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Last week, we finished off the main part of our course here at Bushwise Field Guides. Final Level 1 exam results are out, and all we can say, is well done to all our students, everyone passed, as we trained you to do, and your assessment drives were amazing! So now onto bigger and better challenges, apart from obtaining the FGASA level 1 qualification, our students are also given the opportunity to write the Trails guide exam, which could allow them to conduct walking trails as back-up guides. So this entire week, was dedicated to final trails guide preparation, three days of walking opportunities, as well as some final study time before the exam. Aside from all the previous walks throughout the course, of course!

As we all know, walks are usually conducted with the focus on the smaller things in the bush, and if you are lucky enough to come across some of the big, hairy and scaries, it’s crucial to think of how you can view them as safely as possible, sometimes easier said than done. This week, saw two groups head out on walks for the morning and afternoon training session, mainly focussing on the safety part of walking, which areas to avoid, and which areas can be walked safely. Our boots have a few more hours of experience in some bush-walking, covering a variety of areas. Unfortunately the big and hairies did not quite co-operate as much as we would have liked, but still managed to add four different big game encounters. One of the highlights coming off one of my walks explained exactly what makes walks so very special.

We spent the first (and very hot and humid) afternoon walking near the river, hoping to focus a bit on birds, and went up to a beautiful view point from there. On our return to the vehicle, I saw a bit of movement coming from a tree, and upon closer inspection, found it to be an elephant! Not quite the normal big, grey 6 ton animals seen in documentaries, but rather an elephant shrew! These small rodents are called so, after their long noses, often resembling an elephant’s trunk. They are usually very shy, and mostly active at night and very seldom seen nicely. Finding their burrows is usually quite easy, as they form “highways” or “runs”, which they keep open and clean, and allows them quick and easy routes back to safety when a potential danger has been spotted. Now what makes this elephant shrew sighting so special, well firstly it was during the late afternoon and not at night, and secondly, this one was not too bothered about us watching him! We had a great view from just a few meters away as he was busy cleaning himself and stretching, probably getting himself ready for a busy night out.

Other very memorable encounters also included some well-fed lions, sleeping of their full bellies in the river, and another very rare and elusive animal, a brown hyena, a first for many of our students, and seeing it on foot just makes it so much more special. Wednesday saw not only our field guiding students, but also our hospitality interns out on the reserve, and keeping up with our week’s topic, on foot of course! Thinking about this, it has actually been a great week for elusive animals, Tuesday morning, after the walk and heading back to camp, one of our groups spent a few minutes with a beautiful blue eyed leopard! It is always amazing to see how graceful they are and climbing abilities!

Another busy week, and again, all the hard work has paid off!

The week (and semester) ended with a farewell lunch and prize giving, and congrats to everyone on our current course for passing, especially our top achiever, Josh and our best all-rounder, Greg. Also congrats to all our current placement students as your placements start coming to an end – we are hearing great things about you as guides, keep it up! To everyone going away this coming off week, travel safe and enjoy it! We are truly envious of your travels, Kruger, Cape Town, Zim…. And to those of you that are enjoying an early start to placements, good luck!

Until Next Time,

Charles & the Bushwise Team