A day in the life…EcoTraining’s Karongwe Camp.

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African sunset
The end of another perfect day in the African bush

A new home-away-from-home for students who arrive at the EcoTraining camp situated in the Southern part of the Karongwe Game Reserve. From L to R, the buildings are…The upper floor is a library/study area, while underneath are fridges (for soft drinks and water) as well as an area where the rifles are cleaned after walks or shooting practice. The upper part of the central building houses the offices for the camp staff. Underneath are toilet and ablution facilities. Finally, on the right, the most important building. The KITCHEN! The upper level is a sky bed where students can hang out should it get too hot in their tents. They can also sleep here at night, should they wish to, bearing in mind that the camp is unfenced and that animals wander through in the darkness. But an elephant climbing a flight of stairs is not an everyday occurrence. The building that is not visible in this image is the lecture room and a second sky bed area above it (that is because I took this picture from that vantage point).

This is where the MAGIC happens. It is amazing as to the variety of food that can be produced off a small stove and a gas-burning hob. As the students are not expected to change there eating habits, the camp caters for vegetarian, vegan as well as other dietary requirements. Meat and chicken are the main proteins, with an array of vegetable and salads on offer. The kitchen supplies students and staff with three meals a day.

Fact: It is said that an army marches on its stomach. If that is true, then the same can be said of Field Guides!

The exterior of the student accommodation. These tents are spacious and can accommodate two students as well as their luggage without them feeling cramped or confined. The camp manager/ head office will set up the pairings, but students do not get to share as couples unless they sign on to the course as such. These tents do not have attached ablution facilities. Those are shared and can be found just a short walk away.

The interior…unlike the army, there are no tent inspections in any of the EcoTraining camps. That being said, it is up to the students to keep their accommodation clean and (relatively) tidy. Clothing, books, cameras and binoculars are just SOME of the items that are regularly seen inside. Often students will bring musical instruments to while away their off time.

There are learning opportunities around every corner. And they do not always involve large game animals or birds. Like this spider web, back lit by the late afternoon sun. Photographing these are one of my favourite past-times. But it is often difficult to stop a vehicle in time…I got lucky with this shot as the instructor had stopped to describe the tree that the web was in.

Not what we were expecting to find…the perfect remains of a Boomslang suspended in a tree. As to what caused its death was pure speculation as the skeleton was intact, which certainly ruled out death by a raptor.

Fact: This back-fanged snake is one of the most deadly snakes in South Africa.

FOOD…Mealtimes in all of the EcoTraining camps are run on similar lines. Students are not required to cook the meals, however, they are expected to set up the buffet table and to present the dishes on offer to their colleagues and staff. This is done as preparation for their guiding work where they might have to explain to guests what is on offer at a particular meal. Or what a local dish like “pap and wors” actually is. There is not a scramble for food, as the ‘duty team’ gets to choose in what order the students get to eat! This can be done in a fun manner…”All those wearing sandals” to the more complex “Identify this bird/frog call”. It becomes a learning exercise and well as a meal.

Inform, educate and entertain…lecture time. Each course has a prescribed set of lectures aside from either driving or walking components. Each of the EcoTraining instructors has a specific style of teaching but they all have one thing in common, veritable encyclopedic knowledge of the bush and its inhabitants. There are assessments that need to be completed(and passed) so I found the students to be keen participants in each of the lectures I attended.

Time to leave camp and the lecture room behind and head out into the bush. Although Instructor Richard Davis was driving, the students do get to spend time behind the wheel as part of the course requirement. Having conducted game drives myself, I can attest to the fact that these behemoths are not as easy to drive as they might seem.

“Can you hear that”? “No”? Then cup your hands behind your ears and they act as parabolic reflectors, amplifying sounds to a level that you might have not expected. A quick and easy way to identify what might be lurking in the foliage close by.

Shaped like a map of Africa, a tiny insect might have deposited this on the seedpod. Once again, it is not always about the easily spotted animals or birds, but also about the small stuff.

Tracking is part of every course on offer by EcoTraining. This particular circular track had me perplexed until I realised that it was caused by the grass stalk being blown in a circle. I get to learn something new on every outing with the instructors and the students.

“Who let the water out”? A sundowner stop during an afternoon game drive. In the rainy season, this rocky hollow is filled with water making it a great place to cool down after a hot day. As the light faded, the chatter quieted down and each of us took a moment to enjoy the starry African sky as we watched the sun dip below the Western horizon.

Nighttime around a fire…could there be a better way to end off a day filled exhilarating new experiences and adventures? It is here that tales are told and friendships forged. Most nights end early as all involved with the course have to be up at 05h00 the following morning! Goodnight and goodbye from Karongwe Camp.

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Listen to what Anton Lategan, MD of EcoTraining had to say about the company and their ethos. And then follow his call to action and sign up!

https://soundcloud.com/david-batzofin/in-conversation-with-anton-lategan

This is the EcoTraining mission statement…1] Vision: To be the global leader in environmental education by reconnecting people with nature…For me, the most important part of that statement is the word *reconnecting. 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. Are you ready to make a commitment to yourself and your future? If so, then visit their website for more information: https://www.ecotraining.co.za/