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My life on a Bushwise field guide course

Bushwise student Rian Gouws talks about his choice to join the Bushwise Professional Field Guide course, and how it’s opened his eyes to many new experiences. 

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.

My name is Rian Gouws and I come from Boksburg, a city near Johannesburg. In my younger life, I was surrounded by animals of all kinds, from birds to antelope, cattle and fish. My dad and grandad often took me out on weekends to go see our farm and go fishing.

A Bushwise field guide course student overlooks a dam

One day, my dad’s nephew – who owns a game lodge  – came with us and told us many stories about what it is like managing a lodge. From then on, I have been excited by the idea of managing or working with animals and learning how they survived in the wild. He taught me how animals reacted to different situations and how to read their behaviour. 

So, I decided to join a Bushwise field guide course after school to understand animals and educate people about them. In the past five months, Bushwise has changed my view on nature and the world.

Starting out I was nervous because there was a lot to learn and a lot of theory to get through.  But I didn’t mind this  because all of it was done to educate me so I can pass on the knowledge to other people. Sitting in class and just listening to the trainers speak about their experiences motivated me even more. Being surrounded by trainers and students who share the same enthusiasm and interests as me has made just about everything about the experience even more enjoyable. 

You gain more than just knowledge on a field guide course. You also gain friends and memories.

Even when I’m washing dishes and taking out the dustbin on campus, I’m reminded that I’m in nature. Sometimes you can hear a hyena calling in the background or see a sable walking down to the dam to drink some water. I always like these moments because I feel part of nature then, just listening to what’s going on and observing my surroundings. 

Game drives were a whole new experience for me because I haven’t been on very many. Driving around and looking for animals was almost as much fun as seeing them because I made so many friends on those drives. We would stop at an interesting tree and listen to the trainers explain interesting facts and stories about this particular tree, which we will one day get to tell our visitors. 

Bushwise students with trainer Nico on a botany lesson.

I always like hearing about the beliefs behind certain trees, like how a buffalo thorn would protect you from lightning or how by eating a marula tree bark could determine the sex of your unborn child. I feel like it’s important to tell these stories so visitors can understand more about the people who lived here and how these stories form part of their culture.

One of my favourite experiences on this field guide course is when we came across a curious tree squirrel that was standing guard in the middle of the road. As we were observing him, he slowly crept closer until he was right next to the car’s front right wheel. Then, with an extreme burst of speed, he climbed onto a dead tree next to us and just stood there not three metres away looking at us. As he attempted to make a jump to the next branch, he decided against it … MID AIR. With a motion I’ve never seen before he made a backflip and landed on the ground. The whole car burst out laughing because when in your entire life have you ever seen a squirrel bail out of a jump for no apparent reason?

Students on a field guide course enjoying a game drive.

Being camp manager for a week was quite stressful because I had the responsibility of keeping everyone in check and it was up to me to try and resolve any problem that occurred or pass it along to the head trainer if it was serious. It was much nicer than I expected though, and the experience  taught me how to manage different situations and be more responsible.

Overall, I think this experience is so much better to live than to read about and is something everybody should do if they have the chance. It changes your view about life and your place in nature for the better. Bushwise has taught me so much and will continue to do so in the future. I can’t recommend them enough. 

Do you want to expand your knowledge of African animals and experience life on a field guide course? Apply today and pretty soon you could be here!




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