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    The fourth semester has arrived, and being the fourth semester out of five, things are in an advanced stage of development. Everyone is well rested and back safe from their well-earned off week.

    In order to give learners a well-rounded experience of the guiding industry, they were addressed by Angela Poggenpoel on basic hospitality and hosting skills this week. Angela is heading our hospitality training, and has light-years of experience in different lodges all around the globe. Fascinating to just listen and observe such a wealth of information and experience culminating in actual skills transfer. This lecture was then followed by a behind the scenes lodge tour. Thanks to the Makalali Lodge team for taking the time to host our students!

    Kruger National Park (KNP) was visited by three consecutive groups of the Mahlahla Students, on three consecutive days this week. Kruger, like always, is an experience not to be missed, and this week was no exception. These Kruger trips depart around 4am, and return around 8 pm, so they turn into long days. None the less, the experience and sightings are incredible and change of scenery welcomed. Lion, leopard, lots of ellies and buff, plus both black and white rhino – so the big five was ticked within the first daytrip. Apart from big five mammals, there was some excellent birding, with Lapped faced Vulture, Saddle billed stork and Ground Hornbill seen in the Big 6 collection of birds in KNP. It is truly a privilege to visit this, one of the most magnificent protected areas globally!

    In-between Kruger trips and hospitality lectures, there were game drives and lots of botany. Learners were preparing for the botany practical exam happening this morning. People seem to inherently have some kind of hang-up with botany in general, and scientific names, yet, I’m glad to say that this group is slowly but surely getting over it.

    The highlight of the week for our Grietjie students, was on Thursday when they spent a full day doing a panoramic tour including a visit to the Echo caves. The tour around the caves lasted for nearly two hours and had the students marvelling at many examples of different stalactites and stalagmites as well as some amazing rock formations. We were treated to the full tour culminating in a visit to the crystal chamber where some of the bigger chaps needed to crawl through the small tunnels to get there, but all worth it in the end. The rest of the day was spent visiting the various viewing sights along the way including the famous Three Rondawels, a series of mountains that resemble the traditional round built mud huts of the local African tribes, Bourke’s Luck potholes and Gods windows. Aside from the vistas which were stunning, we managed to add several new birds to the list including Black or Verreaux’s Eagles, Lanner Falcons, Cape Batis, Bald Ibis and a few others.

    Yesterday morning we topped off the week with a three hour bush-walk on the Mahlahla side, and we were generously rewarded by superb sighting of hippo and elephant on foot.

    With the FGASA Level 1 exam only a week away, next week’s focus will be on revision and honing in practical skills for the upcoming assessments.

    As a final note – for those of you in the Johannesburg area – don’t forget to pop into HuntEx to visit our experienced trainers at Stand 218 in Hall 2. We will be there until Monday evening and look forward to answering any questions regarding our courses and the industry in general.

    Until Next Time,

    The Bushwise Team