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I never thought I’d become a field guide

This blog was written by a current Bushwise student.

3 min read

My name is Queeneth Seepano, born and bred in Welverdiend, Mpumalanga. I am a person who is passionate about wildlife. But growing up I was an indoor person and I didn’t like being around nature, so I thought I would never want to be part of conservation.

That all changed when I was selected in 2019 for the Bridging Course at the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC), a partner of Bushwise Field Guides. It exposed me to a lot that I didn’t know about and it led to my interest in conservation.

My first step into conservation

Queeneth (centre) holds the camera while the rest of the student group smile behind her, everyone piled into a game viewer.

For a year, I was part of the RISE (Rural Initiatives for a Sustainable Environment) department at the SAWC. I worked as a coach in the ‘Coaching Conservation’ program, for kids in grades 5, 6 and 7 at a few primary schools. 

As a coach in this program, my eyes were opened and I saw how these communities, mostly the young kids, didn’t know much about the animals being protected or their importance in our daily lives. And I saw a reflection of myself when I was in school.

It was a good feeling to educate these kids about conservation so they can grow up with a conservation-minded mentality. In that year, I was also exposed to guiding the kids around the Kempiana area. I fell in love with being out in the bush, especially the part where I was able to share my knowledge with these kids. 

Applying to join Bushwise

The author dressed in her Bushwise uniform, smiling for the camera with green trees and grass behind her.

I then realised it was something I wanted to do for a living – sharing my knowledge with people, and helping them experience and enjoy nature. 

I didn’t have a qualification then, until I saw the scholarship posted at the college, wanting candidates to join Bushwise and the SAWC in their field guide training collaboration. At first, I was nervous to apply, but after my supervisor encouraged me, I did. 

I passed my interviews and started with the online learning course where only four of the six candidates would be chosen. I was lucky enough to be chosen by Bushwise. It was my happiest day ever when I received their email. Tears of joy were rolling down my cheeks.

I joined Bushwise on 8 July 2022, where I am now completing my course as a field guide. Over the past three months, I have gained so much more knowledge. 

One of my best experiences so far

Bushwise students doing track and sign lessons. Students stand around a sandy road, looking down at animal tracks and identifying the signs left by different species.

A highlight of my time with Bushwise was the week in September when I was camp manager. It was a very busy week and quite tiring as we were learning about track and sign and trailing with Colin and Samantha Patrick. It was a very educational week for all of us. I was in group A who learnt track and sign with Samantha.

Samantha made it easy for us to understand and see the differences between different tracks. I am still so amazed at how much we didn’t know about tracks. During that week, we thought we saw civet tracks, but they were actually jackal tracks. So Samantha showed us how we could differentiate between them. 

Students rely on books and images of tracks to identify which species left which mark. Some prints are extremely similar and difficult to distinguish without practice.

Being out and examining tracks all week prepared us for our assessments. The little tracks like squirrels, mongooses, genets, you name them really drove us crazy. Even the impala, bushbuck, steenbok and duiker tracks twisted our brains into knots.

But I am glad to say that at the end of this week, we all got our levels in track and sign. It was a very great week, I had fun. As camp manager I am very proud of my fellow students for making it through this week. 

It was a great week as we were able to see the pack of wild dogs, a herd of buffalo and pride of lions right outside the reception which is not far from the campus. It was a very amazing week all in all.

What a journey it’s been

Four Bushwise students, including Queeneth, showing just how excited they are to be on this course by making goofy faces at the camera.

I must say Bushwise does push you to your limits to help you create a better version of yourself and prepare you for the real world. I am very happy with the efforts of everyone at Bushwise and all experiences I’ve been exposed to.

Learn more about track and sign on our Bushwise Professional Field Guide course.

Words by Queeneth Seepano and photos by Louise Pavid and Queeneth.




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