From January to March, I lived a dream.
For 60 days I studied wildlife, conservation, track and sign, trailing, bird calls, animal behaviour, etc, all while living in a tent, away from reliable phone reception and internet, under the punishing African sun and nights full of stars. I awoke at 4:30 each morning, went on game drives or walks twice a day, spent time with like-minded people, read books about animals, and studied for written and practical assessments.
Combining my thirst for knowledge and passion for wildlife, participating in this course was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Finally, at 30 years old, I feel like I’m discovering my career path. Drive guests around in a manual 4×4 in the bush, speak about wildlife and conservation, live far from civilisation, sleep in a tent, fall asleep under the Milky Way, listening to the sounds of lions, leopards, hippos and hyaenas in the distance? Sign me up.
It wasn’t an easy process – the studying was intense, with a few of us often buried in books in the ‘library’ (a tent with no walls, but three boxes full of wildlife and track/sign books) – and living in a limited space with 15 other students for 60 days can be difficult at times. But these are the experiences that strengthen you and separate the serious guides from those who treat the process like a vacation.
Sure, it was an escape from the real world at times, but for me (and a few others) it was so much more. It was the start of a journey, an eye-opening experience that redirected my energy into something so positive, so forward-moving, that I can’t help but smile when I think about those two months and what comes next.
I enjoyed the experience so much that I signed up immediately for the next course on offer. In April, I went back to the bush and participated in a two-week Track and Sign Intensive course. This was even better than the first course, because we spent everyday studying the signs and tracks left by animals. (Below are a few examples of the records I kept during our course).
From memorising the differences between bushbuck, nyala, and impala footprints, to recognising different predator scat, to skull and tooth identification, to bird and animal calls, this course was focused on my favourite parts of guiding. To top it off, we had a trailing evaluation at the end of the course, which involved following fresh animal spoor through the bush. I was lucky enough to be evaluated on rhino and leopard trails. What a life!
I can’t begin to explain everything in one post, so I’ll be writing short articles over the next couple of weeks about this experience.