Profes­sional Field Guide Dominik

Dominik organised his Professional Field Guide course in Southern Africa with us. Read about his experience in the article.


Professional Field Guide - Southern Africa: Dominik's experience

I came here to learn and to create opportunities for myself once I return. Now, five months after the course ended and the very moment I am writing this review, I am already back in South Africa looking for opportunities here. I can honestly say that I enjoyed every moment of this journey. Don’t get me wrong. There is a lot of sweating and cursing involved and at times the only thing that prevented me from collapsing was the 8th cup of coffee.

Intensive learning and nature connection: my experience in the adventurous Botswana

While I was in Botswana we had days with 45°C, so we started our days at 3:30-4:00 am to trying to avoid the brunt of it (spoiler it didn’t work). During the first five month of the course, when the education took place, I studied as hard as never before in my life. Most of the days it was 9-11 hours of learning and to my surprise that amount of studying was enjoyable. When you are out in the bush getting to know things hands-on and boots on the ground you create a connection.

To be fair it was my own choice to learn that much but I do enjoy sharing my knowledge. Just now I was interrupted by my host who found a hole in the ground of her garden and was worried that she would kill a baboon spider if she mowed the lawn. After I finished investigating, commenting on what I saw and what happened there (it was a scorpion’s shelter) a small crowd of guests gathered around listening in. To be able to stir interest in people by interpreting what they see around them is, for me, one of the most rewarding experiences these days.

In that regard, our course was quite evened out. Half the group studied very hard until 8pm or later which is basically past midnight in the bush, while others spent their time at the campfire. Looking back, I would do the same, because the first two months of the course are quite packed, especially if you don’t know much about the ins and outs of the bush. As part of the NQF2 training (you are a certified field guide after that time) you learn a bit about everything. Plants, invertebrates, animal behaviour, hospitality, … you name it. There are lectures, assignments and workbooks to be done. Stressful? Yes. But everybody who was on their heel from the get-go was finished with everything early enough to be able to learn for the exams and relax a bit.


From "Meh" to enthusiasm: How a nature course in Botswana turned us into bird and wilderness lovers

Progressively it’s getting easier and the workload is lessening. You still have to learn birdcalls and complete another workbook. But most of the theoretical parts are over. Almost everything you learn is applicable outside. Or you already know it from past activities. Birding, the next phase in the schedule is very rewarding. Even if the whole package seems overwhelming it is easy to make small steps of progress (“Uh Uh Uh snapping fingers I know that bird”). I was surprised how many of my fellow students converted from “meh – just birds” into enthusiastic birders.

It also is getting more fun (mark the more since it already is). Tracks and signs, trailing and trails is the next part of the course where you ideally be out in the bush twice a day on foot. Here you learn to recognise signs of animals, discern them from natural occurrences, and learn to interpret them. You learn how to anticipate the animals’ movements, their behaviour, how to guide on foot, and how to navigate the bush safely. This is where I started to realize that I wanted to stay. I don’t think I can describe to you why unless you have experienced it yourself. In which case I won’t have to. (No there is no affiliation link at the end. I don’t get paid for writing this.)


Paths into the wild: How our training in Botswana led to diverse opportunities

Once we learned all of this, we, the students, temporarily parted ways. Everybody went to a place they thought would fit their imagination of working in this industry. Some went into conservation work, others into guiding, research, and more. I personally wanted to learn more and deepen my knowledge of what I’ve already learned. I chose to become a backup for ECO-Training, which meant basically much more of the above, with additional duties in hospitality and camp maintenance. This again was a very taxing choice since it’s up to 14 hours of work a day for 6 weeks straight per cycle, but it doesn’t feel like it if you spend that time in the bush and half the time on activities. About half of my course had offers from the place they worked during their practical phase and quite a few are working there today.

New perspectives: How my time in Botswana changed my view of nature and my future

I came here to learn and to create opportunities for myself once I return. A lot has changed. I don’t see nature the way I saw it before. Humanmade pathways in the forest look alien to me. Following the tracks of red deer in the black forest (and finding them Horray!) feels right. I don’t try to avoid humans anymore (well maybe some). I can even imagine working in hospitality. For me, it’s all about common interest. Which for me is gaining and sharing knowledge - the nice thing about knowledge is that you can share it and still keep it.

Adventures to get you dreaming

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