Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls

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The making of a good guide

The making of a good guide

Course participants deeply immersed in their study environment
Course participants deeply immersed in their study environment
Kerry Du Preez

 

By :  KATH GREATHEAD

 EMAIL :  enquiries@ecotraining.co.za 

WEBSITE : www.ecotraining.co.za

A taut cheetah stalks across the plains; a pack of wild dogs begins the evening hunt; star-spangled skies; a dusty red sunset silhouetting a protected rhino family… these are some of the things that attract tourists and adventurers to Africa.

However, these visitors now want to get more from their African safaris. They want to learn more about the ecosystems, animal behaviour and the wildlife of Africa.

The increase of sophisticated foreign tourists to Africa has led to a need for professionally-trained guides to lead tourists into Africa’s wildlife areas. Such was the vision of EcoTraining, which opened in 1993 to provide aspiring field guides with the grounding, knowledge and professionalism required to enter the growing industry.

Of the 33 venues where veteran instructor Mark Gunn has trained students on EcoTraining’s Field Guide Level 1 course, the Victoria Falls course rates in his top five. What makes this course so different to EcoTraining’s courses in South Africa, Kenya and Botswana is the additional excursions to nearby natural features.

A three day trip to one of Africa’s premier wildlife reserves, Chobe, provides a dramatic change of scenery. “The game drive has such potential and the boat cruise into the sunset close to hippo and elephant taking a swim is what forms that life-long connection to Africa,” said Gunn.

The course participants, consisting of learners studying to become professional guides, to wildlife lovers from all corners of the globe, also enjoy a trip to the Victoria Falls. “A real treat for me is the walk into the Batoka Gorge far below the falls. The gorge is quite simply a tree emporium,” was Gunn’s comment.

Twice daily game drives and wilderness trails form the basis of the course with a daily midday lecture on the topic of the day. The FGASA-endorsed courses give students an understanding of wildlife ecosystems and their inhabitants, providing practical exposure to the diverse aspects of the natural environment in a big game area.

As well as species identification, ecology and behaviour, courses cover communication skills, trail guiding and leadership, basic astronomy, basic 4 x 4 driving skills, rifle handling, approaching dangerous game on foot, and guide-client etiquette.