Monday, April 1, 2019

EcoTraining. Preparing guides and guardians. Selati Game Reserve.

Pour yourself a cup of your favourite beverage
and join me on a voyage of discovery that I was
a part of for just a few days.
I was recently invited to visit the EcoTraining facility
 in the Selati Game Reserve.
What I discovered was truly inspirational.
Let me put this into context.
The mission statement of the company is... 
1] Vision: To be the Global leader in environmental education
 by reconnecting people with nature...
(The most important part of that statement is the word *reconnecting
But more about that later).  
2] Mission: To provide inspirational & immersive learning experiences
 for professional safari guides and guardians of nature
and finally...
3] Values: Inspire. Professionalism. Caring and Accountability.

Most of the students in the camp were doing the year long Professional Field Guide course.
Although wearing neutral colours and driving a vehicle
 in the bush on a daily basis might seem a be a dream job for many,
there is a LOT of knowledge that has to be absorbed
 prior to that first guest filled drive.
While I was in camp, the students were preparing
 for their FGASA Level 1 exam.
However all work and no play makes James a dull boy.
He decided to set aside his work book for a while 
and enjoy some quite time with his guitar.
(James went on to achieve  exceptional results in his exam).

While the students poured over their work books,
I wandered around camp, taking in the sights and sounds.
A Rasta Waterbuck?
Not really...
This is what happens to the outside of a set of horns once 
the horn moth larvae get entrenched.
This moth, together with the clothes moth,
has the ability to feed on the keratin from
the horns and hooves of dead antelope.

Just because you are an instructor,
it does not mean that you can designate all the chores.
Head Instructor, Dave Havemann making certain 
that the dining area is in pristine condition.

The students are assigned tasks on a daily basis.
Although not run  like a military camp,
discipline is part of the course.
One of those tasks is presenting the menu at meal times.
For this, the on-duty team has to be dressed correctly
and they get to choose who gets to step up to the food table first.
That is usually linked to an activity  that has been completed during the day
or something fun, like "Who has been on TV"? 
And there were several who had. 
One participant had even been in a soap opera in Thailand!

This is the on-site classroom building.
Only this and the kitchen are permanent structures in camp.
It is here that the students spent their time,
making certain that they were well prepared
 with all that was required for the exam.
A lot of hours went into their preparation,
 I know that for me,self motivation can be a problem
so I was more than impressed with the dedication that was shown
in the run up to the exam.
The object of this year long course, should the student become a guide,
 is to enable them to be able to inform, educate and entertain.

My accommodation for the duration of my stay.
I stayed in the same accommodation as the students
although I did not have to share my space.
It has been about 5 years since I spent time in a tent like this
so I was aware that it is roomier than it looks from the outside.
Once I had settled in, I found it to be spacious and comfortable.

My view from the front...
My sleeping bag was out to dry, given the fact that
 it had rained in during the night.
Not that the tent leaked but it was as a result of me 
not protecting the windows correctly with the outside flap.
In my tired and wet state it took me a while to realize that
I did not have to go outside in the dark and rain to correct this...
I merely had to move my mattress. 

From the inside looking out...
Part of the time, while the rest of the camp was hard at work,
I took a moment to catch up on photo editing 
or just staring out of the tent and marveling at the sights
 and sounds of the surrounding bushveld.
*Reconnect, that is what my time here allowed me to do.
I do believe that all of us, no matter who we are or what we do,
have an innate connection to nature.
In an urban setting that can be nurtured
 by encouraging bird life and insects back into a garden.
However, it is when we are in the bush
and in close proximity to all that lives there that we are able to relax
and reduce our levels of stress.
Not everyone who comes on an EcoTraining course
will go on to become a guide.
Many will become guardians of their natural environment
and in so doing they will carry the message of their days in the African bush
to the far-flung corners of our planet 

The camp layout is very simple with as little
 impact on the surrounding vegetation as possible.
White stones mark out the main path that connects all the tents
to the ablution block, the study area as well as the dining room.
Male and female students have separate ablution facilities
at opposite ends of the camp.
For an authentic bush experience, it gets no better than this.
The camp is not fenced, which means that the wildlife
 can wader though at any time!

On my first night in camp,
I was kept awake by the mammal that made this footprint!
A large bull elephant was feeding just a few meters from my head.
With only a canvas wall between us was relatively nerve-wracking
introduction to Selati Camp for me.
Fun fact #324: Twice the circumference of the footprint
 will give you the shoulder height of the elephant that left the print.

Trying to use a tap in the bathroom,
I soon discovered why there was no running water.
The elephant has partially destroyed the water supply line.
Luckily, an easy fix for the staff in camp 
and the water flow was soon restored..

It is not always large mammals that walk through the camp site.
This is a Matabele ant raiding party...
Named after the fierce African warrior tribe of the 1800's,
at 20mm, these are one of the largest ants in the world.
Luckily for humans they eat only termites.

One very embarrassed teenage elephant...
This was the end of a rather interesting interaction with this youngster...
We had found a small herd of elephants during an afternoon drive
and our guide had positioned the vehicle correctly
so that the herd would pass us at a safe distance.
As they were walking out of the sun, the photo opportunities were not great,
so instead of looking through my view finder, 
I chose just to enjoy the time with them.
If this elephant had been a human, it would have been fixated on a cellphone,
As it turned out, it was SO focused that it did not see us
until it literally bumped into our vehicle.
At no stage were we in any danger
and when the animal realized that it had caused an outburst
of laughter in the vehicle, it strode off down the road
 without a backward glance.

Face to face with the King of the Jungle.
I was told that there is a resident lion pride on the property,
and we discovered them napping in the dry river bed.
However we were not able to get the vehicle into a good viewing position.
After a recce by roaming instructor Mike Meidlinger,
he deemed it safe for us to dismount and come closer on foot.
When I say closer, I do not mean that we walked towards the lions,
we merely exited the vehicle and stood within 50m of it.
Interestingly enough, this movement was enough to get this boy interested.
Although he was 200-300m away, 
his warning growl carried a clear message.
After a minute or two, we got back on the vehicle
and left the sighting as the light was starting to fade.
An exciting experience indeed.

A night under the stars? 
Unfortunately not for me on this trip.
But I did get to enjoy the sunset with several of the students 
during the ubiquitous evening sun-downer stop.

Are you ready to make a commitment to yourself and your future?
If so, then visit their website for more information:

A big thank you to each of these brands
 for coming on board.

This has been my constant travel companion 
for the past several years.
It might look worn,
but that represents the kilometers/miles
we have shared together.
From Kilimanjaro to the beaches of India.
To coach trips across Europe and Vietnam
and to a variety of game lodges and road trip destinations
 in South and Southern Africa.
Check out their Facebook page:

This torch has been turning heads!
The Olight SRS2UT Intimidator.
Marketed locally by:

My camera brand of choice for more than 4 decades!

When it is time to print out my special images,
this is the company that I rely on to do that.

Bush gear to make me blend in...
in comfort and style.

I have worn the orange Veldskoen in the jungles of India
and on the beaches of Croatia.
Not to mention, many game reserves in Africa.
They are probably the most comfortable pair of shoes
that I have ever owned.
Now to try out the rest of the colours in the range.

When I get home. I rely on this ISP
to provide me with high speed fibre connectivity 
to enable me to get my postings published in record time.

This Powerbank is my constant companion
 while I am travelling.
It can do up to 4 full re-charges of my phone before
needing to be charged.
Supplied by...

When offered an option...
ALWAYS be Batman.
My constant travelling companion.
To find out more about the collectible Funko range of figurines,

I could not do without this awesome laptop bag from Solo.
Padded for protection and with enough pockets to keep
almost everything INCLUDING the kitchen sink in,
this is definitely an stylish addition to any business presentation.
Be it in the boardroom or the bush.
This bag can also be worn as a backpack. 
There are straps in a hidden compartment that can be deployed
when you need both hands for other purposes.
To find out more about the stylish Solo range,

This locally made product was indispensable when using a long lens.
The ball and socket might look simple...and it is, 
which is why it should be in the gear bag of every serious photographer.
This locally made, deceptively simple device is ideal 
for tracking birds in flight or animals in motion.
The base can be used on a beanbag or a tripod,
with the ball being fitted to the camera.
The simplicity of the device allows to to move from supported
to hand held in a fluid motion.
There is also a version that can be used on a car window.
To see more about the product, 
visit their Facebook page:
Or order directly from:

To see who else were winners in 2018, visit:

All images are the copyright property of
and may not be used without permission

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