Life After Bushwise: From Makalali to UK Animal Management and Freelance Guiding
Updated: Sep 26
Meet Elliot Evans, a graduate of the Bushwise Professional Field Guide 2014 course. After graduation, Elliot did his placement at Makalali Private Game Reserve. His career saw him become a guide for his former trainer, a ground handler for a leopard research project and a lodge manager at Mara. Today, he spends his time between the UK and SA, always staying close and connected with wildlife. But enough from us – let’s hear his journey from his own words.
Life before Bushwise
Before coming to Bushwise, I had just finished university and was living in the UK. I had spent my childhood in the bush, and there are not many jobs that can incorporate the bush lifestyle in the UK so choosing to come to Bushwise was a no brainer for me.
My favourite Bushwise memories
I have so many favourite memories! From the sleep outs to the sightings, trips, off weeks, lectures and even the pranks pulled not only by students but by staff too! I honestly think I could write a library of books containing all of my favourite memories from my time there.
One of my favourite memories happened one Sunday morning at about 3am. I was woken up by the sound of destruction coming for the dining area, which was right next to my room. So I went in to find out what was going on. I was confronted by four honey badgers trashing the place. Once they saw me, they decided to chase me back to my room and try to get in there too to continue their rampage. They eventually gave up and headed back to the dining area.
After recovering my nerves (and waking up a bit more), I decided to go get them out of the dining area. With my trusted knobkerrie in hand, I swung open the dining room door, yelling and shouting – only to find that they had grown bored and wandered off. It was at this exact moment that my fellow students woke up and came to investigate. They then proceeded to blame me for the damage as I was standing in the centre of the carnage in nothing but my boxers holding a knobkerrie. To this day, they still blame me for the damage and mess.
Life right after Bushwise
After graduating from Bushwise, I did my placement at Makalali. Once my placement came to an end, I moved back to the UK and continued to search for more bush orientated work. I became a guide for one of my former Bushwise trainers, Conraad Loubser. At the same time, I was working for a travel company that ran safaris in the Lowveld but was based in the UK, and I also was a ground handler for a leopard research company.
From there, I became a lodge manager for the Safari Collection in Mara, Kenya – which was unfortunately messed up by COVID-19. So I had to go back to the UK again where I started working in film and wildlife management. I also took part in some para-veterinary animal darting projects for large and dangerous animals. While my life may not be as bush as it used to be, I can’t say it’s boring!
My life today
Now I split my time between the UK and South Africa. When I am in the UK, I work in film as a cameraman and in wildlife management. When I am back in South Africa, I work as a freelance field guide.
In terms of my wildlife management work, I spend a lot of time working with conservation groups as well vet practices and governing bodies. When I’m not in the field darting and rescuing wildlife, I’m teaching and running courses on specific conservation techniques or running training programs that allow people to develop the skills they need to conserve nature themselves.
In terms of my filming work, unsurprisingly I film wildlife – which is a passion I picked up while studying at Bushwise. We all know that that’s the first thing students think of when they go to Bushwise. It’s not “Will I see a kill?” or “Can I tick off all the animals on my wish list?”. No, it’s always “I hope I get some great shots of it all!”I can very happily report that with the helpful tips and guidance from my instructors, I did and I still use these skills to this day!
Advice for non-South African future guides
To the foreign students like myself, don’t let anything stop you! There are going to be things that feel like a brick wall like visas, permits, knowledge, training and qualifications. None of it is impossible, there is always a way to get something done. Persevere and don’t think that you can’t do it. Be like a honey badger and don’t accept no for an answer.
Special shout out
Shout out to my former instructors Trevor, Cubus, Conraad and Charles, and to all of my classmates who I haven’t seen since my time there. Not a day goes by where they are not missed or thought of! I can’t wait for a reunion to be held at Mahlahla. Another shout out to Sharin, Kim, Sophie and the other staff who work behind the scenes to keep Bushwise at the top of their game!
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