Guide Trainer Johan Fourie reports back on a recent entry-level guide training course held in Namibia…
Thanks to a collaborative effort between Wilderness Safaris, the United Nations Development Programme and Namibian Ministry of Youth and Social Services, a total of 13 candidates and a chef attended this four-day programme at the Okatjikona Environmental Education Centre in the Waterberg Plateau National Park.
We covered a number of topics using videos and lectures in class preceded by a few hours out each day, getting familiar with the bush.
Day 1 – Was all about introductions and orientation and, of course, getting to the venue.
Day 2 – We did a long walk to the top of the Waterberg Plateau and looked at dung beetles, many tree species, some birds, tenebrenoid beetles, a lovely velvet mite and many lizards. We had a look at a kudu carcass (it was fairly old) and found fresh leopard and hyaena tracks, which was very cool. During the walk we also gave each candidate 20 minutes to reflect on life and what they want to achieve and how to get there.
During the afternoon we had classroom sessions discussing the scope of the course, what guiding really entails as well as their possible way to get forward from this point and a guide’s responsibilities. We also had a talk on body language and the life of a guide in terms of guests and how we should treat them.
We also chatted about wildlife, approaching game, recognising various impact zones on animals and the ethics of the bush.
That evening we watched a video featuring spectacular Namibian wildlife.
Day 3 – We drove to the main rest camp, had look at a variety of different organisms including southern masked-weaver males displaying for females and nest building. We also saw warthog, Damara dik-dik and rock hyrax.
A huge black mamba that was seen basking in the sun just below the top of the Plateau causing a few of the candidates to retreat pretty promptly! We moved back a little and the snake retreated into large rock crevice, though it did come out again and was observed by a few of us looking very relaxed. We opted not to disturb it again though, as the path went right past this rock crevice where it seemed to have made its home.
We also discussed the life cycle of antlions and looked at some interesting ecological relationships between different organisms in lichens and plant parasites, for example, mistletoe.
We also examined the geological formations of the Waterberg Plateau and its surrounding springs. The candidates had a refreshing swim before finally heading back to camp.
That afternoon we got stuck into the principles of guiding in terms of our professional behaviour and having responsible fun with guests. With great fanfare we also assigned topics which each guide had to prepare for a presentation that afternoon.
Day 4 – On the last morning the candidates had a little time to prepare before we had a look at climate change and our impact on the environment and how we can limit it, as well as our responsibility to it.
Stephanie then presented a very interesting talk on taxonomy, food change and webs.
I had the candidates all practise an activity briefing on their colleagues which was lots of fun before their more serious evaluated presentations.
To wrap up the course, we went on a final drive in the park – with rather limited wildlife sightings as it had been raining up there and the game was fairly dispersed and the bush is very thick. However, we did get to see some giraffe and red hartebeest as well as a duiker and some very fresh rhino tracks though we missed seeing the animal itself in the thick vegetation.
Report by Johan Fourie
Photos © Stephanie Bradley – Cheetah Conservation Fund