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  • Writer's pictureBushwise Student

Life in the Wild: Embracing Adventure and Discovery in the Bush

Updated: Sep 26, 2023

This blog was written by Joel Wicks, Bushwise Professional Field Guide student, during this week as camp manager. 


The day began at 4 in the morning when my alarm blared throughout my tent and of course woke my roommates long before it affected me. I woke up with my duvet completely off and in shock at the first low temperatures I had felt since being in Limpopo. 


Embracing the chilling beauty of Limpopo’s mornings

A woman walks across an open space in South Africa’s lowveld region.

As I walked out the door, I realised that this was far from the heat I was used to waking up to. I took just two steps out the door before turning around and getting both my fleece and beanie. I had made it to the kitchen only partially frozen, but as soon as my hot coffee was finished I was ready for yet another amazing day in this incredible place. 


The first day of new drive groups was silently shivering as we drove through our  concession of the Kruger National Park – which still makes me smile. The thought that I am living in part of the Kruger and falling asleep to hyena and lion calls – and even the resident fiery necked nightjar each night, it’s truly something I’ll never get tired of. 


Wildlife from impala to Sterling’s wren warbler

A breeding herd of impala feed among bushes and shrubs in South Africa.

We quickly settled into our new groups and it wasn’t long before the laughs started, our first sighting. As per usual was a small bachelor herd of impala. Although they’re so common that our previous trainer referred to them as the money back guaranteed antelope because if you don’t see one, you should get a refund, one cannot ignore they’re incredible animals with complex social structures. Even though they’re so common, we haven’t even scraped  surface of what we can learn about these antelope. 


The next sighting happened to be a female African stonechat, a small bird that’s not too brightly coloured, but the excitement that fills me when seeing a bird I haven’t yet added to my list is a feeling I strive for each day. The more time you spend in the bush, the more your interest in birds begins to grow. I arrived here in search of leopards and elephants, and today I am more focused on finding the Stierling’s wren-warbler.


Camp management and camaraderie

Throughout the week, our drives continued, and we all got to witness just how far each of us have come since being here, the knowledge we’ve gained and the friendships that have grown are clear in each day and each drive. Sibusiso and I have realised that being a camp manager is not as easy as it seems. We need to wake up long before our fellow students in order to make sure that the kitchen is open and there is enough hot water for the much needed morning coffee, and take out bread with jams and peanut butter for a quick morning snack. This all sounds relatively easy until you add in the fact that we have to do it most mornings at 4:30 when the sun hasn’t eben risen and most mornings come with a light rain – which can some times be dreadfu, but there’s still nowhere I’d rather be each morning.


Bird calls and beyond: The sounds of nature

A grey heron perched on a branch in a pond, fishing for its morning meal.

The weekend came quickly and with it the bird slides and sounds exam, I had just finished my drive and after cleaning my hot box, I made my way to my friend’s tent to do some studying. We went over each call at least three times. With 126 calls, you can imagine that this wasn’t a quick study session, we quickly began noticing the unique features of each individual call and eventually we were naming every bird call we heard with confidence. 


It was like learning to ride a bicycle. At first you start falling a lot – and I mean a lot – but once you got it, you just want more. Now as I walk through campus or even while on a drive, I realise just how much I overlooked the calls I hear on a daily basis. 


Once the exam had finished, everyone quickly hurried to the sign out book and it wasn’t long before most of us were on our way to Hoedspruit to gather enough snacks for the upcoming week as well as grab some lunch while we were there. Once we had all gotten our supplies and eaten lunch, we hopped in the car and made our way back to campus, blaring music and speaking about the past week and what is yet to come. 


Once we reached the college gates, we turned the music down to enjoy the drive through the bush to get to our campus. As we drove we were greeted by squirrels, birds, impala and even elephants, it was the perfect end to the day.  


Each day in the lowveld is a new adventure, an adventure that I never want to end. Keen to start your own adventure? Join Bushwise and have an incredible experience, every day, just like I have.


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