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  • Writer's pictureBushwise Student

The Bushwise Journey: Looking Back on Unforgettable Experiences

Updated: May 29

This blog was written by Femke van Nieuwkerk, Bushwise Professional Field Guide student. Each student takes a turn as camp manager, and writing a blog is part of the experience.


3 min read


It all started on the 7th of January, when some of us arrived on time by car, others arrived together through an organised shuttle and one of us took a lovely detour to the wrong campus, but luckily ended up with us. The first day consisted of filling in forms, forms and some more forms. Keys to the tents were distributed and you got to know who was your roommate for the next 22 weeks. 



First aid training and new wildlife sightings

The first week consisted of First-Aid training, seeing wild dogs and spotted hyenas at the fence line, the early beginnings of many friendships and getting our uniforms. Afterwards, we started to dig into the modules and learn all about topics such as geology, weather and climate and botany. In the meantime, we slowly started to go on game drives, where everyone had turns in driving for one hour. During the first semester real friendships formed – such as the Black Backed Puffbacks (blog of Regardt van der Westhuizen). Who would have known from the beginning that in many cases in this course, the two other random people in your tent would become such good friends?!


After the first off-week, our big group of 31 people was split into two groups – those doing their International Field Guide Association qualification and those doing the Bushwise Professional Field Guide qualification – each with its own schedule. Where PFG had their exams on bird sights and sounds, IFGA was busy with their Track & Sign. On days that PFG had a late start, IFGA had to start early. Most of us had to get used to this difference, even some friendships got lightly tested during the first days and afterwards came out stronger than before. 



Getting into the game drives

For PFG the first three hour drives started and we got a real taste of how it feels to guide and the preparations that come with it, such as making sure the hotbox is filled, making sure that your route makes sense and doing a vehicle check. Semester two ended with the FGASA exam for all of us. As of now, we don’t have the official results back yet – but most of us feel positive about it. In my opinion, you could sense the growth in everyone during this semester, be it in becoming more professional, having better study methods, having more confidence or in becoming more open. 


We are now two weeks into the third semester and this time it is IFGA’s turn to learn bird sounds. The PFG group had their two weeks of Track & Sign with Colin and Sam Patrick, which is considered as a highlight for most of us. As I am writing this blog, half of our group (IFGA) will leave to go to Sabi Sands for four course weeks to get experience with working in a lodge. This leads to a day which is filled with a lot of mixed emotions; saying (a teary) goodbye to each other, excitement and anxiety about what has to come and maybe even some – healthy – jealousy of the group staying at SAWC. 



Looking forward to the next steps

For PFG the rest of semester will be about botany, bird theory, slide and sounds of all species and mock assessment drives. For IFGA it will be about birds, mock assessment drives, learning how to work in a lodge and how to effectively heat your water for your shower – as they will not have proper showers for the next four weeks (something nobody in PFG is jealous about). 


In conclusion, we have learned vast amounts about nature, guiding and ourselves during the past months. Strong bonds have been formed, which probably only will become deeper and stronger as the time will pass on. I can only imagine how much we will learn in the next semesters, for example doing ARH and our assessment drives, but the thing I am looking the most forward to is for the IFGA group to come back and tell us all about their stories. 


Ready to start on your own field guiding journey with Bushwise? Apply today!


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