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  • Writer's pictureBushwise Student

Learning the language of the African bush

Updated: Sep 27, 2023

BY: Hannah Brandsma

Camp manager blogs are written by our current students who each get a chance to lead and manage a group (of their fellow students) for a period of one week.

The first few weeks with Bushwise Field Guides could not have been more exciting! For starters, we got out of the classroom and began doing morning and evening game drives. This meant we were up at 4:30am and in bed only by 11:00pm, depending on how much work and studying needed to be done in between.

Learning about the different aspects of the bush practically from game viewers and theoretically in the classroom has been an incredible experience for all of us. This is especially true for me, being from a big city. We have all started to learn this beautiful new language that very few are privileged to know – the language of the bush.

A lioness yawns in the afternoon light

Photo by Hannah Brandsma

Now this isn’t just any language that just anyone can learn. This language involves every sense you have as well as your knowledge and understanding of nature, and your ability to interpret what you observe.

From interpreting the fresh tracks of a lion to listening to the sounds of the birds; from noticing the smallest broken twig to inhaling the unmistakable smell of an animal; each observation allows us to gain insight into what we see, smell, feel, and hear.

We’ve tasted the fruits of the white berry bush, smelled the dung of a white rhino, heard the sound of red-billed oxpeckers and seen the difference between a male and female lion track. All of these letters of this very unique alphabet will eventually become our common language, for us to interpret to the visitors of this amazing landscape.

A colourful sunset along a road in the reserve

Photo by Hannah Brandsma

I am also enjoying the amount of photographic content I am getting. This is a photographer’s utopia – no sighting or image is ever exactly the same. Through my lens I can take a snapshot that will freeze a moment in time, telling a story about a small piece of this landscape and the unique life and characters within it. From wildlife to wild flowers, the colour and variation is endless. I come back from every drive excited to go through my photos and share these amazing moments.

We have all become acquainted with our wild neighbours that live with us on campus. There’s the honey badgers that help themselves to the leftovers in the fridge (who never seem to mind that we’re studying just a few metres away).

There’s the security frogs that live in the toilets and around the doors of the bedrooms, sounding out the alarm when a human approaches (thankfully, they make sure the insect population is kept in check).

An nyala ram looks at the camera

Photo by Louise Pavid

There’s the occasional porcupine that comes to visit some nights. And of course Bounce, the habituated (but still very wild!) bushbaby who enjoys frightening students by jumping onto heads or shoulders while we walk under the trees.

Our noisy neighbours are a bit more distant. From camp we hear the laughter of zebras and the clan calls of hyenas. Sometimes we can even hear a lion pride announcing their movements. Training with Bushwise is an experience like no other, with the sounds and sights of the bush on our doorstep.

What makes this whole new adventure one thousand times better are the people with whom I’m sharing these amazing stories and sights. We have all become good friends, with laughs, jokes and banter through thick and thin.

A game viewer drives towards the camera with mountains in the background

Photo by Louise Pavid

I’m surrounded by these insanely amazing people who I’m so fortunate to call friends, and I feel as though we have been through so much together in such a short time. They are always ready with a quick joke – but just as ready to offer help when it’s needed.

Without the people I am training with (the trainers and my peers) it would be simply a good experience. These humans have made these first few weeks absolutely unforgettable and I am grateful that I am here with them. I can’t wait to see how we evolve over the next few months. The fun and memories are only just beginning!

Do you want to start making memories that last a lifetime, and learn the language of the bush like Hannah? Apply today and get started!




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