We don’t know these roads yet

We don’t know these roads yet

Some images in this article were taken pre-COVID-19. 

BY: Danelle Ferreira

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.

My first week with Bushwise at the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC) can only be described as all other things in the African bush – wild!

Things were thrilling from day one. As I drove in the gate towards campus, a lion sighting was reported on our student group chat. Rushed, excited, and a little bit unsure, I drove straight past the lions right by the side of the road on my way to the reception. Perhaps not boasting too well for my skills as a possible future field guide…

But my disappointment was soon forgotten as I was greeted by friendly faces. The Bushwise students are from all over the place. Some flew halfway round the globe to start a new career path, while others have practically only moved down the road. Being the new Bushwise group at the SAWC campus meant finding our footing in a new and exciting environment.

A game drive vehicle makes its way down a reserve road

Photo by: Louise Pavid

The possibilities and unknowns of the new campus and concession have provided so many opportunities for us as a group. We have implemented procedures that work for us and it has really enriched our learning experience and sparked curiosity.

During my week as Camp Manager, we started off with some necessary admin, our first aid course. Guides must be prepared for anything in the bush and know how to react quickly and safely! The week rounded out with a reptile orientation course, which was much less gruesome than I anticipated.

A student holds a snake skull during a demonstration

Photo by: Danelle Ferreira

Throughout all of this, I still had to fulfill my camp manager duties, such as welcoming guests and external trainers, checking them in and out, and handling other small admin tasks. This has proven to be great exercise for my people skills – which is an essential part of becoming a high-quality guide!

On Saturday we practiced tyre changing exercises. During this training, we had an unexpected visit from an elephant bull – our first close encounter – which was handled safely and respectfully by the trainers. This experience definitely made the group hungry for more.

Although the first half of our week was busy, I was constantly aware of how calm everything and everyone around me was. That observation reminded me again of one of the reasons that I joined the Bushwise Professional Field Guiding course, and why we all love the Lowveld.

White lions of the Birmingham pride

Photo by: Danelle Ferreira

After a long week of training, Sundays are generally spent studying or relaxing. On our first Sunday, However, we received a message from one of the trainers saying to gather our cameras and binoculars and meet him at the gate in five minutes. No one hesitated – when you get a message like that from a trainer, you jump to it!

We didn’t know it – but we were about to be treated to a sighting of the world-famous Birmingham pride with its two white lions. This was many of the students’ first sighting of white lions in the wild. This day certainly took the cake for me, as it is a rare occurrence and something that we had certainly hoped for.

With the excitement of the previous day still in my head, on Monday we set off on our first mock game drives. This is the time when students get a chance to drive a game viewer vehicle, sometimes for the first time. I was one of the first to go, and definitely felt nerves again as I had on day one.

Students on a practice game drive on Bushwise campus

Photo by: Louise Pavid

On that drive, I didn’t go 10 meters without learning something new, and this has been the case every drive since.

All in all, week one was quite the learning curve. I’m experiencing and learning so much. Each student in the group brings unique skills and attributes to the program, and learning from each other is helping us all become better guides. At times it has been overwhelming, but mostly very insightful for my expectations of the guiding industry.

For all prospective students – watch this space – we are brewing up a conservation storm here at Bushwise!

Do you want to have life-changing experiences like Danelle? Apply today and secure your spot in an upcoming Bushwise course.