There were 6 students on this course, 1 from SA and all the others were from the UK and Switzerland. All but 1 one of them managed to get through the course and at the time of writing the FGASA results are not available due to the Christmas season holiday.
I thoroughly enjoyed teaching this group as they were generally interested in everything we came across and they put the effort in to make it an enjoyable and memorable experience. Although we saw several sightings of elephant at the waterhole and a couple while out on the vehicle we did not encounter a single elephant while walking. On one occasion as can be seen from this photo the students had to remove a felled Marula tree/branch from the road with the elephants not too far away!
The rains arrived the week before the course started and by the end of the 6 weeks the bush was so dense it was difficult to see anything further than a few metres in front of us so maybe they were there we just didn’t see them, and maybe more importantly they didn’t see us. We did have a couple of encounters with a herd of 50-60 buffalo which was also quite interesting. On the one occasion we were trying to find a way around them but it seemed as though every route we chose had another buffalo on it and eventually it was a case of let’s go back to the road and take the long way round. All part of the learning experience as they say.
The bird life was prolific as can be expected now that most of the migrants have returned and we had some great sightings throughout the course. Every single bush seemed to have a singing Sabota lark on it by the end of the course, they were everywhere this year. The beautiful Woodland’s kingfishers arrived on time on 13th November and the students soon became familiar with their incessant calls.
The Mopane worms were also evident and by the end of the course were almost big enough to start harvesting although this year the students opted out of that particular experience for some reason. These so called “worms” are in fact just the caterpillars from the emperor moths (locally called Mopane moths).
In this part of Africa they are considered a delicacy and are an important part of the diet of the local people at this time of year. There are several varieties but the most common ones are like this one in the photo and they love to eat from the Mopane trees, hence their name. We have eaten them and if you fry them up with a tasty relish are actually quite nice.
The frogs too were in good voice and we had some interesting sightings of bullfrogs, banded rubber frogs mating, foam nest frogs making their conspicuous white foam nests and several other species too.
Piera setup her trail camera at the waterhole and informed us daily of some of the animals that had visited the waterhole overnight. There were photos of civet, porcupine, a clan of 5 hyena, a beautiful photo of 5 or 6 buffalo standing in a line drinking, oh and a few interested students checking for spoor!
The course ended far too quickly for most of them and they had just got used to temperatures in the upper 30′s when it was time for most of them to try and find a flight back to the UK where airports were closed due to ice and snow and daily temperatures of -10. A bit of a shock to the system but all in all I think the memories that they take back with them will keep them warm through their cold winters!