December 7, 2012


“The born naturalist is one of the most lucky men in the world. Winter or summer, rain or shine, at home or abroad, walking or riding, his pleasures are always near at hand. The great book of nature is open before him and he has only to turn its leaves.” (John Burroughs) 

The countdown has begun and the end of 2012 is but a handful of weeks away… The past 12 months were filled with adventure, excitement and pure satisfaction for all and sundry who attended EcoTraining’s courses across Africa. With a new year filled with even more endless possibilities, the  call of the African wilderness remains as loud as ever and we are 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 with the clock counting down a fantastic year and other interesting snippets.



Congratulations to DONALD ALEX MALATJIE who has won that sought after spot on the acclaimed EcoTraining Wildlife Photography Course (with Premier Magazine & Lounges). Donald will have the opportunity of a lifetime in the New Year when he will get the opportunity to learn more about getting that perfect shot under the guidance of an experienced wildlife photographer in the Karongwe Game Reserve where we have one of our wilderness camps. 


2013 is around the corner and if you have the urge to make a break and head for the bush, get yourself a place on one of our courses.  Come live and walk amidst the spectacular wildlife of the African bush, experience things and gather knowledge that will blow you away. From a handful of days to one year, the choices are endless! Follow the link to our website ( where you will get more details on the types of courses, dates and other important information. Or send an email to


Office: The dedicated team at head office in Nelspruit is ready to take a well-deserved break after a hard but very rewarding year. There is however still time to send your questions and queries through before the clock strikes 12, so don’t hesitate!  ‘Good bye’ and good luck with their new ventures was said to Marxanne de Villiers (logistics and support) and Corne Schalkwyk (marketing manager). And then subsequently ‘Welcome!’ to Shaun Byrnes.

Even though the EcoTraining team has changed with people coming and going in the office in Nelspruit and at the various camps, the passion for what they are doing is stronger than ever. And when the books are closed and the lectures out in the bush are finished, there's always time to have fun! Like the year-end party where the current team got together and showed that they know how to dress up! See if you can recognize the faces in something other than khaki and with some crazy head decorations... 

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 transpired in the past month!

Karongwe: To experience the unexpected on an EcoTraining course, no matter at which wilderness camp and in which country, is a given. As they say, the only thing in nature that is certain is that nothing is certain…  Like Gabriela Brunner explains about the most unusual sighting that has created a memory to last a life time for the very fortunate students that were on an EcoQuest course:  
“We heard on the radio about a pangolin sighting. I was VERY excited and all of a sudden it wasn’t that cold anymore. There was a lion sighting as well and we first went for the lions. It was an adult male adult, a juvenile male and two females. Karin was on the tracker seat and only two meters away from the adult male as he regurgitated and vomited next to her feet. Awesome!
And then it got even better, as on our way back to camp we drove by the pangolin sighting, I nearly died... There it was, my first pangolin ever! This shy, nocturnal animal came out in the cold rainy weather and was lying like a giant pine cone between the trees.

I still can’t believe how lucky we were to see one of these rare creatures! It was just lying and didn’t move so I first feared that it was dead but then I saw it breathing. Whew, what feeling of relief! So we stood there for quite some time and couldn’t believe what we were experiencing.
I feel so privileged that I am one of very few people to have seen a pangolin.”

Segera (Kenya): Since September, six local guides from Segera in Laikipia have been undergoing training in all aspects of field guiding under the tutelage of EcoTraining’s highly experienced instructors. This on-going process is the result of cooperation with the Wilderness Collection (Wilderness Safaris) to give guests the best possible guided experience.

Instructor Mark Gunn describes one of those unexpected, unique and utterly thrilling experiences that occurred at Segera where he spent some time:
“We went on a game drive… And even though I’ve been doing this job for a while, this was definitely a highlight.
We found a herd of camels with their herdsman. We stopped and had a tea break with him while the camels roamed around us. They were browsing and grazing quite close to the table we were having our tea at. The whole scene of having tea with the camels was absolutely fantastic. It had a certain peace and tranquility about it. Having tea surrounded by strange animals all peacefully grazing and browsing was just something else. 
After our tea we headed home and encountered a breeding herd of elephants and we did a slow quiet parallel drive with many a quiet time to watch and listen to them feeding and walking through the long grass. When they moved out of range they were silhouetted against the skyline. A long line of dark shapes peacefully drifting through the short trees.
Peace and tranquillity at its purest.”

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. 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 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…
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!”

The life of a field guide through the eyes of Mark Gunn: From taking care of and looking after animals when he started out as a zookeeper, to encountering the big and hairies in true wilderness areas for the last 15+years, Mark Gunn has many years’ experience working in the bush and has an enormous interest in all creatures great and small.
His years of experience is backed up by a list of qualifications – Level 3 FGASA Field and Trails Guide, VPDA (Viewing Potentially Dangerous Animals), Level 2 Tracker, Level 3 track and sign interpretation, registered FGASA assessor. 
For the past five years he has been an instructor for EcoTraining, the last two as a roving instructor in South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia. He has shared and imparted his wealth of knowledge with hundreds of students from all over the world.  Taking his instructing seriously, he has been able to use his teaching techniques to create exceptional fun for all participants. Catching insects and picking up stones is just part of everyday life, spending hours analysing the complexity in each subject of fascination.

He shares a diary entry from the wilderness camp in the Makuleke concession in the Kruger National Park:
“We tried to go frogging, followed by a star session. Plans were made and the cooler box packed for a drink afterwards. Upon arrival at the chosen site we were greeted by a herd of buffalo. While waiting for the buffalo to move off a leopard came walking down the road and passed within two meters of the vehicle. We followed the leopard and when it walked off into the bush we went back to try for the frogs. The pan was too far from the road though and the grass too long. We went to the water trough instead, but there were only tadpoles and mosquito larvae. The next option was to do a star talk. This was about the only thing that went to plan. The sky was clear, the moon had set and there was no light pollution. Lesson learned – when an interesting distraction happens, adapt to the new situation. Can you imagine the reaction if I had ignored the leopard just because we were on a frogging trip?”


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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