September Apprentice Trails Guides Week 4
Our Trails course has just flown by! In the blink of an eye, we have fast-forwarded through 4 weeks of magical on-foot experiences.
The week started off with my first walk as Pieter Dunn’s back-up and my first walk with a .375 in my hands. On the splendid walk through Amakhala Private Game Reserve, we managed to spend the majority of the morning with the entire breeding herd of Africa’s wisest animal, the African Elephant. The privilege of being able to observe these magnificent animals for the duration of around 3 hours really opened my eyes to how magically Mother Nature operates. The way the Elephants crept through the Albany Thicket, showed how these giants have adapted to move through such dense vegetation with only a few Common Sweet-thorn branches snapping under their immense mass.
After gaining a slight elevation on the breeding herd, we witnessed the heat of the African sun start to take its toll on the elephants, making them drowsy and eager to quench their thirst. They moved closer towards the river line with us on a cliff opposite them all standing in awe!
After being informed over the radio that a lone elephant bull had made his way to about 200m behind us, we swiftly began to make our way towards a safe location. Making our way to a popular hippo viewing spot. This is when I felt the intense 6kg backpack and 3kg rifle start taking a physical strain on my body. The amount of concentration that needs to be applied by a trails guide is intense, but very needed to ensure everybody, both the animals and people, are safe throughout the excursion.
The lecture that Piet delivered the next day had already been covered practically throughout the week prior to our walks. The knowledge that Piet gives is inspiring, and he continuously strives to improve this knowledge.
The day after was Tyler’s first walk as a back-up. I knew the exact feelings he had throughout the walk and those emotions are not very easily hidden. Throughout this walk in the untouched dune forest of Amakhala, we had the blessing of meeting up with the elephant herd once again. We had a beautiful sighting of them making their way up a rather unused road, in our direction! “Goosebumps” is all I can say about that extraordinary sighting!
The next day was Simon’s turn to experience those exact same emotions flooding Tyler and myself on the previous days! We began the walk in the basin knowing that the elephant and my favorite animal, the Cape buffalo, wherein close proximately. We were lucky to catch a glimpse of the buffalo in the river line below us where they noticed our presence and gave us some entertaining visuals between dense vegetation. We had to make our way through some slick, sandy, eroded hills to make our way from the approaching elephant herd. They seemed adamant on reaching the river line, then making a U-turn towards the road behind us. Due to the weather turning for the worse, we decided to focus mostly on track and signs for the rest of the walk. On our way towards the vehicle, we were fortunate enough to stumble across a Spotted Eagle Owl, which was breath-taking!
Throughout the week, our bodies have been filled with fatigue, awe, and interest! Listening to Piet’s outstanding knowledge of his ‘back garden’, we continuously learn from his observations and experiences. He strives for us to make ethical and respectful decisions, with safety as the main focus. We have gained new skills in wildlife observation, track, and sign, as well as ethical involvement with nature.
- Dominic Cory
“Every great move forward in your life begins with a leap of faith, a step into the unknown.” – unknown