Life as a back-up with Mike Kirby

"It's a feeling that I think everyone needs to experience on foot in this remote corner of the Kruger" says Mike Kirby who became a back-up Trails guide as part of his Lodge Placement program with us.


“My name is Mike, I’m 24 years old and from Johannesburg, South Africa.

I have always had an obsession with nature, and after graduating from High school and University I knew it was time for me to leave it all behind.

I had done my research about training providers and Ecotraining really stuck out for me. It was the variety of areas where their camps are based that was the deciding factor.

After completing the Field Guide level 1 and short course components of the year long course, I arrived in Makuleke and started walking…

I instantly fell in love with the feeling and connection that you get when on foot.


After completing the course I was privileged enough to be asked to back-up for Ecotraining as part of my Lodge Placement program.

Being a back-up Trails Guide allows you to learn from, and walk behind the absolute best in the industry. The instructors’ experience and knowledge that they share with students cannot be read in a book or taught in a classroom. The privilege of having these mentors share what they have learned over months and countless hours walking is an opportunity I’ll always be grateful for.

Thanks to Bruce, Dee, Godfrey Baloyi and a bit of luck, I managed to land a job as a Trails Guide for Return Africa, Pafuri. This is a dream come true, and I am exceptionally fortunate to walk in the area in which we do. Makuleke has something that I find very difficult to describe in words. It’s a feeling that I think everyone needs to experience on foot in this remote corner of the Kruger.


I am very fortunate to have walked with unbelievable guides throughout the years in Pafuri, and learnt from them not just about nature, but how we need to appreciate and protect the last few places that can offer us that feeling of wilderness.

The combination of awe and primeval power of viewing animals on foot, while also finding the peace and appreciating an area for what it is, rather than what you aren’t seeing.

I think people who haven’t done a walk in the bush, don’t yet know how much they are going to love it and find a connection on a personal level. A connection that people (I think) are missing in modern society. We need to get back into nature and escape the fast paced city life. I think everyone needs a little time out here on foot!

I can guarantee there is no better feeling.

Thank you to EcoTraining and all those mentors and people I’ve met along my path who have helped me live my dream”.