When one signs on for the One Year Professional Field Guide Course with EcoTraining, you open yourself up to all kinds of wild and wonderful adventures and experiences to fill a lifetime with memories. After six months of theory and practical lectures out in the field at all our wilderness camps (Selati, Karongwe, Makuleke, Mashatu), the lodge placement phase gives you a taste of life in the industry and what it takes to be a field guide.

Even though she’s got to return to ‘the real world’ soon, Candice Wagener McGuire still has a couple of more weeks left on her lodge placement at Mavela Private Game Reserve in the heart of the KwaZulu-Natal Zululand Rhino Reserve. And from the word go, Candice has had the time of her life, experiencing things par none!

Like the chance to tag along with management to dart some lionesses so their tracking collars could be changed. Have a look here…

And then there are the times spend with guests. Candice elaborates…

“The lodge filled with the quiet air as everyone went off to bed, but two people decided to stay behind and just enjoy it a little more. This is what happened.

I and a guest decided to stay behind a little longer after everyone answered the calling of sleep. Leigh– Jane wanted to see some of the videos I’d taken during my course since I’d spoken so much about the memories.

After a particular one, an elephant encounter that we had on foot, she wanted to learn a little more on how to handle such an encounter. I decided to play the clip of the elephant part to the series ‘Dangerous game on foot’.

At a certain point, we both shot our heads up and looked behind us. I looked at her and mumbled ‘I reckon I just heard lions calling.’ She confirmed it and walked towards one of our tented windows to take a peak, excited that she heard them.

We walked towards the doors and locked them on her request. ‘You have nothing to worry about, you’re tent is just around the corner, my house is above the lodge,’ I nonchalantly said.

We stood back from the doors and I said we’ll be safe in here, only after did I notice that a sliding door next to the kitchen entrance was wide open. We scurried across and used team work to close the doors and then off to check the kitchen, she opened the door to check outside and then couldn’t close it! ‘You’re going to be the reason we get eaten,’ I said, not trying to hold the laugh in.

Leigh-Jane was trying to think how we were going to get the other guide to come assist, all the while walking around the lodge peeking through each visible area she could find. I walked to the second sliding door, opened it and went outside to listen for a bit. I walked back in saying that it was probably just an ostrich. Yet she was still busy trying to decide if we should sleep on the sofas up on the bar deck, or the ones down stairs. I just kept trying to convince her that it was ostrich, not lion and after playing the ostrich call it worked.
Having spent a while in lock-down, I went around switching off the lodge lights and we made the way to her tent, just to find her friend was still up. ‘I heard the lions calling too,’ Ann said.

I dropped my head as Leigh–Jane tried to rush me into their room. I thought of all possibilities, including just end up sleeping in the tent next door. Instead I took her number and said I would whistle when I got to my house.

I got to my room safe and sound, sent the sms and sounded the whistle, yet Leigh–Jane and Ann never got either one of the pre-arranged signals. I can only imagine how much sleep they eventually got, not knowing if I was safe…

With all snug in bed, it was the end of a fantastic day with two special guests. Needless to say, the next morning started off with laughing about the night before.”


Although Christmas is just around the corner, a New Year not too far off either and most are looking forward to some well-deserved R&R at the end of 2012, there is some unfinished business at Segera in Laikipia, Kenya.

For the last two months six local guides of the area have been undergoing training in all aspects of field guiding under the guidance of EcoTraining’s highly experienced instructors. This is the result of a partnership with the Wilderness Collection (Wilderness Safaris) to give guests the best possible guided experience in that part of Kenya.

Mark Gunn started with the sharing and imparting of his wealth of knowledge, and shared some of his diary entries with you since October. And now Bruce Lawson is at it. It sure is a long way from our wilderness camp in the Makuleke concession in the north of the Kruger National Park where Bruce normally operates. 

But nonetheless, he’s been clocking the hours, exploring Segera on foot with the guides. He sent through these updates.

So sit back, read and enjoy…

22 November: It is tough up here especially when I have to wake up every morning with the sunrise over Mount Kenya. Also walking all day in the shadow of Mount Kenya does not help…
Headed east towards Mount Kenya and parked the vehicle close to the eastern boundary after following a spotted hyena for a while. While Jackson was doing the pre-walk brief a lone Dugga Boy came strolling past. 900 m into the walk still heading east our Askari spotted an elephant bull 200 m to the south of us.

A couple of kilometres further we bumped a breeding herd of elephant. In trying to navigate around the herd, downwind and to the west, we bumped a lot more elephant. We back tracked and skirted around to the north and east gaining some spectacular views.
Today one of my bucket list items was ticked off and that was to see an elephant with Mount Kenya in the back-ground. Stuff dreams are made of...

24 November: A great day's walking having done 15 km and 7.5 hours.  Francise took us to
Bata Island dam where we encountered a small herd of elephant which unfortunately got our scent and moved off. On the way there we passed plains zebra, reticulated giraffe, Grant's gazelle and some impala. At the dam we got a few new bird species – red faced crombec, Abyssinian scimitarbill and black-lored babbler.

In the afternoon I led the walk and we headed up stream towards the Segera Marsh. Straight off the bat we saw a lone bull elephant feeding peacefully next to the river which I approached. My Askari
was a bit apprehensive but all turned out well with cracking close-up views of the Bwana bull. Heading up towards the marsh we encountered more elephant feeding in the reeds and great views of Augur buzzard. 

En route back to the vehicle we bumped the Bwana bull again and did another approach, this time getting closer and a little elevated. A splendid day's walking!

27/28 November:  We have had a few awesome days walking and guiding. Four elephant
encounters over the 2 days and over 30 km walked. The bird list has crept past the 150 mark and climbing steadily. Gravy's zebra, reticulated giraffe, De Faso's waterbuck are to mention but a few of
the other specials we have seen.
Arnold led us down towards the Segera Marsh where and back towards the west and north. Some good spotting by our Askari Julius, and we had some elephant in our sights. It is still amazing for me to see a breeding herd of elephant 500 m off with Mount Kenya as a backdrop, breath-taking...

Anyway Arnold did a very good approach and we had a breeding herd of elephant 70 m away feeding happily not knowing we were there. All this without a rifle!
Today we had an amazing encounter with a young Elephant bull which we sat with for a very long period of time. We moved closer over a long period to eventually be within 50 m of him without him so much as even batting an eyelid. The rain started creeping in on the afternoon walk
so the pace picked up on the way home.
The rain has set in now so who knows where to from here???

November into December: Now that the rain has subsided we have started walking again in
earnest. The guides have logged over 60 hrs now, we are still going great guns.

The encounters are also creeping up there with over 20 so far having added an awesome encounter this afternoon with a herd of 26 elephants. I am still in awe at seeing a herd of elephants on huge big open grasslands. Awesome stuff! This morning was another example of a great walk from the Chimney Clearing down to the Waterfall on the Sugaroi River. Reticulated Giraffe watched us as we crossed the plain before heading down to the river. Four klipspringer kept a watchful eye on us as we descended the ridge and Rock Hyrax shouted their eerie call all the while.
En route back to the vehicle Bassa oryx, eland and zebra watched our approach back to the vehicle. Jack did a splendid job of guiding us today with twp "real" guests joining us. Well done Jack.
I still find watching the sun rise over Mount Kenya the highlight of my day and then watching the sun light up the glaciers on the peak in the late afternoon... Yeah guiding is tough!

6 - 8 December:  Sitting here watching a journey of reticulated giraffe crossing the grassland with the white snow peaks of Mount Kenya in the background make writing a bit tough. I know all of you feel really sorry for me but I want to assure you that I'll hang tough and push through...
We have had a great three days of walking with two of those looking for the rare and endangered Patas monkey. Before I get into that story… Three days ago Francis took us down to the springs in a shroud of thick mist. It was amazing walking in a thick mist not really knowing where I was and watching giraffe materializing out of the mist in front of us. Not sure who were more surprised, them or us?

Yesterday and today we have been under the lead of Mohammid, who monitors the Patas monkeys. We have spent 8 hours and walked 22 km in search of these beautiful and rare primates. Eventually today after walking 12 km, with everybody’s heads down we finally found them. What a moment to see these straw coloured monkeys standing bi-pedal in the grass watching us. I was told by Mohammid that this troop had 20 individuals of which I am sure we saw most.
At first they were a bit skittish and moved off but we moved closer slowly and they tolerated us to such an extent that the youngsters started wrestling not 50m from us. I do not know what seeing the
gorillas are like as I have not yet had the pleasure of seeing them but today I felt as if I was in the presence of something special and likened it to the gorillas. The big male made his appearance and
watched us from his low perch. What an animal, thick back hair the colour of dark straw, snow-white underbelly and puffy white cheeks. Made all 22 km worth it and I would walk them all over
again tomorrow to see these splendid primates again.

Unfortunately my camera decided to give up on me 2 days ago so I was not able to get any pictures. I am not sure if I will be able to rectify this problem so this might be the last pictures in my log.
Safari njema
Bwana Bruce

(Thank you Bruce for the updates and photos!)


“The born naturalist is one of the most lucky men in the world. Winter or summer, rain or shine, at home or abroad, walking or riding, his pleasures are always near at hand. The great book of nature is open before him and he has only to turn its leaves.” (John Burroughs) 

The countdown has begun and the end of 2012 is but a handful of weeks away… The past 12 months were filled with adventure, excitement and pure satisfaction for all and sundry who attended EcoTraining’s courses across Africa. With a new year filled with even more endless possibilities, the  call of the African wilderness remains as loud as ever and we are ready with an array of courses to suit all preferences – from the more serious that wish to enter the guiding industry on a full time basis to discerning nature lovers. Have a look what is coming up, courses on offer, what we’ve been up to with the clock counting down a fantastic year and other interesting snippets.



Congratulations to DONALD ALEX MALATJIE who has won that sought after spot on the acclaimed EcoTraining Wildlife Photography Course (with Premier Magazine & Lounges). Donald will have the opportunity of a lifetime in the New Year when he will get the opportunity to learn more about getting that perfect shot under the guidance of an experienced wildlife photographer in the Karongwe Game Reserve where we have one of our wilderness camps. 


2013 is around the corner and if you have the urge to make a break and head for the bush, get yourself a place on one of our courses.  Come live and walk amidst the spectacular wildlife of the African bush, experience things and gather knowledge that will blow you away. From a handful of days to one year, the choices are endless! Follow the link to our website ( where you will get more details on the types of courses, dates and other important information. Or send an email to


Office: The dedicated team at head office in Nelspruit is ready to take a well-deserved break after a hard but very rewarding year. There is however still time to send your questions and queries through before the clock strikes 12, so don’t hesitate!  ‘Good bye’ and good luck with their new ventures was said to Marxanne de Villiers (logistics and support) and Corne Schalkwyk (marketing manager). And then subsequently ‘Welcome!’ to Shaun Byrnes.

Even though the EcoTraining team has changed with people coming and going in the office in Nelspruit and at the various camps, the passion for what they are doing is stronger than ever. And when the books are closed and the lectures out in the bush are finished, there's always time to have fun! Like the year-end party where the current team got together and showed that they know how to dress up! See if you can recognize the faces in something other than khaki and with some crazy head decorations... 

Camps: Every minute on one of our courses in our camps in South Africa, Botswana and Kenya is a learning experience, being constantly exposed to the bush. See what transpired in the past month!

Karongwe: To experience the unexpected on an EcoTraining course, no matter at which wilderness camp and in which country, is a given. As they say, the only thing in nature that is certain is that nothing is certain…  Like Gabriela Brunner explains about the most unusual sighting that has created a memory to last a life time for the very fortunate students that were on an EcoQuest course:  
“We heard on the radio about a pangolin sighting. I was VERY excited and all of a sudden it wasn’t that cold anymore. There was a lion sighting as well and we first went for the lions. It was an adult male adult, a juvenile male and two females. Karin was on the tracker seat and only two meters away from the adult male as he regurgitated and vomited next to her feet. Awesome!
And then it got even better, as on our way back to camp we drove by the pangolin sighting, I nearly died... There it was, my first pangolin ever! This shy, nocturnal animal came out in the cold rainy weather and was lying like a giant pine cone between the trees.

I still can’t believe how lucky we were to see one of these rare creatures! It was just lying and didn’t move so I first feared that it was dead but then I saw it breathing. Whew, what feeling of relief! So we stood there for quite some time and couldn’t believe what we were experiencing.
I feel so privileged that I am one of very few people to have seen a pangolin.”

Segera (Kenya): Since September, six local guides from Segera in Laikipia have been undergoing training in all aspects of field guiding under the tutelage of EcoTraining’s highly experienced instructors. This on-going process is the result of cooperation with the Wilderness Collection (Wilderness Safaris) to give guests the best possible guided experience.

Instructor Mark Gunn describes one of those unexpected, unique and utterly thrilling experiences that occurred at Segera where he spent some time:
“We went on a game drive… And even though I’ve been doing this job for a while, this was definitely a highlight.
We found a herd of camels with their herdsman. We stopped and had a tea break with him while the camels roamed around us. They were browsing and grazing quite close to the table we were having our tea at. The whole scene of having tea with the camels was absolutely fantastic. It had a certain peace and tranquility about it. Having tea surrounded by strange animals all peacefully grazing and browsing was just something else. 
After our tea we headed home and encountered a breeding herd of elephants and we did a slow quiet parallel drive with many a quiet time to watch and listen to them feeding and walking through the long grass. When they moved out of range they were silhouetted against the skyline. A long line of dark shapes peacefully drifting through the short trees.
Peace and tranquillity at its purest.”

Sam Ryan’s Diary: A Brit by birth, but with a heart belonging to Africa… That in a nutshell sums up the 28 year old Sam Ryan. Sam attended an EcoTraining 55 day Level One Field Guide course at our wilderness camp in Makuleke in the Kruger National Park and another camp in Pongola in KwaZulu-Natal. He describes it as an adventure of a lifetime, beyond his wildest dreams.
He diligently kept a diary of his experiences with his fellow students.

“The afternoon activity was a game drive. We headed out and decided to go and look at the Limpopo river, we drove across the flood plains and into the fever tree forest…
It was starting to get really dark so Skigh was on the tracker seat and was shining the spotlight. As we turned at Maqueba windmill I saw something run in front of the vehicle. It took me a few seconds and a bit of a stutter to get it out but a LEOPARD had just walked in front of us and into the bush next to the vehicle!
We braked and reversed and managed to see it for a few seconds before it disappeared again. We found it again going down the road we had just been on across the flood plain, we continued to stay on it and followed it to the water where it lay down and drank. It then walked off into the reeds of the flood plains where we lost it.
It was amazing, and one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life that I will never forget! My mouth was dry as it was open the whole time. We all headed back to the camp all so excited about what we had just seen!”

The life of a field guide through the eyes of Mark Gunn: From taking care of and looking after animals when he started out as a zookeeper, to encountering the big and hairies in true wilderness areas for the last 15+years, Mark Gunn has many years’ experience working in the bush and has an enormous interest in all creatures great and small.
His years of experience is backed up by a list of qualifications – Level 3 FGASA Field and Trails Guide, VPDA (Viewing Potentially Dangerous Animals), Level 2 Tracker, Level 3 track and sign interpretation, registered FGASA assessor. 
For the past five years he has been an instructor for EcoTraining, the last two as a roving instructor in South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia. He has shared and imparted his wealth of knowledge with hundreds of students from all over the world.  Taking his instructing seriously, he has been able to use his teaching techniques to create exceptional fun for all participants. Catching insects and picking up stones is just part of everyday life, spending hours analysing the complexity in each subject of fascination.

He shares a diary entry from the wilderness camp in the Makuleke concession in the Kruger National Park:
“We tried to go frogging, followed by a star session. Plans were made and the cooler box packed for a drink afterwards. Upon arrival at the chosen site we were greeted by a herd of buffalo. While waiting for the buffalo to move off a leopard came walking down the road and passed within two meters of the vehicle. We followed the leopard and when it walked off into the bush we went back to try for the frogs. The pan was too far from the road though and the grass too long. We went to the water trough instead, but there were only tadpoles and mosquito larvae. The next option was to do a star talk. This was about the only thing that went to plan. The sky was clear, the moon had set and there was no light pollution. Lesson learned – when an interesting distraction happens, adapt to the new situation. Can you imagine the reaction if I had ignored the leopard just because we were on a frogging trip?”


For almost two decades now EcoTraining has been training field guides, starting way back in 1993 with the first batch of eager students attending the inaugural course in the Sabi Sands reserve in Mpumalanga. Since then a great number has gone on to make their mark in the industry and are continuing to do great work all over the world. We want to hear from you, email with your stories!


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(Thank you to everybody who contributed with photos and information!)