Professional Field Guide Southern Africa – Jutta
One-year course in Southern Africa: Jutta successfully completed our Professional Field Guide course in the African wilderness. Learn more about her superb time
Project: Professional Field Guide in Africa
Locations: South Africa and Botswana
Duration: Beginning of August 2018 until mid-July 2019 – 12 months
Support from the Natucate-Team:
Professional Field Guide – Feedback: Eight questions for Jutta
1) Could you give us a short overview of your activities in the course?
Learning, including exam and internship after 6 months, includes theory and practice in: guiding (game drives and on foot as back up), 17 modules from astronomy to ornithology, advanced rifle handling, orientation and navigation, tracking.
In the further course of the day there are so-called duty teams every day (waking up the other course participants in the morning, presenting meals, vehicle checks etc.),
In practice, there are usually two activities a day, game drives and walks, one early in the morning and one late in the afternoon. The theory consists of one or two lectures per day plus self-study.
During my internship, after the exams I worked as a Back Up Trails Guide at EcoTraining. I wanted to continue learning by walking. Amongst the activities this also means helping in the daily camp work.
2) What were the biggest challenges for you during the course?
During the first two months (Field Guide Level 1) I had the feeling that I did not have enough free time to enjoy nature as I wanted to work through my workbook. However, I was a bit slow and rather lost myself in "daydreams" ... it is just sooo beautiful to be in the bush :-))
3) Was there anything you liked in particular? Or something you remember particularly negatively?
Definitely the unfenced life by day and by night. Lying in your tent and elephants pass by your mosquito net in the moonlight or stop to eat is just beyond beautiful.
And never miss a walk! Walking in the bush is always a highlight, especially the silent walks.
Furthermore, pretty much throughout my entire year nobody else wanted to be on the tracker seat – lucky me!! Hot wind blows around your nose, Africa is at your feet and when it comes to animal encounters you often get so close... just love it!
4) Did you have certain expectations before you travelled to the course?
I had assumed that everyone in the group, as I experienced in wilderness courses in Germany, joined because of the same intentions and desires that I had...getting even deeper connected to nature etc. This was not the case. There were some participants who thought it was something like a school's out party gap year or were sent by their parents etc. And sometimes didn’t want to join bush walks and game drives. I could not understand it and, at the beginning, it irritated and disappointed me for a long time. Until I made peace with it. Everyone is different and certainly has their own story. In the end, it was super nice to see that everyone, really everyone of us, has changed, grown and matured and has become more connected with wilderness. The year in the bush is beneficial to everyone.
My expectations of how beautiful it is to live in the bush were really exceeded. It's addictive! No matter if it was the noises at night, the birds, the "giants" like trees or elephants or the little things like termites or the dung beetle...EVERYTHING was amazing. I did not expect that. I had hoped that it would be nice, but I had no idea how big the addiction factor would be.
5) Have you done anything in your free time that you can recommend to future participants?
I also enjoyed being in the bush in my spare time and have explored Kruger National Park a few times and have been to the sea twice (Whale Coast in October/November). Sometimes I travelled by myself and sometimes with friends, amongst others from the group. As a starting point it is always worthwhile to stay in Hoedspruit at the beginning and in the end, where you can quickly meet like-minded people or people you already know. After my year, I went to work in Zambia, a country that promises wild nature. A small jewel is for example Kafue National Park.
6) What tips would you give other participants?
It turned out that the car rental prices through DriveSouthAfrica are unbeatable. Bidvest has always been cheap, but the same booking through DriveSouthAfrica brings another 30% saving. I had thought about whether my down sleeping bag was useless/too warm. It was just right, I often just used it as a blanket. When it's hot, you don't need anything or a thin inlet anyway. Relaxation tip: Just look for a favourite spot under a tree or on a rock in the camp/at the edge of the camp, every day, even if it sometimes only works for a few minutes. It is wonderful. It is a great chance to spend time with yourself because otherwise you are almost never alone. When it comes to clothing, you always need less than you thought. I even walked around in my uniform most of the time in my spare time and all I needed during the year were my hiking boots and flip-flops.
7) Can you estimate how many additional costs you had on site?
I enjoyed drinking the tap water at each camp. I spent about 30 Euro per month in the camp for other drinks. Travelling in leisure time is really dependent on each individual participant but what everyone should take into account are transfer costs. The cheapest way is to get together and not to book via Bushbus which is definitely too expensive. Ashton Transfer is fair, good and affordable. Other alternative providers via EcoTraining can also be booked privately. Withdrawing money is expensive but can be avoided if you have a credit card/Maestro with withdrawal fees. Simply withdraw money from Spar Markets or PicknPay at the cash desk.
8) Here is still space for other suggestions or reports from you:
When I finally booked the year course with Daniel, I was sitting in the car an hour later, talking on the phone with him and got lost in my own neighbourhood because of so much excitement. I had quit my job at the bank travel agency (without being able to come back, I don't want to). I was already 49 years old. I have never regretted it and I want to encourage all those who still hesitate: It is never too late to start something new. Besides, you only live once. So why not go back to where we all come from: To the heart of Africa... thank you Natucate and thank you Daniel for encouraging me back then!
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