Field Guide Level 1 training in Southern Africa

When Daniel made his way to Southern Africa in 2014 to visit the 55-day Field Guide Level 1, one of NATUCATE’s first Wilderness Experience courses, he did not expect to own a Field Guide certificate himself at the end of his stay. In his review, we are going to share Daniel’s impressions of the course and his unforgettable time.

Review

Arrival

In 2014 Daniel started to plan some of his first project visits for NATUCATE that were supposed to lead him to South Africa for a couple of days, and later on to the United States. Having this plan in mind Daniel took a flight from Frankfurt Airport to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. After an overnight stay in one of the city’s guest houses, he was picked up the next morning. He and the other participants were brought to Camp Selati, located amidst the huge Selati Game Reserve and west of the world-famous Kruger National Park. “Shortly after my arrival in the camp, it became clear to me that I could cancel my plan to ‘stay a few days in South Africa’. Looking back on it, it’s hard to describe the effect my first encounter with the African wilderness had on me. The pristine nature and the species diversity left me speechless. So without further ado, I decided to abandon my travel plans and instead become a participant of the Field Guide Level 1 course myself.” A few phone calls and reorganisations later it was fixed: Daniel would spend 55 days in Southern Africa to get trained as a Field Guide Level 1.

Accommodation

Over the course of the 55 days, Daniel was accommodated in two different camps: Camp Selati in South Africa and Camp Mashatu in Botswana.

Camp Selati is located in the 33.000 ha Selati Game Reserve that is a beautiful scenery to a variety of wildlife. A cook is responsible for the preparation of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In the joint dining area you meet with the others to enjoy the more than tasty meals together. “Of course, the accommodation in the camps is quite basic. But you’ve got everything that you need and being so close to nature is just incredible. I think at the latest, most people start to love living in the camp when they are sitting around the campfire in the evening to pass the day in review while hearing the lion roar in the distance.”

The Field Guide Level 1 training

After arriving in Selati, Daniel and the other participants were introduced to the procedures of the course by guide Andreas and were told about important safety and behavioral rules for living and moving in the wilderness. “Andreas was the first of our two guides in Selati. I was immediately impressed by his skills. By now, a genuine friendship has developed from our first encounter in the camp.” During game walks and drives, Andreas, and later on guide Dave, led Daniel and his team out in the game reserve. They watched zebras, giraffes, impalas, buffaloes, and many other animals, and learned how to identify birds according to their songs, or trees according to their leaves. In short: the practical lessons conveyed all the knowledge about the flora and fauna of Africa that a real Field Guide needs to have at first hand. But theory was also taught. Next to the teaching hours in the camp’s own class room, the students give presentations and write tests – that you need to learn for! “What I learned from my spontaneous action of doing the course: preparation is everything. Since I didn’t plan on completing the course before my departure to Africa, I didn’t get any of the recommended books. I had to make up for this last minute while the other participants already acquired this knowledge prior to the beginning of the course. That was quite a challenge”, Daniel points out. This didn’t lessen his excitement for the course in any way. “The time in Selati was simply great. I will never forget my first sleep over in the bush under the night sky, or how I saw a pride of lions for the first time on a walking safari, and especially: my first encounter with elephants.” Deeply moved by the experiences so far, Daniel and his team made their way to Mashatu/Botswana to start the second part of the course. The course program was similar as before: regular game drives and walks in Botswana’s wilderness, this time with guide Massi, combined with theory lessons and occasional tests. “Mashatu was another sequence of highlights. Mashatu itself is already one – breathtaking, how much wildlife there is to see. I was also able to watch elephants for the first time by foot and not “only” through the windows of the SUV.” But also the time in Mashatu came slowly to an end and the last two final exams were due. While the written exam is taken by all participants in the class room of the camp, the practical exams were extended over several days. “During the practical exam you are at the wheel of the SUV, guide your team through the bush and explain the flora and fauna. Your guides are also there and test your knowledge with occasional questions but keep themselves in the background.” Daniel mastered both exams and is now a proud holder of an official FGASA-certificate.

Daniel’s conclusion

“The time in Selati and Mashatu will be unforgettable for me. After all, it was leading the way for later ideas with NATUCATE and has an impact on my life up until today and I regularly go back to the camps. I found back to nature and thus ‘back to the roots’ during the Field Guide Level 1 course. I was part of a wonderful, international group that became something like a family for me over the time and we experienced a lot of impressive things. Never would I have guessed what I would be able to see, learn, and experience within these 55 days. To everyone who is still hesitating: Look for your adventure and write your own story – dare it, it might be life changing for you.”

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