Victoria Craddock | The Apprentice Field Guide
Apprentice Field Guide Victoria Craddock has recently just received her FGASA Qualification and we couldn't be more proud. Victoria tells her story and shares her experience with us.
I’m sitting in the cool shade of the thatched deck area of Makuleke Camp, people who have become so dear to me fill the air with their chatter, I pick up bits about a sighting of the elusive Pel’s Fishing Owl coming from the group that has settled around an unlit fire and just then a smile creeps across my lips.
For most, it’s an evening like every other, except it’s not, as of an hour ago, I’m officially an apprentice field guide.
Did you get that, AN APPRENTICE FIELD GUIDE!
In my twenty-four years, I’ve been privileged enough to earn the odd qualification here and there but nothing quite like this. I think it’s because my journey towards becoming a field guide started way before the date my course began. As a child I was fascinated by all things outdoors, and, like many others, I idolized Steve Irwin. All through school, I dreamt of a life in the wild but at some point, amidst the societally imposed rat-race, I forgot this about myself. I’m a bit of a “positive pixie” so forgive me when I say I like to think of COVID-19, retrenchment and WildEarth as three ingredients used in some divine concoction specifically brewed to give me a nudge towards my first love: the African Bushveld.
I cast my mind back to the first evening at Pridelands; to the nocturnal noises that kept me awake which now lull me to sleep. I am mesmerized by how much one can grow, learn, and overcome in the bush. Some of the lessons I have learnt have been as a result of the spirited instructors, some from my peers but the wisest and most devoted teacher has been the bushveld.
When one takes a moment to study nature, one becomes aware of the beautiful way it facilitates the growth of every life form that exists within its engulf. What has taken me by surprise is the slow revelation that humans are not exempt from this. I have found the wild to be a patient teacher that has an infinite number of lessons to impart.
One of these lessons has been that of respect rather than fear. When I informed my loved ones of my ‘bushy’ intentions, one of the first concerns they raised was my debilitating fear of elephants, and to tell you the truth, this was my greatest concern too.
On my very first day, we had an encounter with a beautiful breeding herd of elephants, that were it not for Steve, the EcoTraining elephant whisperer, I probably would have buried myself beneath the canvas seats of the Land Rover and held my breath until they passed by, or I passed out.
Steve, being the to-the-point man that he is, looked me dead in the face and said “calm down, you’re not scared of elephants, if you were you would never have come to EcoTraining” and to tell you the truth, he could not have been more correct.
Since that encounter, I have found myself ensconced in various breeding herds, sat under a feeding bull who braved camp to nibble on the Weeping Boer Bean above where we were having breakfast, been covered in elephant slobber and even dodged a bull in musth.
EcoTraining has unlocked a part of me that was buried under all the expectations the world thrusts upon a young person. I consider it an honour to be a guide and guardian of this wild world.