Photo blog: a Lowveld welcome to our new Bushwise students

Photo blog: a Lowveld welcome to our new Bushwise students

The beginning of each new Bushwise course fills the Lowveld air with anticipation and excitement. Not only for the newest intake of field guiding hopefuls, but also for us, the Bushwise staff.

Trainer Vaughan shows the new students some of their study materials.

Before the new batch of students arrive, we know a little about them – their names, where they’re from, and a bit about their backgrounds. But we don’t know the types of people they are, or the types of guide they will become. We just know they have one thing in common (with each other and with us) – they love nature and want to spend time in the bush.

A few of the Bushwise students looking like proper guides-in-training at the camp boma.

We are as excited as our new students are. Despite having spent years knocking about the bush there is very little that doesn’t excite us about it. The prospect of sharing our knowledge, experience, skills and stories with the new students reminds us why we do this in the first place.

Trainer Nico and a Bushwise student, about to head out into the Lowveld bush in the 4x4 game viewer.

In the first few days of every course, we naturally have some admin to take care of. Aside from the induction and welcome there are a few housekeeping rules we cover to make sure everyone fully understands what they’ve got themselves into. 

The most important of these is the safety briefing. For many of our students, this will be the longest they’ve been away from home, fully immersed in the Lowveld environment that doesn’t bend, flex or forgive when it comes to the laws of nature.

Bushwise students getting their induction in the camp classroom.

Once the basics are covered we move on to the next important task – ensuring all the students are capable of driving the safari vehicles. For many, this can be intimidating. 

The sight of a two-tonne Landcruiser and the realisation that the vehicle has not one, but two gear shift knobs can often result in a few minor panic attacks. “How on earth do you expect me to drive this thing?!”

Learning to drive a game viewer in the Lowveld is an essential skill for field guides. 

After the driving assessments are complete those worries are put to rest – it’s just a car after all. A car just like any other, with the added bonus of the option to engage four-wheel drive mode for those steep, rocky roads or thrilling off-road adventures in the Lowveld!

Bushwise students, trainers and staff are all passionate about the outdoors and nature. 

Ok, now we’ve learnt that we can actually drive the car and it’s not that scary after all. But, what happens if we’re out and one of Africa’s very inconvenient thorns happens to pierce one of the tyres? Enter the high-lift jack, the industry standard tool for changing the 30kg+ tyres on a Landcruiser or Land Rover. 

Using a high-lift jack is one of the essential aspects of 4x4 training on our Bushwise course in the Lowveld..

The high-lift jack is possibly one of the most dangerous tools of the trade if you don’t know how to use it properly. As with every other piece of equipment used on the course, when it comes to safety we take this training very seriously.  We spent a full afternoon under the African sun, rolling around in the red dust learning how to properly and safely change a tyre in the wild.

It’s essential that a high-lift jack, and in fact any tool, is used safely and with supervision when training. 

With all the safety admin done and dusted we finally reached the moment our students had been so eagerly anticipating – their very first game drive in the reserve. 

Walking towards the camera with confidence, our Bushwise students are looking very professional in their new uniforms. 

The word “excitement” doesn’t even come close to describing the electricity coursing among the students as we prepared the vehicles on a crisp winter’s morning. If we were capable of bottling that electricity, we might just find a solution to the power supply problem!

The first drive in the Lowveld was an adventure, to say the least. We heard leopards calling and chased after them, sadly yielding no result. We stopped for coffee at the river, removed an elephant roadblock in the form of a knob thorn tree (a couple of our students learnt the hard way that yes, knob thorn trees do in fact, have thorns on them). We even went on a little bit of a rescue mission. 

Getting vehicles unstuck from the sand is all part of training to guide in the Lowveld!

The smiles, laughter and wide-eyed curiosity grew with each passing minute. As staff, our hearts filled with pride, joy and certainty that by the time this new group of students reaches their graduation in December, we’re going to be injecting the safari tourism and conservation industries with passionate, dedicated professionals who are all wild about the wild!

We’re so excited to welcome our newest class of Bushwise Professional Field Guide students. Are you ready to start your career journey with Bushwise?

Words and images by: Louise Pavid