Are you a future game ranger? Or simply a passionate nature lover seeking invaluable knowledge on African fauna and flora?
Looking for an incredible and unforgettable life experience in the African bushveld?
Or perhaps you crave close encounters with Big 5 animals?
If the answer to any one of these questions is YES, then look no further. EcoTraining is probably for you. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to seize with both hands.
Ecotraining in a Nutshell
EcoTraining is the “original guide training school in South Africa, with the largest, most bio-diverse footprint in Africa”. It is one of the best companies that conducts formal training programs for nature guides.
I personally had the opportunity to take part in their 28 day Field Guide Training at Keer Keer Camp (Timbavati Game reserve, South Africa), and the experience turned out to be exhilarating.
Whether you want to learn about African trees and their uses, bird life, animal behaviour, rifle handling, bush skills and survival, or animal tracking; it is all possible with EcoTraining. All required skills are taught in detail in this magnificent course.
Here’s a brief outline of what you can experience and learn about:
- Game drives
- Night drives (+ Spotlighting)
- Sleep in the bush (one of my all-time favourites 🙂 )
- Basic 4×4 driving
- Lectures on various topics (including ecotourism, geology, trees and uses, guiding, etc.)
- Animal tracking
- Bush navigation and orientation
- Testing and evaluations
It’s a lot of fun, whether you’re doing it seriously (careerwise) or just out of interest.
My Personal Experience with Ecotraining
I took the course in October 2003, and have recommended it ever since to all “Africa 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 creatures on Earth.
Provided below are some of the highlights of my stay:
Being able to sleep in a safari tent in Big 5 territory is exciting on its own. 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 chased by a pride of lions.
What a symphony: we could hear the beast’s struggle as it fought for survival.
To our astonishment we found the kill the next day, less than 300 meters behind the camp, surrounded by six lions feasting.
It’s amazing how mother nature provides us with invaluable gifts and benefits. For instance, did you know there are hundreds of trees out there with incredible uses? While some have juicy fruits (such as the Marula tree), others can be used as fire beaters or mosquito repellent (like the Magic Guarri).
Walks and tracking through the bush
True detective’s work. Analyzing dung, identifying animal tracks on pathways, following them into the thickets, or looking for the slightest signs that might unveil them to us. It’s both exciting and ‘a little’ scary at the same time.
We’ve had some magical sightings, like the privilege to spot a leopard with a freshly killed impala up in a tree (we initially followed its spoor for hours along the Zebanene river).
One day we also came across buffalo remains on a morning walk. When we returned later in the afternoon, a huge male lion was finishing its supper.
I can’t believe we were actually there only a few hours back and couldn’t see any sign of its presence; gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.
I finally recall a rhino tracking experience that lasted almost three weeks with no luck.
Funnily enough, we ended up seeing it out of the blue on an afternoon game drive. While we were busy watching a pride of lazy lions, the lone male suddenly pitched up from behind our jeep and chased the poor lions away.
What a sight!
Sleeping in the bush
An incredible feeling spending the night under the starlit sky. With nothing but a sleeping bag, a bright fire, and two vigilant guards sweeping the spotlight into the darkness to “intimidate” undesired visitors.
Mind blowing, and one of the best stargazing spots ever.
All in all, it was absolutely FANTASTIC!
It’s totally worth it if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary. I also highly recommend our guide Rob (if he’s still around), an incredible character with the most genuine bush knowledge. He’s a living encyclopedia and a true gentleman.
Visit Ecotraining for more info on their amazing wildlife courses.