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After a long day (or two) of travelling, we arrived at the new Toro campus located inside Makalali game reserve. With views overlooking the Makutsi river where elephants, hyena and buffalo are right on our doorstep. It did not take long for the eight of us to feel completely at home in our new bush paradise. Our first meal was a welcome braai cooked by our camp chef Sibu, who we are already planning to enter into Masterchef and trust me, he would definitely win it! The braai gave us a chance to chat and find out where we were all from and why we were doing the course but it was only when the Uno cards came out that we really started bonding. I’m telling you, friendships are made and destroyed in that game.

A serious game of Uno – photo by Sophie Pyper

 

The first few days were fairly relaxed, a few introductory chats from Trevor and his never-ending pile of paperwork that needed to be signed. We then had some time to relax by the pool and try and adjust to the heat and humidity that is the Lowveld summer. On day three the four international students (myself included) were shipped off to Polokwane for the day to get or South African driving licence process started, leaving the South Africans behind at camp. We knew it would be a long day so we left early to get back in time for our first game drive. We arranged to meet the other four international students from Mahlahla campus, along with Lindi and Trevor, there so we could do the game drive together. But this is Africa. And lack of signal to communicate between each group plus and a sudden downpour meant that our two vehicles managed to miss each other on the road. The four of us returned to camp while the others waited for the downpour to pass and for us to arrive at the gate. Both groups then left on the game drive and still got some great sightings of buffalo, giraffe but the highlight was definitely the pride of lions we saw right on the middle of the road.

 

Pride of lions on the first game – Matthew Holland

 

The next day we all headed to Hoedspruit to get our uniform and then to Kinyonga Reptile Park for an intro into all things snakes and spiders. This activity definitely split the group with Chloé feeling completely in her element being a reptile enthusiast, while Zander, well he made sure he stayed well away.

 

Snouted cobra – photo by Chloe Potier

 

Saturday consisted of us trying to find a pride of lions we heard being called in over the radio. Although we didn’t manage to find them it gave us all a chance to finally get out and see the reserve. We also stopped by a cool spot not far from our camp called Pels pools where we came across a nice pod of hippos before heading back for our long-awaited cool drinks and snacks. On the game drive, our trainers Jack and Lindi got stuck in with tree ID which then became the focus for our off day study session on Sunday. 

 

Hippo at Pels pool – Chloé Potier

 

With just eight students staying at Toro campus, we are a small group but we are already working so well together, helping with various duties and getting stuck into studying. We are remote in our little camp in the middle of the bush but there is nothing better than hearing the African fish eagle while eating lunch or waking up to the morning chorus from the Lowveld birds. The next six months are going to be hard work with all our studies but I know it will be filled with amazing sightings and experiences, great food and lots of laughter.

Blog by Sophie Pyper