I started out at the NJ MORE Field Guide college in the June-December intake of 2017 with high hopes and big dreams. I didn’t have any idea of what was in store, and it turned out to nothing as I expected.
My college time gave me some of the most memorable months of my life. Just imagine living in the bush for 6 months with like-minded people your age, as keen to learn and experience new things as you. It made it easier to get up on those very early mornings.
Those 6 months were invaluable in terms of bush experience and knowledge. I also made lifelong friends, but in my opinion, the real value of the college was the possibility of a placement at one of the MORE lodges around South Africa – Marataba, Madikwe or Lion Sands.
Most people who have grown up in South Africa would agree that the Kruger National Park and the Sabi Sand Game Reserve are legendary.
These are the places we aspire to work at, so the chance of working as a Field Guide at Lion Sands seemed almost too good to be true. But through dedication, hard work, and the mentorship that was passed on at the college, I made my way to Lion Sands as a student guide.
This also offered me a chance to be permanently hired at the end of a further 6-month mentorship under our assigned mentors.
I received a lot of guidance along the way from my senior guide mentors Neil Jennings and Kelly Oldaker. They really pushed both myself and another student, Mark Hull, to the finish line.
The main objective of the placement course was to gain lodge experience, and to learn how to guide with guests. During my first 6 months, I joined and observed many of Kelly’s game drives. This enabled me to see how to deliver the information we learned at the college to guests.
I also worked on my lead guide trails qualification, which involved hours of encounters on foot during bush walks with many of the guides and trackers. You learn so much by observing, and it was amazing to watch the trackers doing what they do best.
After 6 months of intensive lodge experience, I felt ready to take on the challenge of working. The Head Guide at Lion Sands agreed and decided to give me the chance to become a fully fledged Lion Sands Field Guide – an honour that’s indescribable.
I’m living a life that I never would have imagined. It’s been so truly awesome, and I’ve learned how valuable it is to respect the way the bush works out here.
I’m now learning more every day from my Tracker Eddie Silinda, who is a legend in his own right. The college and the lodge placement definitely prepared me to be a field guide but now through Eddie, and through observing the bush firsthand, I am becoming even better.
This place is amazing and I feel truly honoured to see and experience it on a daily basis. The cherry on top is getting to see so many incredible animals and sightings.
It took a lot of hard work and persistence but I’m incredibly lucky to have found my dream job at my age, with many more years ahead, and many more things to look forward to.)