The best way to experience Africa’s nature and wildlife!

Are you looking for an exciting and educational wildlife experience in Africa that differs from an ‘ordinary’ safari trip to Africa? Consider a wildlife course! A wildlife course or safari guide training is especially interesting for those who love being in nature and wish to experience a wildlife adventure that includes learning about the natural environment and animals’ behavior - with the chance of obtaining an official FGASA qualification from the Field Guide Association of Southern Africa.

EcoTraining Guides and Guardians

Traveltomtom team member and professional travel photographer Kim Paffen traveled to Kenya to complete her Field Guide Course. In this blog you can read all about her experiences of this 35-day Field Guide Course with EcoTraining in Kenya’s stunning Maasai Mara.

EcoTraining Wildlife Course Maasai Mara

In October 2021, I joined EcoTraining’s Field Guide Course in Kenya. After the successful completion of the 8-week online theory section, I’ve spent 35 days in Enonkishu Conservancy at the northern boundary of the Maasai Mara which is part of the Greater Mara Ecosystem.

EcoTraining Wildlife Experience

In this article, I share my experiences of doing a wildlife course with EcoTraining, the leader in Guide and Nature training. For example, what a day of training looks like, why the Maasai Mara is the perfect location for this course, and the advantages of experiencing wildlife this way.

What will you learn on the Apprentice Field Guide Course?

EcoTraining Field Guide Course Maasai Mara Kenya

Although the course forms the foundation for a career in field guiding or other wildlife orientated careers, this training is suitable for everyone who loves and respects nature and wants to increase their knowledge of African wildlife and nature. Most students join EcoTraining’s courses to have an amazing experience with more depth than a regular safari, not necessarily to become a guide - although that might be your new goal after finishing a wildlife course ;-).

Mammal behavior EcoTraining

On the course, you are surrounded by wildlife and constantly exposed to the bush for 35-55 days, gaining your ethical guiding skills and knowledge over that time.

You will learn a lot about the behavior, communication, and calls of mammals, arthropods, amphibians, reptiles, and birds. Identifying and talking about trees, grasses, and flowers (including medicinal and cultural uses) is part of the training as well. You will also get trained to identify tracks and signs, like spoor, dung, and territorial identification.

EcoTraining Field Observation Mara Ecosystem Kenya

Other important subjects for future guides are the understanding of geology, ecology, the biomes of Southern Africa, climate and weather, and conservation management. You will also learn to identify star constellations, planets and find the south using the southern cross.

EcoTraining Driving Skills 4x4

Regarding the practical skill of driving a safari vehicle, you will also practice using a High Lift Jack safely, radio-procedure on safari, and spotlighting techniques for night drives as well as vehicle positioning to give your guests the best possible view.

EcoTraining Safari Guide Maasai Mara Kenya

Yes, it’s a lot of information but if you’re interested it’s a lot of fun and you will practice your knowledge every day in the field! After extensive training and successful completion of the theoretical and practical exam, you are allowed to conduct guided game drives for guests in a limited geographical area (in dangerous and non-dangerous game areas).

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A day at EcoTraining’s Field Guide course in the Maasai Mara

Ecotraining schedule Field Guide Course

To give you an impression of the field guide course, I will share an example of an average day, starting in the early morning.

Early morning wake-up with the sounds of the birds

Early morning wake up EcoTraining Full Moon

Getting up before sunrise for work is a chore, but starting early in the bush is wonderful! At 05.15 you will wake up to prepare for your early morning game drive.

EcoTraining Tents with bed mosquito net

Getting up early will often treat you to a sky full of stars, or a beautiful full moon and the sounds of birds. After a few days, you will start noticing what birds start calling first; it’s also a good practice to learn your bird calls. With your torch, you will leave your tent to gather at the Mara Training Center, a 3-minute walk from the tents.

EcoTraining Camp Maasai Mara Training Center

The tents are basic but also quite luxurious as there’s a normal bed inside, a small side table, a space where you can put your clothing and at least 3 sockets. The staff makes your bed every morning and puts down the mosquito net every evening. Clean toilets and hot showers are in the building next to the tents with enough shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion for everybody.

Pre-breakfast and coffee/tea

Mara Training Center EcoTraining

After a cup of tea or coffee and a light breakfast (biscuits/rusks/fruit/cereals), it’s time to leave for a morning game drive. The one who’s on duty makes sure the water is boiled, and cups, coffee/tea, milk, sugar, and freshly baked biscuits and cereals are presented on the table.

Vehicle-check and safety rules first

EcoTraining Game Drive Vehicle Check

The guiding student makes sure the vehicle is safe and the ‘Hotbox’ with coffee, tea, and biscuits is on board for the coffee break. The guide welcomes the other students as ‘guests’. When everybody is inside the vehicle, the guide will talk about safety, the plans for the morning drive, and double-checks if everyone packed their essentials, like water, bino’s, camera gear, etc. Then, the game is on, and you will be guiding your guests in a land cruiser through the plains of the Maasai Mara. How amazing is that?

Wildlife encounters on your morning game drive

EcoTraining Field Guide Course Morning Game Drive

At about 06.00 you will leave for a morning safari. At the same time, the sun starts to rise above the horizon, the perfect way to start your day.

You and your fellow students will be driving and guiding in the safari vehicle. Your trainer invites you to interpret what you see and will share all his/her knowledge.

EcoTraining Wildlife Leopards

While on a game drive on the plains of the Maasai Mara, you tend to find enough birds and wildlife to learn more about the surrounding animals and the Mara Ecosystem they are part of. Expect to find wildebeest, ostrich, zebra, topi, Thomson Gazelle, giraffe, buffalo, hyena, lion, jackals, elephant, bat-eared foxes, hippo, cheetah, and if you’re really lucky maybe even a leopard (or two).

Identifying tracks and signs on the way

Ecotraining Identifying Tracks and Signs

On various occasions, you will get out of the car to observe and identify tracks and signs.

Ecotraining Tracks and Signs Baboon Spider

For example, lion footprints, hippo pathways, hyena dung, spider holes of Baboon spiders, or termite hills.

Coffee-time under an iconic Desert Date

Ecotraining Identifying Trees Maasai Mara

We often combine identifying tracks or signs with a comfort break or a coffee/tea stop. Enonkishu Conservancy and the surrounding conservancies of Lemek and Ol Choro are full of Desert Dates, the perfect tree to stop for a coffee/tea break as there is always something interesting to find, for example, scratches of a Leopard on the bark of the tree. If you’re curious and have a closer look at your surroundings, you will always find something fascinating.

EcoTraining packed breakfast morning drive

At around 9.30-10.00, you will be heading back to camp for breakfast. Occasionally, you will go for a long morning drive with a packed breakfast; I love these drives because you have more time to explore the bush. 

Buffet Breakfast at the Mara Training Center

Coffee break Maasai Mara EcoTraining

Breakfast at the camp is good and buffet-style. The lovely staff prepares the breakfast, which contains everything you need from fresh fruits, yogurt, and cereals, to toast/bread, eggs (scrambled/boiled/baked), sausages, peanut butter, jam, etc. You will never feel hungry with all this food! Drinking water, as well as coffee/tea and juices, are free of charge.

Into the classroom

Ecotraining Lectures about plants and trees

After breakfast, it’s time for an educational lecture about one of the modules that are part of the 17 FGASA Apprentice Field Guide modules. These lectures are interactive, but with a highly theoretical approach. Sometimes, part of the lecture is in the field. For example, identifying and learning about plants and trees.

Free (study) time until lunch

EcoTraining Wildhub Enonkishu Pool

After the daily lecture, you usually have free time until lunch, or you practice f/e radio procedures and change the tire of a game drive vehicle.

Most of the students use this free time to study for the exam, complete assignments in the workbook, practice bird/animal sounds for the electronic assessment, take a short nap, or have a rest at the pool. The Wild Banda’s close to the Mara Training Center has a pool and the students are allowed to enjoy the pool.

Ecotraining identifying birds and bird calls

After the lecture at around 15.00, a light buffet-style lunch is prepared and varies from pizza, quiche, and chapati, to fresh fruits, and salads. A few minutes before lunch - when everyone gathers at the main building to have lunch together - is again a perfect timing to practice bird calls together. It helps with reminding the calls.

Evening game drive, dinner, and stargazing

EcoTraining Views Mara Conservancies

After lunch, you’ll go out for another evening game drive in search of trees, wildlife, and birdlife. Sometimes we use this evening game drive for a drive up the escarpment to enjoy a sundowner with views over the Mara Conservancies.

Ecotraining Sundowner Enonkishu

After a buffet-style dinner around 19.00, you can enjoy a drink at the campfire and enjoy the starry night sky, pointing out star constellations.

Other activities on the Wildlife Course

Field Observation Ecotraining

Every Sunday morning - after a late breakfast - there is a field observation activity. It’s a variant of field research to identify trees, birds, tracks, and signs. Sometimes around the camp, sometimes on a drive. The rest of the day, there’s free time to relax, study or drive to town.

Ecotraining Rhino Sanctuary Enonkishu

Some days in the week, there is room for special activities like a sleep-out in the bush, a hike up to the mountain, a walking safari along the river, or paying a visit to the rhino sanctuary.

Night Game Drive

Night Game Drive EcoTraining

Another great activity is a night game drive in search of nocturnal animals, like a scrub hare and bush babies. If you’re lucky you will even find lions or a leopard in a tree, including its prey. In our case, we found the prey on our afternoon game drive (without the leopard) and went back in the evening to check if the leopard would come back for its prey. That is the advantage of staying in one place for a much longer period. You can observe situations and go back to certain spots.

EcoTraining Great Migration Masai Mara

Visiting the Maasai Mara National Reserve is also an (optional) activity, but highly recommended. Especially during the Great Migration to witness Zebra and Wildebeest crossing the Mara River.

Maasai Mara, world-class wildlife viewing

Wildlife viewing Mara Conservancies

I chose to do the field guide training at the Mara Training Center, located on the banks of the Mara River in Enonkishu Conservancy where wildlife and the Maasai co-exist. I haven’t regretted this choice one single moment, as I already knew from experience that the Maasai Mara is a world-class wildlife viewing area and never disappoints.

Wildlife viewing Maasai Mara

You can find over 50 species of mammals and 350+ bird species. During our stay, we had magical sightings of all the Big Five and even more! Because you’re spending so much time in one place, you’re able to spend more time at sightings, really observing what you see and learning from it. That is the charm of staying at a place longer; it gives you the chance to admire individual stories of animals.

Cheetah with Cubs Enonkishu Conservancy Kenya

One of the most special sightings we had was the ones of Kisaru, a famous cheetah mom. She gave birth to 4 (or maybe even 5) cubs on the grounds of Enonkishu Conservancy. We saw her with 4 cubs when she first showed her newborns to the world. Sadly, we then saw her with only 3 cubs and later only two. Nature can be brutal sometimes, but that is part of the bush.

Sankai Boys Lemek Conservancy

There was another sighting of 4 dominant male lions (the Sankai Boys) in Lemek Conservancy, which was absolutely great as they decided to walk in the direction of our EcoTraining game drive vehicle and had a rest in front of the car.

Maasai Giraffes Mara Conservancies

Your area of game driving is not limited to Enonkishu alone. You are also able to freely drive through Ol Choro Oiroua Conservancy (17000 acres) and Lemek Conservancy (19000 acres).

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Enonkishu, a place where The Maasai and wildlife coexist

Enonkishu Kenya Maasai Cattle

Apart from learning about wildlife, you will also gain a better understanding of the issues of cohabitation and conflict between the community herdsmen with their livestock and crops and the wildlife.

Visit Maasai Village Enonkishu with EcoTraining

During your stay, you’ll get the opportunity to visit a local Maasai village and on your drives, you will also find the Maasai with their livestock - grazing or drinking from the river.

Rhino Sanctuary Enonkishu Mara Conservancies

Enonkishu also has a rhino sanctuary you can visit. They are protected by rangers 24/7. These rangers do an important job. Without the work of these rangers, the rhinos wouldn’t be alive anymore. The sad truth in the fight against rhino poaching.

The best way to experience Africa’s nature and wildlife

Maasai Rains Mara North Conservancies

Can you imagine this is your life for almost 2 months? Two game drives every day while learning about the environment and animal’s behavior; Staying in an unfenced camp in the middle of nature, where all the magic happens! Constantly being in the moment by observing what you see, really enjoying nature 24/7, and experiencing that everything is connected. Trust me, that is freedom and the reason why doing a wildlife course is one of the best responsible and ethical ways to experience Africa’s nature and wildlife.

EcoTraining Connecting People Worldwide

And one of the best things, you will share this wonderful experience with like-minded people who share the same love for the African Bush as you. Chances are high that you will become friends for life, with people from all over the world. These connections are priceless.

Why choose EcoTraining?

Ecotraining Bird Id and Hippos at the Lake

EcoTraining is the pioneer and leader in safari guide and wildlife training in prime wilderness areas across 4 countries in Africa: South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, and Zimbabwe. The courses - ranging from 5 days to 1 year - run from EcoTraining’s unfenced bush camps and are for anyone who wants to learn more about guiding in Africa or the African bush in general.

EcoTraining Safari Guide Course

Their trainers are highly qualified experts, and they work together with Africa’s top game reserves. Thus far, EcoTraining has trained 13.000 participants from 33 different countries around the world and their courses are all in English. It’s also the only training company that offers a wildlife course in the incredible Maasai Mara.

Unforgettable experience in the African bush

Wildlife Course Maasai Mara Kenya

To me, this EcoTraining Field Guide course was truly an unforgettable experience. I would have loved to spend more time living and learning in the heart of the bush.

African Bush Experience Maasai Mara EcoTraining

It was a pleasure meeting all the lovely Maasai staff members of the Mara Training Center and learning from our warmhearted, experienced, and one-of-a-kind trainer, Sean. He made our stay even more memorable, and I would love to do another course with EcoTraining soon, for example, the Apprentice Trails Guiding course or a birding course to learn even more.

Ready for an exceptional safari adventure?

Wildlife Course Africa Kenya EcoTraining

I highly recommend doing a wildlife course with EcoTraining. It’s a no-brainer if you love the African bush, and you would like to learn more about Africa’s wildlife and nature.

Click here to check out EcoTraining’s upcoming courses!

May you have any questions about joining a course with EcoTraining or the African bush in general, feel free to contact me through my Instagram Instagram @ourplanetinmylens or get in touch through I’m happy to help and share further details of this wonderful experience.

This article is written by travel and wildlife photographer Kim Paffen, part of the Traveltomtom team. She also wrote amazing Africa articles about Uganda, Madagascar, and South Africa.