November 7, 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. After a break in the musings last week, the read is now continuing…

DAY 10

I woke up to Louise playing a funky rhythm on the drum as per request by Stuart. Then got up, had tea and packed a bag for a drive to the Sandveld to start our module on grasses, as boring as it sounds, it was not too bad, some interesting stuff to learn.

Towards the end of the lesson, we decided we should go and try to find rhino. We drove down a very long sand road looking for the beasts but with no luck. Then the decision was made to go to a lookout point, Lanner Gorge. And only one word describes that view – exhilarating!  It was one of the most unbelievable views I have ever seen. We stayed there for about half an hour and then headed back towards camp. On route we got caught in the first rain of the day, but in this heat you dry out quick-quick.

For the afternoon activity, the plan was to drive down Middle road and right down San-pad to the flood plain and go for a walk in the fever tree forest which was really cool, nice to get legs working again. Mark (instructor) tried to persuade a baboon spider out of its den and we came across a tree which had been eaten inside so was hollow most of the way up the tree. We headed back to the vehicle and drove down to the Likimbi/Limpopo look out to see the sun go down which was stunning.

I decided to head to bed early as I wanted a good night’s sleep, the 04:30 starts are starting to hurt... As I was walking back to my tent I heard an elephant not 50m away, so I got the torch out but could not see anything, so went inside. And then a quick hyena call to finish the night off! 

DAY 16

The day began sluggishly for me, got up a little late and headed off to go for a walk. Was then told that the walk had been cancelled due to lack of people waking up and getting ready. I decided I would spend a few hours revising and getting ready for the first test of the course.

I spent all the time with Stuart and studied all stuff we had covered in the previous 15 day. At around 9:00 we were given the test and got on with it. I knew most of it and managed to complete it in time, even though I got stuck on a few questions but eventually managed to work them out.
After everyone finished, we went back to mark the test.  It was out of 75, I managed to get 56 and it turned out to be joined highest in the class which I was so chuffed about. It worked out to 75% which is a pass on the FGASA standards, which was great!

DAY 17

We were allowed to sleep in today and only got up at 06:00… We only did the outskirts of camp and did a few tracks and bits and pieces, halfway round we saw a baby Mozambique spitting cobra which was cool, even hooded for us.

The afternoon activity was a game drive. We headed out and decided to go and look at the Limpopo river, we drove across the flood plains and into the fever tree forest. As we got halfway down the road we saw a fever tree had fallen over and has blocked the road, so while Mark and Skigh were looking for a new road around Mussa jumped up on the tree and started hacking away at it with the panga, we spend 1 hour clearing the tree branch by branch. We eventually managed to get it clear and continued on our road, but the bush got so thick we had to turn around. We continued back on the route we had just been down and finally made our way out of the forest.

It was starting to get really dark so Skigh was on the tracker seat and was shining the spotlight. As we turned at Maqueba windmill I saw something run in front of the vehicle. It took me a few seconds and a bit of a stutter to get it out but a LEOPARD had just walked in front of us and into the bush next to the vehicle!

We braked and reversed and managed to see it for a few seconds before it disappeared again. We found it again going down the road we had just been on across the flood plain, we continued to stay on it and followed it to the water where it lay down and drank. It then walked off into the reeds of the flood plains where we lost it.

It was amazing, and one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life that I will never forget! My mouth was dry as it was open the whole time. We all headed back to the camp all so excited about what we had just seen!

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