BY: Angela Riley, Bushwise student 2020
With the start of my Bushwise journey in July came many new experiences, all of which met my eager anticipation and blew all of my expectations out of the park. The practical drives around campus and the game drives over at Makalali are constant excitement-filled highlights of mine. Not only because of the beautiful area that we are lucky enough to explore, but because of all the knowledge we gain on the way. With regular stops and discussions about animals, trees, grasses, tracks, bird calls, and a whole lot more – there’s so much to learn!
During our practical drives, we all have a good laugh together. These drives allow us to familiarize ourselves with the vehicle, its size, and how it runs. Admittedly, I have had some issues with my reversing skills. With that being said, I feel as though more research should be focused on the secret life of trees and their erratic movements as they always seem to find their way behind me.
The drives also give us the opportunity to practice our pre-briefings with clients, safety precautions, and our hospitality skills during the Phuza stops.
Our game drives outside of campus in Makalali always make my week. The crisp air when we start at the crack of dawn, when the tracks are fresh, and the birds are out. There’s always a lot to see and we learn so much from our trainers while out in the field. We have already been taught a great deal about the different types of trees in the area and have spent ages parked next to a russet bushwillow as well as a red bushwillow. Discussing the differences between the two and how to tell them apart was especially interesting.
With regular questions, the trainers keep us on our toes; making sure that we’re alert and ready at all times. We will stop and discuss animal tracks and work together in identifying them. Sometimes we park off when we find bird parties and see how many species we can identify, sometimes just from sound alone. Birds are fast becoming one of my favourite subjects to learn about and I find it so calming to sit in silence and listen to all the different calls they can make.
After an hour and a half of information overload, it’s time for a Phuza stop. This is when we have our tea and coffee and spend a bit of time appreciating the little things. The spiders and scorpions hiding under rocks, the termite colonies, the animal scat, or even singular blades of grass. You start to realise that there is always something to look at. That there is never a moment where something isn’t happening or in motion.
During one of our drives, we had a spectacular encounter with a herd of elephants. Lindi, our trainer, knew exactly where to wait for them. They came right up to the vehicle and were close enough for us to see the details of each wrinkle in their skin. That moment got me so excited for a future career in field guiding and to gain the skills in judging an animals’ movements and behaviour.