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  • Writer's pictureBushwise Student

From cattle herder to field guide

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

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. This blog is by Slon Khoza.

3 min read

I’m from a village close to the Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga. I grew up as a goat and cattle herder, and I used to walk along the fence line of Kruger a lot, which gave me the opportunity to see many interesting animals. 

We never went into Kruger because it wasn’t easy for us. I once got an opportunity to go to Timbavati with an eco-school who took us on a game drive. That’s where my interest in conservation began and I wanted to become a field guide. 

Following my passion for conservation

Two giraffes are in focus, standing in a scrubby thicket and looking towards the camera. A person is watching them in the foreground.

I worked for Conservation South Africa for three years and learned a lot during this time. Then one day I saw a post for a scholarship from the Southern African Wildlife College and Bushwise and I knew I had to apply. And much to my amazement, I got selected for an interview session and after a long journey I made it! 

I started doing a course online with the Wildlife College, before joining Bushwise in person for training. I finally got a chance to take people on game drives, explore the natural environment with them, and share my knowledge about the bush. At the beginning I had doubts about whether I would be able to make it or not. But through the Bushwise course I have gained the confidence and knowledge to guide people, who have been happy with the information I shared with them.

The role of amazing trainers and mentors

A photo taken by Slon Khoza, sitting in a game viewer and watching as one of the Bushwise trainers explains something to the students. The sun is low and bright in the sky behind him.

The training facilities, support resources and mentorship of our trainers are all of a high standard. They are always willing to help when you’re struggling. For example, I was struggling with a module on birds, and the dedicated trainers helped me. 

At first when I looked at the night sky, I was only able to identify the moon. With all the stars and constellations, I felt like I was looking at one big entity. Now, I am able to identify, point out and name most of the stars and planets.

The staff, trainers and students at Bushwise have become like a family to me. They are so supportive and we work well as a group – which is great because it shows that we’re all able to work well with people from different backgrounds and cultures. 

Being camp manager

The author of this blog, Slon, stands smiling towards the camera wearing his Bushwise uniform.

Bushwise has a schedule that they use to make sure every student has a week to be camp manager. At the beginning I didn’t understand why because I had never been a manager of anything. So I wondered, how are we going to do this? But as time went on, I saw that the role wasn’t as difficult as I thought. 

My week as a camp manager was during a week of FGASA assessments. During your week, you must make sure that everything goes well and if there are any challenges, you have to resolve them.  I remember one morning we had to wait for our assessor to arrive at reception. I didn’t know what to do or what to offer, but thankfully we have a good trainer and he advised me to prepare a hot box to make things look professional and so that’s what I did. 

When the assessor arrived, I offered him a hot coffee. He was so happy and reminded me of a chatting bird – a green woodhoopoe. After this I felt much better in my camp manager role and think it was a great experience.

Does this blog speak to you? You can become a field guide, just like Slon. Start your journey in field guide training.

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