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After a well-deserved week off, no time was wasted getting back into the swing of things as we kicked off our second semester. 10 of our students wrote their learners licence exam in Hoedspruit and a big congratulations to those who passed. Monday afternoon’s game drive was filled with a lot of interesting sightings, big and small. Due to having rain the previous weekend the soil was moist and this allowed for good tracking and some small critters being more active. The one group was fortunate enough to view a reticulated centipede eater (a very uncommon snake) busy consuming a centipede, while another had the good fortune to spend some time viewing the 2 dominant male lions doing what they do best(sleep). Not a bad way to start the semester and dust off those files in the head. Tuesdays lecture was on VPDA (viewing potentially dangerous animals) and the focus was on how this is safely possible when on foot.

For Wednesday, by drawing names out of a hat, half of the group went on a day trip to the world renowned Kruger national park and the other half was treated to a 4 hour walk in the morning to put practical aspects to their theoretical knowledge. Due to the size of the group they were split into two. This activity was thoroughly enjoyed by all even though some were more fortunate than others. One of the three encounters that can be logged for experience allowed us the privilege to be able to view 4 lions on a kudu kill whilst on foot at a comfortable and safe distance. The other group followed up on an Elephant breeding herd and once it was discovered that they had a very tiny elephant with them, they decided not to approach unnecessarily.

That afternoon’s drive was a very casual drive to focus on whatever came our way, with no set route or so we thought. Once again the safari spirits were with us and it quickly became a great drive. While observing and photographing white backed vulture in a tree Mayra spotted a leopardess cross the road in front of us and though brief was a great spot. After this, sightings of another 3 of the big 5 including an elephant bull and the 4 lions from that morning rounded off a very awesome day. The group in Kruger also had an amazing day with loads of great sightings and animal behaviours witnessed. They were kind enough to leave the other half with a challenge to better their bird checklist of just over 50 species for the day, a challenge gladly accepted by the others.

Thursday saw our students back in the lecture room for lectures on two important topics. The first was geology and the second grasses. Probably the two topics that brings fear to guides everywhere. But let’s face it, this is after all the engine that drives this magnificent classroom we live and work in. Without understanding the basics of the common geology that leads to the common plant (grass) species, one can’t begin to understand the relationships between the many different animal species that occupy the region and why certain species have adapted to certain bio-diversities.

During the day, Trevor also completed a talk about the Rhino Poaching pandemic. Trevor himself was previously involved with an anti-poaching unit for a number of years and on each and every course, a presentation is showed with graphic photos of poached rhinos, information on statistics, myths and beliefs, as well as what to do if you stumble upon a crime scene of a poached rhino and how each individual can become more proactive in the fight against poaching – Not just of rhinos, but of other threatened species such as elephants, lions, reptiles etc. We feel that it is vitally important for our students, as future guides, to be aware and educated on what rhino poaching is all about, to allow them to become more proactive in the fight against rhino poaching, as well as the ability to educate their guests (knowledge is power and education is the key).

On a more positive note, I wish you all the best in your preparations for the upcoming tests and believe that you’ve “got this”.

Next week is a very practical week as we will be doing our Cybertracker tracking course for the whole week and am looking forward to our students discovering some very interesting new (made up) tracks on the reserve.

Until next time,
Conraad and the Bushwise team  

(Photo of the bush walk, credited to Frank van Tiggelen)