After a well-deserved and relaxing weekend, the coming of Monday bought with it a sense of anticipation. Mock assessment week had arrived. In principle, students conduct a game drive as if they were taking a group of guests for the first time, going through the ropes from the safety briefing right through to hosting and entertaining guests at the all-important coffee stop. These mock assessments are an invaluable learning tool, showing the students where they are, and where they need to be to become the successful guides Bushwise is known for producing. Sightings on these drives were the usual spectacular encounters, including cats and a lot of birds (the hard work of the birding week clearly paying off). Some students even got first-hand experience of on the go maintenance of vehicles mid game drive, when one of the Land Rovers required some loving touches. Luckily our very own MacGyvers (The trainers) were on hand to provide these touches.
This jam packed week also included some very insightful and mind grabbing lectures. Students learnt about the ins and outs of conservation management; using fire as a management tool, how to maintain roads, how to deal with erosion, amongst other things. Also shown was a DVD about how South Africa has been a success story for the conservation and the management of its natural environment. The next lecture was one that is often overlooked on safari, Fish. These animals play a vital role in the ecosystem however, and learning about their role in the environment is always very interesting. After this, students were introduced to the History and habitation of South Africa from a very early age (2 million years ago +) right up until present time. It’s always amazing to think back to early times, before internet, cars, electricity and even before houses. Living in and amongst wildlife, with nothing but some rock tools to find food and protect yourself. And thus ended the lecture syllabus for this 2014 course! Well done to all the students on their diligence and hard work in getting all that information into your heads.
With lectures completed, it was time to turn the students’ attention to the other practical aspects of guiding, this week also focussing on rifle handling ahead of next week Advanced Rifle Handling assessments. After weeks of dry runs and practicing, the students got their first taste of rifle recoil, finally getting some practice in with live rounds. Many people are often intimidated by the large calibres used by guides, but I can safely say that after this practice, and much adrenalin being pumped around bodies, all the students thoroughly enjoyed it and are quite excited for the ARH assessments that will take place next week. Again, good luck, and remember, slow is smooth and smooth is fast.
Lastly, we were very fortunate to have a guest speaker this morning, Audrey Delsink. Audrey is involved in implementing immuno-contraception for elephant populations, particularly the elephant population on Makakali Game reserve, as well as across around 19 other reserves in South Africa. Since wild animals now exist in closed systems no thanks to Humans – this is important work, as managing elephant populations is not an easy business. Audrey explained to everyone how this process works, the idea behind it and presented some information as to how successful it has been in various reserves around the country. We were all very privileged to hear about the ins and outs of this great management tool, and we would like to thank Audrey for sharing her work with us! Thank you.
With the final Bushwise internal written test on the horizon, I can only wish the students the best of luck, study hard and reap the rewards!
Until Next Time
Rogan and The Bushwise Team
(P.S. Thanks again to Francois Malan – Ufoto Africa – for supplying some of the pics!).