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  • Writer's pictureBushwise Alumni

From South Carolina to South Africa: One Big Adventure

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

This blog was written by Ashton Thomas, during his turn as camp manager on the Bushwise Professional Field Guide course.

My name is Ashton, I am from a small town in South Carolina, USA and I’m eighteen years of age. I came to Bushwise because I have always loved animals; and loved learning about, teaching and showing people the natural environment and how cool and delicate it is. 

My journey as a camp manager at Bushwise

Being camp manager was a lot of fun. I got the opportunity to talk and help people I have not really got to know yet, which I really enjoyed. I opened the kitchen around four forty am every morning which was really cool because I got to see everyone prepare their hot box and actually learned a lot. 

This week was definitely a little stressful with the new modules we learned and the new kitchen we got. With the new kitchen definitely came some problems, but the whole group got them figured out very quickly. And was a good learning opportunity for everyone. 

Unforgettable wildlife sightings: From birds to elephants


 a red-billed hornbill tosses a grasshopper into the air as it gets ready to eat it. The bird is in focus and the background is a blurred green hue.

The drive this week was amazing even though we had a lot of rain. We did a lot of birding which was a blast. We even found six new birds for me. We also had a really cool encounter with a bull elephant. I can’t even explain the feeling I got from being so close to such an incredible animal. 

Throughout the week, we had such cool sightings including lots of birds of prey, dwarf mongooses, antelopes, giraffes, zebras and many other animals. On the very last drive of the week, my group got radioed for a female lion sighting nearby. We ended up finding the lion at a water hole eating a dead waterbuck. It was incredible – you could even smell the dead carcass of the waterbuck. 

Thrilling lion sighting: A close encounter

A photo by one of the other Bushwise students, showing lions resting in the shade. 

When we first got a sighting of the lion, we were watching a large group of white backed vultures sitting above the dead waterbuck on a small cliff. As we were watching, this beautiful female lion came up through the grass with the sun lighting the lioness up like a spot light. It was so cool. The lioness quickly scared away all the vultures. 

The sky was absolutely filled with vultures; it looked like something out of a movie. Not long after the insane sighting we tried turning around – only to discover we were stuck! 

Even though it was bad timing, we learned a lot on how to handle stressful situations and what can get more stressful than getting stuck in front of a lion!

Overcoming challenges and embracing responsibility

Students from Ashton’s Bushwise group watch the sun setting from the Southern African Wildlife College, the Bushwise campus where they studied for 6 months.

This week was a lot of fun having that feeling of responsibility really felt good and I enjoyed it a lot. I learned so much from other people and my own mistakes and especially with the new kitchen. 

Overall, I had an amazing time during the morning and afternoon drives, the lectures during the day, and all the study groups we had. This week has been an absolute blast and a true learning experience.

Bushwise is for everyone. Whether you’re from the United States, Australia, South Africa or anywhere in between, there’s a place for you on a Bushwise course. Find your course and start having adventures like Ashton!

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