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  • Writer's pictureBushwise Student

Have You Heard About The Bird?

Updated: Jan 11

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

Read time: 4 mins

Cape Townians in 40-degree weather and life u-turns

It is the aftermath of a sweltering Saturday, and the coolest place I can find seems to be the simple rondavel that has been my home for the last 10 weeks. The Capetonian in me is still in shock – seriously questioning my decision to voluntarily submit myself to the 40+ degree weather we’ve had this past week — only the beginning of summer apparently! 

Yet, I find myself questioning what the alternative would have been had I followed through with 2023’s ‘plan’ to move to the UK and work in a nursing home. Simply put, I would have been miserable no doubt, homesick and freezing cold. No, I came out the winner with this last minute decision to go out on a limb and combine two of my greatest passions: hospitality and nature. It took many years longer than it should have to walk this path, but I have had my expectations exceeded daily, and every day serves as an opportunity for growth.

My reign as ‘camp damager’ 

On that note, as part of Bushwise tradition, each student takes a turn at running the show as weekly camp manager. My turn landed up coinciding with the introduction of our new trainer FP, the beginning of the Rugby World Cup, Bushwise Open Day, and a whole week dedicated solely to the existence of birds. 

My reign as ‘camp damager’ (as we’ve affectionately coined it) had no real hiccups — besides a rogue honey badger in the fridge and resident porcupines through the bio-bins. But making sure things run smoothly and no one burns the place down is usually easiest after a week of holidays, so I do believe I got lucky.

The underestimated art of bird watching 

Bird week had our trainers visibly ecstatic – like kids at Christmas. I honestly believe they had the best time of us all as we competed to beat the last course’s record of species sighted over the week. At one point a leopard was seen, but “if it doesn’t have an oxpecker on it, we’re not stopping”. 

Roaring winds and scorching heat put our goal out of reach by mere single digits, but you won’t find a sore loser in me. There is a serious art to birding, and it is something I look forward to building on in the years to come. Trees at least stay still, as well as mammals to a certain degree, but you really need to have your wits about you and be on constant alert to get the most out of a day looking for birds.

Birds aside, our first week back in Semester 3 was a winner with the climax definitely being Thursday’s visit up Mariepskop to ‘go birding’ in four different biomes. The beauty of having such a small group of nine means we all fitted on one Cruiser and were able to share in the same sense of awe as we encountered the beauty that surrounded us. From the hurricane-force gales that were unable to deter the peregrine falcons on top of the mountain to the tranquil forests filled with elusive birds and Sykes monkeys, we were repeatedly awestruck. 

Open day in 40-degree weather

Since the previous 60-day group left at the end of last semester, we have had the campus to ourselves, and we’re reaching the stage of becoming a small family — albeit a rather crazy one after sharing one vehicle for 12 hours. I believe we were able to convey this sense of comradery to all the visitors at the most recent Open Day — which of course had to happen in 40-degree weather! The heat deterred no one and I do believe we may be seeing some of those faces on a more permanent basis at Bushwise again at a later point.

South Africa looks set to destroy Romania in the Rugby World Cup tomorrow, and put everyone in a cheerful mood to enter the new week where we begin with mock drives as preparation for our FGASA practical finals. Theory finals are in a week’s time, and then we will finally be able to let our hair down a bit, just in time for our new group of 60-day students. I want to say that the stress is overwhelming everyone, but we have been so well-prepared to get to this point that I believe my whole group will ace it.

In summary, I can’t say I’ve ever really had much direction in my life. A decade spent waitressing was always a hand-to-mouth way of living for me. I really enjoyed it, but I always felt stagnant. The sheer amount of knowledge and skills acquired over such a short time here has been unfathomable. I’m finally putting my brain back to work and gearing up to embrace my 30s at year-end. With each week, I’m closer to realising my potential and I look forward to what the rest of the year has to bring.

Ready to go out on a limb and pursue your dreams of living a wilder life? Join us out here at Bushwise for the start of something special. 




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