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The people you meet on an EcoTraining course

It’s a story of funny accents, hugely different backgrounds and lasting friendships!

Once I had booked an EcoTraining practical course, the excitement grew towards that day when I would finally head out. However, with excitement also came a bunch of questions. I could prepare for many of those beforehand. What to bring? EcoTraining provided a detailed packing list. What does the camp look like? Videos on the EcoTraining YouTube channel gave me a sneak peek. But one anxious feeling stuck in my head: I wouldn’t know a single person apart from my partner Sofie.

First Impressions

Do you recognize that feeling when you first meet new people? Polite introductions, handshakes go around, and curiosity sets in to get to know everyone. I was in Karongwe’s lecture hall, feeling my mind drift away from the instructor’s welcome briefing to scan the room. I counted eleven students from three continents (Africa, Europe and Australia) and six countries. Age gap? Huge! The early twenties to sixty-something. Languages? Many! However, proficient knowledge of English is required to take a course, so that should be fine. “Still, at first sight, we really could not be more different”, I remember myself thinking…

All so different

“Oh, you LIE!”

It is impossible to capture the juicy KwaZulu-Natal accent in those three words of written text, but Durban-based architect Nicole’s go-to phrase was one of the first to resonate around camp. It’s a spontaneous expression of disbelief that we Belgians had never heard before. “When someone tells you something crazy, we typically react by saying ‘you lie,'” Nicole explained. First thing learned! On this particular occasion, the person telling the crazy fact was Nicole’s tent-mate, Justine.  

Around the first campfire, this tough-looking lady from Johannesburg with streetwise tattoos proved she had a wonderfully dry sense of humour that would make anyone chuckle. 

And boy, did we share some laughs! The people in an EcoTraining group can be (and mostly are) unbelievably different. Besides Nicole and Justine, for example, we shared those campfires with Tati and Julia from Germany, the South-African-Australian couple Anne and Derek, South-African Viking (yes, really! – see below -) Yvette, always-smiling Simão from Mozambique and the mysteriously quiet Amber from the Free State. But no matter how different and diverse this bunch of people was, it didn’t stop us from having a proper laugh together!

 

yet all so alike!

With the time spent together on a course being so intense, getting to know each other’s stories comes naturally. We learned how Yvette from South Africa had sailed the world’s seven seas on cruise ships and ended up living in beautiful Norway (hence the Viking above status). Yvette still had not lost any passion for the Lowveld and was back to learn more. Derek had worked in corporations all over the globe and now wanted to spend as much time as possible exploring his true passion: learn about conservation in the African bush with his partner Anne (whose insane birding skills were only matched by our instructors, by the way). Amber told us about life on her family’s farm in the Free State. Her intense love for the cute newborn lambs was matched only by her passion for the bush and her iron will (Amber is a tough farm girl!) to become a field guide.

Can you spot the common ground in those stories? People from very different backgrounds share one thing: the unstoppable desire to be in the bush. “You know how I see it?” Tati asked philosophically one night around the fire. “We all have our lives out there. Busy lives in different parts of the world. For me, my half-German, half-South-African roots probably caused it, but each of us, at some point, has caught ‘the bug’ in some way or another. And no matter what you do, you can’t help returning for another ‘bush fix’.” No one could have summed it up any better.

Bush friendships never leave you

So, if you are out there wondering, like I was, who you will meet on your EcoTraining course, the main advice is: don’t worry! No matter how different, you already know you will have one crucial thing in common: a genuine love for nature and wildlife. Time has shown so often how the power of nature brings people together. Our group illustrated that perfectly, and so will yours.

An entire year has passed since we all said goodbye in Pridelands, but we still remember every face, every character, every voice. We stay in touch, we encourage those who have become professional field guides (way to go, Amber, Justine and Simão, we are so jealous of your bush life!), and some of us have even met up again or plan to take the next course together. Friendships that start in the bush are THAT special. And trust us: when we say that – cue that typical accent one last time – we honestly don’t LIE!

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 Course

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:
Picture of 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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