With only a month until the final examination, trainees took on more of a leadership role.  Trainees began leading the walks themselves instead of relying on the training team to prompt them. Thankfully the unseasonably dry weather had been kind to us, giving them plenty of practice for the time when they will take their own groups of guests out into the park.

It is not easy to suddenly be put into the role of group leader, where all eyes are suddenly on you, and you have to guide the group in a foreign language. But after some initial hesitations and understandable nervousness all the group took to the role well, and some started to excel not long after their initial ‘baptism’. Even those members of the group that had been more shy suddenly discovered a newfound confidence in themselves, and it was a delight to see them and the more confident members all demonstrate genuine ability and potential to one day be great nature guides.

Most of the guiding practice was conducted along the main walking trail near the headquarters. To ensure they get practice at all of the various activities that they will need to be able to lead, another overnight trip to the lake was included, as well as a nights camping in the park. This night allowed the trainees to learn the relevant skills and safety issues of setting up a jungle camp in a very wild environment. As the end of the month neared, a couple of revision days were included so as to give everyone the chance to go over much of what has been learnt in the 2 months.

The day dawned like any other but it was a day of significant importance for our seven trainees. After 2 months it all came down to this. The final exam would test them on all the major natural history disciplines that they have learnt over the past weeks – national park history, geology, plants, invertebrates, amphibians, fish, reptiles, birds and mammals. With a potential career at stake would the pressure prove to be too much?

On the day itself it was very noticeable how nervous they all were. This was encouraging to see, as it demonstrated how much they cared about the whole process, and it also reassured me that it was more than likely that a good amount of study had gone in prior to this. This turned out to be the case. I hoped they would do well but even though my expectations were quite high, the entire group still managed to surpass these. Everyone excelled, including a very likeable individual who throughout the course has lagged behind the others in some regards. Everybody scored over 60%, with six of the seven scoring over 75%. This was not an easy course, especially for a group of people who had limited English language skills, and little or no guiding experience. To achieve the scores they did is an achievement for which all of them can feel justly proud. I for one am very proud of them.

However this is certainly not the end. All of them are still some way off from attaining the kind of level that I would like them to achieve. For this to be accomplished further training will be needed at some time in the near future. But for now they will have to utilise their skills as best they can because it looks likely that seven new guiding careers have been launched.  This is in no small part thanks to the support of Bodhi Garrett, Dick Sandler, Austin Lovell, and all of the good people at Khiri Travel. These people have supported this training course financially but most importantly have also given the promise of employment opportunities to all of the trainees that passed this course. For ventures like this to have any hope of a future this needs to be achieved, and so for all of our trainees to be presented with this opportunity from the outset of their guiding careers a huge debt of gratitude needs to be paid to the aforementioned people. Thank you guys! I just hope that all of our new recruits grasp this opportunity with both hands and do themselves proud. Good luck to all of them!

The words have kindly provided by our Guide Trainer, Michael Clark.

Bodhi Garret
Bodhi Garret Bodhi and his family have made Thailand and Khao Sok National Park their home for more than a decade.