Field Guide Level 1 Africa – Lea
Lea travelled to South Africa with us to become a Field Guide Level 1. Here you can learn more about her time in the course and her life-enhancing experiences.
Safari is everywhere– How my field guide adventure has an impact on my everyday life
In April 2021, I went to South Africa, the first time to travel the continent of my dreams, in the middle of the bush. I started the Field Guide Level 1 training at EcoTraining. Spending 55 days in the African wilderness, sleeping in a tent and being exclusively in nature promised to be adventurous.
During the semester I could hardly wait for the exams to be over, it was hard to stay focused. In my head, everything revolved around getting prepared for Africa.
For Christmas I got books as a gift and began to read them diligently. I quickly realized that I really had very little idea about the animals that live there. "Are wild dogs actually the same as hyenas and what exactly is an antelope?" Even my knowledge of the forest at home wasn't much use to me.
In the shared flat, my roommate once came into my room and asked what kind of weird music I was listening to. "I'm learning the bird calls for Africa. I have to work really hard, but I already know ten out of twenty-eight", I answered. We both had to laugh, it really sounded kinda crazy. But it paid off!
Arrival in Johannesburg
At the Emerald Guesthouse in Johannesburg, close to the airport, our safari began. Two days before the start of the course, we were in the accommodation with five course participants and began to identify as many birds as we could. The bird calls I learned at home helped me a bit.
Suddenly I thought it was super cool to know who was hopping, singing and fluttering around me. Just a few days before, there were songbirds for me in Germany, of which I could name a handful, and kestrels in the garden. Buzzard and red kite could also be seen from time to time – and that was pretty much my entire bird knowledge.
The guide training
After we arrived at the first Camp Selati, I felt comfortable very soon and exactly in the right place. Among the course participants we got along great and quickly developed good friendships.
We learned many facts about individual animals, about connections between animals and plants and how they depend on each other. Every living thing, no matter how small or large, has precise tasks in the ecosystem and its own ecological niche (ecological niche – relationship of a species to its environment).
An example: the elephant loves to eat the fruits of the marula tree but excretes 60% of its food undigested. One might think that this is very inefficient. It may be for himself, so he is busy eating for most of the day, but the marula tree relies on the easy digestion of the seeds to germinate and grow well elsewhere. Without the elephant, the marula would have difficulty reproducing. Also, an elephant's dung pile is a real little ecosystem and provides food for many other animals. And that is just one of many examples.
The more we were out and about, the more I noticed and the more exciting I found these interactions. Alexander von Humboldt also noticed this: "Everything is interaction".
In the meantime, I have been back in Germany for a few weeks and have returned to everyday life. Still in the course, we talked about what will probably last in our lives, which thoughts and actions we will keep or whether we will quickly fall back into the daily grind and only have nice stories to tell. I did not believe that I would just leave it behind, because I did not want to leave the bush and Africa anymore! Africa completely captivated me and that remains with me even now in my native nature.
"Safari is everywhere" quickly became the motto of my friends from the course and all of us live it no matter where, in the city, in the countryside or in the Alps.
I am fascinated by how much my view has changed when I am out in nature. On every walk with my dog, binoculars have become as integral as the dog leash. I notice animals, insects and plants along the way that I used to just look over.
My view has become wider, my ears more sensitive and my mind more attentive. Never before have I experienced and seen so much on the strolls through the field, the forest or the garden. Even though I was already walking through the forest before, as I thought, attentively and with a fairly good basic knowledge.
Now after my training as a field guide, I discover everything anew. My eye is even more trained, I discover the tracks along the way and always practice to identify who has walked there before me.
I used to think we hardly had any green woodpeckers at our house because I never saw one. But now that I know its call, I know better. There must be hundreds of them! Most of the time I just hear him, but sometimes I can spot him following the call.
I find it incredible when I can tell just by a voice which animal is near me and then with luck get to see it. A little treasure hunt for me every time.
Why don't you try listening to the call of the robin, the green woodpecker, the collared dove or any other bird you like? I'm sure you'll find at least one of them in your neighbourhood once you know how they make themselves heard. And from my own experience I can say: it won't let you go anytime soon! Safari is everywhere!
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