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Bushwise Field Guides and Hospitality
2 Jan 2012
 
     

Bushwise consists of two branches – Bushwise Field Guides (training professional FGASA Field Guides) and Bushwise Hospitality (placing trained professionals into culinary & hospitality placements within Luxury lodges in Africa).

Bushwise Field Guides offer 23 week and 50 week (includes a 6 month placement at a luxury lodge or predator research base in Southern Africa) FGASA Level 1 professional Field Guide courses. On these courses you can expect to complete practical’s (game drives and bush walks) in prime game viewing areas in Limpopo, offering the ‘Big 5’, as well as to achieve qualifications such as FGASA Level 1, Cathsseta Level 2, Advanced Rifle Handling, First Aid Level 1, 4 x 4 experience, SASSETA competency, Cybertracker Track and Sign and much more. By much more, Bushwise means they do not just teach the basics and send their students on their way – Bushwise Field Guides train their students to a FGASA Level 2 standard, ensuring highly knowledgeable, well-rounded field guides have the best opportunities in the South African job market after the completion of each course.

Bushwise Hospitality - This unique programme offers 10 and 20 week hospitality positions/placements within luxury Game Lodges across South Africa, with a guaranteed internship placement prior to departure. This programme is an exciting and unique way to build international work experience and skills in the culinary, hospitality, or tourism industry, whilst living alongside African wildlife and wilderness. You will also have the opportunity to explore one of the most breath-taking and diverse countries in the world. A 2 week bush orientation course is included for certain programmes.

www.bushwise.co.za

Eyed-flower Mantid (Pseudocreobotra wahlbergi)
5 Nov 2015
 
     

Winter months are normally dull and dusty, and as a student or trainer at Bushwise Field Guides you feel like part of the winter background with your “all khaki” uniforms.  However, with the sights of the impala lilies in full flower it cheers you up and you appreciate the pink and white flowers that present winter with an amazing contrast.

Unnoticed, we were all wandering around one day around these amazing flowers and spotted a small purple nymph on one of the stems. With close observation over a period of almost a month we noticed that it turned into a beautiful praying mantid.

It is called the Eyed-flower Mantid (Pseudocreobotra wahlbergi). It is an attractive coloured and distinctive large praying mantis with prominent eye-like marking on its forewings once fully grown. Wingless nymphs are ornamented and striped, often to match the colour of the flower they are sitting on. They mimic these flowers and ambush and grasp insects that stray past them with their specially modified forelegs.

This spectacular one is attractively mottled in pink, as others can be brown and green, with prominent circular eye-like marking on each forewing.

They also have a hemimetabolic life cycle (Incomplete metamorphosis). This type of life cycle (exopterygote) consists of eggs, nymphs and adults, but no pupae. In certain insects the nymph may resemble the adults more or less in appearance and lifestyle.

It also displays bright colours and eye patterns on its wings as a warning signal to birds and reptiles who may be potential enemies (threat display to frighten off attackers), and also has the ability to see in colour. When threatened, nymphs can expand the raised abdomen to reveal a single dorsal eyespot.

When spotting Impala liles again, keep an eye open on all the flowers and you might be surprised to spot one of these amazing little creatures.

Till next time

- Almero & TheBushwise Team

Look at the whole scene for additional information
1 Nov 2014
 
     

Look at the whole scene for additional information

In the bushveld, one always has to be aware of one’s surroundings. For example, a tracker following a pride of lions for his guests would do very well to look at the shadows underneath the trees before he ends up on the menu – but when you are inexperienced, it it hard not to focus entirely on the problem instead of looking around. Thus, the final ingredient that I learnt during Track & Sign week with Bushwise Field Guides, was to always take a step back and look at the entire scene as well. You will often find extra information that can make all the difference, and as a bonus you get a chance to appreciate how beautiful the bushveld is!

- Erik Brits

Analyse the detail within the problem
31 Oct 2014
 
     

Analyse the detail within the problem

Here we see a civet track… or is it a genet? Maybe a small leopard? Or a tiny lion? Maybe even a wildcat! Tracks are wonderfully detailed things, and the third step that I learnt during Track & Sign week with Bushwise Field Guides, is to look at all the little details within the problem. In a potentially confusing example like this, for example, here the shape and position of the toes lead to African Civet, and the size comparison to the Blue Wildebeest track next to it confirms this.

- Erik Brits

Evaluate the direction of the problem
30 Oct 2014
 
     

Evaluate the direction of the problem

Unfortunately, there are no “footprint marshals” instructing our wildlife to politely step around each other’s tracks, and to only step neatly and firmly in soft soil. As a result, tracks can become muddled, and in order to identify the one you are investigating, it helps a lot to be able to gather extra information, such as a matching track from the other foot, or a clue about the behaviour of the animal. To do any of this, it helps tremendously to know where to look. Thus, determining the direction of the animal is invaluable, and this was the second thing I learnt to do during Track & Sign week with Bushwise Field Guides – after making sure the light is coming from a good angle.

- Erik Brits

Optimise your lighting
29 Oct 2014
 
     

Optimise your lighting

Tracks are delicate, intricate things beyond belief. The amount of detail that a patch of earth, slightly disturbed, can convey to an experienced reader, is astonishing. When looking at tracks then, external factors such as casting your own shadow over the track you are investigating, can make your efforts at interpreting the sign significantly harder. Glare can also be very influential. Thus, the first thing I learnt during my track & sign week with Bushwise Field Guides was to be aware of my location and position myself appropriately when approaching a problem.

- Erik Brits

A Night to Remember
23 Oct 2014
 
     

A Night to Remember

As you stare into those eyes, a feeling of innocence and beauty overwhelms you. Surely these animals cannot be the killers everyone says they are. The crunching of bones and ripping of flesh bring you back to reality… these are some of the largest cats around and those innocent eyes are supported by the brain of a hunter, jaws filled with teeth designed for cutting, biting and slicing, with massive canines and 300kg of muscle and power. The powerful jaws will have no difficulty in crushing a man’s skull and the meal provided will be completely insufficient. It’s a good thing though, that the three lions that have me mesmerised, are chewing on a zebra - which will last them a while.

The other thing that will last a while, is the image that these three magnificent animals have left in my mind. Although I have lived in South Africa all my life, I had never actually seen lions on a kill. The experience can only be compared to the feeling you get when you hear, or rather feel, a lion roar for the first time… if you don’t know what that feels like, then you need to experience it! Once the vibrations in your chest have stopped, the goosebumps come, and only after that do you realise that you have just witnessed something phenomenal.

This specific night had started out as most other nights on our Professional Field Guide training course with Bushwise. We had finished our drinks break on an afternoon game drive and were slowly making our way back to the main exit on Makalali reserve, when we overheard a radio conversation stating that 3 male lions had been spotted just a few minutes off our route. Being the avid nature guides that all of us in the game viewer were, we all agreed that it would be great to have a look at those lions before heading home, even if it meant that we would be late for dinner. We were not disappointed at all. 

Having this experience imprinted on my brain is one of the amazing perks of this journey I have chosen and every time I hear lions roaring in the distance, as I lay in my bed, almost asleep, I am reminded of the powerful beauty that I witnessed that night.

- Jaq Terblanche

My First Game Drive
16 Oct 2014
 
     

My First Game Drive

The big game you want to introduce your guests to may be hiding, so the fall-back plan is to find other interesting flora and fauna, and illuminate the complex inter-relations between them. That is the idea, anyway - until your first drive, when you realize that the majority of what a field guide does out on a reserve is... is not looking where they are driving. That takes some getting used to, as you nervously flick your eyes left or right, hoping for something obvious and easy to talk about – or even better, something so arresting that simply sitting in silence with the engine off is enough.

After a comfortable but uneventful drive, we came to a familiar dam. A fairly old bull elephant was standing on the other side, a way over to the right. Registering him, but nothing more, I drove past to check an area where we had seen a lioness with cubs before – nothing there, and no great surprise given the presence of the bull. Reversing back, I parked at the edge of the dam, much to the apparent annoyance of the ellie. A quick check with the binos showed he was in musth – something you hear about, and so are never quite sure how to react when you first encounter it. I was grateful that there was a stretch of water between us, as he greeted us with characteristic head shaking, stamping, and thrashing of any nearby vegetation.

He moved further around the water, standing as close as possible, directly opposite, watching us, maybe gauging what effect his display of dominance had had on us - perhaps a degree of nervousness, especially in myself (which is no great surprise, given the might and magnificence of such an animal); definitely the chatter of cameras as we digitised him for posterity.

For a moment, he stood quietly, trunk resting over tusk, perhaps pondering this strange, seven-headed beast across the dam.

Our trainer sat quietly and calmly to my left with a smile, admiring our mysterious subject.

For a moment, everything was calm.

Then, with a swish of the tail, the ellie turned and marched off into the bush away from us, leaving us only with the creak, crack, swoosh, and thud of a tree as he vented his testosterone-fuelled mood on the nearest large object. Classic displacement behaviour, so we had learned.

With a pleasant buzz we headed back to camp.

- Jonathan Lindsay

Okavango Mistletoe
17 Apr 2014
 
     

Okavango Mistletoe

"Tswara Palamela matugunyane,  Areghje, Phaghisa!" - "Get 'Bird-Glue' children, go, be hasty!" It’s not how one spells it, but that's how they said it.

Although quite a nice fellow, there is a thief dwelling amongst our friends the plants, only recognised by the wise, the well travelled, and the needy. In my childhood, I can recall collecting and chewing the fruit of Palamela, spitting out skins and maggots, chewing carefully again so as not to crack the seed, and eventually rolling a stick in my mouth to accumulate the precious ever-lasting glue.

Common/Generic Name: Okavango mistletoe, Okavango-voëlent

Scientific Name: Erianthemum ngamicum

Name Derivation:  erion – wool and anthemon – flower (referring to the woolly texture of flowers); ngamicum – from Ngamiland, or Lake Ngami, in the vicinity of Okavango Delta, Botswana.

General Description: Hemiparasite (which means it still has green leaves, and therefore uses photosynthesis in order to produce some of its own food, with the rest of the nutrients being tapped from its host plant) of epiphytic nature (epiphytes grow on stems and branches in trees or scrubs).

Distribution: From Okavango, downwards in a south-eastward arch through the Limpopo lowveld, and terminating in North-Eastern Kwazulu Natal, or Zululand as we know it.

Medicinal Uses: Not much is known by western civilisations about the actual medicinal value of the Mistletoes in Africa. This does not mean that there aren't any, just that we are not yet aware of them. Let's look at some alternative uses though.

Cultural Uses: Bird lime and voëlent refers to the main use. The bright red berries are irresistible to frugivorous birds. They gobble up these very tasty fruits, and excrete them minutes later. Some fruits even get stuck to their beaks, feet, or anal feathers. But why? Well, this is difficult to explain in a manner that you can visualise, yet, this is how it is. The fruit, very tasty, and edible even to humans, has a brightly coloured, red fleshy outer covering. Inside is a comparatively large seed, and in-between is a sweet yet sticky covering.  And by sticky, I mean that this is sticky as they come! And it stays sticky for days.

Toxicity: These plants are not at all toxic, in fact, they have very high nutritional value, and are very often cut down by custodians of the land in order to make them available to livestock in times of food shortage.

Associations: The previous mention of brightly coloured fruit coverings housing a massive seed covered by spiderman glue, gives a good hint at survival strategies for this ancient effective old bugger. This is how it pans out: birds gorge themselves on the fruit, and soon after, they  excrete it, and/or wipe off the seed, enclosed in its super sticky substance, onto a branch, either in the same tree or one nearby. Seeds are amazingly sensitive to light, and naturally send out a root, almost immediately after deposition, to the bottom, or shady part of the branch. The root literally penetrates the host plant's tissue and plugs into the nutrient-exchanging capillaries between roots and leaves. Job done. It can now relax, grow some of its own little green solar panels, even turn some stems green, and chloroplasts now substitute the nutrients that this hemiparasite already gets from its host.

Mating Displays
10 Apr 2014
 
     

Mating Displays: Red-crested Korhaans

In the human world, a man is sometimes ranked according to the limit on his credit card(s), the flashy car he drives, the clothes he wears etc. In the animal world, these displays to impress the fairer sex are far more complex than that! One of these displays, which we can only imagine to be proof of bravery, is performed by the red-crested Korhaan. These birds are often referred to as ‘suicide birds’ – and all to impress the ladies! Apart from calling to display to others in the vicinity, males will gather together, strutting their stuff and showing that they are viable mates. Visual displays also include a beautiful red crest, hence their name. If this is not enough to impress, the male will then soar up into the air, flying into open areas, and all of a sudden close its wings and plummeti to the ground, sometimes even rolling onto its back. Just before hitting the ground, it will turn around, open its wings, and hopefully put the brakes on in time to ‘seal the deal’. This behaviour is mostly seen in the early summer months and is a heart-stopping sight to witness!

Milkweed
3 Apr 2014
 
     

Milkweed

'Reason is mechanical, wit chemical, and genius organic spirit' - Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

Common/Generic Name: Milkweed, Wild Cotton, Swan plant, Old Man's Balls, Gansies, Melkbos

Scientific Name: Asclepias fruticosa

Name Derivation: 'asclepias': Named after Asclepios, the mythical god of medicine, alluding to the diverse medicinal uses for plants in this Family, and Genus. 'fruticosa': Refers to a shrubby, or bushy plant.

General Description: Up to 2m in height. Australian native. Affinity for damp disturbed soil, so very common along roads and rivers. Widespread throughout Southern Africa, and beyond. All members of Asclepiadaceae family produce milky latex and fluffy wind-borne seeds.

Medicinal Uses: Snuff from dried leaves is used as a sedative to relieve severe headache. Root infusions treat stomach ailments, and are used as purgative in higher dosages. Milky latex applied directly takes away warts. I have observed fresh leaves crushed and applied directly, acting as antimicrobial treatment.

Other Uses: Seed fibre is highly flammable, and can be used as a substitute for firelighters, and/or, in earlier times, guncotton. Pillows and mattresses can also be stuffed with seed fibre. Bark fibre can be made into rope. Used as a deterrent for scavengers of eggs by applying bitter milky latex to egg shells, or to keep moles at bay by stuffing the whole plant down burrows. Last but not least, for special occasions, the fruit can be floated on water as decorations, resembling miniature swans, or 'gansies'!

Toxicity: Poisonous to man and beast in large amounts, causing cardiac irregularities, and internal haemorrhaging. 

Associations: Host plant to the African Monarch Butterfly. Adult females lay eggs on this plant, and caterpillars feed on the plant, making them toxic, even when they pupate into adults, which have orange and black warning colouration, to advertise their impalpability. Milkweed locusts colour in the same way, and sport a bright red head to warn would-be predators.

I have personally observed Plains Zebra and Blue Wildebeest feeding off milkweed - selectively, I might add, as with prescribed medicine - always around the change of seasons, from winter into autumn. This probably for the control of intestinal parasites, first and foremost as an Anthelmintic against Eelworm infestations. Cattle and goats in Botswana, have been observed feeding on these plants around the same season, probably for the same reason. They are in touch with their inner workings, not being dosed all the time.

Marulas!
27 Mar 2014
 
     

Marulas!

February means one thing in the bush: not only is it usually our hottest month of the year, but it also means that after months of waiting, the marula’s are finally ripe enough to start eating! If you think about the bush, no tree is as synonymous with the bushveld as the Acacia - so unique, it can even bring an elephant to a standstill. Typically elephants don’t wander too far each day during marula season, but rather spend the day walking from one tree to the next, eating marula after marula, only to come back and eat some more (and that shows in their dung as well!). Often it appears as though branches have been broken to reach the fruit, but in fact it is the tree that cannot take the immense weight of these golf ball sized fruit. So perhaps it is a good thing that the elephants love them so much!

Very famous for the well-known Amarula liqueur, marula fruit holds roughly 4 times more Vitamin C than orange juice and can be eaten when ripe, juiced, or turned into a traditional local beer - and yes, it has some kick to it! Easy to identify, the Marula tree typically has round ‘disk shaped’ pieces of bark that flake off, giving it the appearance that someone has been hitting it with golf balls.

If you have never tried one of these delicious fruits before, I suggest you do. The fruit are often available from local shops or sold along roadsides during February, but are best picked fresh off the tree. Perhaps not to everyone’s taste, as they can be a bit sour, but definitely something that you have to try at least once. They are true icons of Africa, after all!

Bushwise Student - Living the Dream
20 Mar 2014
 
     

Spotted bush snake falling out of tree next to my study group, venomous button-spider chillin’ on my bed, ticks crawling up my legs on a walk, the roar of lions in the pre-dawn light as I head to the showers….the African bush certainly can’t be accused of being monotonous. In fact, the same could be said about the daily life of a Bushwise student. No two days are alike after all, TIA (this is Africa)!!! 

Imagine the shrill sound of an alarm clock piercing your ever-so-sweet sleep, followed by the realisation that it is in fact your roommate's alarm clock ringing and that yours is only minutes away from joining the “get out of bed, you sleepy head” chorus. Luckily, even at 4:30am, the excitement of an early morning game drive with its endless possibilities of sightings is enough to get anyone out of bed. 

When not on game drive, I am busy attending lectures, completing camp chores and studying, studying, studying (a lot of it)! The practical sessions help to bring it all together. The mountain of information to learn can be overwhelming at times, and if it were not for the continuous intake of caffeine on our optional study day, the trainers would surely be living a zombie apocalypse on campus.  

The process of becoming a qualified field guide is a gruelling one. Early mornings coupled with a steep learning curve do occasionally take their toll on me, but being in the bush and putting into practice everything learnt in the class room is by far the most rewarding experience. If I were to choose a highlight of my experiences with Bushwise thus far, it would have to be my first approach, as a driver, to a pride of lions. Exhilarating, nerve wracking and yet an affirmation that I am doing exactly what I’ve always dreamed about.  

- Angèle Rouillard

Other Interests in Kruger
9 Jan 2014
 
     

Other interests in Kruger

Hello again. Apart from game viewing, birding or photography, there are other things which I can suggest to do and see in the Kruger Park. I personally feel that the only way to experience nature in its truest form, is by doing it on foot. Yes, by that I mean walking. It is much safer than it sounds and you will be in the capable hands of experienced and well trained field guides.

There are 7 wilderness trails throughout the park, which are three days and two nights long. The focus of these trails are to gain a holistic nature experience that includes everything from the small ants and termites to the mighty elephant, if fortunate enough to encounter them along the way. 

For the 4x4 enthusiast the Lebombo 4x4 eco trail is a must. It follows the Lebombo mountain range from Komatipoort to Pafuri, snaking in and out of more than 30 different habitats. It traverses about 525km and takes 5 days (4 nights) to complete.

Apart from these there are numerous memorials and archaeological sites one can visit as well as the Elephant Hall and Stevenson-Hamilton memorial library. For those of you who enjoy golf and would like to hit a few “wild balls” - the Skukuza golf course comes highly recommended. Stay tuned for more information on interests surrounding the Kruger Park. 

Conraad Loubser

Northern Section of Kruger
2 Jan 2014
 
     

Hello again. Today we are talking about the northern section of the Kruger Park and my personal favourite. This section comprises half of the park and stretches from Letaba north to Pafuri. Because of the sheer vastness of this section and the distance from major cities like Johannesburg, fewer people visit the area. From Mopani rest camp north to Pafuri there is basically one asphalt road and a few gravel roads, so the vast majority is unspoiled, untouched and unfortunately unexplored. The only permanent water is the Letaba, Shingwedzi, Luvuvhu and Limpopo rivers and these are far apart. There are only 3 big dams accessible to the public. These are the factors that influence game viewing but when it comes to birding and sheer beauty nothing compares to this section.

Botany in the northern section is also amazing. The largest Baobab trees in South Africa occur here and the Fever tree forest is an amazing sight to see. Apart from all the game found in the other sections, something to look out for is the Eland, South Africa’s largest antelope species, Red Duiker and Sharp’s Grysbok. The north is also a birder's dream with species like Crested guineafowl, Racket tailed rollers, Broad billed rollers, Lanner falcons, Spine tails and many more amazing birds.

Lanner gorge is a truly breath taking site to visit and Crooks corner at the confluence of the Luvuvhu and Limpopo rivers is where South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique come together. I hope that my blogs have made it easier to decide on where to stay, but if not, travel all three sections because you won’t regret it at all. 

Conraad Loubser

Central Section of Kruger
26 Dec 2013
 
     

Hello again from the Lowveld. In this edition I am covering the central section of the park. This section stretches from Skukuza north to Letaba. The central section lacks the extensive road networks of the smaller southern section but vast open savannah still allows for prime game viewing. There are seasonal rivers only providing water during the rainy season, but large dams like Silolweni, Kumana, Nsemani and Gudzani attract large numbers of game. Between Orpen and Satara big herds of elephant and buffalo can be expected due to the Timbavati river providing water. Satara and surrounding is home to one of the largest prides of lions within Kruger, totalling 22. 

To the north of the central section, the Olifants and Letaba rivers ensure for great game viewing year round and large numbers of hippopotamus can be seen basking in the early morning sun. The open grasslands attract birds species such as ostrich, Kori bustards and secretary birds, and during summer large flocks of white and black storks can be seen foraging for insects. Along the Olifants river, a handful of Pel’s fishing owl breeding pairs have been recorded and here is probably the best chance one will have to see these stunning birds.

The elephant hall of fame in Letaba has the skulls and tusks of the 7 largest tuskers that have roamed the Kruger on display and is very interesting to visit, if ever in the region.

My next blog features the northern section so be sure not to miss it. Until then

Conraad Loubser

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