May 13, 2013

FIELD NOTES: MAY 2013





“We pay too much attention to the surface of the earth. It presents itself so obviously to our eyes. We forget the layers above and below.” (Artist John Wolseley)

The first half of 2013 is almost done and dusted, wow, how time flies when you are having fun! And there is still plenty of exciting times ahead for the rest of the year 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 pique your interest and whet the appetite, read and take a look what happened in the last month…


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!

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
21-27 July: Seven Day Birding – Karongwe  
25-31 July: Seven Day Tracking – Selati
28 July-10 August: EcoQuest – Kenya
10 August-6 September: 28 Day Kenya Safari Guide – Lewa Wildlife Conservancy


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…

Karongwe: Imagine almost a month of living and learning in nature at one of our wilderness camps and then using this knowledge to give your safari and bush holidays a whole new meaning. Then the EcoTraining 28 Day Safari Guide course from 28 July-24 August at our camp on the banks of the Karongwe River in the Karongwe Private Game Reserve, literally a stone’s throw from the Kruger National Park, is just for you!
This course is aimed at those wishing to experience a bush holiday in South Africa, whilst also learning about the environment they are in – it is for those that are passionate about nature, who would like a more in-depth experience and understanding of it. 

 
And what a place Karongwe is for experiencing something like this. You are bound to have sightings of leopard, lion and cheetah as well as elephant and white rhino. As the camp itself is unfenced, we often have four-legged guests sniffling about, hyenas regularly doing their nightly patrols.
It is a learning experience from the minute you arrive with the days starting at first light, in the colder months around 06:00 and in summer as early as 04:30. Then a quick sip of coffee and some rusks before the different groups goes off – either on a vehicle or on own steam through the bush. For the next couple of hours nature is the classroom, with the instructors sharing their knowledge and wisdom. And heads are shook in amazement about how little we know and how much more still lies hidden.
As they say, there is no conservation without education.  So become a green warrior and join EcoTraining on the adventure of a lifetime! There are still some places left!

Makuleke (Kruger National Park): With the Wilderness Trails Skills course EcoTraining wants to give back to the industry and conservation, introduce guides to one another and share what they have.
The 5 nights/6 days course will be spend exploring one of South Africa last true wilderness areas on foot. The Makuleke is a 24 000 hectare concession of pristine wilderness inside the Kruger National Park.
Bruce Lawson, one of South Africa’s premier wilderness guides and one of only a hand full of guides who have passed the SKS DG and Birding qualifications, will be tutoring each course. Lessons you will be taught will not be found in any books, but will rather be hands on learning.


Maybe an encounter like this one on a previous Wilderness Trails Skills course explains it even better. In Bruce’s own words:
“While we were all down preparing lunch a large bull elephant also decided he wanted to spend time in the forest.  We all sat quietly while he approached having a massive scratch on a tree 20m from where Brett was standing.  He continued to approach unaware of us and in his own world. Brett raised his right hand when the bull got to 10m in an attempt to make him aware of us which it did.  He stopped, looking surprised, rocked back onto his back feet, looked down at Brett turned slowly and sauntered off in a different direction.  What an amazing experience!”
With the Wilderness Trails Skills course EcoTraining wants to give back to the industry and conservation, introduce guides to one another and share what they have.

Mashatu (Botswana): One of EcoTraining’s most popular courses is the professional field guide course. For one year you will be exposed to diverse ecological and geological terrains, landscapes, wildlife species and so much more at our wilderness camps in places like Makuleke, Karongwe, Selati (South Africa) and Mashatu (Botswana). A constantly stimulating environment to learn is aided by our instructors, all having many years of guide training experience and time in the bush, and each with their own unique way of training and guiding that will enhance your overall training experience.
But don’t just take our word for it. From the horse’s mouth, or in this case, Nick Baker, who recently finished his yearlong adventure. 
“I have finished my Ecotraining year course and I am still in the Bush. It is Shepherds Bush in London. I have survived African blasting heat, freezing cold, torrential rain, floods, tick bites, snakes under the bed, animal charges, getting lost, getting found again, blisters, broken down cars, broken down people. And that was just the first year.


Last year, having retired from 30 years of corporate life, I decided on a second career move and decided to spend a year guide training in South Africa. South Africa was the choice due to attractions of the African bush and the structure of the guide training. It was a really good choice and I would recommend it to anyone prepared to leave behind the trappings of civilisation and immerse themselves in the ecology of Africa.
The beauty of Ecotraining’s year course is the extended time one spends out there, nothing is rushed and every day one learns something new, building a quite awesome knowledge base. However one thing you learn quickly is that however much you may think that you have learned, there are folk who know so much more and have deep years of bush experience.

This clearly manifests through the course instructors. I am not sure what I was expecting but each and every instructor is a well of knowledge and fascinating personality, each leaves a significant impression, all are different, most are mad, Graeme Cooke is definitely mad.
So my first people thank you is to all those instructors who spent time with us, showed patience, interest, passion... Dries, Shani, Les, Graeme, Chris, Mark, Dale, Bruce and Dee, Mark, JP and Margaux, Rhodes, Alan, Duncan, Brian and Chantelle and the list goes on… Forgive me if I have missed anyone, you know who you are and you are the backbone of Ecotraining, may you live long and prosper.
The second big people thank you goes to all the backups, kitchen staff and assorted support staff who make all the camps run. Again a rich set of individual personalities and a vital part of the camp machinery. Only the Selati kitchen staff can dance like that.
The third people thank you goes to my fellow students, a true miscellany of mixed age, nationality and ambition. We have now dispersed, many to pursue further careers in the industry. I will remember you for a long time. Success and happiness to you all.
Now I have not even got to the primary reason for setting off on this journey which was to build a deeper appreciation of the African bush. I miss it today and will miss it every day that I am not there. The experience is total and is built of a complicated set of components, animals, birds, trees, plants, insects, soil, water, weather, stars. Sights, sounds, smells, magic. I never thought that I would say the words Northern Fluffy Flowered Jackal Coffee, let alone find the plant.
The bush does funny things to your head. It has got inside mine, so I am going back to work there again, initially in Malawi, Wilderness Chelinda Lodge, thereafter who knows. I will meet you in the bush...”


Lewa (Kenya): With the camp fire taking the chill out of the night air, imagine having dinner while being serenaded by a lion making his presence known not too far off.
This is exactly what you’ll experience when signing up for an EcoTraining course in the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya. And there are still dates available for 2013 – 28 July-10 August (EcoQuest) and 10 August-6 September (28 Day Kenya Safari Guide).
For the adventurous at heart, and those seeking an experience with a difference, this one is for you and Lewa is the place to be.
Your days will be filled with exciting experiences while gaining valuable knowledge and insight into the natural world.
And what better way to obtain literally hundreds of interesting facts about Mother Nature and her inhabitants in a classroom setting like this – within sight of grazing Grevy’s and Plains zebra, browsing Reticulated giraffes, frolicking impalas and the twittering of superb starlings and white browed sparrow weavers. Not to mention the ever present vervet monkeys, with instructors having to storm out with a “agghhh” on more than one occasion when they get away with some of the goodies from the kitchen tent.
The Safaricom campsite is the base of EcoTraining’s operations in the LWC and it is in this magnificent setting that the students will wake up every morning.  Returning to camp just as the sun is setting every day, with the lanterns lit and a scrumptious meal waiting, it really feels like home.
Within days of arrival (and sometimes even hours…), participants can expect some amazing sightings. And it will go something like this that was experienced by a previous group – two rhino encounters, two sets of elephants and buffalo in the distance; three elephant sightings with buffalo and rhinos in the distance and good birds along the swamp; two buffalo encounters with elephants in the distance;  29 reticulated giraffe together;  Abyssinian scimitar bill. And so the list will just grow and grow.
In between these wonderful sightings, some time of course will have to be made for the classroom and the theoretical component of the course. Under the experience tutelage of the instructor, subjects like geology and soils, mammals, reptiles, birds, animal behaviour, tracks and tracking and creating a guided experience, will be covered. At night time the laser pointer will be directed skywards and the sky becomes the lecture hall with astronomy coming alive.
Of course for the grey matter to continue functioning at the best levels, it has to be fed with fuel from a different kind. Scrumptious meal after scrumptious meal is served from a basic, but fully functioning kitchen. Fresh fruit and vegetables, warm bread and even a chocolate cake with creamy icing will appear on the table…
So, if you feel the lure of the African continent, if you want to come and explore and return home with vivid memories to last a life time, get in touch with EcoTraining.


“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 Nadia Alalul.


For the last three years EcoTraining, the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature in Jordan and Tetra Tech, a consultancy firm, have been working together to transform the conservation and guiding sectors in Jordan.
An opportunity like this, for conservation bodies and training facilities across the globe to strike up partnerships, resulted in the graduation of four young Jordanians after they successfully completed EcoTraining's yearlong professional field guide course.
Nadia was one of the fortunate four.
Apart from being amazed at the amount of knowledge they accumulated, Nadia said she is fully aware of the huge responsibility now resting on their shoulders, to transform and help shape the guiding industry in a different part of the world.
“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.
All in all this has been an amazing adventure and I had the time of my life! Make no mistake, it has been gruelling and the amount of information that I have absorbed has been enormous but I have learnt so much and everything has been interesting. I can recognize hundreds of bird calls, achieved a track-and-sign level 1, can tell the difference between a black and white rhino by looking at their dung, which way a leopard is moving and whether it’s a female or male by looking at its tracks in the dirt, and I know which tree can ease my pain and which one could kill me.
But most importantly, 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.”

EXPERIENCE WHAT NADIA IS TALKING ABOUT… SEND AN EMAIL TO ENQUIRIES@ECOTRAINING.CO.ZA OR GO TO WWW.ECOTRAINING.CO.ZA. YOU WON’T REGRET IT!


CONTACT INFORMATION
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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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