On the morning of the 21st of May, there was a lot of excitement in the air at Schotia Camp as it was the first day of our apprentice trail guide course. Everyone was amped up as we started our journey to become Apprentice Trails Guides. We started the first few days with a 3-hour morning walk and a 3-hour afternoon walk. In between the walks, we had lectures to prep us for the upcoming theory exam.
We finished the lectures on the 25th of May and the excitement levels went through the roof because now the long trail walks could begin. The morning of the 26th of May we had our first full 6-8-hour trail. It was soon clear that it’s not all fun and games out on the walks and that 8 hours is a long time to walk. But everyone was still very eager to learn and explore the beautiful Marataba area from a different perspective.
The encounters we had were absolutely mind-blowing. Some of the dangerous game species we saw whilst walking were White Rhino, Black Rhino, Elephant, Hippo, Lion and Buffalo. But we did not focus solely on the dangerous game. There is an incredible amount of diversity in the wilderness, such as insects, plant species and birds, just to name a few. We also got some very handy tips and techniques on survival in the bush – from where to shelter if you get lost and have to spend a night in the wilderness, to different food sources you can make use of and different ways of getting water.
On the 5th of June, we had to put the walking aside and focus on studying for the theory exam. The stress levels were running high as the deadline approached. As the sun rose on exam day, a lot of nervous faces crept out of their tents hoping that they had studied enough. The next 2 and a half hours was all the students had to ensure that they passed the exam and kept the dream of becoming Trails Guides alive.
After the stressful morning, we then got called in one by one to find out if we had passed. The students performed extremely well, and it just shows what you put in you will get out. Not only was the 8th of June our exam day, but it was also one of the students 21st birthday, so we could unwind that evening, and all celebrate his 21st together.
While the students were enjoying their success, the mentors were busy sorting out the roster for our assessment week. This would not be your typical assessments, as we were mentored every step of the way. Every day there were two students being assessed, with the rest of their teammates acting as their guests. The mentored assessments went very well, and the group is now filled with qualified Apprentice Trails Guides.
In the end, I think I speak for each and every student that was part of this course by saying this was a life-changing experience. Walking in the untamed wilderness is an experience that many only dream of. We gained an immense amount of knowledge that we all can take further as we embark on the journey of becoming Trails Guides. Walking in the wilderness is definitely where memories are made.