Spending several weeks in the bush is life-changing, whatever your age, says Anna Evans, who completed a 28-day safari guide training course.
After 28 days of studying trees, geology, veld types, stars, tracks, natural direction signs, birds and their calls, sitting passively in a game-viewing vehicle would be hard. As I drifted off to sleep in my comfortable tent on the last night of EcoTraining’s Safari Guide Training Course, I counted some of the magical moments of the past weeks.
• Standing watch duty and keeping the fire burning while sleeping out in the open.
• The reward early the next morning of seeing a pack of wild dogs on the hunt. They ignore people, we’d learnt, and these did.
• Tracking a mother hyena and her new cubs to their lair.
• Being able to identify the hole made in the ground by a scorpion and the hole made by a solifuge [also known as roman spiders or baardskeerders – Ed.].
• Trying to entice a solifuge out of its nest.
• Finally seeing an aardvark digging for termites.
Of course, there was also the time I missed out on seeing two male leopards charging each other while Ms Leopard sat in splendour on a rock in the moonlight. Visits to the bathroom can be ill-timed…
The most memorable of all was the night the shaking of the tent woke me. The side of the tent then developed a bulge right next to my head. I could hear snuffling noises, scratching noises, grunting noises, crunching noises on the other side of a single layer of fabric.
An intrepid trainee field guide suddenly reverted to a very scared grandma. I dared not breathe, nor twitch. I have never kept so still and quiet in my life. Gradually I realised the three sub-adult male lions that had paraded past our open lecture room earlier that day had cosied up to my tent, probably chewing on leather sandals left outside. I hoped they had heard the bit about lions ignoring humans in zipped-up tents.
The tent shook once more, stretching at its pegs. A big grunt and the bulge next to my head disappeared. The padding noises faded away. Scared grandma was the brave trainee field guide again. The realisation she would dine out for years on the lions rocking the tent. The consternation of the research team who found a young lion sauntering down a road with a well-chewed sandal in his mouth has become another campfire legend.
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