Tips and tricks from a Bushwise student

Tips and tricks from a Bushwise student

As we begin the next Bushwise Professional Field Guide course, alumnus Gareth Jones has some words of wisdom as a Bushwise student. Let’s hear his tips and tricks to make the most of your time at Bushwise.

BY Gareth Jones

Like students before me, I’m astounded by how quickly the time passes when you’re out in the sunny African bush. No single day is ever the same. At the end of the course, I thought it best to write up some key tips from a “pro” so that any future students can get the most out of their time here!

A vehicle full of Bushwise students on course, listening to their Trainer Wayne. 

Tip 1: Relax, you’ll learn so much more than you thought you could

Before becoming a Bushwise student, I’d never really gone out into the bush and my knowledge of wildlife consisted entirely of the usual suspects – lion, giraffe, elephant, zebra, and a few bits and pieces picked up via the odd David Attenborough documentary playing on the TV. 

Two students stand next to a dam, sharing a pair of binoculars as they look out for birds.

If just six months ago you’d have asked me to identify birds by sight and sound, I don’t think I’d have gotten even a single right answer. At first the number of different species seemed incredibly daunting, yet within just a few months, I now feel confident to identify nearly all the usual suspects you’d see while out on a game drive. 

Whilst out in the bush, you get more than enough time to prepare – and chances are you’ll pick things up pretty quickly just from being immersed in the environment around campus. However, I would recommend teaching yourself just one or two calls a night. This way you can fly through things and the slides and sounds exams will be a walk in the park.

Bushwise students on a walk in the African bush, learning tracks and how to navigate their environment. 

Tip 2: Explore your surroundings

Luckily for students, during the day we’re usually given some free time to do as we please. Whether splashing around in the pool, using the campus gym or taking a relaxed walk around the fenceline, you find yourself surrounded by copious amounts of wildlife whether it be botany, birds and, in extremely lucky situations, mammals! 

From woodpeckers to the local elephant population, there will always be new sights and sounds to spot with each one providing a learning opportunity and the ability to grow as a guide.

A giraffe with dozens of oxpeckers (including the more rare yellow-billed oxpecker).

Tip 3: Take notes

The trainers here at Bushwise have many years of invaluable experience guiding out in the bush. This is why I’d think it’s key to take a small notepad out on drives and walks so you’re able to record any interesting tidbits! 

As a Bushwise student, I’d recommend filling up your notepads with all these tidbits so that you can start to incorporate what you have learnt into your own drives. Whether for jotting down interesting facts you can pass onto guests or gleaming key tips from industry professionals, the notepad is my most valuable tool when out in the bush or around camp.

Bushwise students writing a FGASA exam, looking closely at their worksheets.

Tip 4: Enjoy the little things

Whilst on campus, it’s easy to get the idea that your time here will go on forever, unfortunately you quickly realise this isn’t the case. Many students here on campus have taken to writing a small diary or taking a few pictures every day. Despite feeling like a lifetime, your time here will feel indescribably small so make sure you make the most of it! 

Fortunately for those students studying at the Southern African Wildlife College, the Kruger National Park is only a short 10 minute drive making for an amazing weekend destination for all those who want to explore, year long passes are available for purchase to all those who enter the Kruger national park with them paying for themselves after only a few visits.

A student pauses to look out over a railing in the Kruger National Park.

So relax, take notes, explore and most importantly enjoy yourselves! For anyone who wants to go the extra mile there are plenty of extra courses in the nearby area such as venomous snake handling – including Mozambique Spitting Cobras and Black Mambas – and a trailing course for anyone that wants to follow in Colin Patrick’s – a globally renowned tracker that we were fortunate enough to be trained by – footprints after catching the tracking bug.

As our new course begins at Bushwise, we are already preparing for our January 2023 intake. Apply today to jump-start your field guiding career!