Pridelands with EcoTraining. I become a student for a day.

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"If the idea of taking guests from all over the world out on walking and game drive safaris into Africa’s wild places, finding wildlife for them, and teaching them fascinating facts about the animals and ecosystems, then EcoTraining’s Professional Field Guide course is for you".

 

 

It has been more than 3 years since my last visit to the Pridelands EcoTraining camp just outside Hoedspruit. Although the camp structure itself has changed, the accommodation has not. This tent was to be home for the short time that I was going to be embedded with the current group of students. There are very strict COVID-19 protocols in place and even though I was only going to be there for one night I had to provide a negative COVID-19 test before being allowed to enter the property. As a result of the strict adherence to these requirements, several international students were on the course. Well done for enforcing what could be seen by some as pedantic requirements.

 

 

This image was from my previous visit when the elephants decided that the trees were greener on our side of the waterhole and decided to check this out for themselves by coming into the camp to feed. What this particular interaction taught me was that sitting quietly and being ‘in the moment’ made it a relaxed experience for both myself and the elephant.

 

 

This is where the lecture tent used to be until the floods swept through part of the camp and made relocation not so much an option but a necessity. Students are now able to sit here and watch the comings and goings at the waterhole while ‘hidden’ behind these fallen trees.

 

 

A Grey Heron sits astride a disused nest, preening in the early morning light.

 

 

It is not always about the animals with teeth and claws or hooves and horns. Sometimes, the light through a leaf and a single strand of a spider’s web will become a teaching experience.

 

 

And speaking of spiders…If you are arachnophobic then you do NOT want to walk into this Communal Spider web.

 

 

From the game viewer, we watched this Red-billed Hornbill enjoy a dust bath in the road ahead.

 

 

Once the bird had flown off and under the watchful eye of EcoTraining trainer Tayla, the students got to see close up the signs that had been left in the soft sand. Being able to quickly and correctly read tracks and signs is one of the skills that guides have to learn. I had forgotten what it was like to be on a vehicle driven by a student. It was interesting to listen to a new take on subjects like how termite mounds work and the history of the Pridelands concession. I wish the students that I shared the vehicle with all the very best with their guiding careers. What it did for me was rekindle the passion that I have and I have set myself the task of obtaining my Apprentice Level Guide (NQF2) in 2022.

 

 

A Southern White-crowned Shrike watches us as we trundle past. To quote a birding friend of mine,” A wonderful characterful wee bird”! I tend to agree.

 

 

Possible one of the most easily recognizable of the African bird species…the Lilac-breasted Roller.

 

 

A morning coffee while seated near the waterhole. And yes, the cup was at that angle and it WAS morning coffee and nothing more!

 

 

When the students are not busy with lectures or work around camp, this becomes their tv. It was certainly my favourite spot while I was in camp.

Under the cover of darkness on the night that I was in camp, 6 lions had come down to drink. Although their vocalization echoed through camp, being uncertain as to their exact position I stayed in my tent and chose to listen rather than to see if I could get a visual.

 

 

Just before I was about to leave camp, this hyena came strolling past and stopped for a drink before once again vanishing into the bush.

Many thanks to the staff as well as the students for being so welcoming and making me feel part of the group, even if it was only for a few hours.

 

 

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