November 5, 2012


"The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity ... and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself." (William Blake)

Green, green, green – the bush is alive and well and kicking! The end of 2012 is fast approaching and everybody is looking forward to some down time… The call of the African wilderness is also louder than ever and EcoTraining is ready with an array of courses to suit all preferences – from the more serious that wish to enter the guiding industry on a full time basis to discerning nature lovers. Have a look what is coming up, courses on offer, what we’ve been up to so far and other interesting snippets.


If you’re passionate about wildlife and photography, and have always wanted some guidance to get that perfect shot, this giveaway is for you! Win one spot on the acclaimed EcoTraining Wildlife Photography Course (in conjunction with Premier Magazine & Lounges) that aims to reveal more behind what is required, when pursuing that perfect wildlife composition. The winner will have the opportunity to put these skills into action, under the guidance of an experienced wildlife photographer, while out in the field in the Karongwe Game Reserve. To enter simply visit and send in an enquiry for photography or LIKE the Facebook fan page: EcoTraining – Ecotourism Specials. And while you are at it, add some of your favourite wildlife images that you captured to the album WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE COMPETITION (WITH PREMIER MAGAZINE). Competition closes on the 29th of November 2012; winners will be contacted via the fan page. Terms and conditions apply.

If you have the urge to make a break and head for the bush, get yourself a place on one of the following EcoTraining short courses on offer in the next couple of months. Come on, you won’t regret it:

13 – 25 November: Conservation and Research – Mashatu: If you want to join in an unrivalled adventure experience, then book a place on this course.  For 14 days you will roam this massive tract of land in the easternmost corner of Botswana, the ideal terrain to appreciate the wild. This course offers you the opportunity to join a dedicated research project in a new approach to game management.

23 November – 20 December: 28 day Safari Guide – Makuleke: Imagine 28 days of living and learning in nature at our wilderness camps and then using this knowledge to give your safari and bush holidays a whole new meaning. Whether it is your dream or your passion, allow us to help you fulfil that dream!

26 November – 2 December: Tracking – Mashatu: To unravel the mysteries of nature even further, book a place on a unique seven day tracking course with EcoTraining and some of the most highly qualified trackers and trainers in South Africa. It is fun. It is hands on. It is life changing!

3 – 16 December: EcoQuest – Mashatu: Attend this course if you are a student testing the waters for a career in this field or if you are an adventurous spirit wanting to gain a greater understanding of nature and the environment whilst experiencing the excitement of the bush.

9 – 15 December: Birding – Karongwe: For all the birding enthusiasts, this is a very practical course, designed to broaden and enrich your knowledge and skills by educating you about the fascinating world of birds and the interdependent relationships between them and other life forms.


Camps: Every minute on one of our courses in our camps in South Africa, Botswana and Kenya is a learning experience, being constantly exposed to the bush. See what the guys and girls have been up to in the past month!

Makuleke: A taste of life at EcoTraining’s wilderness camp in the Makuleke concession in the northern Kruger National Park, through the artistic eyes of Candice Wagener, a one year professional field guide student... The ARH (advance rifle handling) and trails guide part of the course was held in this amazingly diverse area. It form but 1 % of Kruger, but holds about 75 % of the biodiversity of this natural treasure.

Is this how it’s really meant to be?
Just want to try help them break free
How much must one take
The truth, it seems so fake

A simple movement with the brush
The artist has no time to rush
You walk by, stop and look
Caught hanging on his hook
A line here and there
The canvas fills with tender care

Still watching as the picture begins to form
All you can make out is a horn
The background comes into play
His creation on display

In the street he paints
The audience grows as they all
Decided stay

The last stroke of his brush
He stands and his painting, now in full view
A mother and her child
At ease in the wild
The sun setting behind the mountain
As they drink from the natural fountain
Their horns look firm and strong
Without them, it just seems wrong

One day it’ll be too late
So why must we wait?

Mashatu (Botswana): With a keen interest in wildlife, nature and photography, the duo of Brian Rhode and Chantelle Venter has been roaming the wilds of Southern Africa for the last 15+ years. Running lodges, guiding and training lodge staff in South Africa and Botswana has all been in a day’s work for this team. They have worked in numerous well-knows lodges in local areas such as the Kruger National Park, Timbavati Game Reserve, Welgevonden Game Reserve and across the border in Botswana in Linyanti, Savuti, the Central Kalahari and the Okavango Delta.
For the last year or so, Brian and Chantelle have been calling the EcoTraining wilderness camp in Mashatu, Botswana home where they are the senior instructors. And this place with these two at the helm is fast becoming a firm favourite with all that dare to cross the Limpopo River via cable-car and step into the unknown.
Just read one of Brian’s diary entries, it will take you right there…
On each walk we encountered numerous animals including warthog, baboons, kudu, eland, impala, rock hyrax, klipspringer and steenbok. There have literally been animals all over the place. Even the lions made an appearance and we were fortunate enough to see a large male lion on two separate occasions near the Motloutse River. On one of the walks we even found tracks of a lioness with tiny little cubs. We were also very lucky with leopard sightings and bumped into them on at least three occasions in our concession.
Then, as we were walking silently through the thicket searching the area ahead of us, Chantelle heard a branch breaking to our right. We decided to head in that direction to check it out, our eyes straining for the big grey beast that were expecting ahead of us.
As we came up to the area where Chantelle had heard the branch crack we bent down to peer under the low canopy. Approximately 40 m ahead was a small clearing in the bushes – and there we saw it: a leopard! The spotted cat saw us immediately and quickly ran into the thicket on the other side of the clearing…
We decided not to follow after the leopard as it had entered very thick vegetation. Carefully we exited the thicket and headed to the Amphitheatre where we climbed up one of the sandstone ridges and sat on top watching the view of Tukwi Plains below us.
Everyone was happy and relieved that we had gotten the encounter. We watched as the sun was setting over the hills and Bjorn arrived for our arranged pickup and we headed back to camp, with smiles on our faces. It had been another great day of walking in Tuli in Botswana…”

Segera (Kenya): “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
It was in 1993 when EcoTraining took the first steps on the mission to up the standards of guiding throughout Africa, when the first courses were held in the Sabi Sands Reserve. And nearly 20 years later, the company has stayed on the dedicated path with scores of prospective field guides and nature lovers unearthing vast amounts of interesting facts about all things wild and wonderful.
From Mpumalanga training grounds have since been established throughout the rest of South Africa (Selati, Karongwe, Makuleke, Pongola), Botswana (Mashatu) and Kenya (Lewa Wildlife Conservancy).
And now EcoTraining has joined the Wilderness Collection (Wilderness Safaris) to give guests at Segera in Laikipia, Kenya the best possible guided experience.
For the last couple of weeks, six local guides have been undergoing training in all aspects of field guiding under the tutelage of EcoTraining’s highly experienced instructors. This process is on-going.

Instructor Mark Gunn found some time in between the theoretical lectures and practical exercises and used the bush telegraph to send through the following update:
“The training of the guides here at Segera is going on as per the schedule. The daily rain at about 13h00 is doing its best to put a damper on us, but we just adjust and get on with it. The normal daily schedule is therefore not always applicable. The roads are black cotton soil, so we cannot use them for fear of destroying it. A normal day begins with a drive and then a lecture. If rain threatens, then the lecture goes to the late afternoon slot and the drives are done in the early and late morning. The wind seems to have died down a bit; it is not cold but irritating. Even though Segera is home to a vast array of animal, bird and plant life, game is a bit scarce at the moment. However, that which we do see is utilized to the utmost.”

Taking hands – Conservation education across the globe: For the last two years EcoTraining and Tetra Tech, an American consultancy firm for the Jordan government and NGO in charge of the national parks in Jordan, has been working to transform the conservation and guiding sectors in Jordan. The result being four promising Jordanians sent to South Africa for the first phase of a long term program. These students are currently following the one year professional field guide course (full scholarship) offered at EcoTraining’s wilderness camps in Southern Africa.
Once certified under EcoTraining and FGASA, they will return to Jordan where they will practice as guides and trainers in their own right.

Nadia Alalul is one of the Jordanian students on whose shoulders a huge responsibility rests when she eventually returns home to help shape the guiding industry in that part of the world. The foursome has just been placed at various Wilderness Safari outfits for their lodge placement portion of the one year course.
What they are trying to accomplish, is a serious affair, but Nadia says despite the importance of it all, it is the adventure of a lifetime. She shares some of her experiences so far.
“It has been an amazing experience, beyond belief. We have had the privilege of living in an environment that few people nowadays get to experience, living among wild animals in their natural environment, and being able to study and observe from only a short distance away.
My most exhilarating experience was walking on foot through the bush and coming face to face with lions that were so well camouflaged in the long grass that we couldn’t even see them but we could sure as hell hear them!  The sound of that first low growl and then a louder warning, felt like a sound system on full blast that went right through you. Our tracker was armed with a rifle and we moved slowly around him and started to back away. My heart was pumping so fast I couldn’t hear much else, those lions were only about 20 meters away.
I have an appreciation and deep respect for all creatures like I have never had before. I wouldn’t have realized all this if it weren’t for those special people we have had the honour and great privilege to meet along the way. The dedication and knowledge of these highly experienced instructors in promoting conservation and helping to educate others on why our environment and everything in it is so important, has made a big impression.”

Sam Ryan’s diary: 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 and is continuing on a weekly base on Facebook (EcoTraining – Ecotourism specials):
Day 1: 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… So I got on the bush bus and tried to sit back and enjoy the eight hour facing us… 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… 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. 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 has started…

The life of a nature guide through the eyes of Lex Hes: For the past 36 years, Lex Hes has been involved in the world of wildlife as a naturalist and wildlife photographer. He leads tours all over Africa, presently spending most of his time in Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, Madagascar and South Africa. He has also led trips to the Central African Republic, Gabon, Kenya and Mali. In addition he has been involved with biological work on the sub-Antarctic islands of Amsterdam and Marion.
When he is not away travelling, Lex is very busy co-managing EcoTraining with the goal of raising and maintaining the standard of nature guiding in Africa. He describes one of the most interesting wildlife moments he has had in his illustrious career:
Walking guests to their room one night in Botswana, we came across a leopard lying on the boardwalk at the door of their tent! The leopard would not move, so we had to take the guests to my tent. I moved my luggage out, gave them toothbrushes and they were to spend the night there without their luggage. I went back to their tent to find blood on the boardwalk at the door.  I looked up into tree to see a red lechwe calf hanging over a branch directly above their door.  By this time the leopard had jumped off the boardwalk, so I was able to move my luggage in and get their luggage.  I spent the night trying to sleep with the leopard regularly feeding on kill a couple of metres from my head!”

For almost two decades now EcoTraining has been training field guides, starting way back in 1993 with the first batch of eager students attending the inaugural course in the Sabi Sands reserve in Mpumalanga. Since then a great number has gone on to make their mark in the industry and are continuing to do great work all over the world. We want to hear from you, email with your stories!

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(Thank you to everybody who contributed with photos and information!)

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