And so another great Bushwise course comes to an end…
For the past 6 months or so, 21 students have been immersed in the fascinating and highly pressurised world of field guiding. There have been so many highlights of the course that they are too numerous to mention in this blog (although you are all welcome to look at the blogs throughout the course for more info!) but suffice to say that for each and every student, that the 6 months have been an adventure and provided a lifetime of memories! This week alone saw sightings of both leopard and cheetah, as well the usual cacophony of returning migratory birds and general game rejoicing in the recent rains!
One final test remains, and as I write this, 21 focused faces stare intently at the FGASA trails guide exam. In 3 hours’ time, all the hard work and study will be over and the once green hopefuls will be let loose on the industry to showcase their new found knowledge and respect for the natural environment. For some, 2 weeks of trails guide practice will soon follow as they embark on daily walks in the Greater KNP to gain sufficient hours and encounters to be assessed for their back up trails guide qualification.
Many students will embark on the next stage of their adventure in the coming few days. As part of the course, their attitudes, tenacity and ultimately performance, have allowed us to arrange placements at a variety of lodges and research venues countrywide. Many will remain in close proximity to their training, placed in lodges in the Greater Kruger National Park, while others will stretch their wings further and head to Gauteng and even the Western Cape for their next chapters. It is now that they will find out what it is to be a guide, to deal with guests on a daily basis and be part of a guiding team whose responsibility it is to both entertain and educate the masses about the fascinating aspects of nature, and more importantly, our conduct within it.
From a trainer perspective, the most satisfying aspect of the industry is watching fresh recruits, some who have never even set foot on African soil prior to their arrival, evolve from novices to qualified field guides. If the students think back to the first few days of the course, and what they understood about their surroundings, versus what they know now, the change is more dramatic than a caterpillar emerging as a butterfly! All students can now list the bird calls in the background as if they were the lyrics to their favourite songs. It is rare to find a tree that the majority cannot now identify and interpreting tracks and signs have become like reading the daily newspapers.
Whether they arrived at Bushwise 6 months ago in order to gain a foothold in this incredible industry or simply to experience something new and exciting as part of a gap year, we are confident that one and all will leave with not only knowledge, but an appreciation of their surroundings and how everything, without exception, is interlinked. Whatever their next step, the entire Bushwise team wish them the best of luck with their endeavours and we will be following their progress with interest!
Congratulations to the 2nd class of 2016 and we wish you all the best for your no doubt exciting futures!!
Until next year, Ben & The Bushwise Team