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    Happy New year to all! It’s the first Bushwise blog of 2014, with a new group of 21 students having joined us this week. Our last group of students are enjoying their placements, and those who were only on the 23 week course are missing Africa already, I am sure! Our staff had a good break over Christmas and we are all ready for an action packed course.

    So back to the current – a huge warm welcome to all 21 students who arrived in staggered numbers on Tuesday. Once again, we have students from all corners of the globe, which always makes for an interesting and culturally diverse course. Jolandie, Zander, Chané and Dewald join us from different parts of South Africa; Sam, Charles, Lis, Joshua, Nick, Lauren and Kerri are from the UK; Angéle and Hamish from Canada; Kathrin from Germany; Stefanie from Switzerland; Leslie from France; Jan and Emilie from Belgium; Krisztian from Hungary and last, but not least, our first sisters – Belén and Florencia from Argentina. We hope you enjoy your time with us and, like many students before you, find this experience a life changing one.

    On arrival day, students were given time to settle into their rooms, and after one of Iris’s delicious dinners – a brief introduction to the course and health and safety was done. After a good night’s sleep – further formalities were dealt with, such as H&S, campus introduction, handing out of clothing packs and filling in membership forms. With all ‘that’ out the way, it was time for a meet and greet braai (an outdoor BBQ for those who are unfamiliar with South African slang). It’s always a great experience to sit outside around a fire and discuss how everyone got to this point. After a relaxing evening and great meal, all retired to bed for a 7am trip into town for none other than the famous (infamous?) khaki uniforms. The day wouldn’t be complete without the first game drive of the course! The 21 students are divided into 3 groups of 7 and all 3 groups headed out to Makalali Reserve. Plenty general game was seen, including lots of newborns after all the summer rains we have been having. A baby flap-necked Chameleon and a brief hyena sighting was the highlight for one group, whilst the other groups enjoyed watching hippo bulls being silly. Big smiles all round for the trip back to campus!

    So it’s been 4 days since our students arrived, and already they will be receiving their first qualification. The all important first aid course was completed today with all our students now being comfortable with being able to deal with injuries or emergencies. The first aid qualification is one of the first steps to becoming a field guide, and is a legal requirement in order to be a registered field guide.

    Tomorrow, the first lectures commence – Intro to guiding and Viewing Potentially Dangerous Critters. Tomorrow evening will be the first social outing to the local lodge for a relaxing evening before the semester really starts becoming busy.

    With all the must do’s out the way, we can look forward to plenty more game drives next week!

    Until next time,

    Charles and the Bushwise Team

    Photo: Hamish Mitchell