Crunchtime to the Bushwise exam

Crunchtime to the Bushwise exam

It’s halftime on the Bushwise Professional Field Guide course, which can only mean one thing: Bushwise exams. In this blog, student Tyler Dan Delhougne describes the stress of studying in the bush, and the camaraderie that comes with it. 

2 min read

Time management isn’t something that comes naturally for most, it’s a learned skill that takes years to develop. A skill that pays off best when utilised daily. My time as camp manager was certainly a test of these skills. 

A week under pressure

An elephant pauses to look towards the camera, before calmly moving along with the rest of the breeding herd. 

In a single week our class endured the heat of practical observations, “the battle of our senses” from tests on slides and sounds, the pressure of our second Bushwise exam, the fine tuning of blogs, and perhaps the hardest of all, the daunting task of maintaining a clean kitchen. Let me explain…

Over the week we started our mornings by engaging in practical observations. In this exercise, the trainers walk into the African bush and place numbered cones at anything from a specific tree to the dung of a zebra. Then two by two we walk in their footsteps with pen and paper at hand to test both our knowledge of the bush and how we recognise things that are often overlooked. 

These practical observation sessions helped to prepare us for the test that awaited us later that week. 

Testing the ears and eyes

A pair of wildebeest look towards the camera. 

After testing our sight and touch in the natural world, we all headed to the classroom to study slides and sounds. The croak of toads, the grunted “gnu” of a wildebeest, the colour of a boomslang and the features of a violin spider are all things we need to know for our big test at the end of the week, which will determine how well we see and hear the many different creatures that surround us in the savanna.

We spent the week pushing ourselves to use our sense of touch, sound and sight for the test, while we also had the looming presence of our second Bushwise exam, which brought on a bit of fear and pressure in us all. This exam covered the second half of all our modules from amphibians, reptiles, mammals, birds, conservation management, ethology and even human habitation.

Bonding over shared Bushwise exam stress

A couple of brown hooded kingfishers with ruffled feathers sitting on a branch. 

Stressful would be an understatement for the week we faced, but it’s during times of great stress that we band together the best. As the week progressed, every one of us grouped together and hit the books hard. All helping each other conquer “the battle of the senses” as we called it. 

For hours on end, all that could be heard from the tents was the calls of frogs and mammals and the flipping of flash cards. Small groups of students would also band together to walk around campus to better understand and identify the flora surrounding the camp. 

It’s this bond we all shared together and the passion for the natural world that kept us going to survive this week. Not only had we survived, we came out victorious. 

Like the phoenix, we arose victorious

A lone pearl-spotted owlet sits in fading afternoon light, at the end of another day in the African bush. 

Students who had originally been struggling with practical observation had amongst the highest scores in the class. Some who couldn’t tell between a banded rubber frog and a Bubbling Kassinas are now teaching others how to see the differences. We sat in each other’s rooms for hours coming up with entertaining and even silly ways of remembering different calls of frogs, toads and mammals. 

Though the week was hard and our plates full, we all emerged levels ahead of where we all once stood. Nothing is more satisfying than being able to sit outside day or night and identify every single creature that we are hearing around us. Just giving us another level of insight into the bush that we all know and love. 

All we had left to do now was learn how to clean our own dishes, but that’s a battle for another day.

Imagine passing your big Bushwise exam, and realising you’re one step closer to your dream of becoming an African safari guide? It could be you. Apply today.

Words and photos by Tyler Dan Delhougne