May 29, 2012

MEET YOU IN THE BUSH: NICOLE FENTON – 29 MAY 2012


"A life changing experience" (2000)


It’s been 12 years since Nicole Fenton attended an EcoTraining course and almost a decade since she’s left the country of her birth. Time however has in no way tainted her memory of what she calls “a life changing experience with stories that will stay with me forever”. In fact, she is already making plans to come back to the southern tip of Africa to attend another course at one of our wilderness camps.

Nicole currently resides Cornwall in the United Kingdom, after obtaining a degree in zoology through the University of Plymouth in 2010. During her studies, she spent three months studying dwarf mongoose near the Kruger National Park, managing to reconnect with her South African roots. After her degree, she got a position as a primate keeper at the Newquay zoo in Cornwall, mainly looking after Malagasy and South American species.

Dwarf mongoose research study

Born in Johannesburg in the early 1980’s, Nicole spent much of her younger years outdoors or in game reserves. She says as a little girl she knew she wanted to work with animals and be close to nature. With a menagerie of animals at home, including chameleons, spiders and snakes, was it any surprise?

Encouraged by her parents to fulfil her love for wildlife and the bush and everything in it, Nicole completed a game ranging and lodge management course through the Allenby Campus in 2000. This included a month practical training with EcoTraining in the Sabi Sands nature reserve in Mpumalanga. She achieved her FGASA level one field guide qualification and a couple of years later she got certified as a FGASA level two field guide.

Nicole shares some of her memories of her time with EcoTraining.

“Our practical tutor at EcoTraining was Johan Lombard. One of the trackers was called Kimbian and he was simply amazing. The course was absolutely fantastic and during our time in Sabi Sands we gained so many practical skills and bush knowledge.

Reliving the memories

Camp life

“The in depth knowledge of the trackers and their experience and tracking skills were just unbelievable. Kimbian took us on a bush walk one day and we tracked wild dogs hunting impala. We eventually found them just after they had made the kill; it was a rare and unforgettable moment!

“We were taught an incredible amount about the countless trees and plants and spoor and insects and birds. Not to mention the incredible uses for anything and everything in the bush. There is not a tree or plant that can’t be eaten, smoked, rubbed or inhaled for medicinal purposes amongst other things.

Good times

Having fun while learning

Where it all happened

“The whole experience taught us so much but above all, the experience you gain and the memories you make are with you for a lifetime.” 

After completing her practical training with EcoTraining and finishing her game ranging course, Nicole got a job working for the South African National Bird of Prey Centre at various centres around the country including Sun City, Pilanesberg and the Rhino and Lion nature reserve. She says the knowledge and skills she obtained on her course enabled her to carry out game drives to the best of her ability and also to help her to continue her FGASA qualifications.

Working for SA National Bird of Prey centre

In 2003 Nicole left South Africa to travel overseas for two years, one small note though, she just didn’t come back. Her interests remain wildlife and anything related though, Nicole says.

“I’m travelling to Madagascar next month to visit some in situ research and conservation projects funded by UK and European zoos and I am currently looking into studying a master’s degree. In 2010 I set up a project called Tag a Turtle which is fundraising to purchase satellite tags for injured and rehabilitated turtles washed up on the Cornish coast.”

Kittiwake surveys for the Royal Society of the Protection of Birds

Feeding ring tailed lemurs


Nicole says the EcoTraining course changed her life and shaped her career.

“Anyone considering doing an EcoTraining course would not look back. Everything I do and everywhere I travel is always in search of adventure and wildlife or wild places. Africa is very much a big part of me and who I am but I also love travelling to far and wide places in search of new and interesting wildlife to see and study.

“I would highly recommend EcoTraining to anybody; it led me to a life of adventure and amazing memories. I'm even considering going back to do a course just because I would love to have the experience all over again!”

Read more about Nicole’s adventures at http://nicolefentonzoology.blogspot.co.uk/

If you want to embark on an experience like this, visit www.ecotraining.co.za or send an email to enquiries@ecotraining.co.za for more information. You won’t regret it!
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