Semester 4 has well and truly snuck up on us. As the prospect of being qualified field guides in just under four weeks looms, the group feeling seems to be apprehensive but wildly excited.
Week 1 kicks off with the first of our live firing drills for Advanced Rifle Handling, Trainer Trevor patiently talks us through safety procedures, aiming accuracy and a speedy lion charge drill.
The idea of rifle handling had a few of us in the group feeling uneasy, having never handled rifles before and choosing to work in an industry dedicated to protecting animals, made it feel counter intuitive to be learning how to shoot to kill. However, after a Viewing Potentially Dangerous Game plus Rifle Handling lecture and many hours of discussion, the necessity of carrying a rifle in order to put guests safety first is very clear.
One thing that is reassuring is the knowledge that none of our trainers have been in a dangerous situation where they have had to shoot an animal. The importance of understanding animal behavior and respecting warning signs is more prevalent than ever, it can be the difference between a beautiful sighting for you and guests and a traumatic experience. Through this rifle training we are constantly reminded that we should never make decisions based on the fact that we have a rifle by our sides, if it gets to the point where the rifle is used, then we, as the guides, have not done our job correctly.
Week 1 was a busy one as we also had our Mock Practical Driving Assessments. Facing a game viewer full of your fellow students plus the trainer no longer siting next you in the passenger seat but in the back amongst them was, at first, a lonely feeling. The nerves I felt as my drive approached almost got the better of me, the pressure we put on ourselves can feel heavy as delivering an excellent game drive is what we have been working towards for the past 4 months. The passion we all have for guiding and being out in the bush can make the desire to do well overwhelming. Luckily, as soon as you start talking about the things that are now so familiar to us and that we find so fascinating, the nerves melt away and you find yourself having an incredible time and not wanting the 3 hours to end.
The confidence many of us have gained from this week builds the excitement for future prospects in the industry. For placement students it means going into an interview with confidence that you have something special to offer a lodge or research centre, a desire to continue to learn and improve your skills as a guide, and the hope, for some, to make this beautiful and unique land their home.
The middle of the week included a special afternoon outing to Safari Wines to taste and learn about many different wines the area has to offer. I’ll take a bottle of your finest Cabernet Sauvignon please.
Blog by Kiera Massiah