March 3, 2014

Live the Mashatu Magic - March Newsletter

“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.” (Gary Snyder)

2014 certainly started off with a bang at EcoTraining's wilderness camps across Southern Africa. The participants on various courses have already experienced a great deal and more is sure to follow! Come quench your thirst for knowledge and take your pick out of an array of courses. Let’s make this year one to remember!

Upcoming Courses
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:

Professional Field Guide
31 May 2014 – 15 April 2015 (All camps)
FGASA Field Guide Level 1
09 April - 02 June 2014 (Selati, Karongwe)
Wilderness Trails Skills
31 May - 05 June (Makuleke) 

Mashatu (Botswana): Why would you choose our Mashatu wilderness camp for your EcoTraining experience?

Perhaps for the unique beauty and unrivalled animal sightings.

EcoTraining’s wilderness camp in Mashatu, Botswana truly embodies all that defines Africa. Located in the Northern Tuli Reserve, this Land of Giants offers vast open spaces, with an array of wildlife from the miniscule to those big grey gentle giants. These wander through the dynamic landscape of sand stone ridges and fossilised sand dunes, secret valleys, preserved springs...

Following in the footsteps of the largest herd of free roaming elephant on private land, picking up the spoor of lions, leopards, brown hyenas, bat eared foxes, aardwolves, cheetahs, and at night with the help of a spotlight scouring the plains for a glimpse of dwellers like porcupines, aardvarks, genets and civets.

EcoTraining’s wilderness camp in Mashatu, Botswana truly embodies all that defines Africa. Located in the Northern Tuli Reserve, where the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers meet, this Land of Giants offers vast open spaces, with an array of wildlife from the miniscule to those big grey gentle giants. These wander through the dynamic landscape of sand stone ridges and fossilised sand dunes, secret valleys, preserved springs and rolling basal plaints.

The unfenced camp is situated under shady apple leaf trees on the banks of the Motloutse River. Outside the camp there are big rocky outcrops that can be climbed to provide spectacular views of wide open plains, dotted by thorn bushes, dense thickets of fever berry crotons and huge Mashatu trees lining the river bed. All of these areas are saturated with wildlife.

The vastness of the landscape and the abundance of wildlife combine for an unforgettable experience. Like this one…

“Creeping forward a few paces at a time, stalking from one fresh paw print to the next, straining to hear the alarm calls, rustling bushes, low growls, anything to alert us that we were getting closer to our quarry.

As it was, even though the vegetation opened up slightly to allow us to see more than a few metres in front of us, we didn’t actually see the male lion we were following until we were only 15 metres away – at about the same time that he saw us. As we hurriedly tried to focus on our training at this moment – don’t run, stand still, stay behind the leader – the massive lion stood up, growled low and charged us, twice.

I may forget many things over the course of my life, but these images will forever remain etched upon my memory – the sight of the lion rushing towards us, our instructor Chantelle leaping forward and screaming to scare him off, crashing through the branches to get out of the lion’s sight, the retreat we made through the fever berries (cautious at first, then rapidly picking up pace), back to the river bank, laughing and shaking in equal measures as we emerge from the lingering effect of a massive adrenaline rush in the shade of the only tree we could see.” Dare to cross the Limpopo River, the view from the other side is spectacular and let the Mashatu Magic take you on a wild ride!

EcoTraining offer the following courses in Mashatu:
FGASA Trails Guide
BQA Level 2 Walking Nature Guide
BQA Level 2 Vehicle Nature Guide
Animal Tracks and Tracking
EcoTraining Botswana is accredited with the Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA) to train and assess learners in Botswana against various FGASA qualifications as well as programmes aligned to the recently launched National Guiding Qualification system under BQA in Botswana.

These courses are structured to maximize the practical experience of our learners in the bush. Each day allows for hours of time spent in the field interpreting the ecology and enjoying a wildlife experience.

A valid passport is obligatory if travelling from outside Botswana. Visas may be necessary so please enquire about the necessary visa requirements before departure from your home country, from either the relevant embassy or your local travel agent.

Makuleke (Kruger National Park): Congratulations to EcoTraining's Bruce Lawson!

Senior instructor at our wilderness camp in the Makuleke concession in the Kruger National Park, he recently reached a landmark in contributions to the SABAP2 project (Bird Atlas program with the University of Cape Town).

"Your latest submission represents your 150 card to the project. This is an important milestone and we are grateful for your dedicated and continued support and participation." (SABAP2 Project Team)

 Bruce has been very fortunate to call Makuleke ‘home’ for the last seven years. Our wilderness camp in the world-famed KNP lies within the Pafuri region that stretches over 24 000 hectares between the Limpopo and Luvuvhu rivers. 

Bruce is a passionate naturalist who has spent over 15 years guiding in remote wilderness areas in many of Africa’s big game reserves and in the process has accumulated over 10 000 hours on foot. Bruce is equally at home leading walking safaris as he is leading specialist birding tours.

Bruce, a director of the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA), is one of only a handful of qualified SKS (Special Knowledge and Skills) dangerous game guides and a national SKS birding guide. He is also an advanced rifle handling trainer for FGASA and is also a THETA accredited national assessor. 

Bruce is just pure passion in the bush! With a dry sense of humour and a stickler for getting it right, he passes on his enthusiasm, knowledge and years of experience wholeheartedly to participants and guests on EcoTraining courses. 

Dee, Bruce’s other half, manages all the EcoTraining camps operations and administration. Hailing from Australia, Dee has grown to love the African bush. How could she not, being married to Bruce and living in the bush day in and day out! 

Selati (South Africa): If there’s one guarantee in nature, it is that the unexpected is sure to happen, as sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. As this update from Christine Jutz from our wilderness camp in the Selati Game Reserve clearly indicated:

“Instructor Mark Gunn would always tell us that part of guiding and conservation is to clear the road of any overhanging branches, as this would prevent the creation of new roads and so disturbing the natural environment. So every once in a while, he would stop the vehicle and say “Tracker, take the panga and help me to get this branch.”

Then of course the following happened on one of the drives… Our ‘tracker’, fellow student JJ, jumped off his seat, grabbed the panga, and as he was walking to the sickle bush, everybody on the vehicle started yelling “Lion, lion!”

Less than five meters from JJ, two lionesses and a young male rose from the vegetation where they were sleeping before we attempted to clear the sickle bush.

JJ levitated back to the vehicle in a single bound, and the lesson was learnt: Look before you leap!”

Environmental Calendar - March 2014

World Wildlife Day, 3 March 2014

The first ever World Wildlife Day is celebrated on Monday 3 March.

This day was specifically singled out by the United Nations General Assembly as it was the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). This international treaty aims to ensure global trade does not threaten the survival of listed species.

John E. Scanlon, the secretary-general of CITES, had this message about the importance of this day: “The 3rd of March is the opportunity for all of us - no matter who we are or where we are - to celebrate the beauty and variety of the millions of plants and animals that we share our planet with.

While we cherish wildlife in its own right we should not forget that it also contributes to our personal well-being - from food to medicine – from culture to recreation.

But today our wildlife is suffering from habitat loss as well as a grave threat from illegal trade, which is worth many billions of dollars every year. This illegal trade is now threatening the survival of some of our most charismatic species, as well as some plants and animals you may never have heard of.

So as we are celebrating wildlife let’s do whatever we can - as citizens and as consumers - to bring this illegal trade to an end. Let’s work for a future where people and wildlife coexist in harmony.

By working together we can do this - and in doing so secure the future for wild plants and animals as well as for ourselves.

On this special day let's reconnect with our planet's wild side - let's go wild for wildlife!”

Green Spotlight:  Endangered Wildlife Trust

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), Wilderness Foundation and KwaZulu-Natal Ezemvelo have joined forces to embrace communities living on the outskirts and within the grounds of national parks and game reserves, as partners in the fight to save rhino.

The organisations have developed an educational DVD aimed at communities living and working in and around reserves which contain rhino entitled ‘Uma uhambo lwabo luphela nolwethu lophela’ (Should their journey end so will ours), which focuses on highlighting the direct link between community livelihoods and saving rhinos.

“There is no single solution to addressing illegal wildlife trade, which is an increasing global phenomenon, estimated to now be the third largest illegal industry worldwide after drugs and human trafficking. Wildlife trade often has its roots firmly established in organised and trans-boundary crimes. For this reason the EWT’s Rhino Project is implementing interventions at several stages in the poaching and wildlife trade chain and this DVD addresses one of the first links in that chain as it focusses directly on the role of communities who are often exploited by wildlife crime syndicates,” said Kirsty Brebner, the EWT’s Rhino Project Manager.

The DVD was researched, directed and edited by Samson Phakathi, Senior Field Officer for the EWT and Mandla Buthelezi of the Wilderness Leadership School and was filmed in and around Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife parks and reserves.

The DVD, partly sponsored by the Rhinose Foundation, was produced by African Renaissance Productions and is available in Zulu with or without English subtitles. The DVD highlights the links between wildlife and community livelihoods as well as the cultural and environmental importance of rhino. It has been designed as a tool to be used in community engagements and outreach projects. The battle against rhino poaching and wildlife crime is far from over and we urge you to keep demonstrating your support for the work of the EWT and other reputable NGOs and organisations.

For further information about the DVD and to secure a copy please contact Kirsty Brebner at

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