October 25, 2012


The 28 year old Sam Ryan started entertaining EcoTraining fans last week with the diary he kept during his 55 day Level One Field Guide course at our wilderness camp in Makuleke in the Kruger National Park and another camp in Pongola in KwaZulu-Natal.

It’s been a couple of months since this British lad finished his course, but the read about his “adventure of a lifetime” continues…

DAY 6 
Waking up was a little bit of a struggle today as these early morning are starting to hurt. Arriving for coffee, I heard people complaining about an alarm that had been going off since 3:50… I had a horrible suspicion it could have been mine, so very quickly I went back to my tent and switched it off.

So we went off on a walk, following up on some tracks we followed yesterday evening. As we were walking we heard elephants in a close proximity to where we were. We decided to change our plan and head towards where we believed we heard the noise. As we got close we saw the tracks of two elephants, followed those for about 1.5 km but every time we heard them after that, they seemed to be getting further away from us.

We decided we would follow the tacks from the previous day ad followed them for about 2 km through thick bush and many different terrains. As we were in the mopani scrubland we heard a noise ahead of us and just got down in time as a breaking herd of elephants walked past our position, maybe 40 m away from us!

We had our lecture on creating the guided experience which was very interesting. We discussed our plans for the afternoon, got into the vehicle with Madeline driving and me on tracker seat. We sauntered off north towards Maqueba Windmill and on from there to see what we could find.

After driving for about 2.5 hours we decided to stop for sun-downers with a stunning view over the Limpopo River. We then got back into the vehicle and headed home as it would be dark soon. On our way back we came across a nice heard of buffalo not far from the road and also a small spotted genet which was great to see.

The only problem of being in the tracker seat is you end up in a lot of bushes and these bushes here are not pleasant – I pulled maybe 25 thorns out of the left side of my body, but hey, that's Africa for you!

Stuart, Casper and I were on duty so we had to get up at 3:30 and get all the tea and coffee ready for everyone when they woke up.

We headed off towards Caracal Pan to go and identify some trees and start the basics of tree and botany. We drove for an hour or so to the sandveld where Mark (Gunn, instructor) got us to identify a few different trees from their leaves, which was tough but very rewarding when you got the answer right.

On our way back to camp we heard over the radio that one of the Big 5 had been spotted 10 km from us, so we decided to go and check it out! The closer we got, the more excited I was. As we approached the site we were looking out and suddenly there it was in a baobab tree, my first proper leopard! It was a stunning creature, sleeping after a night on the hunt… After about 10/15 minutes, we decided to head back to camp. That sight will stay with me for the rest of my life, amazing!

After all that was said and done during the day, we went off to bed. There was no hyena to say good night but that leopard sighting made me a very happy man and really appreciative why I am here and what this place has already done for me – LOVE IT!!!  

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