From Peru to South Africa: My conservation journey
This blog was written by Lucas Vasquez, a Bushwise student who came to South Africa from his home country of Peru. Lucas shares his experience as a camp manager and some of the amazing sightings he had.
My name is Lucas Vasquez, and I have been camp manager with my mate Ashton Tomas at the Southern African Wildlife College campus for the past week. I came to Bushwise after several years of visiting Africa and developing a deep love of its wild areas and a passion to conserve them.
I come from Peru, and have always been in contact with nature since I have a memory, whether it was at my house in the mountains or going to lodges in the Amazon Rainforest. I came to Bushwise searching to achieve my dream of studying field guiding and wildlife conservation in order to gain more knowledge about nature and pursue my career.
The Importance of Field Guiding and Wildlife Conservation
So far I’ve been learning so much and furthering my knowledge about nature and learning so many more things – like astronomy and geology and even taxonomy. The opportunity to drive and guide our classmates and instructors on morning and afternoon drives has opened up a much broader perspective about the bush.
It makes you realise that you won’t always see predators or some sort of action, which makes you appreciate the smaller presence of life such as insects, amphibians and birds. This offers a much larger perspective of what nature is composed of and what it means to be a field guide and conserve every living thing in a protected area.
A Day in the Life of a Camp Manager
On my first day as camp manager it was difficult to wake up before everyone, and make sure everything was ready before people started preparing for their drives. I set my alarm for 4:15am, took a refreshing shower to wake up and got ready to start the day. The sun had not even come out and the air was still cold as it had rained through most of the night. Ashton and I opened the kitchen, made hot water and started preparing ourselves for the morning drive while people made coffee and prepared a quick snack before going out.
The first drive was guided by Zander and the second by Breadon. It was the first time we did three-hour drives – which made some people nervous. Thankfully it did not rain during the day, so the drives weren’t interrupted by the weather. The lecture on Monday was about fish, it was a short afternoon lecture.
At night one of the rooms had a snouted cobra sighted near the room. It didn’t stick around for long and left undisturbed. A genet was also seen at the reception area, apparently it’s a local to the camp. It stayed near the ceiling looking at people go by, completely comfortable with our presence.
Encountering Lions on a Wet Afternoon Drive
On Wednesday, the rain started to pour – we had about 70mm in the morning, another 40mm in the afternoon and 150mm by night. Unfortunately Joel and I lost out on our morning drives due to the rains as many of the roads were closed and the majority of the area had flooded. On Friday, the afternoon drive was moved to 12pm instead of the usual 3pm. It started as a pretty quiet drive guided by Ben, but just as we were heading back to the campus, three lions sprinted across the road, directing themselves towards a burrow. We could see the vultures were filling the sky near the burrow.
As we drove toward burrow, we lost sight of the lions, but luckily one of the lionesses emerged from the thicket and went directly towards the carcass of a waterbuck, which we had found in the water a few days ago. We had no idea what its cause of death was. We watched the lions for about half an hour pulling the carcass out of the water and into a bush to get it out of the vulture’s sight and to avoid attracting other competition like hyenas who would try to get a bite.
Life at the campus has been pretty normal in general. No major problems have been reported! Each day I feel I’m a step closer to achieving my dream job of bringing people to wild areas, teaching them about wildlife conservation and showing them the beauty of the remaining wild places.
Interested in wildlife conservation like Lucas? Learn more about the campus where Lucas has been doing his Bushwise Professional Field Guide course, our campus in the Greater Kruger National Park.