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A 4am start for the first day of the start of my student life as a field guide-my first practical drive.

I start off with the preliminary vehicle safety checks, including the mandatory cushions for people like me that are vertically challenged, pack the phuza box for coffee and we all set off to the Makalali Reserve.

So it’s my turn, with excitement and some trepidation, I call in over the radio that we are in the reserve and for any updates we should know about. Then with as much confidence I can muster, I set off driving….

The first waterhole I was richly rewarded with a beautiful bathing spotted hyena. This was followed by an amazing guided drive with our trainer who proceeded to share his thorough knowledge with us on the surrounding trees, flowers, birds and any animals we encountered whilst I was driving. The amount of detail and the stories our trainer knows is something truly to aspire to and so encouraging for us students to study and learn from.

Following the tracks through the reserve was a challenge in itself, using the 4×4, and with practice will hopefully become second nature for negotiating steep rocky paths and deep river crossings. Fortunately, I have some experience with my truck Marvin but always good fun to really have a play!

After a couple of hours of wallowing in nature in all her glory, it was time for the phuza stop and to relinquish the wheel to another student.

It really was eye opening the amount of stuff you have to do whilst driving as a guide. Not only keeping the drive comfortable but spot game/animals, identify birds through sight and sound, entertain the guests, using the radio, be aware of the changeable weather, abide all safety measures, shows a whole new level of concentration and brain power!

I can only hope that with time, practice and absorbing as much knowledge through this course, I will become the best field guide I can be.

Blog & photos by Caroline Prior