Training to be a field guide!

9 May 2017

Frankly…
Intense, breathtaking (in the truest sense of word), perfect to ground yourself.

Guest Name:

Corina Sonnberger

 

Time of travel:

April 2017

 

Destinations:

Greater Kruger National Park

 

Tell us a bit about yourself

My name is Corina Sonnberger and I was born and raised in Vienna/Austria. I grew up in a family who loves animals very much and always had dogs, cats and horses around me. After school I decided to study veterinary medicine with a specialization in conservation medicine and did further education in physiotherapy and osteopathy for dogs. I can definitely say that my life has always been built around animals. Next to my studies, I worked at a hospital for small animals, but I wanted to make a different and new experience. So I passed a three month internship at the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa two years ago. There, I was not only working with the animals at the zoo, but also helped at conservation and breeding stations nearby the Kruger National Park. I also participated in safaris for the first time in my life and that´s when I lost my heart in Africa.

 

3 words to describe your experience?

Intense, breathtaking (in the truest sense of word), perfect to ground yourself.

 

Why did you decide to do the training?

After my first experience in South Africa I knew I wanted to come back. When I read Gesas book, every single word she wrote touched my heart and I felt connected in so many ways. I saw my professional future in the field of conservation medicine and so I thought it would be the right thing to learn more than the medical aspect of nature and wildlife. And I wanted to make this experience just for myself, to live in the wilderness next to wild elephants, leopards and buffalos.

 

What are your plans now that you are a qualified Field Guide?

I definitely want to do the Trails Guide course as well. Still, I`m very interested in working in the field of conservation and animal protection, but it would be also great to guide a few groups of people through the African wilderness from time to time. I am open for many things and curious for what future will bring.

 

Most interesting fact you learnt?

This question is really hard to answer! There are so many interesting facts I learnt in such a short time. My love for birds arose and I´m very proud to be able to recognize some of them by looks and sound. I also learned a ton of things about plants, ecology, astronomy, geology, amphibians, arthropods, reptiles and, of course, mammals. I think the most interesting fact is how all these parts interact with and need each other and what a big influence some human actions are having.

 

What was your best wildlife encounter?

I have to admit, I love elephants and leopards which is why these encounters where amazing. In Selati we were standing in the middle of an elephant herd of around 80 members, ranging from very old ones to nearly newborn half pints. It was such a huge pleasure to watch them interacting with each other and through that, we learned so much about their social structure and behaviour by just watching. In Karongwe we encountered a young bull in musth, he was intimidating us sitting in the vehicle. Our instructor analyzed every movement and told us exactly how to behave in such a situation. It was a very special moment for me, absolutely breathtaking.

The encounters with leopards were also very unique as these animals are not seen very often. We were lucky to see even two of them: one in Selati – a very young one, who didn’t really know what to do. He just sat next to the roud in the high gras looking at us, while we were watching him. This was an enjoyable moment as usually leopards are shy and immediately flee in the high grass to hide from people. The second one we met in Karongwe during the assessment drive of my colleague and friend Jerry. It was a huge and absolutely beautiful female leopard. One of the best sightings our group had.

 

How did you find the educators and camp facilities?

I was so lucky to have Mark Gunn as my main instructor. He is such a clever, cool and down-to-earth guy. What I loved the most about him was his deep and honest respect for nature, even for the tiniest things. I´ve learned so much from him. Not only the things you can look-up in book, but things, which come from experience and love for what you are doing. He definitely loves what he is doing. This guy belongs to the wilderness and we were lucky to go a little path with him.

The camps came up with my expectations. There are two ladies who are taking care and doing their best to keep everything clean. The meals were absolutely amazing, enough for everyone, varied and healthy. It felt like being in good hands. I have to say, that Karongwe was my favorite of the two camps.

 

Who would you recommend this training to?

I would recommend it to everybody who is interested in nature and who wants to learn and understand the interplay of every part on this planet and beyond. It is a lifetime experience and I am sure, nobody will regret the decision for taking this adventure! It was one of the best times in my life!

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