It has been a long and eventful road that has led me to the EcoTracker Track and Trails experience. I am currently on my one-year Professional Field Guide Course that started a couple of months ago in Kenya.
It was during that leg of the course that I was introduced to tracking in a very small capacity. Unfortunately, that was all I got, a very small taste of what tracking is like due to hard-packed ground, rife with grasses and vegetation. It wasn’t the ideal place to track anything.
From then on all I wanted to do was to get down to the EcoTraining Makuleke Camp in the northern reaches of the awe-inspiringly beautiful Kruger National Park and start the two-week intensive Tracking & Trailing Course (EcoTracker Course).
We arrived late one evening to the camp that we would call home for the larger part of two months and were greeted by the two specialist trackers that would guide us through the next fortnight.
Norman and Robert were two local instructors that had well over half a centuries worth of experience under their collective belts. We were tired and hungry after a long day in the car up from Nelspruit but we were made to feel welcome instantly which allowed us to destress and enjoy our first evening in camp.
The first week of the EcoTracker course was dedicated to learning the various tracks and signs left by the animals. This included dung, scent markers, scratching posts and more. The plethora of information was daunting, to say the least, and a few of us, myself included were a little concerned that a week would be enough time to understand and familiarise ourselves with everything.
Luckily this was where Norman and Robert came to life. Not only are they experts in their field but the way they communicated that wealth of knowledge to us mere mortals made it incredibly easy to retain the information easily so by the time the assessment came around, we all felt that we were ready to prove ourselves in the eyes of our instructors.
Was the trailing part of the course. This was the part where we took our newfound knowledge and put it to the test. It was also a slightly shorter part of the course due to the fact that there had been an unusually high amount of rain before and during our time here. Because of this, the instructors decided to push the assessment ahead a bit. Luckily we were taught everything we needed to know to successfully track and trail anything from a kudu to an elephant with quite a few buffalo in-between.
I had the pleasure of tracking a herd of buffalo through dense grass on my first time which showed me the dangers of tracking if you were not paying attention. The instructor for my group, Robert, kept me from walking into anything truly dangerous but remained aloof enough for me to come to certain conclusions by myself which, in my opinion, was far more educational than being handheld through the experience.
The EcoTracker part of the course was by far my favourite part of the entire year-long course and I will take the knowledge I gained with me for many years to come as I navigate my way through being a part of the eco-tourism industry.
We cannot of course forget about the others that made this experience what it was. The kitchen staff were incredible and churned out amazing dishes, three times a day, seven days a week. I was completely expecting simple camp grub with not much variation but we were treated with hearty, delicious meals that helped revitalise us throughout the day and cope with the extreme heat and humidity the Makuleke offers this time of year.
Vikki and the rest of the team in the office were helpful and let us know everything we needed to know in advance so there was little to no miscommunication throughout.
This was especially important as we were here during the comeback tour of COVID-19. They all made sure we knew the correct procedures and what to do and not do but didn’t enforce it in a demanding way which was lovely because I am sure we all feel that is the way people worldwide are used to dealing with.
So thank you to everyone in camp as well as back in the head office in Nelspruit for this amazing experience.
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