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  • Writer's pictureBushwise Trainer

Surrounded

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

Photo by: Brendan Davis

BY: Jack Hutchinson

This blog was written by Jack, a graduate and trainer at Bushwise. Here, Jack shares his journey to obtain his FGASA Special Knowledge and Skills Dangerous Game (SKS DG) Trails Guide Certificate.

Lately, I’ve been pushing myself to get more encounters and walking hours that I need to wrap up the requirements for the SKS DG trails guide qualifications. I only need  46 more encounters to reach the required 600! 

It’ll be a huge weight off my shoulders, so I’ve made sure to manage my time carefully and do extra walks along the Mohlabetsi River (located in the Greater Kruger National Park) during the day. 

As a Bushwise student, you will have the opportunity to go on many bush walks.

The Greenfire Game Lodge where we operate, doesn’t have any other water source besides the river. Here, you can spot elephant, rhino, and buffalo. During the past few dry months, there have only been a few points of surface water in the river, so the elephants would dig up the water underground. 

On one of my recent walks, I parked my cruiser at the Mhisi Lodge and walked south along the embankment. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of elephants that were roaming the area. I saw them everywhere! I even had to go off-track, away from the river, to move around them and continue my walk. 

A group of elephants.

Even though I’m trying to get more encounters, I only walked up to a certain place in the river –  a large water point. I was pleased to find a breeding herd of buffalo, and a herd of elephants sleeping in the shade. 

I maintained a safe distance from the animals to avoid spooking them. I couldn’t walk on the western side of the river because of the lodge and the vast amounts of elephants. The eastern side was a little less busy, so I managed to move around the buffalo and elephants without disturbing them. 

A Bushwise student observing the rhinos.

Photo by: Carl Louis Steenkamp

I found another group of elephants and rhinos, and decided to sit on a rocky outcrop and observe them. The wind wasn’t great, but I had a good and safe vantage point. From time to time, the elephants would raise their trunks, probably smelling my scent.  

I was getting ready to walk back to the vehicle when I noticed the buffalo herd moving towards the rhinos and elephants. I’m not sure if it was my scent traveling down to them, but the animals moved pretty quickly up the embankment. 

The area was surrounded by buffalo, elephants, and rhino, and there was nowhere for me to retreat without disturbing any of the animals. So, I sat there, got comfortable and enjoyed the view of the animals drinking, digging up the sand and interacting with each other. 

A baby elephant, rolling in the mud.

Baby elephants were playing in the mud and sand, young bull elephants were pushing each other around the river; the rhino males were charming the females with their squeaking; and the buffalo were bellowing and mooing. All of this happening about 50 metres below me!

I sat up there for a good hour or so before everything started to calm down. The rhinos moved further west away from the river, and the elephants went on the eastern embankment to feed. This gave me an opportunity to leave the area quietly. 

Become a field guide and be surrounded by nature and its creatures every day.

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