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  • Writer's pictureBushwise Student

A life-altering adventure at the Southern African Wildlife College

This blog was written by Reggie van der Westhuizen, a Bushwise Professional Field Guide student. Each student takes a turn as camp manager and writing a blog is part of the experience.


3 min read


As the sun dipped below the horizon, casting a golden tone across the vast African wilderness, I found myself standing on the doorstep of a life-altering adventure. Little did I know that my role as the camp manager at the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC) for Bushwise would unfold into a week of wild experiences including: driving assessments, tree explorations, and a newfound fascination with bird calls. With 31 ambitious students from all across the globe, our journey towards becoming nature guides unfolded like the pages of a fascinating novel, I became not only a camp manager but also a proud member of the "Black-Backed Puffbacks," a name that echoed the spirit of tents 15,16 and 17…



The week started with the anticipation of driving assessments that would test our capacity as future nature guides. After departure we navigated the rugged terrain of SAWC, learning the art of 4X4 driving. The adrenaline-fueled moments were not only a testament to our individual capabilities but also served as the foundation of teamwork. 


In the classroom, we delved into the world of trees, immersing ourselves in the study of various species and their leaf structures. With our newfound knowledge, we ventured into the wilderness alerted on all fronts to the subtle whispers of the bushveld. The connection between theory and practice became evident as we identified trees, deciphering the language of leaves that spoke volumes about the ecosystem we have always been a part of. 



One of the highlights of my journey as of yet, was exploring the bird calls – an art that proved both intriguing and challenging (was maybe a case of the more I hear it the less I know it). The symphony of birdlife filled the air as we learned to distinguish the amazing tunes, our ears became finely tuned instruments capable of distinguishing a black-backed puffback from a black headed oriole. The fascination with bird calls was also a reminder of the delicate balance that sustains ecosystems. Every organism has a role to play in this wonderful ball we call earth, it is honestly mind blowing. 


We 31 students became united by a common passion for nature, we formed a unique bond that transcended borders and cultural differences. The birth of our group, the "Black-Backed Puffbacks," was marked by laughter, shared discoveries but more so mischief, like the bird we called ourselves after, we became a symbol of resilience and adaptability, navigating our life in the bush through brotherhood. 



The evenings around the campfire (mainly Saturday nights) became an environment for everyone to be themselves, and you tell me what is more beautiful than that? The diversity within our group became a source of strength, enriching our understanding of the natural world and creating a global perspective on LIFE.


As the week as camp manager drew to a close, I found myself reflecting on the profound impact this experience had on my journey as a future nature guide. The challenges, the moments of fun, and the bonds forged during this week were not just chapters in a training program; they were the building blocks of a lifelong adventure in understanding and protecting our planet's natural wonders. In the heart of the African wilderness, I discovered not only the secrets of trees and bird calls but also to hurry up and slow down – the true essence of the Black-Backed Puffbacks. PS – To any members of the Black-Backed Puffbacks if you are reading this, I love you gents. 


Ready to embark on your own wildlife adventure? Explore more about Bushwise on our website!


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