On a hot and sunny afternoon, all 15 NJ More Field Guide College students headed into the Marakele National Park for some four-wheel drive training, accompanied by their two experienced trainers, Ben and Stohm.
With the group consisting of a real cross-section of ages, nationalities and backgrounds, there were a few confident souls who had previous 4WD experience, while most were filled with trepidation as to what awaited them.
After travelling a short distance from the main Schotia camp and locating a suitable rocky, steep and difficult section of track (near which there were some excellent lioness prints in the soft sand), the trainers sent the majority of the students on a series of tree identification quests.
The first lucky student was placed in the front seat of the safari vehicle and given a rundown on the basics of two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, low range and high range, and how to engage these various settings.
After this brief introduction, they were then asked to drive the vehicle along a roughly 500m stretch of track that included a steep incline, as well as several large and many smaller rocks that all required careful navigation.
The driver then had to turn the vehicle around in a tight section and navigate back down the incline to the original starting point. A second student was seated as a ‘guest’ in the rear row of the vehicle so that they could feel first-hand the full range of bumps and gyrations that a real guest might experience.
Eventually, after more than a few stalls and a several heavy bumps, and under the patient and helpful tutelage of Ben and Stohm, all the students completed the course, taking away some invaluable knowledge and experience on how to handle a game vehicle on heavy terrain – a crucial skill in the quest to become an exceptional field guide.
After more than a few stalls and a several heavy bumps, and under the patient and helpful tutelage of Ben and Stohm, all the students eventually completed the course, taking away some invaluable knowledge and experience on how to handle a game vehicle on heavy terrain – a crucial skill in the quest to become exceptional nature guides.
Written by: Chris Wahlstrom