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Learning the ropes as an Apprentice Field Guide

After working as a teacher for almost six years, Gerhard made the brave decision to change careers. He felt that his true passion—being in nature—could now be fully realized. Gerhard is a local Port Elizabeth boy and after teaching in China for a few years, has come back home to start making his dream into reality! Gerhard is a budding wildlife photographer and I am sure you have seen some of his magic shots on our stories Facebook and Instagram stories recently!!

Let us find out more about his experiences so far!

What an amazing first week at Ulovane starting with our 10-week Field Guide course! It’s the middle of January and the temperatures are high. Me And Jack (from the UK) are the only two students in this group so it makes it very interesting!

Although temperatures are in the high 30 with humidity, we managed to go on drives either early in the morning or late afternoon. We were very lucky to have seen amazing sightings all throughout the week and were also blessed with some awesome animal tracks to try and identify. I especially enjoyed the tracks of a Water Mongoose but by far the best sighting was when we saw an adult Pale Chanting Goshawk teach her young how to carry prey (a Pied Starling that she caught) in flight. This was fascinating to watch!

We had a busy first week with a lot of very interesting theoretical work but first had to get to know the standard operating procedures of Amakhala Game Reserve and it shows a very complex but well-thought-out system of various protocols and regulations that guides need to abide by in order to ensure ethical conservation. I especially enjoyed getting to learn about the various radio procedures and when and how to speak over the radio! There are so many different elements that one needs to keep in mind when using the radio and it is a tool to help you as a guide but also management, maintenance, and security.

A big part of our drives circled around orientation and trying to get to know the various roads and areas we were driving through. It was rewarding when knowing where we are driving. 

I discovered a different type of joy when being in the bush and surrounding myself with nature. I have huge gratitude towards the environment and look at nature with more complex eyes. There is so much to learn about our beautiful country and all the animals and various environments that go along with it. I am looking forward to what is ahead and to learn from experienced people such as Karien, Piet, and Schalk.


“When you open your mind, you open new doors to new possibilities for yourself and new opportunities to help others.”

― Roy T. Bennett

Freshly out of high school and ready to take on the world, Jack joins us from the UK. Having spent time during his life traveling around South Africa and visiting family here, Jack knows South Africa, but he wants to learn more about nature and wildlife. Jack will be starting his veterinary studies at the end of the year, but until then he will be spending time with us and then off on more adventures.

We had a bit of everything during week 2 at Ulovane, and I don’t just mean the weather!  From learning to drive, studying three modules, and going on our first-day drive to Bush Braai, this week was busier than ever. There is something extra fun about a game drive when a sighting keeps a hold of you!  On multiple occasions we were late for dinner and on my first time in the driving seat, on Monday, the lions filled that role very well.

Being behind the wheel at a unique sighting like Amakhala’s whole pride of lions, the cubs playing together is a totally new experience for me, and I felt really lucky to be in the right place at the right time.  This is the type of thing you only see on TV and here we were watching it LIVE and loving every moment. Driving back home in the dark with a stormy sky full of lightning only made it more memorable, even if everyone else ate without us!

This week our time in the classroom was spent on Arthropods, Ecology, and Taxonomy, and after studying all the creepy crawlies the bush has to offer I’m now both more scared and excited for sightings.  What is so cool is opening your eyes to the same places you visited last week and seeing them in a new light.  Now I can’t stop seeing toktokkie beetles and my bathroom is the newest wing of the natural history museum’s bug exhibit! Ironically I saw more arthropods there than under any overturned rocks on the reserve.

In terms of new skills this week the obvious one is driving, which is totally awesome and a very different experience to being a passenger!  What a unique opportunity to drive ourselves around the bush.  With equal amounts of guiding and wise-cracking with Gerhard and Karien.  It certainly felt more natural than expected, and is super fun!

In between going for drives and studying there are pockets of time to yourself here and I am realising that missing my home in the UK isn’t the worst thing.  Listening to loads of British music and even getting Marmite from Pick n Pay is great to remind me of home, and lets me embrace the Ulovane life further.  We should appreciate that coming here is a bit wild, a bit far out, but taking it head on and embracing the bush life can still have some home comforts, as well as a lot of magical new experiences.

Have a sweet week everyone!

  • Jack

“There is nothing more beautiful than seeing a person being themselves. Imagine going through your day being unapologetically you.”

― Steve Maraboli