Nature Tourism

This qualification is a heavyweight which will put you in a different league from any other nature guide or field guide, as it is unique in content and quality of information, and it has no equal at present at any nature tourism training institution in Southern Africa.

TRAINERS

The four trainers responsible for the training of this course are Kjeld Krüger, Jéhan Krüger, Wimpie Maré and Dr. Johann Kotzé. They are heavy weights in terms of  nature knowledge and experience with combined lifetimes of nature experience spanning almost 200 years!!  -  including formal scientific studies at university level and many years practically in nature.  

Kjeld Krüger - over the last 15 years, he has intimately focused on developing this program in the 29 selected nature subjects at a new level. He started honing his lecturing/instructing/coaching skills in 1979 in the military where he instructed at the military School of Engineers, to amongst others, professional engineers on military engineering subjects, and tour guides (both culture and nature) since 2001. He also has 30 years guiding experience with foreign clients in nature and culture, and he has spent his life as a student of nature from a very young age since 1963 – totalling 52 years è be sure he is extremely passionate about nature, and he wants to take you on this wonderful journey of becoming intimately part of African Nature! He has recently assisted Johan Fourie, of The Nature College (TNC) in training, together with a trainer of TNC. Johan has told him, based on feedback from the students on that course, he has never had such a positive response from students on trainers, in all his time with TNC.

Jéhan Krüger -  our previous learners described him as a walking encyclopedia of nature and also of culture destinations in South Africa. Jéhan acted on behalf of THETA to bring FGASA to the THETA, SAQA and NQF table. He, together with the 2 most senior people in FGASA at the time, Grant Hinde (CEO) and Adrian Louw were responsible for harmonizing the nature guiding qualifications between FGASA and THETA. Jéhan served for 6 years (2 terms)on the SGB (Standards Generating Body) which developed and revised all tourism qualifications for THETA. His passionate relationship with nature started 55 years ago. He was a junior lecturer at the time of his post-graduate studies at the Zoological Department at the University of Pretoria.

Wimpie Maré -  from a very young age Wimpie has been keenly interested in nature. Directly after school he started work in the Kruger National Park as a student. He qualified under the FGASA system up to Level 3 with SKS in Dangerous game. He trained guides in the Kruger Park, and conducted trails on the game trails of Kruger Park where he guided around 2000 guests in total.

Dr. Johann Kotzé – his lifetime as nature person started at a young age in the late 1950’s. He can be seen as the person who “created Pilansberg Game Reserve”, as he was the responsible person through all the phases in creating it – i.e. planning, development, game- translocation. At some stage in his life he was serving on the board of the National Parks Board. He is probably the person in South Africa who knows best all the provincial parks, national parks, wilderness areas not only in South Africa, but also wilderness areas such as Okavango Delta, Tuli Block, Mashatu, Richtersveld and many others, as he served as technical advisor to Minister Vali Moosa during the planning phases of all the Transfrontier Parks in Southern Africa.

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Even when THETA still had the Nature Guiding (NQF6) qualification in the early 2000’s, which at the time was harmonized with the FGASA Level 3, we felt that there is a definite need to have a nature guiding qualification on a higher level than the NQF6 level, as we regularly received well-informed scientists on tour, who demand more from you as a nature guide than Nature Guiding (NQF6). 

COURSE CONTENT

We concentrate comprehensively on the following 29 subjects:

1.       African Traditional Folklore – we do 100 different fascinating animal stories, fables and tales from the African mythology. You will be surprised how much young and old, professionals, intellectuals enjoy these stories – just about everybody hang on your lips as you tell these stories!

2.       Arthropoda– we are focusing in more depth on a final total of 150 Arthropoda families (index cards). The learner must firstly be able to identify in which family a specific arthropod  is classified, he/she must then interpret a series of selected interesting facts (not information overkill) per family. We go into more depth in certain families, for instance dragonflies, butterflies, etc., and for each of these, there is a requirement to know in more depth – there are tourists coming on safaris with focus on dragonflies/ butterflies, etc.. We also do myriapods, spiders, scorpions and others in more depth, and focus on certain individual species.  We focus more on the search for food, the social insects and strategies for survival.

3.       In Animal Behaviour we are focusing in much more depth in the behaviour of for instance all the antelope species, but also individual species – for example, by just looking at the hunting formation in which you find a pack of wild dogs/painted dogs on a hunt, you will be able to assess what animal they intend to hunt based on their behaviour patterns and formation, even if the prey species is nowhere in sight at that time. You can even anticipate some of their actions in advance, and tell your guests about it. A new world of game viewing will open up, not only for you, but also for your guests! We do things like “nearest neighbourship behaviour in buffaloes” (Jéhan stayed with buffaloes for 2 years in the Sabi-Sands in the late 1970s during post-graduate studies – in this period he also assisted in the research of elephant (Prof. Farrel), lion research (Dr. Pedri Viljoen), lion & predators in the Kalahari (Prof. Fritz Eloff)  

4.       Animal Migrations

5.       Animals Signs

6.       Animal Sounds and Night Sounds

7.       Animal  Survival

8.       Archeology  - Dying Sun Chariot (Indo-African), Great Zimbabwe, Mapungubwe, Masorini, Tulamela, Quena of the Karoo, Klasies River Mouth, Cradle of Mankind (Maropeng), Lydenburg Heads, !Kwe Stone, Rock Paintings and Engravings  – we visit some of these locations.

9.       Astronomy – in-depth stargazing and showing the learner as many constellations as possible over the period of PHASES 1-3. By the end of PHASE 3, the learner should be able to positively identify at least 25 of the 33 major constellations in both the Southern- and Northern Hemisphere (visible from our campus), and in total at least 50 of the total of 88 constellations in the sky. He/she should be able to point out and name the prominent stars in his/her choice of constellations, as well as being able to relate some of the mythology of the major constellations. The learner should be able to point out some of the nebulas that will be shown to him, as well as find it with the telescope. We also focus on various other facets of astronomy in depth (planetary nebulae, gaseous nebulae, novas and super novae, , neutron stars, beyond our own galaxy,  galaxies and other large-scale structures, star clusters and super clusters, open clusters, our Milky Way, pulsating stars, multiple stars, binary stars and Doppler Effect, quasars, voids, black holes, eclipses, the Kuiper Belt, the Oort Cloud, the Asteroid Belt) South African Observatories and Planetariums, Astronomy Projects (RSA and global).               

We also do:

§  The Greek and Arabic naming of stars, planets and constellations

§  Planetary orbits

§  Star quakes

§  Sounds of stars and the Stellar Concerto

§  Dark Sky Astronomy

§  Kepler-452b

§  Galaxy-spin

§  Dead star activity

§  Gamma-ray bursts

§  Missions by NASA

§  Space Station experiments

§  Our Sun in much more depth as well as NASA’s research on it

§  Space research

§  How some of the nebulas was created

§  Zombie stars and cannibal galaxies

§  All the planets as well as their moons in more depth

§  Using the Sky Chart to find various deep sky delights at different times of the year like galaxies, nebulae, globular clusters and double and triple stars

§  Finding your way around with astronomical telescopes

§  The Star Hopping- or Star Jumping Technique

§  Astronomy software and Stargazing equipment

§  Generally asked questions (we do a few hundred questions and answers)

§  Many others

Greek Mythology– the night skies was the early storybook of the ancient Greek and Arabians - an important and interesting part of interpreting to guests at night when doing star gazing. 

10.   Atmospheric PhenomenaDaylight (Why is sky blue? Polarized Light, Haidinger’s Brush), Shadows (Solar Shadows, Mach Bands, Coloured Shadows, Heiligschein), Mirages (Atmospheric Refraction, Inferior Mirages, Superior Mirages, Lake Monsters, Looming and Unusual Visual range), Rainbows (14 different rainbows), Atmospheric Halos (9 different halos), and many other phenomena!

11.   Botany – plant process & adaptations of plants to extreme conditions, ages of trees, the champion trees of SA, the Big 5 trees of SA, build your  tree and shrub list out to at least 150 interesting endemic plant species. We spend time in the veld in various biome types and in 4 selected botanical gardens (during our different provincial tours), to help identify the list of trees and shrubs, but you must also know the medicinal & other uses and interesting facts of the plants on your list. We focus on 32 important SA tree families, SA forestry industry, ‘Working for Water’, veld flowers, succulents. We also look at catenas, physiography and physiognomy.  

12.   Birds – bird studies in much more depth, and by the end of this course, the successful candidate will be able to identify on sight and sound over 600 bird species. Other than the LBJ’s (little brown jobs) we expect the learners to be able not just to identify the bird, but be able to give us one/more interesting facts per bird, depending on the bird. If you want to bore tourists, identify and just name the bird/animal/insect - but if you can tell something interesting about it, you not only impress them, but you will hook them on a ‘nature journey’ with you! We also focus on a series of general questions guests will ask you during your guiding career.

13.   Bushcraft – during this phase we will teach you movement and camouflage in nature. Most people concentrate solely on wind direction and smell, and neglect sun and reflection, which is often as big a give-away as smell. We will teach you ways to use both sun and wind on a give and take, in order to move as undetected as possible. We teach you different ways to walk, crawl, shuffle, slide, how to put your feet down, how to move as a group in a noisy dry leaf area, learn to put feet down at night in unfamiliar terrain with minimum noise, also how to optimize your own night vision. We will also teach you how to stalk animals while reading their body language. We teach you how to judge distance, how to divide you field of vision and then to scan it effectively. We will teach you how to camouflage yourself, shield yourself, as well as how to camouflage your scent. Growing up in Willowmore area and in the Baviaanskloof, as children, it used to be a huge challenge to stalk animals of all kinds to as close as possible, sometimes almost to within touching distance.

We didn’t know then about the dangers of doing it with especially some of the bigger antelopes, entering their critical flee/fight zone – however we certainly still possess that level of bushcraft skills, which we honed over a life-time in the bush. Being better informed now, we know it is better to stay outside any animal’s personal space, and avoid entering it’s critical zone, as it is unethical with a definite risk of some of the parties being injured /killed in the process.      

14.   Camouflage in Animals

15.   Ecologyfreshwater ecology, terrestrial ecology, environmental pollution, ecology and man, radio-ecology,the man-made forests of our cities, towns and gardens,

16.   Fossils– we visit various selected museums

17.   Geological History of South Africa on a Biome-to-Biome basis, the SA landscape, mountain building, Cape mountains ranges & Table Mountain, mountain ranges (series of Cape mountain ranges, Drakensberg, Magaliesberg,  Lebombo, Malutis, Soutpansberg), koppies (Karoo, Free State)    

18.   Mammals – learner will build out selected  South African land mammals up to 80 species and to know them in depth in terms of Prime Activity Periods, Social Nature, Habitat, Diet, Breeding Period, Gestation, Birth Peaks, Special Features, Predators and Predator Avoidance, Lifestyle, Population Dynamics, Interactions & Relationships with other wildlife. We also focus on general questions asked about these 80 species by guests and tourists.

19.   Oceanography– marine ecosystems, characteristics of and comparisons  between East Coast-South Coast-Southwest Coast  – West Coast, zooplankton, pollution, fishing practices (purse-seines, bottom-trawling, longlining, subsistence & recreational ), molluscs, lobsters, turtles, seabirds (penguins, gannets, pelicans, cormorants, gulls, terns, resident,  migrant), marine reserves and protected areas. We focus in more depth on the Great White Shark as it is a major touristic attraction, as well as on other sharks like the Zambezi shark, ragged-toothed shark, etc.

20.   Physiological Adaptations of Animals and Plants to their environment

21.   Reptiles– we focus in more depth to identify & selected interesting facts of the more commonly encountered snakes, lizards, scaly lizards,  agamas, chameleons, skinks, snakes, leguaans, Nile crocodile, tortoises, turtles, terrapins. 

22.    Safari / Wilderness  Guiding – “safari”  is a Swahili word which has its origins in Arabic. In classical Arabic it means to discover or unveil and the noun “safariya”  in Arabic refers to a voyage or expedition. In Swahili “safari” refers to any trip or journey. In Bartle Bull’s book, SAFARI – A Chronicle of Adventure  he wrotethe best safari is the one closest to nature”. The word “safari” is by definition a close experience with nature, and is a word which really appeals to overseas guests. With the full complement of nature training we offer you will be able to give your guests an unequalled safari experience.

In our training we focus on various forms of “safari”  guiding in/into wilderness / natural areas, either on foot or various other modes of transport. We look at canoe safaris on the Zambezi River, a 4x4 off-road safari in Botswana, a multiday on foot trail in a Big 5 area camping as you go, or in a big reserve without dangerous game, vehicle safaris into wilderness areas with game& plant viewing focus, overlanding, horse riding trails/safaris in wilderness areas.  

23.   Seashore life – sandy shores, rocky shores,  sea weeds, lichens, sponges, hydroids, jellyfish, sea anemones, bristle worms, sea mats, barnacles, isopods, sand hoppers, crabs, sea spiders, chitons, bivalves, gastropods, cephalopods, starfish, brittle stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, sea squirts and fish.

24.   Stratigraphy

25.   Super Senses in Animals

26.   Survival Skills –we do in more depth – emergency drills, water, plants as food source, animal protein as food source, improvised hunting methods, improvisation techniques, protection and shelters, communication and signalling, sea & coastal survival, dangers of the African bush, survival pack.

27.   Tropical and Sub-tropical Diseases

28.   Weather and Climatology – South African weather patterns (Synoptic Charts & Meteosat Photos)

29.   Whales, Dolphins, Seals – we do all ocean mammals along our coasts (seals, dolphins, heaviside dolphins, toothed whales, baleen whales), sealing and whaling.