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After completing the final FGASA theory and practical assessments, the focus for the last week of this semester has been on Trails Guide training and VDPA (Viewing Potentially Dangerous Game) – normally classed as the Big 5 and the famously belligerent hippo.

When people visit South Africa to come on safari, they are sometimes lucky enough to view game on foot. This is what ‘trails’ is defined as. An ethical trails guide has the ability and privilege of being able to open a whole new world to their guests. Encounters on foot not only get the adrenaline pumping but also bring people closer to nature, which very often creates a more positive attitude towards conservation as a whole.

This past week students have had the opportunity to be exposed to some amazing encounters under the mentorship of our experienced trainers, with many hours of tracking through the bush rewarding us with general game, mating lions and (sometimes too!) excitable elephants on foot.

A highlight for everyone was a wonderful evening spent watching the sun go down over Shlareni Dam, briefly spotting a leopard at the far end and a couple of graceful giraffes before darkness claimed. The real excitement however started once the stars came out, with hyena prowling a couple of metres from where we all sat crossed legged on the ground, and a huge herd of elephants coming down to drink just beyond. Two of the young bulls gave an impressive display of their enormous strength on the far bank, tussling with their tusks as a practice for the dominance fights they will do as fully mature elephants. It was unbelievably special sitting in the starlight hearing and watching these Goliath’s little-experienced behaviour.

While many people spend a lifetime saving in order to experience the South African bush, Bushwise students are privileged to soon get even more practical experience to do this ‘job’ on their 6 month work placement. Our time here at Bushwise is soon coming to an end, but an amazing life in the bush is only just beginning….

Blog by AD van Zyl