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  • Writer's pictureRafael Bloch

Trails Guide Course With AGA

As a stand-alone experience or an extension from the Nature Guide Course, a Trails Guide Course is an opportunity like no other. A month of walking in the wilderness of the great Okavango Delta, a chance to intimately connect with the land and its inhabitants. You truly do become part of the ecosystem when you learn how to navigate the landscape safely on foot. You learn the language of the birds and squirrels and how to become friends with the wind. These all culminate in a way that we can correctly approach potentially dangerous animals and safely extract from humbling moments in nature.


Our most recent Trails Guide Course has wrapped up and there are some stories to share. There has been a healthy mix of local guides and international students which has made for some eye-opening fireside chats. And apart from the local group, every international student has been here with us in the past. With four of them have opted to immediately transition into the Trails Guide Course from the Nature Guide Course which began just under two months ago.

 

What is a Trails Guide Course?


The more esoteric description of a month-long trails course can be read here. But moving into the Trails Guide Course is the perfect opportunity for you to build upon the foundational skills gained in the Nature Guide Course. It’s a deep dive into the practical world of experiencing nature on foot. Where you gain confidence in applying theoretical knowledge into practical situations providing you with a totally unique perspective in understanding the landscape. You are up close and personal with the components of the environment you wouldn’t necessarily take in if you were on a vehicle.


A full sensory experience.


But look, there’s also no sugar-coating it, it’s a lot of walking. Twice a day, six days a week with one rest day. But I’ll tell you, although it sounds daunting, when that rest day comes along all you want to do is walk so more.


It’s addictive.


It’s the closest thing to a ‘runner’s high’ out here, because… well… one of the golden rules in the bush is that you “do not run unless specifically told to do so”. Which, if that’s new to you, when you join us, you’ll understand why.


The Growth of an AGA Student


As mentioned, many of the students this time around are part of the “Platinum Loyalty Programme” which is a completely made-up programme for students who have spent two or more months with us. However, this has allowed for a much richer Trails Guide Experience. We know the students already and they are familiar with the landscape, giving them a jumpstart in navigating through the bush on foot as well as a familiarity with the ecological components around camp.


An encouraging thing to have witnessed involves the pre-activity briefs which go a little something like this:


“Good day everyone, my name is So-and-So and I’ll be leading you on a bushwalk later this afternoon…”


This continues on as the student goes through the pre-brief checklist. But then you get to the point where the guide asks, “Are there any special interests for today’s walk?”


Aha!


Usually, it’s the classic interests where one student says “Elephants!”, another says “Birds!” and one inevitably says, “Medicinal uses of Plants.” Oh yes, and there’s always that joker in the group who says, “a unicorn” (although the closest animal to that has been a one-horned impala that has been hanging around camp.


But after a week, things started to get really interesting.


The pre-brief commences. The interests are asked. Someone says “elephants”, the joker says “unicorn.”


Then there’s this elongated pause…


“Uhmm… I’d like to learn more about the ecological importance of invertebrates.”


Woah, where did that come from?


“I’d like to learn about the seasonal dormancy of plants.”


Ok…


“I’m interest in the importance of grasses and it’s ecological effect on the trophic pyramid.”


The most encouraging thing to witness is that as soon as that pre-brief ends, instead of being all flustered like a spring hare blinded by head lights, it’s straight to the books! Students grab a pen and paper and start diving into those specific interests.


TG Course Highlights June 2024


With the interests becoming more in depth and exciting, we didn’t lose track of the obvious highlights of walking with potentially dangerous animals on foot. Botswana is known for its elephants and its no different here at Kwapa, especially since the generous donations from you have allowed for the installation and maintenance of a borehole during one of our worst droughts in recent history.


There have been some truly incredible moments with elephants. Humbling to say the least. Hours and hours have been spent on foot to try and find the illusive Kwapa Cats, our leopards and lions. Spoor, scat, drag marks and their calls. We would follow them until their track goes cold, the wind turns, or our sugar levels drop too low and the scent of freshly baked bread at camp becomes too enticing.



Curios wild dogs approached us on foot, less than a stone throw away if we sat still enough.


And just for one second, imagine walking through knee high grass while little bee-eaters and fork-tailed drongos swoop beside you, catching insects that are escaping in your wake.


You are part of the ecosystem during a Trails Guide Course.


Even you have your ecological role whilst on it.



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