As we hurtled at full steam towards the end of our third semester at Bushwise, this week has been a manic mix of getting in enough rifle practice for the impending ARH assessments and our final chance at perfecting guiding techniques during mock assessment drives.
Routes were mapped out, preferred phuza (drinks) stops were bickered over and everyone did some tree swotting in case of a quiet day in the bush.
The drives went well for all, with our fellow students proving to us that in this industry we’re really only at the beginning of a lifetime of knowledge as every time we head out, we learn new skills and ways of the bush.
On one drive, we had 7 people attempting to push over a medium sized marula tree in a demonstration of how powerful a 5 or 6 ton elephant is in comparison to our puny selves (ellies could do this without breaking a sweat!) On another, we learnt about the habits of the community nest spider, a bizarre arachnid which lives in large web constructions along with hundreds of their kind and work communally to spin elaborate catch webs which can even be strong enough to ensnare birds.
On yet another drive, our student guide had us take part in an antelope dung spitting competition. The ‘tourists’ all did well but were easily outclassed by our guide who easily cleared 15 m.
Alongside all of this, dry runs and shooting practice continued under the endlessly patient tutelage of our trainers, using a combination of .22 and .375 bore rifles to perfect our aim, accuracy and speed. Some students even got the opportunity to try a couple of rounds of the fabled .458, a massive gun with explosive power which was traditionally used as an elephant gun.
Come Saturday afternoon, once the ARH and mock drives are over, we’ll all be dispersing once again for off week. Some students are driving down to explore Swaziland and scuba dive at Kosi Bay while others are swapping the Lowveld for farm life and the Big Hole of Kimberly, and the remaining few are meeting up with friends and family for a few days of recharging batteries before a busy semester four in the increasingly Autumnal bush.
Blog by Calvin Selley, picture contributions by Ben Coley & Malene Jepsen