Hyena staring off to the left in the sunlight

Story of my sabbatical in the bush

The Game Ranger course was brilliant. There were six of us, five guys and one girl, and our ages ranged from 18 to 50+. Our guide was an absolute legend. The location of the camp was great, right on the banks of the Oliphants River. I loved the walks and we got close to some big game – elephants, giraffes, hippos and buffalo while walking along the banks. We also had some great game sightings from the camp, especially hippos, crocs, and elephants.

The Tuli Conservation project in Botswana was where I did the animal tracking, observation, and recording work. Another, amazing part of this was the chance to live out in the wilderness – it was very rustic stuff!

We did most of our animal surveys from the Land Rover and had to search quite hard for some of the animals. Some of the great sightings included a mother cheetah and two cubs on a fresh kill, bat-eared foxes, brown hyaenas, and an aardvark. We also saw some big herds – 25 elephants, and another time about 80 eland!! The bird sightings were great as well. We had some lovely spottings of rocky koppies; and plenty of vultures, eagles, buzzards, kites and water birds.

Saturday night was always party night. The parties at the fixed camp were elaborate, including some very creative fancy dress from limited resources. Yes, I had to join in!

It was tough saying goodbye to those who left Tuli midway through my stay. I was very sad leaving Tuli and finally, Emil, Katie and I all parted at Johannesburg airport. It was a relatively short time that we were together, but you get very close to people when you’re out in the bush and wake up with them, spend the day with them, eat with them and relax with them!

ACE isn’t all about animals by any means; the personal relationships are quite special. Those who embrace the true wilderness and special character will love Tuli– and I did!

By Stuart Spindler, ACE sabbatical volunteer