Hand next to a lion track

Knowing the difference between a lion track and a cheetah's

As keen conservationists, Gary and Matt Franklin were looking for a wildlife trip with a difference – definitely not your average safari. They got two weeks full of learning about wildlife and a life-changing experience on our Game Ranger Guide Course.

I have been on a two-week life-changing experience with my son Matt on an ACE Game Ranger Guide Course in South Africa, at the Mapungubwe Private Nature Reserve near the Botswana border, Pafuri River Camp & Porcupine Camp, both near Kruger National Park.

I was a little concerned that I may be too old for a course like this, but I quickly discovered that my concerns were not justified as I met up with my fellow “Game Rangers”, who were all like-minded souls and loved wildlife and conservation.

Gary and Matt Franklin: group photo

Mapungubwe PNR is vast and beautiful, bordering the Limpopo River in northern South Africa, and eight students and our guides were the only people there. The wildlife is truly wild, and every sighting and sound you hear at night has a buzz. When we stayed at the Pafuri and Porcupine camps, we saw the fantastic wildlife at Kruger, including baboons, warthogs, elephants, lions, and buffalo. We had the bonus of visiting reptile and endangered species parks, where we fed a chameleon, handled snakes, and learned a lot about a cheetah breeding and release programme.

The course has taught me so much in just two weeks, and through game drives, game walks in the bush, and informal classroom presentations, I now know the difference between a lion track (lion spoor to us game rangers!) and cheetahs (they have non-retractable claws), types of tree and what they can be used for, bird identification, the role of a Game Ranger in South Africa (including leading a game drive). I now know the “follow me” sign of an Impala and a Warthog, navigation by the stars (sleeping out in the bush in just your sleeping bag is fantastic!!), and so much more, and how it all links together.

Our hosts, Martin, Don, Gavin, Laurie, Brett and the rest of the ACE and Bundox team have so much knowledge about the bush and its wildlife and are all very happy to pass on their ability to us eager students.

The whole ACE experience leaves you wanting more! More of the opportunities ACE and Bundox offers, more of South Africa, and more of sharing great times (we laughed so much) and once-in-a-lifetime experiences (have you ever been mock-charged by a parade of elephants at dusk!?) with great people.

Young or just young at heart, this is your course, and I will be back for more.

Gary Franklin, 50 Years Young