Keeping track at Limpopo Field Guiding Academy

"Whether you would like to pursue a career in field guiding or simply attend a course to improve your nature knowledge, we have an option for you".





Tau Camp is situated on the Mongena Game Reserve where the quiet lapping of the  Boekenhoutspruit adds to the tranquillity and immersive nature of the camp. It was a return visit for me, having been here earlier in 2021 to attend a birding week. This time my focus was to head out on a track and sign assessment. Not mine, I have to add…that I left to the crop of students who were completing the final part of their training.

Jason van Zyl was once again in camp to help the current crop of students prepare for their track and sign assessment. Jason has an impressive CV: FGASA Professional Field Guide, FGASA Professional Trails Guide, CyberTracker, Track and Sign Specialist, Trails Guide mentor and a FGASA birding specialist.

It was under his eagle eye that I did a portion of the pre-assessment test and I got more of the tracks correct than I thought I would. But as the tracks got harder I decided that I did not want to play anymore and stood back and absorbed the knowledge that was being imparted by him.

My host for the duration of my stay…Pioneer(Pines) Moyo. He is based at the Academy has a most impressive list of qualifications: He 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.




Mark Stavrakis established the Nature Immersion Method © (NIM) of training in 1998 and he instituted this method of training when he launched the Limpopo Field Guiding Academy in 2003.

Mark is is no slouch when it comes to qualifications: FGASA…Professional Field Guide, SKS Dangerous Game, SKS Birding, Trainer and Assessor, Trails Guide Mentor. CyberTracker…Track and Sign Specialist, Tracker Level 3, Evaluator. ETDP and CATHSSETA Assessor as well as a PFTC Range Officer

Here he is. looking concerned as he keeps an eye on the students doing the assessment. What we all needed to be keep in mind at all times was the fact that this exercise was conducted WITHIN a Big 5 reserve and any of those 5 could come wandering past at any time…(it turns out that one species did!)




Massimo Rebuzzi joined us in camp to help Pioneer and Mark assess the students. His list of qualifications is certainly remarkable: Professional Trails Guide and Field Guide, FGASA and ETDP Assessor, PFTC Firearms Assessor, Cybertracker Professional Tracker and Track and Sign Specialist, SKS Birding and if that was not sufficient, he was also one of the 2016 Safari Guide of the Year finalists and walked away as the Tracking and Shooting category winner.




Does this cloud formation remind anyone else, other than me and Mark, of the opening logo of The Simpsons?




While the assessors gathered to discuss the event for the day, waiting nervously in one of the vehicles were some of the students who were about to embark on their Track and Sign assessment at Limpopo Field Guiding Academy




Pines drawing a line in the sand…I mean an actual line to keep the students from wandering into the test area.




Look what I found…well camouflaged amongst the dry branches, this almost escaped my notice. A Stick Insect, one of the Phasmatodea order, but exactly which one I am uncertain.




Students scattered all over the road making certain that their answers are correct.




With a very stern face, Kyra presents her answers to Massi. Most of the students wrote down their answers and presented that piece of paper to the respective assessor so that they did not reveal their conclusions to their fellow students.




Kyra and Brian take time for a game of noughts and crosses while awaiting the next assessment tracks.




It is all about perspective… The students had to identify 50 tracks over the course of several hours. They can complete their assessments on a minimum of 35 tracks if there are issues with the weather or time constraints. In this particular instance, they managed all 50 but the heavens opened and the rain bucketed down as they got back to the camp!




The long and short of it. Didi used to be a policeman in Germany but he gave it all up to come to work and live in Africa. A fearsome-looking chap but an interesting fellow to chat to as I was to discover.




One of the Big 5 decided to wander past to see who we were and what we were up to. The students did not see this herd of buffalo and the tracks were later used as one of the assessment questions.




But how good are you really? Can you tell which is Land Cruiser and which in Land Rover?

Well? Can you?




Hidden from the prying eyes of the students, Pines and Massi confer about what tracks to include. (As I was to discover if in doubt say “Impala”!)




It was clear to me that two things are VERY important to have if you are assessing students…a hand-crafted stick and a clipboard. The former to denote hours spent in the bush, and the latter to denote authority. Or perhaps it was just a coincidence?

Once all the scores had been tallied, there were three students who attained Level 3, five attained Level 2 and three qualified at Level 1…Well done to all of you!

If you are uncertain about what to do with your life in 2022, the first NQF2 course begins on January 9th.




I interviewed Mark Stavrakis and Pioneer Moyo back in July 2020. To watch the interview, click on this link:








All images are the copyright property of

and may not be used without permission.