February 5, 2013


“Nature is a mutable cloud which is always and never the same” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

The first month of 2013 is already done and dusted, wow, how time flies when you are having fun! And there is plenty of exciting times waiting just around the corner when you attend an EcoTraining course at any of our wilderness camps across Southern Africa and in Kenya. All you need to do is visit www.ecotraining.co.za or send an email to enquries@ecotraining.co.za to join in the action! To peak your interest and whet the appetite, read and take a look what happened in the last month…


Do you want the chance to learn the traditional art of tracking at the hands of authentic Shangaan tracker instructors? Do you want to get a glimpse into ancient skills taught by local African experts? EcoTraining aims to restore this indigenous knowledge by engaging with some of the last true indigenous experts. Now you stand a chance of winning a spot on a tracking course of this nature! All you have to do, is like EcoTraining – Ecotourism specials on Facebook or send a query related to the course via our website at www.ecotraining.co.za. The closing date of the competition is 28 February 2013. 

There’s still some spaces left on the courses below in the next couple of months. Experience things and gather knowledge that will blow you away. From a handful of days to one year, the choices are endless!

1 March-28 March: Trails Guide – Mashatu
6–12 March: Seven Day Wildlife Photography – Karongwe
16-22 March: Seven Day EcoQuest – Makuleke
28 March-10 April: 14 Day EcoQuest – Mashatu
5 April-29 May: 55 Day FGASA Level One – Selati (5 April-5 May), Pongola (5-29 May)
10-16 April: Seven Day Tracking – Mashatu  
10-23 April: 14 Day Tracking – Mashatu

Office: The dedicated team at head office in Nelspruit is ready to answer all your questions and queries. Don’t hesitate to contact them!

Camps: Every minute on one of our courses in our wilderness camps in South Africa, Botswana and Kenya is a learning experience, being constantly exposed to the bush. See what transpired at the end of 2012, it sure is a good indication of what can and probably will transpire in the months to follow…

Selati and Karongwe: Almost exactly a year since the big floods ripped through the greater Hoedspruit area, where we have wilderness camps in the Karongwe and Selati Game Reserves (18/19 January 2012), the heavens opened up again! And even though the students at the different camps, including at Makuleke in the Kruger National Park, and Mashatu in Botswana were wet to the bone, every single one remained safe and sound. It was yet again another example of the power of nature and all watched in amazement for a moment, before the adventure of learning more about all things wild and wonderful continued!

Selati: JP and Margaux le Roux are the respective head and assistant instructors at our wilderness camp here in the Selati Game Reserve. And something exciting is bound to happen where this dynamic duo is involved. Their students are indeed very privileged, sometimes even extremely lucky…
Margaux shares:
“… JP got a phone call from the assistant reserve warden of Selati. A neighbouring game farmer had caught a Southern African python. The snake had managed to crawl through a game fence where the farmer had several baby nyalas and a grey duiker in an enclosure. The snake had managed to catch the duiker and consume it, but it was not able to crawl through the small hole it had entered in the first place.
Unfortunately the snake got a big fright when the farmer and his workers approached it, and as is often the case, it regurgitated the meal up in order to escape. Fortunately for it, instead of killing the creature, the farmer caught the snake (and its slimy meal) and brought it to Selati where it would be released onto the property.
This is where we became involved. We were given the task to release the python onto the reserve. As the farmer had placed it in a big bag, we could not fully comprehend the size of the animal (other than gauging that it had to be large on account of the fully grown duiker male that it had killed).

We gathered all the students around, and found a suitable place to open the bag. At first nothing happened, and with a little bit of coaxing, the snake emerged out of the bag. Initially it was uncoiling itself, and then suddenly, it lunged forward at us, with mouth agape. It always amazes me how quickly these creatures can strike. Off course we gave it enough space, and we all just watched as the at least four meter beast started to move off. “

Makuleke (Kruger National Park): Fact is, when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. It doesn’t matter where you are. But when it’s out and about where wild animals roam, it can get a bit tricky.
As Judith van Heumen, a participant on a 28 Day Safari Guide course at our camp in the Makuleke concession in the far north of the Kruger National Park, explains. When nature calls, it calls.
“… I’ll tell you about my first day at Makuleke.
When we first arrived at camp, we got to know each other… Then we were ushered onto the vehicles for our first game drive, excitement abounded!

At our stop, Mark (Gunn, instructor) got of the vehicle, looked around and then pointed out some bushes and said ‘Ladies on the right, guys on the left.’ (I don’t need to explain this, do I?)
It was my first time answering ‘nature’s call’ in nature, if you know what I mean… I disappeared behind the bush and started to answer that call. One small problem though – when I looked down I saw a long slender body not very far away, yes, it was a snake!
I did exactly what we were told upon arrival in camp what we needed to do when we encountered one – don’t try and handle it, just shout ‘snake!’ And just as I yelled out very loud, the snake disappeared.
Mark started asking all the questions – what, how long, and so on. In the end we identified it as a puff adder.
So yes, on my first day at Makuleke I almost got very well acquainted with a snake while in a very compromising position. Needless to say, I didn’t have a camera with me. But from that day onwards, for the rest of the course, it was always around my neck!”

Mashatu (Botswana): There is so much to say about the Land of the Giants. But you kind of have to go there to get 'it'. EcoTraining is indeed very privileged to have a wilderness camp in this special corner of the Tuli blok in Northern Botswana. And since opening, Mashatu has attracted its fair share of attention, becoming a firm favorite with students from across the globe.
Like Heleen Roebeling from the Netherlands that spent a couple of weeks at Mashatu during a trails guide course. She shares some memories and photos.

"Staying at Mashatu, what a great experience it was indeed! And because of - the surroundings, the views, colours, emptiness, space! Approaching the animals on foot, feeling so close to these wonderful creatures, without disturbing them... And last but not least, instructors Brian Rode and Chantelle Venter, two wonderful, special and hardworking people. And, to me so important to see, two people with a real love for the environment, still touched by the beauty of nature. You two succeeded to share this with me, thank you so much! Mashatu will forever be very special and important to me."

The life of a field guide through the eyes of Ruth Welti: The saying goes, for a great variety of things in life, that you are only as good as your last … (you can fill in the dots). And when one decides to come on an EcoTraining course, you’d better believe that each day is going to be better than the previous.
There are however certain days that will stand out for individuals. Ruth describes one of those days, while on a 28 Day Safari Guide course at our wilderness camp in the Makuleke concession in the far north of the Kruger National Park. 
“… We arrived at Crook’s Corner, the spot where the borders of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique meet, and we just soaked in another beautiful spot in the concession. The Limpopo River didn’t have a lot of water, if we wanted to, we could have walked over to Zimbabwe or Mozambique.
We sat down for a couple of minutes, then decided to have a drink.
I can’t remember who saw or heard the elephant first. But then someone said ‘There is an elephant coming.’
Mark Gunn (instructor) and Ian Kruger (assistant) got up to have a look. And the elephant was literally just around the corner! They quickly moved the vehicles closer to us, just to make sure that the elephant didn’t come between us and our escape.

All of us were standing next to the vehicles and just snapping away, as this big bull elephant walked past…
He decided to walk through the bush, for a couple of minutes we could just hear the movement, without seeing him. It amazed me once again how quickly this big, grey animal just vanishes, incredible! 
Then the elephant came down to the spot where we were just sitting a couple of minutes ago. So beautiful to look at! He probably felt so safe, he wasn’t in a hurry, had a snack from time to time, and then proceeded to walk slowly across the Limpopo in the sunset. Stunning!”

For 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, so send us your stories!

Go and like our official fan page on Facebook at EcoTraining – Ecotourism specials.
Also visit us on www.ecotraining.co.za and if you have any questions or queries, send an email to enquiries@ecotraining.co.za.

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

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