Our first Trails Guide Course for 2022 kicks off in late March. With the rain season slowly coming to the end, the bush is lush and the abundance of the Okavango summers still very much present. This time of the year is phenomenal for spectacular landscapes, wildflowers, birds, frogs and invertebrates.
The first days at Kwapa
Our international students Mara, Fabian, Oliver, Elisabeth and Kris are joined our sponsored student Mahindi at Kwapa Training Camp for 28 days of magic. The course starts with a gentle introduction to weapons and rifle handling and walks lead by our trainer Jono Harper. With the skill levels improving, it is time for our first visit to the rifle range. Starting with a smaller caliber rifle and focused more on accuracy than speed, the group shows good progress after the first week.
The safety aspect of weapons proficiency is vitally important. That said, wilderness trails are far more about nature and experience. The students are challenged to learn the birds, trees, mammals, tracks, alarm calls and many other aspects required to be able to interpret nature for guests. In this first week the learning curve is steep but clearly enjoyable.
Sleepout with lions
A highlight of the course is always the sleepout. The evening out does not disappoint! The hectic dew and mosquitoes made sleeping under the stars impossible. With a night roster in place, those not on duty are sleeping in their one-man hiking tents. At 2am Mara and Fabian are sitting around the fire and become aware of a presence. Scanning with the torch they see a lioness standing 30 meters away watching them.
Within a minute Jono is out of his tent, armed but with no intention of shooting. The focus of the lions has shifted to the lechwe that are only around 60 meters away. Another lioness is now coming around the other side of the camp, only 20 meters away, also stalking the lechwe. The lechwe have spotted the lions and move off. The lions continue past camp and shift their focus to another herd of lechwe a hundred meters further on. The students are speechless after this incredible encounter. To be on foot, at night, in the middle of a lion hunt is an experience few people are fortunate enough to have!
Wild dogs and leopard on foot
AGA trainer, Julien Biget says his highlight moment of the course is an on-foot encounter with our resident pack of African Wild Dog (Painted Wolf). The dog show no alarm at seeing the group on foot and just gently drift into the dense bush. A brief, stunning and very peaceful encounter with one of Africa’s top predators!
A few days later they encounter “Pale Male”, our largest and most prominent male leopard in the Kwapa Concession Area. The encounter is courtesy of our resident monkey troop who spot him moving through an open area. With a little elevation, the trails group manage a decent view of the remarkably relaxed "Pale Male".
Kris, Oliver and Lissie decide to spoil themselves with an hour-long helicopter flight to get a birds eye-view of the Kwapa and adjacent Okavango landscapes. They are treated with incredible views of the approaching flood that is yet to reach Kwapa. Returning back towards Kwapa Training Camp, they encounter a huge and very relaxed male leopard crossing a floodplain.
The next Trails Guide Course
All in all, it has been an exceptional course with some wonderful students. We look forward to the start of our next Trails Guide Course on the 20th of May. Keen to join us? Here is how to contact us for a booking.