Experiencing the South African Bush for the First Time

In August 2017, Konica Minolta South Africa (KMSA) sponsored 11 young previously disadvantaged individuals from the Good Work Foundation (GWF) bizhub Conservation Academy in Mpumalanga on a bush immersion at EcoTraining’s Karongwe camp. This was part of the preparation for the student’s FGASA Field Guide training.

Not one of the students had ever been on a camping trip and, at Karongwe, under the supervision of experienced South African field guide, Byron Ross, they slept in an unfenced camp amongst the animals, including the resident leopard. What follows is a report from  25-year-old Sibusiso Mnisi, who was one of the students who was able to finally complete his NQF2 Field Guide qualification while he was on the trip.

“One of the most important things I learnt during my two weeks in the bush is that curiosity is one of our greatest gifts.

When you are curious about any aspect of life and the natural world, it comes alive in ways that you could never have imagined. The television definitely doesn’t do justice to the smells and sounds of the bush. The peace and wonder found in our bushveld is just incredibly beautiful.

My bizhub Conservation Academy students and I were on an EcoTraining “Guides and Guardians” camping trip at Karongwe Private Game Reserve, where we were immersed in nature, learning about birds, trees, the environment and observing the ecosystems we had read so much about as part of our classroom studies.

I have always been intrigued by nature. At home, as a young boy, nature was an inevitable part of growing up. I herded cattle, went fishing in the local dams and rivers, hunted rabbits and birds with my dogs and collected firewood in the bushes near my community.

Then, over the last 18 months, I have been teaching the FGASA theory content to students who are part of the bizhub Conservation Academy. So, for me this was a dream come true.

As you might imagine, our students were all petrified on the first couple of nights. The camp has no fence and the animal sounds at night are terrifying and invigorating. We were jumping over inspects and reptiles as we walked on the animal paths, and holding on tight to the open air vehicle as we watched lions enjoy the sun’s rays after a night of what seemed like a good feed.

It was amazing to see the transformation that took place in the students in just two weeks. The girls went from squirming to avoid stepping on the animal droppings on the first and second day, to picking up chunks of dung and even eating it to identify the animal that left it. They were identifying trees around the camp as they moved from their tents to the eating area during meal times.

At first I thought that, as the facilitator, I was taking my students on a learning trip, but I was just as much a learner as all of my students for these past two weeks. This learning adventure gave us an opportunity to create stories that will live on to inspire our relatives and communities back home.

Thank you KMSA for this life changing opportunity. Words cannot describe how grateful we are to have experienced the South African bush.”

GWF Conservation Academy Coordinator Sibusiso Mnisi and Assessor Byron Ross with the Conservation Students enjoying a sundown with some coffee and biscuits in the bushes.

GWF Conservation Academy Coordinator Sibusiso Mnisi and Assessor Byron Ross with the Conservation Students enjoying a sundown with some coffee and biscuits in the bushes.

Conservation Academy Facilitator Floyed Mokoena was one of the people who had never slept in a tent in the buses before in before going on this adventure.

Conservation Academy Facilitator Floyed Mokoena was one of the people who had never slept in a tent in the buses before in before going on this adventure.

The team studying before heading off for a game drive of tree and animal identification at EcoTraining study hall.

The team studying before heading off for a game drive of tree and animal identification at EcoTraining study hall.

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Conservation Academy Coordinator Sibusiso Mnisi takes the front seat, leading his team as they looked for animals, birds and trees they had read about earlier.

The team was excited to come across this tree called the Justicia, which shares a name with one of our satellite campuses the Justicia Digital Learning Campus.

The team was excited to come across this tree called the Justicia, which shares a name with one of our satellite campuses the Justicia Digital Learning Campus.

The team trying desperately to track a leopard that they kept missing within minutes. As they arrived, it had just left.

The team trying desperately to track a leopard that they kept missing within minutes. As they arrived, it had just left.

A story by GWF Conservation Coordinator Sibusiso Mnisi.

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