My home, on the left, for the duration of my stay at Limpopo Field Guiding Academy. I have come to realize that these tents are quite spacious and given that there was a proper bed to sleep on, it was an immersive experience that I, like the students, will remember. Luckily, I have stayed in this sort of accommodation before and I came prepared with a sleeping bag that was rated to -8C, most useful on my first night in the camp when the temperature did dip. My final few nights were much warmer and that made getting up in the early morning to head out on drives for either birding or tracking much easier.
I am not certain which is more important, the dinging tent or the lecture room. Seeing that I had arrived just in time to have a quick breakfast before heading out on a tracking drive, this was my first port of call…after having put my suitcase into my tent.
My breakfast of champions? Can it be if there is no bacon? I suppose the ‘wors makes up for the lack of that particular protein.
The students seemed to spend the majority of their time here. Either doing bird ID or learning to identify the calls that the various species make. Having to know not one but over 100 species by sight and sound is NOT an easy task, but trainer Pines (Pioneer Moyo) took them through their paces with patience and humour. Having qualified for his SKS Birders qualification since I interviewed him in July 2020, there is not much that can go unidentified. It was a privilege to listen, watch and learn with the group. How much I actually retained is another story.
Just a portion of the course material that each student requires to make certain that the Training provider standards are met.
The student accommodation. Similar to mine, but they got to face the river that runs past the front of the camp. Not that there seemed to be a lot of time for relaxation while I was there. The course requires a lot of work and given that the students are there because they want to be, they tend to apply themselves and commit to the necessary course requirements without having to be told to do so.
Although on this particular course each student had their own tent, there were some of the students who got to share a tent. This tent belonged to a young Italian couple that allowed me to see the interior of their accommodation. As you can see, there is more than enough room for 2 people.
A buffalo skull that was lying under a tree in the camp. One of many that double as decor as well as a training aid.
There is beauty in unexpected places. All you need to do is look!
Put another stukkie wors on the braai? What would a training camp be WITH a braai made out of an old 44-gallon drum and a mesh grid…
Natal Spurfowl. Not quite “put another shrimp on the barbie”, but close enough. Luckily for this particular bird is seemed to be looking for scraps, and it had no ambition to become a meal.
Early morning, before sunrise as seen from the camp.
Even though it was chilly, the students were warmly dressed and already listening intently to Pines as he was identifying bird species for them…or asking them to identify calls and flashes of feathers in the branches of trees. This particular group of students were comprised of individuals from both Italy and South Africa.
An interesting aside for me was the fact that two of the local students came from Boksburg, which in itself is not THAT interesting or unusual, but what is is the fact that they live next door to each other in the same street(numbers 10 and 12) yet had NEVER met until they commenced the course together! It also turns out that one of those attended my old High School in Port Elizabeth and his teacher was one of MY matric classmates from back in 1970 who has returned to that institution as a teacher.
And before I could say “Crested Barbet”, the camp was empty and the game viewer, together with the students was headed of for the early morning outing.
I interviewed Pioneer in July 2020 and this was our first meeting in person. To see the interview, click on this link: https://youtu.be/ob8J2dMZjMk
Watching Pines at work, it is clear that he has a passion for teaching bush-craft, survival skills and practical guiding skills. Many a student has benefited from the practical skills that they learn through time in the bush with Pioneer.
Pioneer is a FGASA Professional Trails Guide, Professional Field Guide, ETDP Assessor of Guides and CyberTracker Track and Sign Specialist and he recently added SKS Birding to his already impressive list of qualifications.
I have always wanted one of these paracord bracelets and having noticed most of the students wearing them, I was informed that Pines made them. I was gifted this by him before I left. The tattoo on my wrist is the word Gratitude in Sanskrit and I was certainly grateful for this, which I will wear with pride. Thanks, Pines!
Snoek for dinner on the night of my arrival. not what I was expecting, but a welcome change from the usual diet of meat, meat and more meat when in the bush. A testament to the ingenuity of the staff in the kitchen who prepared wonderful meals during my stay. I am certain that the students cannot complain, and I was told that dietary requirements can be catered for.
Being out in the bush is my ‘happy place’. Being in the bush with a group of students is an even happier place for me…especially when I return home with new knowledge and experiences that will become memories in time to come. Thanks to all the LFGA staff, trainers and students for making me feel welcome.
To find out more about the courses on offer, click on the logo.
I interviewed Mark Stavrakis and Pioneer Moyo back in July 2020. To watch the interview, click on this link: https://youtu.be/ob8J2dMZjMk
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