Bushwise 101: game drives

Bushwise 101: game drives

This blog was written by Bushwise student Trevor Hinze, whose week as camp manager coincided with the first week of game drives. 

Read time: 4 mins

To kick things off, I will be honest; I didn’t know what to expect as a camp manager since this week felt more official than week 1. 

One of the Bushwise students practicing leading a game drive, alongside a trainer who’s supervising her.

This week would be different since we all had to conduct our own game drive and our fellow students as the guests. We would be split up into two groups, namely group A and group B. I was in group B and Sipihwe was driving us in the morning, and Slon in the afternoon. 

Starting the week right: game drives!

On Monday, we started the first day at 06:30 in the morning on the game viewers. Sipihwe was our lucky charm today because we barely made it out of the gate when we bumped into lions. One male and the other a female. They were quite relaxed, even in our presence. We didn’t see anything else – except a hooded vulture – during the morning drive.

 When we got back to the campus at 10:00, we had a lecture about weather and climate by none Trevor Myburgh – who makes any lecture entertaining and enjoyable. After lunch we were assembled by Louise for a couple of photos for our future CVs. 

Students on a game drive in the Lowveld just outside of Kruger National Park.

At 15:00 we went on another game drive, this time with Slon driving us and he showed great driving capabilities over some of the harsher stuff. We didn’t find anything of particular interest. 

Learning some animal track and sign

Trevor did show off his exceptional guiding skills. We stopped by a “ rhino postmark “. Trevor told us about how a rhino will defecate in the same spot to mark his territory. He also explained that rhinos will walk with their hind legs into their own feces and start walking. In this way he marks out his territory. In the late evening we saw a lone elephant bull just calmly feeding along the fence line. Man, it was quite a day..

Bushwise students on a game drive watching a bull elephant from the safety of their vehicle.

Tuesday was quite an uneventful day. Apart from 04:00 in the morning, when the lions roared next to the campus fence line at the airstrip. However, I was also woken up by Chulu – who had to pack warm drinks and snacks in preparation for his game drive – and Jacques, who would be driving those of us in group B. 

The drive was very quiet with no sightings. We had a lecture on ecology from Darren after the drive. In the afternoon, Annemie spoke to us about hospitality and wines and she gave us some great tips.

Being a good field guide = being a good host

Part of becoming a field guide is hospitality and learning how to host your guests. This is one of the training sessions Bushwise students experience. 

On Wednesday group A got very lucky on their morning game drive. They had a brief glimpse of a young female leopard. Meanwhile, us in group B spent a wonderful 20 minutes with a spotted hyena. 

Biomes was the lecture for Wednesday and it was done by the Francios, who explained each biome and its “flagship species” in great detail. Other than that not much happened on our afternoon drives except for going over some trees and plants and some of their different medicinal uses.

Finally my chance to lead game drives…!

Bushwise students in a game drive vehicle, ready for time in the bush.

On Thursday, it was finally my chance to guide a game drive. I mostly did the driving, while Francios did the guiding. I started out a bit shaky, but got the hang of things a little while into the game drive. 

After the game drive, at 10:30 we left for the Hoedspruit Reptile Center where we were taught a few things about snakes and we got to watch the dissection of a giant plated lizard that had been dead for six months. Some of us, including me, couldn’t handle the smell! All in all, it was quite a good but busy day. 

When you do a Bushwise course, you learn about all kinds of animals including reptiles. You might even visit the Hoedspruit Reptile Centre!

Ending the week on a high note

On Friday, things went a little different than usual. As Flora was driving us around, Francios suggested that we walk back to the campus from where we were in the field. The campus was about a kilometer away when we stopped and started the walk on this cold morning. 

We made it back safely to the campus without, unfortunately, seeing any animals except for a few birds including the African Stone Chat. At around 10:30 we did a few revision tests on the lectures we received during the week.

I loved my week as Camp Manager and for being one to such an awesome group of people as well as outstanding trainers.

Have you ever wanted to drive a game viewer in the African bush? Join a Bushwise course and learn how you too can have this much fun in the African bushveld.