A bush camp in the African wilderness
Updated: Nov 2
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to run a bush camp? In this blog, Bushwise student Chulu Msofe shares his experience as camp manager. This part of field guide training is important for gaining leadership and management skills.
Read time: 4 mins
We have just come back from our off week. Everyone’s excited to be back and learn new things and see what nature has to offer. This week was my week to manage the bush camp, which was the first time I’ve been in such a role.
As a camp manager, I was responsible for making sure that the kitchen was stocked and if there were any shortages, I reported them to my superior. I was also in charge of the kitchen keys and chose a fellow student to have the spares in case something was needed when I wasn’t around.
On Monday we started the day with a beautiful sunrise and bird calls. Everyone was up having a cup of tea or coffee with some rusks and fruits by 6:00. At 6:30 we started our game drive, where we got to learn about trees. I like to call this a green day – where we get to learn about different plants and trees on our game drive.
Queeneth was our guide for the day and she explained how animals benefit in different ways from trees. For example, elephants can eat different parts of the tree for food – such as fruits, leaves, roots, tubers and bark – and they can also use the tree as a water source.
When we got back to camp, we had a lecture on birds – which I was quite excited about because I honestly love birds. Darryn was our trainer, which made the lecture even better because he’s also obsessed with birds. He gave us a lot of information about how to identify birds, where different birds are found, their foot structures, what kind of foods they eat and what kind of lifestyles they live.
We also learned some interesting facts about their behaviors like preening, which helps them to condition and maintain the function of their feathers.
On Tuesday, it was finally my turn to be the field guide. I woke up at 5:00, prepared the snack box for the drive, checked that everything was fine in the kitchen and did safety checks on the game viewer – making sure we had water, a hi-lift jack, a spade, a toolbox and a first aid kit on board in case of emergency. I was then ready to drive my fellow students in Group A (the guests).
I introduced myself as the guide and my trainer, Darryn, who was joining us. I was so excited to have my first guests on board. After coming out of the campus gate, we saw a herd of impalas and wildebeest.
I stopped and explained what I knew about them and gave my “guests” a chance to ask any questions. On my drive, we saw some interesting birds – like Bateleur eagles, a kori bustard and a red-crested korhaan – as well as some leopard tracks.
Once we arrived back at the campus, we had a lecture on fish, which was quite interesting – but not as interesting as the birds for me. After having lunch, we went on our second game drive. This time our guide was Menina who brought us luck, as we saw a bachelor herd of bull elephants and a black-backed jackal. Group B, who was guided by Christian, saw a buffalo, which was also pretty cool.
On Wednesday, we had an epic sighting. We saw a bull elephant make a mock charge toward us in the morning and we finished off the day with lots of kudus thanks to Ricardo, who was our guide.
We started Thursday with spotted hyena calls passing just by the side of the campus fence. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to find them during the morning drive. We went back to the bush camp early because it was a washing day for the game viewer.
As camp manager, it was my job to supply the washing equipment – like the car’s shampoo and gloves for cleaning – and make sure everything was returned to the right place after cleaning. After our lecture, we had a bush walk where we studied civet, wildebeest and impala tracks, as well as identified some trees. I like walking in the bush because I feel much closer to nature.
On Friday, we did another uneventful morning drive. After lunch, we did placement talks and got some feedback on how well everyone is doing during the first semester. The day ended with having a braai at the bush pub.
During my week running the bush camp, I discovered just how friendly and willing people are to help out. I also learned that being a good leader means being a team player, which helps people feel more comfortable to share their views and opinions with you. This will then help you to know if anything needs to be changed, and you can give them feedback if you tried out one of their suggestions.
Some of the tips I have are if someone has a complaint, don’t take it personally, and always be honest if you were wrong. This will strengthen communication within your team, which makes the job much easier. So far I have loved my week managing this bush camp and my time at Bushwise because it feels like we’re one big family.
Live and learn in a bush camp in the African wilderness, when you join a Bushwise course. Apply today!
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