April 3, 2013

FIELD NOTES: APRIL 2013


“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” (Gandhi)

Knock, knock… Who’s there? Eco… Eco who? EcoTraining, adventure and excitement! There are still 9 months left of this year and we are still committed to make 2013 a memorable one. The courses are stacked and lined up at all our wilderness camps across Southern Africa and in Kenya. To tickle your interest and whet the appetite, read and take a look what happened in the last month…

TAKING NOTE
Come live and walk amid the spectacular wildlife of the African bush, experience things and gather knowledge that will blow you away. Like this amazing look at a rising full moon, where instructors will share and impart their knowledge about astronomy and give you a glimpse into this unique and wonderful world. 

From a handful of dates to a year, EcoTraining provides a choice of courses that prove to be endless.  Follow the link to our website (www.ecotraining.co.za) where you will get more details on the types of courses, dates and other important information. Or send an email to enquiries@ecotraining.co.za. We look forward to inviting you to one of our camps, so go on, have a look, you won’t regret it!


WHAT’S COMING UP
There are 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! 



23-28 April: Wilderness Trails Skills – Makuleke
1-28 May: 28 Day Safari Guide - Karongwe
5 May-27 June: 55 Day FGASA Level One – Mashatu/Karongwe
13 May-9 June: Trails Guide – Makuleke
27 May 2013-23 March 2014: Professional Field Guide Course
29 May-21 July: 55 Day FGASA Level One – Selati/Karongwe
21–26 June: Wilderness Trails Skills – Makuleke
28 July-10 August: EcoQuest – Kenya


LATEST NEWS
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 in the last month, it sure is a good indication of what will probably happen in the months to follow…

Selati: There’s never a dull moment on any of EcoTraining’s courses or in any of our wilderness camps. Margaux le Roux who is based with husband JP at Selati, explains exactly why:
“As the assistant instructor and the ‘mom’ of the camp, I often have to tell students to pick up their belongings and to not let their things lay around. I always use examples of snakes, scorpions and spiders who often crawl into people’s belongings, and who when provoked, might end up stinging or biting some unsuspecting soul. Now however, I have a new example to use in my repertoire of ‘Please don’t let your things lay around’…
After all the floods and excitement of moving tents due to rising floodwaters, we decided to give the students a well-deserved ‘off day’ to spend at leisure. Most of the group went to either Tzaneen or Hoedspruit for the day, but a handful remained in camp, and to treat them, I said we could go out on an afternoon game drive all by ourselves. What a treat we were in for!
The sun was setting rapidly, and as darkness descended the radio call came in: ‘There are lions in camp! They are close to Tent 13!’ We raced off back to camp after I instructed all the guys in camp to gather in the main lecture area or to stay in their tents. As we approached the camp, we decided to go and see exactly where the lions were, and how many there were so that we could make a judgement call as to what the next plan of action would be.


As we came around the corner, there they were; 3 of them, sprawled out in the middle of the pathway leading from the instructor’s tent to tent 13. It was a lioness and her sub-adult nephew and niece. They were quite relaxed before the young male got up and walked to tent 12. As he disappeared out of view we kept on looking at the older lioness who was very relaxed with in our company.
After a while we saw the youngster appear again: this time with a white object in his mouth. At first we could not see what exactly it was, but then the student that was sitting on the tracker seat exclaimed: ‘Hey! That’s my shoe!’ The youngster had walked all the way to the outside of his tent and had managed to pick up his Reebok Flip Flop. We could not help but laugh at the situation – especially at Christo, the owner of the shoe’s face. It was absolutely priceless!
The jokes started immediately with statements such as ‘Don’t get stroppy with me’ and ‘That youngster has a lot of sole’. He did not even seem guilty as he moved off towards the river to go and chew on his new found toy.
The lioness started to get restless and she started to move off before the two youngsters decided to follow her. We quickly rushed back to the rest of the students to fetch them so that they could also see the cats before they disappeared into darkness.
It was only 2 days later that we managed to find the shoe – half eaten and smelling really rotten. My moral of the story of course is ‘Please don’t let your things lay around. We have lions with a fondness of chewing people’s shoes!’”

Makuleke (Kruger National Park): The cherry on top after participating in the Professional Field Guide course (one year) is always the graduation ceremony. Group 6C had their ‘capping party’ recently at Makuleke and fun was had by all after all the hard work and effort in the preceding months. Take a look! (And good luck to all the guys and girls in their future endeavours!)





Mashatu (Botswana): The devastating floods that caused a great wave of destruction in the northern parts of the country in January had far reaching effects. One was the Motloutse River in Botswana becoming infested with Nile crocodiles from a crocodile farm in South Africa. EcoTraining’s wilderness camp in Mashatu in Botswana, that was partially washed away but up and running again, recently helped in the recapturing of those crocodiles. Clinton Phillips sent through this update:
“Estimates of up to ten thousand crocs were washed out of their pens into the raging Limpopo River. As water levels slowed, large (5m) and medium to small (1m) crocs spread out and upward along the Motloutse River, inundating the banks and deep pools.
The future of these crocodiles was never good but always certain whether in the wild along the Motloutse and Limpopo River, or back in their farm pens. They were bred for the leather and meat industry and the Motloutse ecosystem does not have capacity to sustain such numbers.
Considering the number of crocodiles that escaped, it was inevitable that their capture was on the cards.  It was important to get them out of the ecosystem as they were sure to be impactful on prey numbers and were destined for a horrible death of starvation and dehydration.



So, the EcoTraining team of instructors and students went out at night to assist with the capture. And we did our bit for conservation in the wildlife area.”

Lewa (Kenya): Instructor Mark Gunn and the bunch of students attending a 28 Day Kenyan Safari Guide course in the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy had a rocking four weeks. Read and enjoy just one of their adventurous days:
Up at 04:30. Quick breakfast and off to Borana. Hope to find their lions. Impala alarm calling in our camp. Can't see the predator.  Verreaux’s eagle owl and pearl spotted owl calling...  05:00 depart... The headlights cut a thin line through the darkness as we drive over the grass plains... Stop at a dam. Crocodile, marabou storks, pink backed pelican, white stork, yellow billed stork and other waders. Lovely.... Trees and hills are taking dim shape as the sky lightens. The stars are fading...  Mount Kenya to our left. Borana hills visible in front... Sunrise... Two giraffe to our left...  Hyena calling. That is what was out there... Southern Cross, Scorpius and the Big Dipper are up. Eastern sky is starting to lighten... Jackal family with five pups. Hadedas and turtle doves greeting the dawn... Plains zebra on the right and grants gazelle to the left... Flock of 34 sacred ibis flying past... Yellow necked spurfowl in the road... Black bellied bustard just flew passed the front of the vehicle... More giraffe... Now entering mixed savanna. Acacia seyal and Acacia drepanalobium... Kori bustard male up ahead. Eland in the background...  At the Borana gate. We are waiting for the gate guard... Oh here he comes... 




We are on Borana. Riverine trees along the stream... A giraffe on the left, four on the right and another five on the left side... Long climb up the zigzag road... Another giraffe... Giraffe silhouetted on hill... Low range, second gear... The valley drops away behind us... Six buffalos on the left, two on the right. Waterbuck crossed the road... We are rushing to meet the guy who monitors the lions... The lion man is out with guests. We are on a hill overlooking the area. Trying to see them. Waiting for him to come out... Can hear the lion in the valley below. Elephant on the opposite hill... We have now found the lion man. Very steep downhill... Have wound our way up another valley through thick trees. Huge tree euphorbias and magic guarri trees. Stopped to use the telemetry... Still no lions... After a lot of back and forth getting telemetry signals from all angles, we have found a large male lion peacefully dozing under a bush amongst the trees... He is looking up now. A battle scared visage stares out across the lugga (valley)... We have left the lion. On the way to return the lion man we have a bull elephant on the right in a lugga browsing on the trees... Early lunch near the windmill. Elephant herd just below us... Snow covered flanks of Mount Kenya visible up the valley... Our lunch break was cut short by a herd of elephant coming to drink... We are all in the car. We and the elephants are waiting. They can smell us. They are suspicious but thirsty. If we behave they will come drink... Cool. We have retreated to give them a chance. They are moving in now... Reposition to see the water from a nearby slope... Fantastic view. Elephants at the tank. Fever tree behind and then Mount Kenya behind that... Moved off now. Going into the forest. Elephant and buffalo... We are following an old road round the mountain and then down the escarpment. We can see out over Lewa in the distance and Isiolo even further. The Matthews range of to the North... We are now down the escarpment. A drop of about 300m. Bad road. Tiring driving... Giraffe everywhere... Stopped at a nice exposure of metamorphic rock... Driving alongside the Ngare Ndare river. 3 elephant and greater kudu... Back on Lewa. Stopped at big dam. Swap drivers. Rhino at water. Pelican floating around... Grevy’s zebra, looking red because of dust bathing. Beisa oryx and warthog... Another reticulated giraffe. Grants gazelle and a kori bustard... Passing the jackal den. Only one visible this time... Rain clouds looming out of the east. We are all looking forward to a hot shower prepared by Richard, the camp man... Oryx and Grevy’s zebra... Two more rhino. Camp is in sight... Sorry it is three rhino... Lone buffalo bull out on the plains... Herd of about 40 Grevy’s zebra crossing the road ahead of us... All out to fill two aardvark holes in the road... Small herd of elephant at the swamp... Long crested eagle perched on a tree... Large breeding herd of impala... We have just driven into camp. An eleven hour epic game drive... End of the adventure.

“MEET YOU IN THE BUSH”
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!
Like Raymond Khosa, the head guide (FGASA Level 2 and Trails Guide) at Berg-en-Dal rest camp in the Kruger National Park.
Raymond’s journey started 12 years ago, when in 2000 he was one of ten students sponsored by Africa Foundation to study tracking with EcoTraining. Under the guidance from instructors Johan Lombard, Anton Lategan, Khimbile Mnisi and the late Lucky Mavanga he started honing his skills and learning more about nature and its inhabitants.
And Raymond has certainly put this knowledge and skills he obtained to good use ever since. His resume is testament to this – Londolozi Private Game Reserve, the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, safari drives and bush walks for Execu Bush Safaris, and freelance work at Mbombela Safaris, Echo Africa Safaris, Elephant Herd Tours & Safaris and Akeru Private Camp.
Today Raymond credits EcoTraining with his sound base of knowledge.
“Having done tracking at EcoTraining has provided me with a valuable experience of knowing the behaviour of the dangerous animals. I am able to identify the signs of the wild and interpret its meaning. I can also identify the tracks and know the meaning of some bird calls like oxpeckers, honey guides and fork-tailed drongos. All of these skills of course are very important for a field guide. My time at EcoTraining was a once in a life time experience, and sometimes I wish I can go back and do it all again.”

CONTACT INFORMATION
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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