My experience at Bushwise
BY: Carel-Louis Steenkamp
Camp manager blogs are written by our current students who each get a chance to lead and manage a group (of their fellow students) for a period of one week.
Where do I begin? The past six months at Bushwise have contained a bit of everything. It’s been action-packed, adventurous, funny, sad, and at times, even a little frustrating.
The friendships and bonds that were formed among students and staff are priceless, and something that I will cherish for the rest of my life. We grew together as a family, learning the ways of how things are done in the bush, and getting to know ourselves better too.
The first semester focused on studying to increase our knowledge about the bush. We wrote weekly tests on all the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA) modules, like advanced rifle handling (ARH) and viewing potentially dangerous animals (VPDA). These tests helped to prepare us for the FGASA Apprentice Field Guide theory test, and paid off greatly with a 100% pass rate for our campus.
We went on daily morning and afternoon game drives, where each student got the opportunity to drive and guide the group. This prepared us for the practical assessment of the FGASA Apprentice Field Guide qualification.
What makes Bushwise unique compared to other training schools, is the extra training they offer to give students as many qualifications as possible. This helps students to stand out as Apprentice Field Guides when applying for jobs.
A few examples of additional training that Bushwise offers includes 4×4 training, an in-depth photography lecture and first-aid training.
After we wrote the FGASA theory exam, it was time for the real fun to begin. We spent a week with Colin Patrick, where we learned about Tracks and Signs. This gave us a new perspective of the bush. I found it mind-blowing that you can gather so much information about an animal just by looking at its tracks.
During this time, we also obtained our rifle competency training, which was very interesting for me as I’ve never worked with guns before. This was followed by days of dry firing .375 rifles to help us practise how to handle rifles safely in the bush.
The practical drive assessment training was a very stressful week! This was the make-or-break moment of the course, so naturally the nerves got to all of us.
It was funny to see how some of the students’ personalities changed when they were nervous. All of us made a few minor mistakes and everyone shared a good laugh with one another. But, at the end of the week everyone was smiling because everybody passed their assessment.
The final semester focused on walking trails and practicing for the ARH assessment. We saw interesting animals and learned how different people react in their fight-or-flight response.
The ARH assessment eventually got its turn and we had to give it our best shot to try and successfully complete all the different exercises.
This was just a summary of the events that stood out for me, but at Bushwise, you’re always kept busy with fun activities, tasks and new assessments that you have to prepare for.
These past six months had a massive impact on the person I am today. Bushwise courses allow you to connect to nature, create new hobbies (birding is mine), build confidence and get to know who you are.
What I found funny is that prior to starting the course, I thought that I already had a good understanding of the bush. After these six months, I was surprised to look back and remember that I walked in here without really knowing anything.
And, even though we meet the FGASA standards and have much more knowledge of the bush compared to the average person, I know that our knowledge is still a drop in the ocean. Bushwise has successfully managed to grow my passion for nature, and it’s because of this that I will strive to keep on learning.
You can have an experience like Carel-Louis by joining a Bushwise course now.