine”, he then said. “I’m also named after one in an African language”.

Well, we did not expect that. Even if it was some self-mockery about his dishevelled hairstyle and subsequent nickname (“Noko” is how porcupine translates in Setswana), the man had caught our attention with a first wildlife fact. Many, many more would follow!  

A boatload of information

Over the next eight weeks, we will treat all seventeen (!) of the FGASA learning modules. It’s all part of the Online Field Guide Course, from geology and astronomy to birds, mammals, and animal behaviour to ecology, conservation, and the history of human habitation in Africa. 

“There are SO many things to learn,” one of our co-students stated. “Trust me, you’ll know all about them in eight weeks!” the instructor replied.

As we chatted away and got to know a group of like-minded people, we realised that this would take some serious effort—the sort of effort it takes a Noko to keep his hairdo in check. 

I am studying, learning and success!

“Ladies and gents, open your workbooks,” our instructor said, and off we went! Basics first! The introduction covered nature guiding, geology, and climate in the first week. 

Studying is done in various ways. There are three-week live sessions, a workbook with exercises to complete, and an online theory review after every module. It sounded daunting initially, but it all fitted together perfectly as we progressed. We blocked time in our schedules to attend classes live. But if we did miss the odd one, there was always the recording to catch up. We completed our workbooks regularly (“Don’t wait until the end”, a strict-looking porcupine warned us), and every session brought ample time to ask questions and get to know the other students from all over the globe. 

From politics to rocks and scorpions

A few weeks in, conversation at our dinner table had changed from work and politics to the rocks of the Drakensberg, the differences between various scorpions, and the fantastic relationship between an elephant and a dassie. Oh, and the red wine was now a Swartland Syrah. In that virtual classroom, we learned about birds and spiders and picked up countless tips about Africa we love. 

Exams, happiness and achievement!

Eight weeks flew by, and by October, tension was building. We took a few days off to prepare for our exam. We had stored so much information in our brains, but now it had to come out once we logged on to our online exam. Scrolling through many dozens of questions, in complete focus, we clicked the correct (we hoped) answers. An intense few hours later, the verdict came: passed, flying colours! 

Relief, happiness, and a true sense of achievement! Everyone in the WhatsApp group from our course shared great results! EcoTraining’s staff congratulated us and posted a picture of a wise-looking Pearl Spotted Owl. “Erm… it’s a Pearl Spotted Owlet, Wim”, I was corrected instantly. It’s good that the question was not included in the exam! But not to worry. We knew that soon we’d be learning all about that cutest of owlets. Our 35-day Practical Field Guide Course was now well and indeed coming up! 

“And so, it begins!”

EcoTraining is an FGASA-endorsed training provider accredited by CATHSSETA.

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

Sign up for the 35-day Practical Field Guide Course today! 

For more information on the 35-day Practical Field Guide Course, contact [email protected] or call +27 (0)13 7522532

35-Day Field Guide Practical l Course Spotlight

Today we join EcoTraining students Debbie, Maurice and Stephane at Pridelands. They started their journey with EcoTraining by enrolling and completing their Online Field Guide course and then decided to come and do their practical component. They came together at Pridelands, where they started their 35-day Field Guide Practical course—thrilled with the real-time experiences and incredible wildlife sightings one can only have when in the field.

About the Author:
Wim Doms

Wim Doms

Living in Belgium and working in PR & Communications, at first glance Wim doesn't look much of a Field Guide. However, many travels in Southern Africa with his partner Sofie have had quite the impact over the years. The couple fell in love with nature and wildlife so deeply, they finally took the plunge and registered for an EcoTraining course together. In 2023, they obtained FGASA NQF2 Nature Site Guide qualifications at EcoTraining Pridelands. Less than a year later, Wim started writing blogs for the EcoTraining website. (And don't tell anyone, but we suspect he actually wears his khaki shirt and broome hat while he does so...)

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