October 18, 2012


A Brit by birth, but with a heart belonging to Africa… That in a nutshell sums up the 28 year old Sam Ryan. Earlier in the year Sam attended an EcoTraining 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. He describes it as an adventure of a lifetime, beyond his wildest dreams.

He diligently kept a diary of his experiences with his fellow students. The read starts here…


I arrived at Emerald guest house to finally begin what I came to this country to do many years ago. Initially I was very nervous but soon got into my stride, meeting some of the people on my course – Casper who would be my roommate at Makuleke;  Stuart, a fellow Englishman and a teacher from Leeds; and two German ladies, Madeleine and Kirsten.

So I got on the bush bus and tried to sit back and enjoy the eight hour facing us. The journey passed us by, all be it very slowly and the last hour took its time, but we arrived at the gate to   Makuleke, our home for the next month. After loading suitcases onto the Landy, we set off to the camp, on the way I chatted to Ricardo and Vaughn and find out they are students on placement doing the year course.

We arrived at the camp and met camp instructor Bruce Lawson and our instructor for the month, Mark Gunn, funny but serious... We got an introduction to the camp course and what was expected of us. After the introduction we had a chance to unpack. I tried to organize the chaos that is my bag, which had already had remarks made about the size of it.

We had dinner (chicken and salad), exactly what I felt like, fresh food! As dinner finished we all had tea around the camp fire, told a few stories and called it a night. As Casper and I were walking back to the room, we saw eyes through our headlamps, only impala, but it got the blood pumping. And then heard a hyena outside our tent, no more than 50 meters away!

The adventure had started…


The first full day of the course began with an early 4:30 start, coffee and rusks at 4:45 and leaving on our first activity of the first day, a walk.

We left the camp and walked to one of the ridges that borders to camp to get our bearings in order. We stopped and talked about rocks, tracks and dung. We did not see much, but it was awesome to be out in the wild. We finished our walk around 9:15, had a quick break and got ready for the lecture for the day – the basics of being a field guide – after which we had breakfast and about four cold showers!  I managed to get a quick afternoon nap, before we had lunch and went on an afternoon game drive.

Instructor Mark taught us the general rules when you take guest out on drive, it was very interesting. We also had good sightings of zebra, nyala, kudu and buffalo. And the birds and trees started to grow on me…

Two days down and I already loved it! The people were really nice, all the trainee field guides were cool and Mark and Bruce were awesome, their knowledge mind boggling!

I went to bed, the getting up that early in the morning was already getting to me, and I still had another 49 days to go… Despite this though, there could be nowhere nicer in the world to wake up at that time.

The hyena was at it again…

As I was about to go to sleep, I heard another noise outside my tent, I had a look but saw nothing. The noise didn't want to go away though and after a few minutes, I saw a giant shadow appear from the trees. 

A lone elephant came through munching away. I watched him for about 20 minutes, it was only about 10 meters from our tent, making plenty noise and having a ball!  

All the while the hyena continued to let us know he was still there as well…

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