September 6, 2013

MEET YOU IN THE BUSH: Passion lies in the pudding – Marnus Roodbol

EcoTraining has been in the business of training field guides for 20 years now. And from those humble beginnings, we have gone from strength to strength. It is therefore always heart-warming to here from ex-students and the good work they do in the name of conservation.

Like Marnus Roodbol.

In his own words:

“If you have passion for something you will eventually find the pudding that makes all the other things disappear, so before you think this article is about pudding, you are mistaken. The heading originates from where ones passion comes from and how it makes you feel once you have achieved it. It is something that is deep down inside your soul and very rarely comes out in this world due to worldly pressures.

Just like so many other passionate people out there, my passion for conservation also dated back before I was actually born most likely. When the time came to step up and start fighting for my passion, I had great support from friends and family to continue my dream and that dream was to learn as much as one can about wildlife and actually walk away one day from the planet leaving green footprints.

Taking on the role as a conservationist is an honour but has to be earned and respected. It is very similar to being a policeman or a soldier. These people also dedicate their lives to protect and serve other humans (society) and their country. So to take on the role of a field guide, researcher, ranger or even lodge manager is a commitment that has to be respected. Most conservationists know that there is very little money involved for what we are doing, but to exchange money for what we see, experience and live, no gold can purchase.

As the time came to leave school, it was time to go and follow my passion and I found a young company (at the time) called EcoTraining. The course I did was at this time the one mouth course as EcoTraining did not offer the year courses then, but that month was still something I will never forget. At the same time, the group I was with was also studying at college for our diplomas so it was a nice relief to be in the bush and learning from the masters themselves.

To be honest, our first year we did have a few late nights around the fire and concentration during the hot days were hard, but when we did the second year (advanced EcoTraining) we were well prepared; or so we thought. Some of our mentors from the first year, met up with us again the second year and knew us a little better than what we had hoped for, thus testing our weaknesses to a fine hair.

I remember there was a test where one of our mentors told us to go and sit on this huge flat rock and be by ourselves to just enjoy the sunset. Once we all split up and found our positions, we heard the Landrover start and off he was. Dumbstruck we all looked confused at each other and basically asking the blind to lead the blind.

We were in no major threats from game as the reserve has a few wildlife but we were not aware of this at the time. So we all huddled together, saw the sun was almost gone and decided to walk back to camp. Maybe this is a test to see how we can navigate at night? Maybe it’s a test to see how well we work together? Or maybe it’s a test to see how dumb (ignorant) we are as students. None the less, we made a group decision to walk back to camp, at night, with no torches or light (only little Nokia 3310 lights).
After an hour, we arrived with our mentor sitting at the deck, looking at us and smiling. Yes, we thought, this is a good sign and we will pass. The smile turned away quickly with a harsh talk around the camp fire about how and where we went wrong.

Ever since then, I have never really made ignorant decisions like this. It shows you that not only do you learn wildlife skills from Ecotraining, but you also learn some very valuable tips that will save your life in the future.

The smell of the pudding came closer and closer for me, and after a few years of guiding in fantastic lodges, it was time to focus more on specialised large cat research. Reintroductions, Large Carnivore Survey’s, Hand Raised species back into the wild and many more.

It sounded very romantic and was for a few years but after that, you kind of wonder if you as a person cannot do more for wildlife. There are truly so many rehab and captive centres around Southern Africa and still you hear of the wild population dwindling.

So to cut a long story short, I decided to take my little knowledge, large passion and go for the animal that scares me the most in life and that is the majestic lion. A species that does not have to earn respect, it demands it. And a species that is declining so fast in the wild, some determine that by the time the rhino population has subsided, the last lions of several areas in Africa will be gone.

If you ask me now how the pudding tastes, I can tell you for a fact that I am getting closer and closer to it, but will most likely only taste it when my time is up.

A very good quote which I heard in a movie once is; ‘can a man change his destiny?’ and the reply was ‘a man does what he can and at the end, his destiny will reveal itself’.

On behalf of Walking for Lions, we would like to say many thanks to the owners and staff of EcoTraining for supporting our organisation, and we know that we will change the outcome together.”

Thank you Marnus Roodbol for sharing, such inspiration!

For more on Walking for Lions, go to

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