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A journey end – reflecting on my time at Ulovane

Ulovane Environmental Training extends profound gratitude to our invaluable collaborators and sponsors who played a pivotal role in making our inaugural Community Guide Training program a resounding success. Together with Wilderness Foundation Africa (WFA), we embarked on an extraordinary venture, aiming to reshape the guiding landscape in the Eastern Cape. This visionary partnership seamlessly integrated aspiring guides into Ulovane’s esteemed program, harmonizing with WFA’s Umzi Wethu accredited vocational skills training.

This groundbreaking initiative, made possible by the unwavering support and generous funding from Graham Beck Wines, CCFA, and our diverse stakeholders, is poised to redefine wilderness guiding in our region. Our heartfelt gratitude goes out to these champions of change for their invaluable contributions that have shaped the success of this transformative program.

We are excited to see what the future holds and we invite you all, to follow contribute, and engage with our program going forward! Without all of you, our Ulovane Alumni, followers, friends, partners, and collaborators, none of this would be possible! A personal thank you to Nicky and Ntobeko from Wilderness Foundation for their continuous support and motivation. THANK YOU EVERYONE!

And here we stand at the final stretch, two weeks left and the last challenges to face. Waking up on Monday at bush braai on Amakhala Game Reserve we were greeted by the sombre greenbul who chirped us into the final practical of the year.

It was a bumpy ride making it this far we’ve laughed, cried, sweat, and bled, and though the journey was arduous, I wouldn’t change a thing. On Monday we were taking out guests and happened upon a herd of elephants who disappeared over a hill, being good guides we followed to see if we could get a closer look. As we climbed up the hill with the vehicle we caught a glimpse of them just over the top, we stopped the vehicle as they seemed to be rustling only for us to hear a vehicle behind them spring to life. Did you know that elephants are very quiet when they move? This was all the more terrifying as three massive cows barrelled toward us, almost silent through the thicket. Though we were terrified, they meant us no harm only frustrated at being chased from behind, they danced before us almost as if asking for help, but in that moment, to us, it looked like aggression. They then gave us a trumpeting goodbye which shook me to my core. The next morning as we are still reeling from the elephants and a guide drives past our camp, he very casually says that there are lions at our gate sniffing around. I prayed Ragnar wouldn’t start barking. Later on, we went for a drive and spotted the pride not far from where we slept, needless to say, we didn’t sleep much that night. The positive side was we got to enjoy the sights and sounds of an evening in the bush, it was beautiful!

When we returned to Tanglewood, we started preparing for the final exams which were mammals, animal behavior, and Historic human habitation. The exams were not very difficult and we passed with ease. Whilst preparing, I started on my final presentation and decided on a topic I found very interesting throughout the course, Insects. Before arriving at Ulovane I had a bit of animosity towards the insect kingdom but this hatred quickly faded to intrigue and finally appreciation thus my presentation was on the fascinating world of bugs. On Thursday we had a visit from Craig, our first aid instructor, he’d come to give us our certificates and cover some things we didn’t have the time to complete during his first visit namely splints and cuts, everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy the exercise and Craig even lamented that he couldn’t spend more time with us it was an informative and fun day that none of us would soon forget. It was a short visit but we did cherish the time and as fast as he arrived he was gone but the memory lives on in some awesome photos of everyone having a laugh.

 The 9th week passed so quickly I barely had time to appreciate it and as the tenth and final week ran up on us we had to say goodbye to Hein who had been with us for over a month now, pushing us and helping us through the course. He’d been with us for so long that it became normal to see him every morning and with a heavy heart we all gave our goodbyes on Monday and a hoped to see him again once we finished the Final FGASA exam. He left us with some words, “Everyone in this group is crazy”, we all laughed as we knew he was right. Speaking of Exams, we finally concluded the 20 exams laid out by Ulovane, Lukholos’ head was steaming as he wrote the final words on his paper we all slept after that, everyone needed the rest. We ended off the Monday with some amazing presentations, thought-provoking and comedic, it was truly a delight.

Watch our Journey!

The next day we did the final practical assessment which was a slide and sound exam and doing it made me realise how much we had already learned and how much more we could still learn, as we did some mock exams to prepare us for the Friday. Schalk helped us with answers we might have missed, we were just laughing and learning all together, this disjointed group feeling more like a family.

As I’m writing this we still preparing for the final Exam and I know it’s going to go splendidly. I know that I will miss a lot but to think how close I’ve gotten to nature and the wildlife is astounding to me. I’ll miss the beautiful view of the mountain face every morning as I sip my coffee on the stoep, hearing Albus Tom and Janet chirping to me as though they are trying to tell me about their nights. I’ll miss Bartholomew the toad who guarded the back door, and Sheldon the toad who guarded the front every night vigilantly. I’ll miss Etsebet the Cape Mountain Zebra that chased Masi into the bush in the third week. I’ll miss Naas the springbok, with a personality disorder, that makes him believe he’s an impala. I’ll miss Willy the Black Wildebeest that guards the territory atop the mountain and Vladimir the Common buzzard that perches on the various sweet thorns. Most of all I’ll miss Tanglewood and all the wildlife in its borders though this may be my last time here I’ll never forget the memories I’ve made with all my friends and as for what comes next dear reader I’ll have to tell you that on a guided experience with me as your professional guide. – Juandre Oostendorff – Langenberg Western Cape