This was the final 6 week course we are offering under the FGASA banner. Future courses will be run over 88 days.
We had 7 students on this course, 1 international and the rest from RSA.
Unfortunately the one student arrived a few days late after medical reasons delayed her departure from Europe. Sadly Jasyn’s dad couldn’t join us either at the last minute otherwise the course would have been fully subscribed. 4 of the students knew each other before hand (2 cousins and their wives) and they spent almost every weekend exploring various regions of the Kruger Park. 5 of the students went on to write the FGASA exam and they all passed so well done to them.
On the walks and drives the students saw a great many different species and learnt a great deal. We had an encounter with a male elephant on foot that required evasive action. No major drama at the end of the day thankfully. I must say that this was the first time in 20 years where I had to load my firearm in self defense, let’s hope it is another 20 years before the next time too.
The students enjoyed sightings of elephant, buffalo and the occasional rhino sighting as well as the general species such as giraffe, waterbuck and impala etc. No cats were encountered unfortunately. The bird life was fairly prolific and I recorded close to 150 species over the 6 weeks.
I think the one memory that was emblazoned on all the students was my reaction to an elephant sighting during the 1st lecture of the course. As I was standing in the classroom talking to the students I noticed an elephant come down to the waterhole to drink. My reaction was casual to say the least and in mid-statement I just said “oh by the way there’s an elephant at the waterhole”. The students weren’t sure if I was being serious or not and it was only when one of them turned to look that they realised it was true. Of course we went out and had a look as that is what they had come for. (The reality was that this was happening 2-3 times a day at that time and so I knew there would be several opportunities for this). However what made this event even more prominent was that about 2 days later we heard a lot of noise from the birds outside and when I looked I got very excited as there was a juvenile Great Spotted Cuckoo being fed by its foster parents. (Now here was a sighting that was uncommon and was really worth getting excited about)
On one walk another memorable event happened when James became very attached to butterfly or rather the other way round. A foxy Charaxes butterfly landed on James’ hand during one of the drinks breaks and stayed there for the next 2 kilometres as we walked through the bush- I am not sure what was so tasty in James’ sweat but I didn’t ask!
The reptile park outing was interesting and once again James came to the party and despite his initial fears he succumbed to having a scorpion lie on his face. Jasyn too showed us just how to feed a hungry chameleon.
In the classroom environment, the data projector bulb exploded during the 4th week, causing quite a reaction especially from Tania who was right next to it at the time. We had no replacement but a plan was made and the students followed the lecture presentations on their laptops. Every student had brought their own. It was quite a sight seeing 6 laptops on the desks in the classroom, something more akin to a business environment and not a field guide training course. By the 5th week I managed to source a machine that I could borrow to complete the last 2-3 lectures. It was ironic that it was only 2 days earlier that we had spoken about the possibility of this happening and so we must have talked it up!
Unfortunately Betty, who had worked for us for the past 10 years, handed in her resignation due to ill health and it will be hard to replace her services.