Visitor for breakfast 

Was eating my breakfast watching the view and minding my own business when suddenly we had a visitor just outside the camp fence line (where it’s been taken down).

I got called back 10m to the main dining area where our fellow students were whispering “it’s a leopard, it’s going for the kudu”… if only I hadn’t left my binoculars and camera in the tent!

I stepped back in the shadows of our lapa and saw it hidden to our left behind the bushes out of view from the female kudus walking left across the dam wall towards where leopard was hiding!

The kudus stopped about 5m before the leopard as if knowing danger was about.

Leopard sunk back behind his hiding place.

Patiently we watched as one, two, three kudu safely went past the leopard. We watched with baited breath as a 4th looked like it was to be the target.

The kudu stepped along the wall and stepped down the wall further into the bank closer to our camp and then, suddenly she was in our camp! Just far enough away from the leopard that it didn’t pounce but still within the leopard’s sight.

The kudu walked towards where we were all watching.  The leopard slowly emerged from its hiding place watching the kudu. I’m sure it was also looking straight at us spectators too (not all of us were in the shade).

Quietly we willed for the kudu to go back out of camp and not be a target closer to us!

Minutes passed and the kudu within our camp was happily munching on the camel thorns near our tents (yes actually near my tent!!).

There were more kudu eating on the other side of the dam wall including a baby. We waited watching thinking it must be targeting that little one.

Then, the leopard moved. It stealth walked across the road from its hiding place … towards camp! Towards us! And then it went down below beneath the dam wall.

Suddenly we couldn’t see it and kudu in our camp was moving on closer to the centre of our camp (i.e. closer to where we were all gathered with no walls to separate us). Eek! How to shoo a kudu? Haven’t learnt that in our training…

And then out from below leopard shot out and ran along the dam wall to the right where the other kudu were still browsing. Kudu in our camp looked up just in time to see leopard on the dam wall.

BARK!

WOW To hear that large but dainty antelope make that wallop of a sound. The sound went right through my body. That was it’s warning bark. The kudus on the other side got the message and stood alert and started barking to each other looking for the danger that passed near by.
Several barks later the kudus seemed to relax and eventually moved back down the dam wall to the left.

Danger averted.

Back to finish my cold scrambled eggs. What a morning!

Photo credit: Andrew Russell

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Outdoor Classroom

Where else in the world do you study from 5:30am to 8pm and collapse into bed but get to go on 5-star safari drives twice a day? This is like nothing else. We feel super privileged to be able to be amongst all this nature and learn about the wonders of this planet before us humans damage it any further.

Where else in the world is this your classroom?

Where else in the world do you learn this?

Elephant molars are typified by these transverse ridges, which is one of the reasons they are related to the rock hyrax (dassie). Hook lipped rhinos are browsers and eat stems, roots, etc. When they eat they cut at 45º. Here is a sample taken from some dung we found on the road.

Where else do you get to see things like this?

Ostrich in the savannah open plains.
Zebras beneath the Waterberg mountain range.
Quin found this beautiful ground agama in the valley of the mountains.

Where else do you get to live, study and potentially work with this view?

First Sightings

In our first week we were spoiled with being taken on a few introductory game drives through the beautiful private reserve.  Such a magical place and we feel so fortunate to be able to experience the beauty of nature with this minimal intrusion of humanity.

White chested cormorant and two nests with chicks on the dead tree in the dam in front of our tent. Pearl spotted owlet in the dead tree of our college “lawn”.
Male baboon on the verge in front of our college. The troop that lives on the other side of the dam from us is very noisy and occasionally break out in what sounds like fights. On our first game drive with Dan, a recently graduated student on his placement., he asked what would we like to see. We said “birds”. Then we came across this beautiful bull elephant. Such a serene and and gentle creature.
Rare sighting of group of African spoonbills in the common reed grass bed of the river on Day 1. We came across a breeding herd of elephants and this baby elephant is about a year old.
Behind the other baby was this newborn elephant only about a month old! What a cutie with its fluffy head. Here’s the tiny baby behind the matriarch of the herd.
Stunning sunset with this giraffe calmly walking across the road in front. When night fell, our luck was with us again and we had an amazing interaction with this spotted hyaena.

In our first week, our sightings also included a gorgeous leopard walk  around the dam (no photos, sorry).  I have great photos of another species, which is unfortunately increasingly becoming rare due to severe poaching, and as a result, we have been asked not to post to minimise the threat.

Our studies commenced with energetic gusto from Andrew Miller of SMART response who taught us Wilderness First Aid Training Level II preparing us for the realities of living and working in the bush and amongst these incredible WILD creatures.

We also got taken to visit the luxury lodge Marataba in the same reserve where some of our class may have an opportunity to do a work placement there in 6 months time.  Stunning location, and what a place to work, with only a few lodges in this reserve, there are limited vehicles within the reserve, truly giving guests an exclusive experience with what African wilderness has to offer.

 

 

Welcome to wildlifechange

Finally we have started our blog.  Apologies for those who’ve waited for some time to hear our news, but the 4G/3G reception is a little tough out here in the African bush in the lowlands by the mountains!  Thank you for your patience.

For those of you who don’t know us, Quin and I (Mags) have begun our wild life change from global city slickers to living amongst the wildlife here in the South African bush learning to be nature field guides (safari guides). We are trying it out for a year and towards the end will decide what our longer term future holds. Together we have lived in London in the UK, the Netherlands, Singapore and Sydney, Australia.  About a year ago we decided whilst we were doing very well in our IT network engineer & Electrical engineering careers, the road ahead just wasn’t so appealing anymore.  Quin has had a strong long-held passion for the African bush safari and all the associated nature and wonder with it. If we weren’t travelling here for it, he was watching about it on Nat Geo TV or reading about it online. For me, I went straight from school to university to working, so a gap year has been long overdue and it’s great to have some time to reflect and regain my passion and interests. After raising money and volunteering with an NGO, RAW Impact in Cambodia earlier this year building a school for a village, I was really happy to be able to contribute something tangible to people in need and inspired by the team at RAW, so perhaps working with local organisations here and contributing to conservation efforts here might work too!

After much research, we chose to study our FGASA Level 1 certification (Field Guiding Association of South Africa) through NJ More Field Guide College, a fairly new enterprise from ex-Eco Training students/teachers associated with MORE Group which own several 5-star luxury hotels and safari lodges around South Africa. The reason we chose this group was because of the extra short courses included (such as tracking, trails guiding, wildlife photography and advanced rifle handling) the exclusivity of the college (only a small number of students enrolled compared to others around), and the opportunity to have a practical work placement at one of their prestigious lodges.

On day one we met most of our fellow students in Johannesburg and went to register at FGASA headquarters where we equipped ourselves with some recommended reading materials. We are luckily amongst a group of people between the ages of 18 to 54, with a good mix of foreigners and locals compared to the most recently graduated cohort who were mostly quite young.

When we got to camp, located in the Waterberg province of South Africa in a private game reserve, we were shown our accommodation. We are glamping for the next 6 months at least!

Accommodation Inside
Our accommodation – platform safari tents Inside the tent and doorway to ensuite

On our blog main title photo, you see our lecture room called a lapa in the centre of the photo, which also serves as our dining room and common study area. The glass enclosed building is our library and rec room.

When we gathered for our first day on camp, we were given the FGASA level 1 learning materials – wowsers there’s a lot to learn!

Workbooks Books
FGASA Level 1 Learning Material Reference books
Our home

Wild changes for life. Life for the wild. Conservation in action.