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My amazing wildlife sightings as camp manager

Bushwise student Ricardo shares his experience as camp manager and all the amazing wildlife sightings from the week.

Read time: 3 min

A giraffe walks across the foreground with a beautiful sunset starting to form behind her.

I took over the camp manager position from Trevor this week. He was a great camp manager. For example, he got up early every morning before anyone else and kept watch while they were busy in the kitchen so he could lock up. 

Everyone has different leadership styles. Mine is a little different because I have a background in accounting. As my week as camp manager fell during an exam week, I realised delegation would be essential to keeping my stress levels low.

The author, Ricardo, probably smiling because of all his amazing wildlife sightings so far!

So, in the evenings I’d look at a list of all people who are going to lead a game drive the following morning and I would give the key to the most responsible person to open the kitchen up – which meant I got to get a little more sleep. 

To go out on game drive, it’s essential to get the game viewer ready like this student is doing.

Over the last week we have had two game drives a day at 6:30 every morning and 15:00 every afternoon, during this time we have seen some amazing wildlife sightings. While this is happening, we were given so much new information about everything from trees, grasses, birds, mammals, reptiles and even amphibians. 

This information would normally be an overload of new information, but the way the trainers explained everything to us made everything entertaining and interesting. 


Bushwise trainer Francois explaining the importance of various plants to his students.

For example, leadwood would make amazing firewood for a braai (which we call hardekole in Afrikaans) because it can burn for days, but we learnt it’s illegal to cut down since it’s a protected tree. 

Other protected trees in our area include marula due to traditional beliefs and apple leaf (appelblaar) trees due to folklore belief that it creates bad luck when cut down and will cause a rift in your family.


Learning about trees during a Bushwise course. It’s not just the amazing wildlife sightings that create the best memories. 

Two of my favourite trees I’ve learned about so far are jackal-berry and magic guarri. The jackal-berry can be used to brew beer, used in porridge, and the wood is even great for kitchen utensils and canoes. 

The magic guarri leaves can be used to put out fires, stems when cut and frayed could be used as paint and toothbrushes – and when desperate you could use the ash of leadwood as toothpaste. A traditional belief of magic guarri is that the branches are used to find water using a method called divining.

A student looking towards a dam where a few hippos are resting in the water. Hippos often make for amazing wildlife sightings

But enough about trees. On one of our drives, we had one of our amazing wildlife sightings – a hippo with its calf. They have to give birth in water shallow enough for the baby to be able to pop its head up for breath. The calf can only hold their breath for up to a minute while adults can hold theirs for up to five minutes. 

The name ‘hippopotamus’ comes from ancient Greek meaning river horse – which is very suitable as they can reach speeds of 35km/h! That’s very fast for such a gargantuan animal. 

A hippo yawning can be quite an intimidating, but amazing wildlife sighting. 

It is also reported that the hippos are the most dangerous animal in Africa. That’s one of the reasons they are considered a dangerous game when on land. Personally, I believe crocodile attacks are underreported. But overall the lesson is enjoy the sighting, but don’t get too close to the water.

The sighting I enjoyed the most has to be the pair of male cheetahs we saw lying in the grass while a hyena approached them. After the hyena went walking off, our head trainer took us out on foot to get a better view of these amazing cats while still maintaining a respectful and considerate distance.


A cheetah basking in the late afternoon sun.

My time at Bushwise has really been amazing so far and I’ve really enjoyed being camp manager. The trainers are exceptional, they’re incredibly knowledgeable and have great story telling skills. For me Bushwise is the best.

Amazing wildlife sightings are just part of the experience on a Bushwise field guide course. This could be you – apply today!

BY: Ricardo Strydom, photos by Louise Pavid and GVI Limpopo

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