Nothing can be more special than to get up close and personal with the inhabitants of the natural world. And to do so on foot, with no artificial barriers between humans and animals, that is the ultimate experience.
Jaco Buys, Safari Guide of the Year 2016, is leading the participants on Africa Nature Training's Trails Guide course currently running at Intibane camp at Thanda Safari in KwaZulu-Natal.
Jaco sent through this enthralling and exhilarating account in words and pictures of what has transpired during the first 12 days of the course...
"We celebrated our 10th encounter this morning by tracking a young lion male for about 2,5 kms.
"Twelve days into the course and we have reached the FGASA benchmark of 50 hours and 10 encounters. It has been achieved through hard-working and many hours on foot. Our future trails guides have logged 57 hours over more than 100kms on foot.
"The fluctuating weather and rain made tracking and finding potentially dangerous animals challenging, but has allowed us to focus on track and signs, orientation and navigation, and situational awareness. Unexpected rains allowed us to do very necessary rifle maintenance and we did a spotted hyena presentation to increase our knowledge of potentially dangerous animals.
"This morning capped off the guides endurance and dedication as our patience was rewarded with a great lion sighting on foot. The male was unaware of our presence at about 25 meters and we left him as we found him.
"Guides have now been able to log buffalo, white and black Rhino, elephant and lions on foot through hard work. We discovered a potential leopard den and are assisting Andi Webster of Ulwazi Research in gathering leopard data.
"We now need to focus on completing our work books, preparing for the theory exam and Back Up Trails Guide Practical Assessments, whilst still fine tuning and honing our skills on foot. We have a rose amongst the thorns in Christa Bohmer joining us for a contact week!"