This is a flashback from our previous full-time FGASA level 1 course, as written by student Jamie McWhirter:

It’s week six and odd to consider that we’ve been involved in this course for forty two days now, following a routine of getting up at six, game drive, lecture, off-time, game drive, bed. Some may consider this monotonous and repetitive but, with every day somehow managing to stray from the norm and provide us all with anything from hilarity to jaw-dropping awe, is what makes this course special!

The past week has been no exception. We gained a new member to Nkombe Camp in the form of Servaas. Our new lecturer, lead Trails Guide, FGASA level 3 field guide and examiner. Emphasis on the last part. He arrived to camp in no spectacular fashion, quietly arriving whilst we were more focused on sandwiches than anything else. We all introduced ourselves quietly and calmly, eager to make a good impression with the man who determines our fate.

Our instructor, Servaas Hofmeyr

Then game drive happened.

Servaas jumped into the game viewer and we all followed, obviously.

I assumed this was to be a serious drive – an introduction where we should be showing off our bush knowledge to try and impress… until he turned left about a hundred metres from the camp into road that follows a steep incline into the river bed, which drew nervous glances and smiles of anticipation from us students.

All was going well until we reached the bottom and were presented with another incline going back up and the wet sand of the riverbed to swallow the tyres. All perceptions of Servaas being a dark, serious figure dissolved when we began to hear a jovial, “Aaah, nee man!” from the driver’s seat… followed shortly afterwards by the order to disembark from the vehicle and push.

Team-work! After a few attempts, we eventually emerged from the drainage line, to be welcomed by a herd of buffalo on the other side!

Servaas’ arrival not only meant exams, but also the ability to go on daily walking safaris. Equipped with three rifles, a lead trails guide, back-up trails guide and tracker, we were off! At walking speed, which is slow… Boring you say? No chance!

Did you know that a female buffalo has a boss that is not joined in the centre of her forehead?

Our second walk brought us into the riverbed again, where we followed its meandering for hours, watching baboon troops, birds and tracking animals that passed through the previous night.

We did, however, have to be wary of the one-eyed lioness who had been seen in the area as well as the ever-threatening possibility of dagga boys (solitary, male buffaloes) who have the not-very-comforting name of ‘black death’. But, as you might expect, we were fine…

Lilac-breasted Roller – image by Louisa Scheepers

We also had our introduction to basic rifle handling this week, where we had one of the more eccentric lectures I’ve ever had – this being entirely due to the fact that our lecturer was armed with a rifle. The shooting itself was incredible. Everyone got to shoot ten rounds of .22 calibre supressed rifle. The focus of this was mostly on how to handle a live rifle and how to group your shots to ensure accuracy. After everyone had shot, we each had two shots with a .458 rifle, which is a high enough calibre to bring down a charging bull. You could feel the excitement as the first person stepped up to shoot. They assumed the shooting position, fitted the stock snugly into their shoulder aimed and slowly squeezed the trigger…then I heard nothing. What can only be described as a minor explosion erupted from the barrel of the rifle, deafening those stupid enough not to have worn ear protection. As I regained my hearing, nervous laughter and excited cheers were heard. It was awesome! Each time the rifle went off you could feel the ground rumble and I couldn’t help but smile at the power.

This is only a fraction of what happened this week. The knowledge we have gained and the experiences we’ve had are apparently endless. And despite the pressure of the looming exams, I can’t help feeling excited waking up every morning!

This place is magical and every day is exciting. I only wish that we didn’t have only two weeks left…

The ANT blog

If you enjoyed reading about Jamie’s experiences and would like to sign up for our next course, please contact us for more information, as we do have a few places left, starting on 30th September: 012 667 5440 or e-mail info@africanaturetraining.co.za.