My game path through the African bushveld
Bushwise Professional Field Guide students forge their own game paths as they grow in their careers. Elmar Kleinhans shares his experience in the last few weeks of our six-month course.
It was the last stretch of the course with only three weeks left before everyone headed off on their separate ‘game paths’ in the African bushveld.
With students doing drive assessments (our last assessment before becoming an Apprentice Field Guides), the stress and tension levels were high. In these drive assessments we must demonstrate all the things we have learned and experienced throughout the last five months. Things like how animals behave in their natural environment, how different plants can be used for many medical uses, and the different types of birds and how to identify them.
We must put this vast knowledge into a three-hour game drive that is meant to be entertaining and enjoyable for our ‘guests’ and show them how we guide. It creates a lot of stress for us students, but it also makes it fun and interesting .
Once we’ve completed our practical assessment drive, along with our written assessment, we’ve earned the qualification of FGASA Apprentice Field Guide. The next step is to prepare ourselves to fire a .375- calibre bolt action rifle in Advanced Rifle Handling (ARH). This step is very important for when we want to trail guide in the future.
This is not an easy task as the calibre is big and packs a punch, while the rifle itself is very heavy, and it seems to grow heavier as you practise shooting at targets. We go through a few exercises that get cumulatively harder and harder. The last and hardest one is the lion charge because the lion target moves at a very fast speed (still much slower than a real lion), which puts a lot of pressure on the shooter as it gets closer and closer to you. At the end of the day, my arm was quite sore and weak after holding that rifle for so many hours.
Following our ARH qualification, the fun really begins. This is where we will experience the African bushveld from a different angle, not from the vehicle, but rather on foot. This training prepares us to earn our Apprentice Trails Guide qualification one day, through Bushwise and Lowveld Trails Co.
During this training, we work to observe animals on foot without altering the animal’s behaviour in their natural habitat. We experience so much in the few days when we are out on foot in the bush between all the trees, insects and animals. And it’s amazing to look for animals and see how they act in the natural environment without a vehicle engine roaring.
After all of the intensity and excitement of these activities, we spent a day in Kruger National Park with our fellow students. There we can just enjoy a relaxing day in the African bushveld, talking about all of our shared experiences, memories, what we’ve achieved and where we’ve been placed.
We head to graduation where we met other Bushwise students at our annual prize giving ceremony, and we got to know them and share our experiences and feelings about the course over the last six months. We had a lot of laughs together that evening.
After all that, the end of the Bushwise course is slowly crawling closer and closer as we reach a turn in our game paths. And it’s sad that the course is coming to an end, but I’m glad that I joined the course and I’m going to miss everyone at the end of the course when we all say goodbye to each other and everyone going their separate ways.
Find yourself immersed in the African bushveld soon, by applying for a Bushwise course. You could be walking down a game path soon, just like Elmar!