January 10, 2012


2012 will see Eco Training return to the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy (LWC) in Kenya for two more 28 day field guide courses – 10 February-8 March and 3-30 August. There are still places available, so book now and explore the plains on the lower slopes of Mount Kenya teaming with a great variety of wildlife.

Not only will your 28 days be filled with exciting experiences while gaining valuable knowledge and insight into the natural world. You will also become one of nature’s responsible custodians for it has never been more important than now. The natural world is under threat with animal numbers plummeting, species becoming extinct and vast acres of land being gobbled up with human encroachment stretching its greedy fingers all over the globe.

And this is exactly the aim of the LWC and EcoTraining. For we adhere to the notion that there is no conservation without education. And with this at the core, we want to become “the model of excellence for guide training in Kenya”.

Lex Hes, who together with Ian Johnson and Anton Lategan are the owners of EcoTraining East Africa, says they want to impact where they can.

“There are more than 6 000 safari guides employed in the industry in East Africa, responsible for tens of thousands of tourist each year. We believe that there is a real need to supply a quality training service to these guides in order to improve their guiding abilities, to make them more responsible and to give them a sense of pride in what they do. For many of these guides, the tourism industry is the only career option available.”

Mike Watson, chief executive officer of LWC, concurs with Lex.

“We are in the process of developing a formulated syllabus for guiding standards in Lewa. EcoTraining, with all their expertise, is just the right partner for cooperation in this regard, especially with the combination of theoretical knowledge and practical experience that is at the core of their courses. Between the Conservancy and EcoTraining, Lewa can become the focal point for the industry in Northern Kenya.”

The partnership between EcoTraining and Lewa got underway in August last year, with the first eHeHH28 day field guide course then held in that part of Kenya.

A diverse group of students from around the world attended the first course.  And right from the word go, it was clear as daylight that they were all there for the same reason – to have fun while gaining a better understanding for all things wild and wonderful, and also to make their own contributions, however small, to the conservation of the natural world. As Suraj, from Sri Lanka, said “We can’t afford to let more animals go extinct.”

And what better way to obtain literally hundreds of interesting facts about Mother Nature and her inhabitants in a classroom setting like this – within sight of grazing Grevy’s and Plains zebra, browsing Reticulated giraffes, frolicking impalas and the twittering of superb starlings and white browed sparrow weavers. Not to mention the ever present vervet monkeys, with instructor Mark Gunn having to storm out with a “agghhh” on more than one occasion when they get away with some of the goodies from the kitchen tent.

The knowledge that is shared and imparted by experienced instructors like Mark, with more than 15 years in the industry, added to the wildlife training and safari experience of the students. The right philosophy and approach is very important to the LWC and EcoTraining, so that prospective guides that undertake these courses, impart those same conservation principles to their guests on safari. 

The Safaricom campsite is the base of EcoTraining’s operations in the LWC and it is in this magnificent setting that the students woke up (some a little slower than others…) every morning.  Returning to camp just as the sun was setting every day, with the lanterns lit and a scrumptious meal waiting, it really felt like home.

In between the early starts and the afternoon activities, the days were filled with lectures on a wide range of subjects, including ecology, geology, astronomy, mammals, reptiles, animal behavior to tracks and tracking.

The combination of the EcoTraining lectures and the method of teaching were reinforced by the subsequent practical experience out in the field, all under the watchful eye of Mark.

Julius, a community scout at the Ngare Ndare Forest Trust situated about 20km from the campsite who also attended the course, summed the worth of the experience up perfectly when he said:

“I enjoy very much what I’m doing. I share what I know with tourists and at the same time helping my community. And now, with all this new knowledge and skills, I can become an even better guide and help spread the message of conservation.” 
Get in touch with Eco Training by sending an email to enquiries@ecotraining.co.za for more information on the course in Lewa.

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