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With much anticipation and excitement, the apprentice trails guide week one literally started us out on the right foot with an amazing 7-hour bushwalk on Amakhala Game Reserve!

With much anticipation and excitement, the apprentice trails guide week one literally started us out on the right foot with an amazing 7-hour bushwalk on Amakhala Game Reserve!

I have no idea what it was that I expected from my first bushwalk experience ever, but I was however pleasantly surprised by the calming effect it had on me, even with all 6 senses on high alert! It is quite a strange, but newly loved feeling being so excited, yet so calm all at the same time! Walking in the veld, experiencing the sounds and smells of the bush, and once again, being in awe of the huge amount of knowledge being shared by Pieter, confirmed just yet again that I have made the right decision by completing this course with Ulovane.

Our first encounter on Monday morning was a small herd of 5 Buffalo, soon followed by a sighting of 2 white rhinos. On foot, one is even reminded more of the majestic size and beauty of these amazing creatures and one cannot fathom why anyone would want to harm them.
Later on in the afternoon, we spent a good few minutes watching the hippos frolicking in the water, a necessity which sadly has become a bit of a luxury for them as the Eastern Cape is still in the grip of a very long drought. It was very interesting to learn how these almost 2-ton mammals can sleep underwater for up to an hour, using a special reflex that allows them to bob up, take a breath, and sink back down without waking up.
Needless to say, we also stopped a gazillion times to look at all the little butterflies, spiders, flowers, dung, spoor, grasses, mud, yes even just mud  (that was deposited onto a tall white squill flower by a large animal strolling past). On Monday and Wednesday’s walks, it was quite notable that a trails guide needs to have an amazing love and knowledge for not just the larger animals of the veld, but also the small little guys and girls that will mostly be missed by a game viewing vehicle.

Towards the end of the week, we were allowed some time on the air rifle range to practice our newly acquired rifle handling skills, which let me tell you, feels very intimidating in the beginning, but once your body, and brain, has adapted to this foreign object you are now holding in your hands and new muscle memory was learned, you will be doing a little happy dance once you a hit your target and even more so when hitting a bull’s eye!
Overall, week one was an amazing one, and I am so excited to see what the next 5 weeks will bring to our bush table!

As Vincent van Gogh said, “Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.”

We are so looking forward to putting all the small things together to become the next generation of Ulovane Trails Guides –Carine

In the second week of the Apprentice Trails Guide course, we were fortunate enough to go on trails walks all week. We had a trails guide joining us from a neighboring reserve who is working on gaining more walking hours and encounters, so he joined our merry group of trails guides for a few training days. We have seen hippos and other animals such as elephants and rhinos on foot several times during the trail walks. This remains a very special event.

We have learned a lot about the smaller animals too, including insects and different types of arthropods as well as flowers, grasses, and trees. Every morning we up early and go out early, because otherwise, it is too hot during the middle of the day to further enjoy the walks. During the evenings we take the time to fill in the workbooks and study for the weekly exams. Our group is doing very well so far.
We had a fun opportunity to do a sleep out one night out on Amakhala Game Reserve, surrounded by the big 5! Being out with the group of Field guides and Trails guide students made it very enjoyable. It was an incredible evening and we all enjoyed the night sounds, the fire side chats, and even a bit of team-building exercises. A unique experience that I would love to experience again – next time without the rain:)
This last week we had our advanced rifle handling training. Also, something very new to experience. It was harder than I expected. The week ended with none of our group passing the advanced rifle handling assessment, but I think we all definitely learned a lot about ourselves, about the rifles, and also about the way to handle stressful situations while out in the field. The requirements for the assessment are very high, for a very good reason.

Onto the last few weeks of the course, now we are halfway through the course already. Time flies by so quickly. I’m still really enjoying it!

  • Liesbeth

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”— Confucius