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The second semester started with a steep hill, but luckily we came prepared and were already in low range.

After our first week off, it was so good to be back on campus and see all the familiar faces and getting back into the rhythm of the bush.

We started the week off with a long session of 4×4 theory that was accompanied by an intense heat that we as students have not encountered before during the course. We learnt a lot about how important it is to know what your vehicle is capable of, and especially how important it is as a field guide to know how to deal with rocky terrains that you have to cross when you have guests with you on the game viewer. Monday ended with a chilly splash in the pool and the realization kicked in that it is only August and that the months ahead are going to be even hotter.

Tuesday, group A had 4×4 training and group B (which I am in) and group C had our first official practical drives. We got first-hand experience of being in control of the safari and entertaining the guests. Our trainers only stepped in when they had some extra information to add, which was quite challenging, but at the same time a new and good experience that made me realize that confidence is key.

Will Riley digging a hole, photo taken by Shawn Gardner

Wednesday my group had 4×4 training that was facilitated by Mark Frazer from Nostophobic Adventures, which consisted of driving up and down a steep rocky road while the game viewer was in low range. The most important thing that we had to remember was to not touch the clutch and after a bit of practise, everyone got the hang of it. In the afternoon we did kinetic recovery training which was definitely the highlight of the training. We dug holes in the river bed (which we ethically covered up afterwards) so that the Land Rover could get stuck and had to be recovered by the Land Cruiser. Everyone got the opportunity to be the recoveree and to be recovered. It was an adrenaline-pumping experience and everyone enjoyed it a lot.

Thursday, was definitely the best day of the week. We had practical drives and had a lot of laughs thanks to our wonderful field guide Petru. We drove up to a dam to stop for our coffee break and found a female cheetah chilling next to the water. This was an incredible sighting. We stayed there for almost an hour just watching her lying down and getting used to us. After a while, she realised that we weren’t a threat and turned her back to us so that she could keep a lookout for any other enemies that could sneak up on her. This was by far the best drive that group B has had so far.

Kinetic recovery training taken by Lara Coldrey

Friday we had our 4×4 practical assessment, where we met our assessor Andre De Clerk from Low Range SA. He gave us a lot of tips and everything went well.

Saturday we wrote our 4×4 exam and after that, we had the day to ourselves. I went to town and during that time I gave my responsibilities over to my “bungi” (bungalow buddy), Shawn Gardner, who had her hands full dealing with some sneaky snakes. They found four on campus, a mfezi (Mozambique Spitting Cobra), a vine snake, a worm snake and a marble tree snake. There’s a saying in South Africa “Saturdays are for the boys”, but in our case, it’s more like “Saturdays are for the snakes”. What a fast and good way to make 20 students more cautious of where they walk.

Cheetah taken by Lara Coldrey

This semester is going to be filled with a lot of practical activities and looking back on this past week, I am sure that the next few weeks are going to be an adventure to remember. 

Lara Coldrey