September 17, 2013

FIELD NOTES: SEPTEMBER 2013



"In all things of nature there is something of the marvellous.” (Aristotle)

Don’t know what to put into that Christmas stocking that needs filling up in the next couple of months? EcoTraining is ready with an array of courses at any of our wilderness camps across Southern Africa and in Kenya to suit all preferences – from the more serious that wish to enter the guiding industry on a full time basis to discerning nature lovers. 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…


TAKE NOTE


A picture is worth a thousand words, or so the saying goes… And in nature never a more true word has been spoken. You only need to look at an image of the natural world, to be touched to the core and wanting to go and explore. The same applies to moving images and the brand new EcoTraining tracking video. Go to www.ecotraining.co.za and have a look. We guarantee that you will be enticed to come and learn first-hand the traditional  art of tracking from authentic Shangaan tracker instructors.


ON THE HORIZON  

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!
7 Day Tracking:
6-12 October – Mashatu; 4-10 November – Karongwe
28 Day Safari Guide:
11 November-8 December – Karongwe; 26 November-23 December – Mashatu         
14 Day Conservation and Research:
12-25 November – Mashatu  


BEHIND THE KHAKI INSTRUCTOR’S UNIFORM: Lex Hes – Co-owner of EcoTraining

Lex Hes has been involved in the world of wildlife and conservation for close on 40 years. And as co-owner of EcoTraining, he has been sharing and imparting his wealth of knowledge of Africa’s wilderness areas. This with one goal in mind – raising and maintaining the standard of nature guiding on the continent.  Lex also leads tours all over Africa and is an author and nature photographer with five books to his credit, among them the highly acclaimed Leopards of Londolozi.  
Q: As a field guide, what are the highlights that make this career worth it? 
Spending time in the peace of the wilderness and observing the interactions of life, seeing the positive response of the clients to what we show them. 
Q: What are the challenging aspects of field guide duties? Not necessarily the challenges of encountering big game that deserves its own question!  
Mainly dealing with people from all walks of life and many different backgrounds and interests.  Getting to understand each individual to a point where they respond with enthusiasm and passion to the things that I show them.
Q: What was your first dangerous encounter with big game on foot with guests, and how scared were you at the time on a scale of 1 – 10?
A male lion charging me, 10/10 scared, but I stood my ground!
Q: Field guiding is mostly about your guests on safari. What would your tip be to a new field guide to advise him/her on handling their guests?  
Be a good listener.  Listen to what your guests are saying to you, either directly or indirectly and respond to their needs.  Once you meet their needs you are a long way towards getting your own message across.
Q: Field guiding is a ‘career of passion’ for those that want to live in and work with nature.  It’s a well-known fact that the earnings are less than many other jobs. Do you have any tips for field guides about how to get the best financially out of this work? 
If you love what you do, you’ll do it well and other things follow from that.  Look for alternative means of income: painting, writing, photography, lecturing, consulting.  Make the time and effort to do detailed studies of some of the animals you spend so much time observing with guests.  Results of such studies can lead to all kinds of things: movie-making, a book, and scientific papers.  You can become the expert.
Q: What is the most interesting wildlife moment you have had back at camp, night or day? 
There are many! One comes to mind.  Walking guests to their room one night in Botswana, we came across a leopard lying on the boardwalk at the door of their tent! The leopard would not move, so we had to take the guests to my tent. I moved my luggage out, gave them toothbrushes and they were to spend the night there without their luggage. I went back to their tent to find blood on the boardwalk at the door.  I looked up into tree to see a red lechwe calf hanging over a branch directly above their door.  By this time the leopard had jumped off the boardwalk, so I was able to move my luggage in and get their luggage.  I spent the night trying to sleep with the leopard regularly feeding on kill a couple of metres from my head!
Q: As a photographer, which is your favourite animal to photograph and why? 
It is never easy to answer this kind of question as there are so many interesting things to photograph.  Favourites that come to mind are meerkats and dwarf mongoose because of their busy life-styles which can lead to interesting shots.
Q: During your field guiding career, has there ever been an animal that you have got to know particularly well and do you have any particular fond memories associated with that animal? 
In terms of an individual animal I spent most time with a female leopard called simply “The Mother”.  I observed her for 12 years and watched her raise 9 litters of cubs.  There were too many special moments with her and her cubs to highlight one, but generally it was the times when she rested with the cubs as they played around her.


THROUGH THE BUSH TELEGRAPH

Office: The dedicated team at head office in Nelspruit is ready to answer all your questions and queries. Don’t hesitate to contact them! For more information, visit www.ecotraining.co.za or send an email to enquiries@ecotraining.co.za.

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: The only guarantee in life is that there are no guarantees, or something to this effect. And on an EcoTraining course you can surely count on the unexpected to happen at any moment, to the delight of all involved.
This is exactly what the participants on a 28 Day Safari Guide course experienced at our Karongwe wilderness camp.


Massimo Rebuzzi sent through this exciting update:
We were looking for rhinos for a while until we came across fresh tracks two days into the course. We ended up following and tracked down a mother and her calf and stayed with her for a while.
We did a sleep out in the dry riverbed of the Matumi river where we managed to get a friction fire started with two sticks after quite a few blisters. I also showed them how to make bark bracelets, wood whistles and snares in case of a survival situation, among many other things.
We found a big male lion on a zebra that he killed and had a good view. That same day we found a huge male leopard on a wildebeest which he killed the day before. We thought he was alone until he got up to drink in the open when a small female followed from behind the termite mound. We were pleasantly surprised when they came out in the open in the middle of the day to allow us to have a great sighting. They were mating the whole day. We also had a good day view of some spotted hyenas at their den with some cubs.
We decided to try track some white rhinos on foot. We battled to find fresh tracks until we looked in the river bed. Not only did we find tracks, but two rhinos walking our way, so I briefed the students as to how one should handle the situation.
They kept coming closer till I had to send the students to a safe zone behind a tree,  and then they picked up our scent and decided to run in our direction which made life a bit more exciting.
When we arrived back in camp that evening, the elephants were everywhere, throwing rubbish bins around and forcing our staff to retire into the bathrooms for two hours. We had a spectacular view while they mingled around camp then I had to escort the students back to their tents. There was also a huge male lion which walked through camp just before the elephants.
This afternoon we found a female cheetah with her four cubs. She was very relaxed and let us watch as her cubs played with each other on top of her. 
Last night was the same, we watched the whole herd feed through camp while we were safe on the upper decks. They have been in camp almost every night, providing the students with some amazing experiences.
I would say overall a great course!”

Makuleke (Kruger National Park): A taste of life at EcoTraining’s wilderness camp in the Makuleke concession in the northern Kruger National Park, through the artistic eyes of Candice Wagener, a former professional field guide student… The ARH (advanced rifle handling) and trails guide part of the course was held in this amazingly diverse area. It forms but 1% of Kruger, but holds about 75% of the biodiversity of this natural treasure.


THE ARTIST’S VISION
Is this how it’s really meant to be?
Just want to try help them break free
How much must one take
The truth, it seems so fake

A simple movement with the brush
The artist has no time to rush
You walk by, stop and look
Caught hanging on his hook
A line here and there
The canvas fills with tender care

Still watching as the picture begins to form
All you can make out is a horn
The background comes into play
His creation on display

In the street he paints
The audience grows as they all
Decided stay

The last stroke of his brush
He stands and his painting, now in full view
A mother and her child
At ease in the wild
The sun setting behind the mountain
As they drink from the natural fountain
Their horns look firm and strong
Without them, it just seems wrong

One day it’ll be too late
So why must we wait?

Kenya: Training in action: Masai Mara style! EcoTraining has been the leader in field guide training in Africa for longer than 20 years, and we are still growing! Instructor Chris Stamper recently travelled to the Masai Mara where he shared and imparted his knowledge at Alex Walker's Serian. Pictures do indeed tell a wonderful story, take a look and if it tickles your adventurous spirit, go to www.ecotraining.co.za, and check out a whole array of courses on offer, you won't regret it!






“MEET YOU IN THE BUSH”

From humble beginnings way back in 1993, when a handful of passionate individuals saw the opportunity to provide the tourism industry with qualified nature-guides, to the leader in this field today.
This is the story of EcoTraining.
For the past 20 years, thousands of people with a deep love for nature, an appreciation of all things wild and wonderful and a passion for conservation, have attended our courses in wilderness camps across Africa.  And armed with this knowledge, they have gone on to make a difference and spread the message of reconnecting with nature in a meaningful way.


Michael Clark, who trained with EcoTraining more than 10 years ago, is currently in Nepal, training up young Nepali naturalists. 
Says Michael:
“The variety of subjects is incredibly diverse and comprehensive, and the practical element provides you with experiences that are hard to put into words. Anyone who is serious about a career in ecotourism or simply wants a sabbatical from work, the experiences you can have on a course can lead to a whole new way of life, and provide you with memories to truly cherish.”
Like Marc Lindsay Rea, who says he’s now living the dream, thanks in part to EcoTraining who has put him in a very privilege position indeed, as a fully qualified field guide leading people into the wilderness and onto memory-making adventures.
“I have such a thirst for acquiring knowledge about wildlife and nature from around the world and I am lucky to have the privilege to guide guests through these exciting places. I thank and appreciate everybody and every company that has put in many long hours to help get me to the position I am at now. Thank you!”
Yes, we are essentially a field guide training company, training guides for the industry. But with shorter courses and excursions on birding, tracking, photography and bush survival, and from anything between four and 28 days, we are also catering to the tourist with a conscience.
Today’s tourist is a thinking traveller who wants to have fun while gaining a better understanding of the natural world. And this is where a company like EcoTraining is stepping in and creating an experience with a difference.
Like Richard Schmid from Switzerland who was born in Mombasa and spent the first seven years of his life in Kenya. He went back to the country of his birth to take part in a 28 Day Field Guide course in the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.
For Richard there’s no other way to travel.
“I travel like this all the time, to go out and actually do something, on a course like this to be directly and actively involved in something. I now know so much more, my base of knowledge has broadened considerably and I’m not regretting it for one moment. We have an ecological responsibility and I think people are becoming more and more aware of it all the time.”
Through the years the EcoTraining qualification have become the trusted nature-guide training standard in the industry, giving people from all walks of life and from all over the globe the opportunity to become one with nature. We have trained all across the African continent and also in many other parts of the world.
And our wilderness camps in South Africa (Makuleke, Selati, Karongwe), Botswana (Mashatu) and Kenya (Lewa), is where it is all happening. It’s in these simple unfenced bush camps in the middle of these great wilderness areas participants truly get to experience what it is like to live in wild places. Under the guidance of experienced instructors, countless hours are spend walking or driving in the bush, and an understanding of our place in the natural world is cultivated.
Africa indeed just has its way with people. The continent’s wild and wonderful places lure people from all over the globe, to come and explore and then to return wherever they are from with vivid memories to last a life time.
You will get all this, and so much more, on an EcoTraining course.
But don’t just take our word for it. From the horse’s mouth, or in this case, Nick Baker, a former professional field guide course participant:
The beauty of this 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… 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…  The bush does funny things to your head. It has got inside mine…”


GREEN SPOTLIGHT: WALKING FOR LIONS


Walking for Lions is a (non-profit) organisation that was created for the main purpose to assist wild lions in areas where they need it.
Walking for Lions stands for the protection and survival of all wild lions. It is something that we can do that will benefit the wild lions in the long term, and it stands for something that we do, not gain or take from them, but try and provide it for them. We will walk the path with them during their struggles and we will learn to understand them more and more during all this worldly changes that we face.
One thing that stays consistent in the world is the saying that (knowledge is power, and power is gained by knowledge) and for this reason, we would like to make everybody more aware of the constant struggle that lions face in the 20th century.
Our Slogan (Don’t Talk, Just Walk) comes from our idea that it is always very easy to talk about things but very difficult to act on them. We can only act, once we receive more support from everybody that could possibly assist, and when you assist, it can mean from providing your own experience, funds from organisation, donations or just simply by word of mouth.
The aims and objectives are simple and straight forward – to support and study the wild lions population that are still currently surviving in small pockets of Africa and to ensure their future survival  for our future generation to enjoy and observe in the same ways as we have done for thousands of years.
How this will be done is another matter on its own and a challenge that not ONE person can do alone.
What makes us different from any other organisation out there to help?
You will just have to wait and see for yourself …
We have always had a great relationship with a company called EcoTraining and after a few discussions regarding lion conservation and conservation education, it was decided that they would help us with some funds to insure we can continue doing a proper Lion Density Survey and Education within Botswana. We would like to thank EcoTraining for their moral support and financial support as this means we can complete our surveys with much better results.
Some of the members of WFL have done EcoTraining courses years ago and through this platform it has helped us pass on the knowledge and skills to others. As we have always said; pay it forward, whether it is through funds, knowledge, skills or education as we can only save species when forces join.


CONTACT INFORMATION

Like our official fan page on Facebook at EcoTraining; and join our Twitter page @EcoTraining to get all the latest updates!

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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