Looking for an incredible and unforgettable life experience in the African Bush veld? Are you a future game ranger, or just a passionate nature lover seeking for invaluable knowledge on African fauna and flora? Or perhaps you’re envisioning close encounters with Big 5 animals? If the answer to one of these questions is YES, then what you are about to read is FUNDAMENTAL!!! A once in a lifetime experience not to be missed…
Ecotraining in a Nutshell
In my opinion, Ecotraining is simply put THE BEST company that conducts formal training programs for nature guides. And believe me I know what I’m talking about! I’ve had the opportunity to take part in one of their 28 day Field Guide Trainings at Keer Keer Camp (Timbavati Game reserve, South Africa), and the experience has turned out to be one of the most exhilarating times of my life! Whether you desire to learn about African trees and their uses, or bird life, animal behaviour, rifle handling, bush skills and survival, animal tracking; the list goes on and ON…all skills required are taught in details in this magnificent course!
Here’s a brief outline of what you’re most likely going to learn about and experience:
- Game drives
- Night drives (+ Spotlighting)
- Walks Sleep in the bush (one of my favourites)
- Basic 4×4 driving
- Lectures on various topics (ecotourism, geology, trees and uses, guiding)
- Tracking of animals
- Bush navigation and orientation (and boy did I need it…I still do actually)
- Testing and evaluations
- It’s a lot of fun, whether you’re doing it seriously (career wise) or just out of interest!
I took the course in October 2003, and since then have recommended it to all “African freaks” out there ;). Keer Keer camp is situated in the Timbavati, a Game Reserve bordering Kruger National Park. It’s Big 5 country, so you can literally encounter some of the most incredible and beautiful creatures on Earth!
Provided below are some of the highlights of my stay:
– The whole “camping/tent” experience. Being able to sleep in a safari tent in Big 5 territory is in itself quite exciting! Keer Keer camp is not fenced off which makes it even more thrilling! Night sounds are extraordinary, especially when an entire herd of buffalo (over 600 individuals) comes storming through the campsite, being chased away by a pride of lions! What a symphony: we could hear the struggle of one of the bulls as it went down in a fight for survival! To our astonishment we found the carcass the next day, less than 300 meters behind the camp and surrounded by six lions feasting! Incredible!
– The learning experience. It’s amazing how mother nature can provide us with invaluable gifts and benefits! For instance, did you know that there are hundreds of trees out there with incredible uses?! Some have juicy fruits such as the Marula tree; others can be used as fire beaters or mosquito repellent (Magic Guarri).
– Walks and tracking through the bush. A true detective’s work! Analyzing dung, identifying animal tracks on pathways, following them into the thickets, looking for the slightest signs that might unveil them to us…both exciting and scary at the same time!
We’ve had amazing sightings, such as the privilege to spot a leopard that had just killed an impala up in a tree (we followed its spoor for hours along the Zebanene river). One day we also came up upon buffalo remains in the morning, went back later in the afternoon only to find a huge male lion finishing its supper (can’t believe we were actually there only a few hours back and couldn’t see any sign of its presence…it gives me goose bumps just thinking about it). Finally, I recall tracking a rhino that lasted almost three weeks with no results…we ended up meeting it on an afternoon game drive when we least expected it! While we were busy watching a pride of lions sleeping silently, the lone male arrived from behind our jeep and chased them away! Astonishing!
– Sleeping in the bush. An incredible feeling to be spending the night outside with no tent whatsoever: only a sleeping bag, a bright fire and two vigilant guards sweeping the spotlight into the darkness to scare away unwanted visitors! Mind blowing! And one of the best spots to gaze at the stars!
All in all, it was absolutely FAN TA STIC! Really, consider it if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary. I also truly recommend our guide Rob (if he’s still around), an amazing guy with the most incredible knowledge of the bush! He’s a living encyclopedia and a true gentleman!