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Hi there. After a well-deserved off week and everyone feeling well rested, the second semester began. The first week was a very busy one indeed and just a slight taste of what lies ahead for the remainder of our course. Rogan delivered a presentation on rhino poaching and poaching in general, as this is a very real and serious issue, not only in South Africa but Africa as a whole. Although there was some very graphic content displayed, I am sure this has re-iterated the seriousness of the war being fought against poaching, and hopefully raised some awareness.  With World Ranger Day only a few days ago, I would like to thank all those involved in fighting this poaching pandemic in South Africa and elsewhere.

Other lectures covered during the week included VPDA (viewing potentially dangerous animals) and reptiles. Knowledge of VPDA is important as it helps us to view animals in a safe manner, whether on foot or in a game drive vehicle, as well as enhancing the guest experience when guides are able to explain and ‘predict’ behavious. Having a broader knowledge on reptiles (other than ‘just snakes) again means a better educational experience for guests. 

Wednesday morning guest speaker and well known wildlife photographer, Albie Venter, gave a presentation on wildlife photography and guiding photographers (as guests). Whether you’re a specialist photographic guide or even an entry level field guide, this is something you will deal with every day. Guests come from all over the world to experience Africa and it’s wildlife,  and almost always have a camera to capture those spectacular sunsets or the animals seen on safari. Not everyone is a professional photographer, but it does not matter because, with a few basic principles as a foundation, even amateurs can take decent photographs in today’s digital age. A guide can further enhance the guest experience by assisting with this. General composition and the right use of available light along with the correct settings are just a few things that Albie covered with our students.

With this in mind, a new perspective was added to game drives and suddenly vehicle positioning, right lighting and cameras were the focus (excuse the pun!). Fortunately for all of us who spend our lives in the bush, there is always something to photograph, whether it’s a bird, mammal, landscape or even a dung beetle!

On Wednesday afternoons drive, one group was fortunate enough to have a good glimpse of one of our more secretive nocturnal animals, an Aardvark! These nocturnal animals feed exclusively on termites and is quite strange looking at a creature not often seen. Thursday afternoon we set out for another sleep out and one group of students had a beautiful sighting of a large herd of elephants.

As a special treat for their hard work and dedication, we decided to treat our students to a special night drive after dinner (from the sleepout camp). Although none of the big game were seen, there was some good nocturnal life out and about. These include some of the owl species, porcupine, African civet and lesser bushbabies. Astronomy was also a focus on these drives.

Other sightings during the week included a few lion sightings, hyena and honeybadger. A ‘non-sighting’ if you will (but just as interesting) of an action-packed scene of a leopardess whose kill was stolen by hyenas and dragged off, was explained by Trainer, Cobus – all from tracks and signs left in the sand. A good lead up to the upcoming Cybertracker course!

Although the early hours of the morning are still pretty cold, one can sense a change in the air. Daytime temperatures are higher and with the sun rising earlier and setting later. Most of the knobthorn trees are in flower and new growth are starting to show here and there.

On Friday afternoon we had guest speakers come in to shed a bit of light on the differences between placements types for our field guide students (research guiding and guiding). Due to the care taken with these placements to ensure the right combination of student and venue (placement-fit) is made, this process starts rather early on in the course, so our students have some time to think about what they want and so they are aware of the differences. Knowledge is power after all! It just so happens to be that both guest speakers were once Bushwise students a few years back! Thank you to Gus, now Head Ranger at Karongwe Portolio and Rosie, now head researcher at GVI Karongwe. Of course, Kerri, current research placement student, has to be mentioned too!

In other news, we sadly say goodbye to student, Stefan, as he heads home today. Students and staff are sad to see you go, but best of luck in your future endeavours.

Our students are busy writing their weekly exams as we speak, so on a lighter note – make sure you head over to our facebook page to watch the video of The Peanut Butter Thief” – or to You Tube: http://youtu.be/972XFEc3wlY Thanks to Greg Moran for the footage.

Until next time,

Conraad and the Bushwise team