We have written our FGASA level 1 exam a few weeks ago, done our assessment drives and, thankfully although not surprisingly, everyone has passed. This time of the course is bittersweet for everyone involved. We are happy to be declared qualified field guides and begin to chase a dream we all share, but at the same time melancholic at the thought that we won’t be seeing the close friends we’ve made on the course again for some time. Most of the students went off on the Back up Trails practical course and a few will be finishing off this Friday.
Thinking back on the last 20 or so weeks, one remembers a few “ah I should have brought that with” moments. Whilst the Bushwise list is more than adequate for packing, there are a few “luxuries” that might come in handy.
Here are a few items to bare in mind when packing for the course:
1. Bluetooth Speaker: This may seem like a bit of a strange addition to the list, however, if I had a buck for every time that someone turned on a speaker on the course, I would have enough money to buy one of those pricy little things. Whether its watching a movie on a laptop, or sitting around the fire on a Saturday, a bit of music is always welcome.
2. Tent: The Kruger National Park is an hour drive away, making it a perfect destination for a weekend trip or even for an off-week’s visit. However, accommodation within the park can be a bit pricy but camping is a much cheaper alternative. In my experience a 4 or 6-man tent works best as it allows for more good people to join you on a trip.
3. Deck of cards: whilst the course is an intense learning experience, there is some down time. A perfect way to spend this is by playing cards, be it poker or go fish, many afternoons were spent this way.
4. Hard drive: preferably full of legally downloaded movies… cough… we live in the bush, and with that comes one or two slight limitations. One of these is that the Wi-Fi is slow at best rendering online movie watching an impossibility. However, one can prepare for this by bringing plenty of media with them to the course.
5. Headphones: personally, I prefer to listen to music when studying and this is best done with a nice pair of headphones. Otherwise this is also great is you just want to switch off for a while and relax!
6. Warm clothes: as a local I was prepared, but almost the entirety of the international base of students were unprepared for just how cold winter can be in the bush especially when on the back of an open top vehicle travelling to the reserve. Gloves, scarf, balaclava, fleece, thermals and even an electric hot water bottle is recommended.
7. Gaiters: those funny looking pieces of material that go around your ankles and protect them from grass seeds and ticks. Highly recommended, unless you enjoy the feeling of a thousand grass seeds penetrating your lower leg along with tick bites.
8. The right attitude: Last but not least is attitude. You are living in close proximity with up to 20 students, being told what to do and when to do it all day, being strictly scheduled, sleep deprived, and having stressful assessments weekly. Don’t misunderstand, it is tough but also 100% worth it. However, if you don’t come to this course with the correct mindset which is one of understanding, empathy, a willingness to learn, and respect for your peers, then you will quickly be alienated from the group and have a long 23 weeks ahead of you.
Make friends on the course, friends that will probably endure for years and enjoy the experience because it will be over before you know it.
Good luck and hope you are well prepared and open-minded!