Life without dreams is ‘irrelephant’

Chrissi’s journey to becoming an EcoTraining back-up

Since I was a young girl in Germany, I always had a deep affection for nature and wildlife. My dad was a huge influence in shaping the person I am today. I visited South Africa once before and decided then that my next life’s goal would be to become a nature guide. I knew that I would return to South Africa to pursue this ambition.

In the subsequent years, I did a lot of research and enquiries to find the best way to realizing my dream. I came across EcoTraining and finally enrolled to start my 1-year Professional Field Guide training in September 2016. My decision to start a new life in a foreign country was accompanied by feelings of anxiety and excitement. Considering that English was not my first language and that I did not have my family close by, the fact is, “life is never easy, you always have to improve and fight for your dreams to come true”. When I started the course, I remember one of the instructors telling me, “the secret to life is doing what you truly love”, and I will never forget that.

Halfway through the year I developed a new goal, to become a back-up Trails guide for EcoTraining. Being chosen to become a back-up is considered a great privilege. So, I gave it my best shot on the Trails guide module instructed by Bruce Lawson. I completed the one-year professional field guide course thanks to the great support of all the EcoTraining instructors. I can’t describe the overwhelming joy I felt when Bruce asked me to join the EcoTraining family as a back-up. What I didn’t know at the time was that the next six months of being a back-up would become the best memories of my life.

Christina in her element as back-up Trails guide (c) Samantha Davies

I graduated and afterwards could not help but to reflect on the past five months. It changed everything, it changed something inside me, it changed my life. To live in the bush, to work with and learn from our amazing instructors…it’s difficult to describe but here goes. “You work together, you learn together and improve every day together. This kind of relationship amongst human beings is hard to understand. You have to rely on each other, in a way that most people in this world will never experience in their whole lifetime.”

I have had many incredible experiences and cherished memories of these past months. I love going on bush walks and it is incredible how much my senses have improved since being in the bush. After a while, you start to really see the environment which you are in and how it surrounds you. You begin to truly feel, smell and listen. You start to blend in and you begin to understand yourself better as well as everything else around you in a way that I never thought possible.

One of my fondest memories involved a spiritual connection with a majestic elephant. I was on a bush walk with students from America and we were sitting on rocks next to a small matter puddle in the riverbed watching a beautiful sunset. We heard Helmeted guinea fowls flying away and thought that perhaps we had disturbed them. A moment later these guinea fowls were flying straight in our direction and realised that it was not us that bothered them. I began to smell a huge elephant bull and saw that he was approaching our group with the intention of drinking from the water puddle in front of us. My instincts and training kicked in and instructed the students to slowly and quietly move further up the rocks. The elephant bull proceeded to the water and we sat on the rocks and watched him drink. It amazes me to see these animals in their own environment. The sun sets and you lie in your tent listening to the fierce and beautiful sounds of the wildlife around you.

Christina with a close-up encounter with an elephant at Karongwe (c) Samantha Davies

As you have guessed, elephants have a very special place in my heart. These animals are so unique. They can feel emotions such as happiness or sadness. When I hear the elephants rumbling my heart and soul starts to cry tears of joy. Without EcoTraining my life would still be so poor. I would never have been able to have this understanding of nature like I do now.