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    As we head towards the end of our fourth semester the main focus over the last two weeks has been the FGASA level 1 exam and practical assessments. After a positive outcome from the theory exam, the assessment is the second, but crucial part of the qualification.  I always say that a book does not stop a charge or entertain guests, by this I mean that even though in depth knowledge of the environment is very important, practical & personal skill are more important when it comes to conducting a safe and enjoyable game drive or bush walk. Our students have been practicing and fine tuning these skills since they started at Bushwise 5 months ago and it has reached the point where they are tested on the sum of the knowledge and skills learnt.

    Though our students have become good friends during their time at Bushwise, naturally, there is always a healthy amount of internal competition. Four students per day have been assessed and so far, they have pulled out all the stops. They have researched new information that could give them the edge over a peer, and some even baked their own chocolate brownies, and muffins for the drink stops. During assessment drives big game sightings can sometimes influence the actual outcome, both positive and negative. For our students the sightings of cheetahs, elephants, lions and more has so a far had a positive outcome. A rare find for our region was the Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters that were spotted by the Mahlahla campus on Friday mornings drive, followed by an Aardvark on Friday afternoon!

    There were also a number of optional drives during the week, with a special display of a herd of elephants demonstrating unusual behavior mid-way through the week. All we can say is, to see elephants ‘in mourning’ is nothing short of jaw-dropping and highly emotive.

    On Friday, our Grietjie students enjoyed a night out at sable dam in the Kruger Park where they enjoyed a great braai before retiring for the night. However, didn’t get much sleep as they were serenaded by mating lions from about the o’clock onwards!

    The last two weeks have been high pressured and busy but extremely rewarding. Soon, both campuses should host a large number of fully qualified Field Guides. This is what all the hard work has been all about! Of course, the amazing sightings have also helped! Nature has played along nicely; reminding us why Field Guiding is such a rewarding career.

    Best of luck to the last few Mahlahla students who finish up assessment drives this week, as well as to our Grietjie camp who start theirs today.

    Until next time,

    The Bushwise team

    Photo Credit: Thanks to Jacques Briam, Carole Cerny and Sarah Bromptom for supply us with this week’s selection of photos!