My South Africa by Amit Franko

My story begins like an ordinary student story. I felt closed I'm my room after a challenging semester of studies. The pandemic didn't make it any easier. I felt suffocated in my room and, to be honest, in my country as well. I felt the need to go and explore more places and see more views. But most importantly, to have new and exciting experiences. I decided to take a short break from my studies and do a course in South Africa.

Why Guiding?

Getting to South Africa from Israel was difficult, but it was worth it. I landed in a place called Hoedspruit (a name I still can’t fully pronounce) And went straight into the wild. My first stop was a five-week photography safari; little did I know what these five weeks would do to my life.

It was an adventure of a lifetime. I’m trying to find two words for it, and it’s hard, but I think one word for it is “adventure”. I had nothing like that before. I had some travels before.

Elephant encounter – Photograph © Amit Franko

I was going to bed early because there was a hippo in camp. I was eating fantastic kudu stew for dinner and drinking beer with amazing people in the middle of nowhere. I can tell you things like that for ages, so I think “adventure” is a good word. I had a lot of fun there, but the one thing that just kept catching my attention was the guides!!!

At that moment, I decided that it didn’t matter that I had studied in Israel right now; I was not leaving yet. I’m going to be a guide!!! The guides were knowledgeable, so interesting to talk to, and calm, not just in camp where it’s safe but around big and dangerous animals.

Students at Pridelands camp – Photograph © Amit Franko

Why EcoTraining?

I looked a lot about where to learn. There are a lot of schools, and all of them are good, but something in EcoTraining gave me the feeling that this one is something else, so I sent them an email and started my journey with them. Only the day after, I discovered that EcoTraining is the first place to start training field guides and is the oldest school in South Africa.

That EcoTraining was the right choice, from the shuttle service to the super Instructors and students, from the lovely kitchen staff and the fantastic food they made. And finally, the feeling of home that eco training made in every single camp.

Leopard – Photograph © Amit Franko

 Fellow students – Photograph © Amit Franko

My journey wasn’t always easy. It was hard. I wasn’t the best student in school, and being constricted to a place like the African savanna was extremely hard.

Why, you ask?

I want to see you guys focus on a fish anatomy lecture when there is a hard of buffalo outside the tent, just standing there watching you. So yes, I’m not complaining. I will not bore you with details about how many rhinos we saw one day or the herd of elephants that just came to play when we were 10 meters from them. I will not tell you about the super excellent lion encounters and the exciting and challenging dilemmas we as students had.

The course was one, if not the best, adventure of my life!

EcoTraining 1-Year Professional Field Guide Course

This comprehensive and unique one-year course has been designed to supply the safari industry with high-calibre FGASA, and CATHSSETA qualified Professional Field Guides.

Students live and learn at four different wilderness camps, exposing them to diverse ecological and geographical terrains, wildlife species, climates, and more. These remote wilderness camps may include the Makuleke Concession (Kruger), Karongwe Game Reserve, Selati Game Reserve, Pridelands Conservancy, and Mashatu Game Reserve (Botswana). The unfenced bush camps provide a consistently stimulating environment in which to learn, supported by highly qualified and experienced instructors, each with their unique way of training and guidance that will enhance the overall student training experience.

For more information, visit the EcoTraining 1-Year Professional Field Guide course page

About the Author: 

Amit Franko is a former EcoTraining Field Guide student and Wildlife Photographer. Follow Amit on Instagram @ amit.franko