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When the Bug Bites

How African nature becomes addictive. And how EcoTraining can help cure the itch.  

My partner Sofie and I booked a holiday trip to Namibia many years ago. We had already travelled left, right and centre on different continents and figured this first time in Southern Africa would be ‘just the next holiday’. Boy, were we wrong!  

When you fall in love with Africa

“There are only two ways about it”, our friendly travel agent told us all those years ago, explaining how a first African wildlife experience can affect people. “You can have a great time, come back, and consider it a ‘been there, done that’-experience.” That sounds fair, but what’s the second option? “Oh…” she whispered mysteriously. “Option two is that the bug bites. And when that happens, your life will change. For good.”

We spent the best of three weeks on that first Namibia trip. I saw the sights, climbed the dunes, and drove the endless roads towards the vast horizons—the sort of tour many first-time visitors take. But we knew. We knew it instantly. We knew it had happened after hearing our first elephant rumble in Etosha NP, seeing our first gemsbok stroll through that endless desert, or stargazing under those magical night skies at the Makgadikgadi Pans. The wilds of Africa had drawn us in. The bug had bitten.

In search of a profound experience

We didn’t know, that first time, what that deep sound coming out of the elephant meant. We learned a gemsbok was an antelope, also called oryx, but not much more. We also needed to determine which constellations we were staring at in Marvel. But in the following years, more trips followed. To South Africa (on several occasions), Botswana, Namibia again, and Zimbabwe. We were still touring and lodging at first, and then we were more and more adventurous camping later. 

But we always tried to be immersed in nature as closely as possible. And this will probably sound familiar to other returning bush visitors: along the way, we bought a secondhand bird book, got better cameras, and tried to google our way into knowing more about every stunning-looking tree, flower, bird or lizard.

Curiosity for the bush

Curiosity is a powerful aspect of human nature. And on a subject as vast and diverse as the African bush, curiosity becomes seriously addictive. The more you learn, the more you realize how much you don’t know. But the more you understand, the better the experience becomes when you’re out there. That idea triggered our search for the ‘next level’. How could we learn, really learn, more about the place we had grown to love so much? How could we understand how the whole ecosystem fits together? And how could we do it with like-minded people whilst – why not – throwing a bit of adventure into the mix? I googled ‘wilderness course Africa’ and clicked on the link to a – then unknown – company called ‘EcoTraining’; the rest, as they say, is history.

A course for everyone

Living as far away from the bush as we do, having busy jobs with hectic time schedules attached, and – let’s face it – not boasting much experience in the great outdoors, we were a bit anxious when looking into EcoTraining’s program. However, we were immediately relieved and reassured, seeing that there was a course for everyone.

The Online Field Guide theory course, spread over eight weeks in three-a-week evening sessions, presented an ideal way to fit our learning curriculum into our busy lives. And what’s more, if we passed, it would open up the possibility for us to enrol on a 35-day Practical Field Guide Course at a later stage. That meant we could start learning immediately, allowing us time to get organized and make the necessary arrangements with work and family to plan our practicals. A few friendly e-mails later, and we were ready. A few weeks later, we would open our laptops to dial in live to South Africa and start our EcoTraining adventure!

Curious to know what happened next? Stay tuned or subscribe, and you’ll find out in the next episode: “Ladies and gents, please open your workbooks!”

Does Wim’s story sound familiar? Have you had your first experience with African wildlife and want to learn more?
Do you want to make a career out of wildlife, or are you simply an avid nature lover? There’s an adapted course for anyone’s needs!
Look at the entire program on the EcoTraining website and find out which suits you best. 

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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