Sunday 13 October 2013

2013 Bhejane Nature Training Trails

With the smell of Zululand smoke still fresh on backpacks, we make the rifles safe and put the boots down after the last trails course for 2013. It’s difficult to believe it’s this time of the year already but what a journey it has been!
One of the most exciting aspects of walking trails is waking up every morning not knowing what today has in store for you. Then you start unfolding and reading the ‘newspaper’ of the environment around you and no matter what your level of guiding and knowledge, you always return with new lessons learnt! Seeing is believing and in the case of trails; seeing, hearing, smelling and feeling is believing and there’s no better way of learning!

We walk 4 different Game Reserves in KwaZulu Natal. All are Big 5 properties and most of them have healthy populations of Black Rhino, which always adds another dimension to being out in the bush. This year also proved to be the year of the Lions for the trails students. Every year we leave slightly short on cat encounters but in 2013 this all changed. Students commented that Zululand Rhino Reserve is better described as Zululand ‘Lion’ Reserve as we had daily, quality Lion encounters.

The Impi group was our last trails group for the year. They all qualified as Back- up Trails guides in 2012 and this year we started working towards their Full trails qualifications. We were extremely fortunate to have Collin Patrick join us for a tracking course and assessments. This opened a whole other world for most of the participants and we were truly blessed to learn a great deal from Collin. As the world is today, we are constantly being bombarded with information. Billboards, radio and TV throw things into our senses without us even noticing it. Being out in the wild you need to teach yourself again to actually pay attention to your surroundings and physically search for some clues or signs to complete the picture in your mind of the environment around you. Some people find it very difficult to be quite and always need to be kept entertained through conversation or music for example. An exercise we did with Collin one afternoon was a perfect demonstration of this. The noisy shoes and sock protectors came off and we walked through the bush in a silence that overwhelmed your sense of hearing. So much so that we nearly stepped on a Red Duiker feeding right ahead of us that had no idea of our approaching group. When you are listening to somebody or something, completely, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words or the sound, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not just part of it.

Two incidents took place where groups confronted poachers that we found while on trail. With the increasing amount of poaching taking place in surrounding reserves I knew it would only be a matter of time until confrontation is made. You walk in areas where game drive vehicles cant access and other than the reserve APU patrols not much people ever cross through. The first night in camp, Dylan Panos briefed everyone on procedures to follow in the case of encountering a potential poacher. Little did the group know that the very next morning we would find ourselves bumping into a strange character. He was submissive from the beginning and showed no real signs of threat but there was definitely a sense of nervousness in the air, from both sides. Not knowing whom else could be hiding in the dense riverine or whether they are armed or not sent the senses into over drive. The APU was contacted and a few minutes later they arrived on the scene and we set off looking for dangerous game that hopefully would not include humans again.

As the hot, dry and humid winds swept over Zululand the fires broke out and we soon found ourselves putting the rifles down and piking up Quarries. Fighting fires was a great experience for the Impi’s, although a few people returned back to camp with less hair than they left with. After a hot day of fire fighting nothing was more welcoming than lying in the rapids of the Mkuze River with the cold water massaging the sore muscles while viewing the aerobatic hawking of the swallows above us.

Rob, Helene, Axel and Gerry keeping that fire from jumping!

Coenraad Having to move his tent in a hurry as the fire approaches camp

BarOne: For a 25 hour day!
Bath and Back Massage
Some of the experiences shared by the trails students of 2013 will definitely keep the camp fire stories alive till late night but is something that one article can’t cover. There are, however, some experiences we can highlight from the year and who better to tell us than the students themselves. The following extracts are taken from the students Dangerous Game Logbook entries:

Student: Jean Michau

Total hours on trail: 9

Great morning walk. Heard baboon’s alarm calling and decided to go investigate. As we got closer we found fresh lioness tracks heading in the direction of the baboons along the Msunduzi river. We got to the river after a very slow walk while scanning the area. We saw the baboons on the opposite bank and could hear the sounds of either mating lions or lions feeding. Yesterday we found them mating about 4km from this same area and we knew it could very possibly be them, still at it. We decided to sit
down there for awhile and listen to try place what we are hearing and where it is coming from. After a few minutes of sitting down and listening one guy from the group went back the way we came from to go and relieve himself. Next minute he comes running back to the group, white in the face. His words don’t make sense for a few seconds and then eventually he gets the words out, “Lioness….is….. Right there!” We looked up and about 20m above us on the bank, the lioness is looking at us. We just stood dead still and watched her. She showed no signs of aggression or agitation. She curiously watched us and slowly proceeded to our left. She stopped again at one point looking very intently at the opposite bank and emitted a soft contact call in that direction. She turned and looked at us again for a few seconds and then crossed the dry riverbed in front of us. Great sighting! Walking further down river we found the tracks of where the male and other female had crossed but because of the danger factor of lions mating in rather dense vegetation we did not follow up any further.

Student: Quinton Paul Josop

Total hours on trail: 6

The morning was really quite with not much activity along the Mkuze river except for
some general game. Spotted a scaly-throated Honeyguide and then saw a Greater Honeyguide that followed us for more than 2km! We picked up fresh White Rhino tracks on the corner of the road we were on. Continued to walk just scanning our surroundings. As I looked behind us, already a kilometer uo the road, there were two very conspicuous shapes lying on the ground. After investigating through my binoculars we realized that it was 3 White Rhino. We walked back to make an approach. Approached into the wind along a tree line trying to stop Zebra and Wildebeest from alerting the Rhino of our presence. We managed to get within 40m from the Rhino resting in the open patch. As we extracted from the Rhino sighting the lead noticed Lions on a kill 200m to our left. We approached the lions very slowly, using the tree line for cover and keeping the wind in our favor. A broken tree served as the perfect concealment to sit down and observe the lions from about 100m. The lioness got up eventually and walked to some near by trees. Next the younger female got up with a piece of meat in her mouth and went to ly down in the shade with her mother. The young male continued to feed for some time and eventually got up with the whole kill in his mouth, and took it to a shady spot where he continued to feed.

Student: Helene Mertens

Total hours on trail: 7

As we approached the Nandi dam area (from the North), we saw a lioness who, quickly moved off out of view. We looped around and found a great position with height advantage on the eastern side of the dam with a great view of the male and another lioness, both lying down. The one lioness saw us and observed calmly for a while, then gets up and walks towards the male where she shows her readiness to be mounted. After a short mating session the male the male dismounts and lies back down. Then the other female approaches and presents her readiness to the male, which then mounts her and after a short mating session both lie down as the other female observes. The male looked quite tired at this stage! One female looks up at us at this point and gives us an intense stare for 5 minutes before all three lions take a short snooze. The one lioness gets up and suddenly approaches the male again wanting him to mount but the male retaliates and aggressively chases her off and then lies down next to the other female. The male and lioness then mated twice more as the rejected female looks on in envy. She tries once or twice more but is chased away every time. After some time of viewing we decided to extract and leave the lions to carry on with their business. Great sighting!

Student: Greg Heasman

Total hours on trail: 9

We were about to fall asleep on our sleep out when we heard braking branches. We
waited the sounds in for a while and soon a bull elephant came down to the water to drink. We just lay there under the stars and watched him mess around in the water. It was amazing to just be watching him like this but he soon got curious to our presence and came to investigate. He came in for a closer look but then decided to rather leave and he moved off and made his way back into the dark bush to continue feeding!

Student: Helene Mertens

Total hours on trail: 6

After the sighting of the male lion at 12:30, we went to meet another trails group. I joined that group to go back to the male which we left sleeping close to Nandi Dam. We walked a wide loop around to the dam and found the male had changed his position from where we left him last, sleeping above an erosion donga that ran around him. We approached to about 25m from him, the donga serving as the perfect 
barrier between us and the lion. The lion had an easy escape route and for him to get any closer to us would mean crossing the very steep donga first. He kept on sleeping in the afternoon sun but after about 10 minutes he woke up, sat up and started looking around. He scanned his area around him and then suddenly his eyes met ours! Wind was in our favor and his face gave a real look of amusement when he saw us, which was quite comical. He remained very relaxed and didn’t seem to mind our presence too much. We viewed him for another 10 minutes when the wind suddenly turned and blew our scent right to him. He turned once again to look at us. This time, however, it was a bit more intently. At this point we decided to extract as soon as he relaxed and took his eyes off us so to not over stay our welcome in the sighting.  Animals have a 6th sense when it comes to being watched and last thing we wanted to do was to disrupt the beautiful lion from his afternoon rest. I lead the group out of the sighting the way we walked in as the lead guide stayed behind to keep an eye on the lion as we moved out.

Not one encounter will ever be the same as a previous one and there is always something to learn from every situation. We would like to thank every Bhejane student who was part of the trails journey in 2013 and we look forward to keeping up with your careers and know that the foundation has been laid for a successful and fruitful future.

Wednesday 8 May 2013

2013 Tourism Indaba and Bhejane Nature Training

The Bhejane Nature Guiding and Wildlife Conservation 3 year programme is the only one of it's kind in the industry and has been developed to most accurately meet the demands of the Wildlife Tourism industry, for the employment of professional Guides, Conservation Research and Field Assistants and Conservation Entrepreneurs.

The Impi's will be Bhejane Nature Trainings' first graduates of the 3 year Advanced Nature Guiding and Wildlife Conservation programme and they are currently completing year 2. The third year’s is a compulsory year of industry placement during which these guides have to prove themselves. This year must be completed successfully in order to graduate.

As part of the practical component of their Leadership Skills and Tourism Entrepreneurship Module the students will be attending the 2013 Tourism Indaba in Durban from 11 - 14 May. They will be introduced to South Africa’s dynamic tourism industry, and will research a number of local tourism businesses. Bhejane is highly active on social media and passionate about tourism in Southern Africa and we are giving our students the chance to find out more about the type of experience these venues/companies offer their guests. We are also hoping to introduce them to the industry as well trained, professional guides that are able to act as ambassadors for South Africa and the guiding industry.

If you are interested in meeting with any of our guides, please contact the 
Student Placement Coordinator – Samantha Boswell at

So, if you will be at Indaba this year, do look out for the Bhejane guides! We look forward to meeting everyone there and sharing the experience with fellow nature enthusiasts and conservationists. We will be keeping you up-to-date every step of the way by means of Facebook posts and pictures, so be sure to keep an eye on the Bhejane Nature Training facebook page and be part of the experience!

Bhejane Nature Training
Creating Awareness Through Wilderness...

Thursday 2 May 2013

Impi's Water hyacinth Project

During National Water week on the 18 - 24 March, the Impi's and Lead Instructor Pieter Pretorius started the Water hyacinth project on one of the dams on the Bhejane property.

Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is a perennial, aquatic plant, native to the Amazon Basin of
South America. It is a category 1 declared weed in South Africa and must be controlled, or eradicated where possible. In South Africa, water hyacinth was first recorded in 1908 when it was introduced into garden ponds. The rapid reproductive rate of the plant in conjunction with the activities of man and the absence of natural enemies has enabled the plant to invade water bodies throughout the country. In ideal conditions, the weed can double its population every 11- 18 days and seeds in the sediment may remain viable for up to 20 years.

Dense mats of vegetation can clog water systems, interfere with recreation and irrigation, promote siltation, exacerbate the effects of flooding and create anoxic water conditions which threaten biodiversity. Infestations could also create breeding habitats for disease- carrying organisms such as malaria mosquito's and the bilharzia snail. Water hyacinth is regarded as South Africa's most damaging aquatic weed and costs the country millions of Rands a year to try and control.

The Impi's first used the manual control of the weeds by removing it from the dam. This proved to be very labour intensive and with the rapid reproductive rate of the plants, will not prove to effective if it's not an ongoing daily project of removing these weeds.

Through some research Pieter found a possible solution for the control of these weeds; The Water hyacinth Mite and Mirid. These insects are the natural enemies of these plants and we managed to
obtain a few thousand of these insects and released them onto the weeds. These Mites (Orthogalumna terebrantis) and Mirid's (Eccritotarsus catarinensis) feed and lay their eggs in these Water hyacinth weeds. Mites will feed on the older weeds, and clear feeding tunnels can be seen on the leaves when held up to the light. They will lay their eggs in the younger plants. These larval and nymphal tunnels affect up to 90% of the surface area of the leaves and reduce the photosynthetic capability of the leaves and reduce the vigour of the plant.

The Mirid's feed on the leaves, causing yellowing/ browning of the leaves due to the extraction of chlorophyll. Mirid's however prefer only the mature stands of water hyacinth, where the leaves protect them from excessive cold and heat. 

The use of this method has proved very successful in parts of South Africa and under the right conditions no other control methods should be required. All the Mites and Mirid's have been released and we are keeping a close eye on the water body to see what effect they will have on the looming problem.

Thank you to Instructor Pieter and the Impi's for their hard work and we look forward to seeing the results in the near future! Keep following our Facebook page and blog for updates on the progress

For additional information on the Water hyacinth and control methods,  visit the Agricultural Research Council Website:

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Industry News- 12 March 2013

By: Megan Balouza (Impi)

KZN Sharks Board

In order to protect swimmers we need to reduce the environmental impact of nets. Sharks play an important role as apex predators in regulating the numbers of animals on which they prey. Nets are not only harmful to sharks but also catch Rays, Dolphins, Turtles and other sea life. The Sharks Board has worked for some time on solutions to reduce the number of nets, including drumlines, a research project with the Endangered Wildlife Trust to determine the efficacy of dolphin deterrent devices and discretionary bathing. This discretionary bathing has allowed them to keep nets out of the water for as long as two months, minimizing the chances of large-scale mortalities especially during the annual Sardine Run. In a more recent project they are investigating using its patented waveform in a shark repellent cable that would surround a bathing area with an electrical field. Physicists and electrical engineers were contracted for this research in 2010 which has since commenced.
Wideside Magazine, 1 of 4, 2012
Further information: Tel 031 566 0400

Fish conditioning lead to later danger?

As the controversy over chumming for sharks and cage diving rages on there is always a nagging doubt that we are supporting something that could lead to later danger. It is rare for a diver to be attacked by a shark unless: they are in a bait ball, in the wrong place at the wrong time or acting foolishly and dive operators who offer these extreme experiences say they have never felt in any danger. Theoretically, anything that changes the behaviour of a creature in its natural habitat is unwarranted interference, however the test of stress in a creature is whether it continues to live, eat and breed in the area and the evidence of stress-free fish is everywhere. So is it a bad thing for fish to become conditioned to the presence of divers in their private domain? Maybe as we learn about them, they learn about us and judging by behaviour once they know us, they don’t seem to mind us.
Divestyle Magazine, Nov/Dec, 2012
Further information:
Article by: Jill Holloway

Dune forest rehab in Richards Bay

Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) mines mineral sands on sensitive sub-tropical remnant coastal dunes. High standards of rehabilitation have always been a top priority for the company and restoration began when mining began on mostly bare, degraded dunes in 1977.The objective was to restore natural forest values to mined dunes. Although it takes between 18 and 24 years to re-establish the same sort of vegetation evident in the surviving forest remnants nearby, results in Richards Bay to date have been outstanding. Restoration was achieved in a 3 stage successional development. First ground cover and grasses were established on reshaped dunes, then acacia forest moved in and finally mature forest species appeared .As predicted native fauna also re-established overtime. The plant and animal life found there now form a dune forest similar to other indigenous forests along the coast. The Richards Bay experience is an object lesson – particularly the benefits that flow from progressive rehabilitation and the value of long term monitoring and research. Truly understanding and re-establishing a complex local ecosystem is a journey, it takes experience, commitment and time.
Wildside Magazine, 3 of 4, 20012
Further information:

Ex- Student: Julian Parson

By: Julian Parson

After completing a year working as an overland guide I decided to further my guiding and complete my FGASA level 1 qualification. Choosing a training institute was really not tough as I have a love for the Kwa-Zulu Natal coastline and had my heart set on moving up to Zululand.

Regrettably I only completed a one month, Level 1, course with Bhejane Nature Training but wish I could have stayed longer. I was really surprised about the amount of knowledge I was able to obtain in such a short period of time and the bonus was that it was not only knowledge of bush that I obtained it was also the knowledge of what to expect, and what is expected from you, once in a working situation, and how to go about your everyday duties.

Picture taken by Julian Parsons of Muzi Pan
Once I had obtained my Level 1 certificate I managed to land a dream job as a tiger fishing guide on Lake Jozini with the help from Ryan Tippett (Bhejane's head instructor), who had worked at that particular lodge as a head guide for many years. I spent a year at Shayamoya Tiger Fishing and Game Lodge before searching for greener pastures a little closer to my friends at Bhejane Nature Training. I now work at Hluhluwe River Lodge as the head guide and I specialize in birding and wildlife photography. When I am not running after my little feathered friends with camera in hand, I conduct big 5 game drives into the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Park where I have seen some spectacular sightings, like kills by lion, wild dog and cheetah. But I think my favourite sighting to date, was on the Hluhluwe River floodplain, whilst out photographing Collard Pratincoles in flight. There was an insect hatch above a small fresh water pan which set the Pratincoles, as well as copious numbers of bats, into a feeding frenzy. They were later joined by a pair of Marsh Owls who began to catch the bats in full flight! This was the first and last time I have seen such a spectacle, and also the first time I had ever seen a Marsh Owl! Within the next year I am planning to complete my bird specialist course followed by my FGASA Level 2. Within the next 5 years I would like to have completed my FGASA Level 3 as well as my SKS birding. I also plan to start up my own photographic safaris so that I can pass on the knowledge and skills that I have obtained as a photographer as well as add to the experience with my knowledge of the bush. 
Creating Awareness Through Wilderness....

Monday 25 February 2013

Ex- Student: Casper Bester Career Update

By: Casper Bester

I studied at Bhejane Nature Training from Feb 2012 to June 2012 were I did my FAGASA level 1 as well as my Trails guiding course.

In 2011 I decided I want to change careers. It was time to follow my heart. Like most boys I always wanted to be a ‘Game Ranger’ and now finally I have the opportunity to go and do it. I found out about Bhejane via a friend’s daughter who studied there, so I drove up to Ethaltini bush camp to check it out. After talking to Dylan and Christa and seeing the camp, I knew I was on the right track. At first it was really scary to leave my job at the hospital, but when I look back now, I know I made the right decision to become a field guide.

I had an awesome time doing FGASA Level 1 as well as my Trails guiding course. I made so many new friends and met some amazing people. Bhejane was a excellent start to my new beginning.

When I look back at my time in the Bhejane camp today, the moments that really sticks out for me is our first aid training, it was so well done and all the practical work felt so real, thanks Andrew!! Another think that I won’t forget is that first time on our ARH practical when I shot with the .458 ruger. Wow, what a rifle!!!! 
The courses at Bhejane that I did, really provided me with not only the necessary field knowledge, but also the life skills that is needed to be a excellent guide and to really make it far in the industry. I also did my HP course, a snake handling course with Johan Marais and Jonathan Leeming’s scorpion course.

Today I am working at Makhasa Game reserve and Lodge, 15km north of Bhejane in Northern KZN, as a guide and assistant manager.

Let me tell you about my favorite sighting at Bhejane.
We were walking trails at Amakhozi Game lodge in September 2012. The morning of the 18th at about 9 o’clock, we were on top of one of the many hills at Amakhozi. I was walking lead and we just started descending from the top, when I spotted some buffalos at the foot of the hill. They were about 300m away and we estimated that the breading herd was more or less 50 in count. We were walking on the dirt road, as it was the only way down and I realized that this road is leading us straight into the herd. We continued very cautiously and when we were about 100m away from the herd they became aware of our presence. We stopped and watched them for 5min. I then walked ahead to see where this road was leading and luckily right at the bottom of the hill, the road turned to the left, away from the herd. We carried on walking, but when we reached the bottom of the hill, I realized the herd of buffalos is now about 65m away and they are following us. We stopped to see what they were up to and they also stopped. Now almost the whole herd was looking at the 5 of us and one by one the young buffalo bulls were coming closer and closer, 2 steps at a time. By now they were about 50m away from us and my hart is pounding like crazy. We walked on for another 10 paces, stopped and the buffalos were still closing in on us. We stopped and stood our ground. The young bulls are still out in front creeping closer. We stood our ground and had a “stare down” for about 15 min before the herd finally moved off and my heartbeat returned to normal. Sjoe……

Well, I don’t know where the bush will take me in the next years, but I would like to still be at Makhasa, but maybe as manager, with a Level 3 and SKS DG to follow.

Thanks Bhejane!! You guys rock!!

Casper next to the Mkuze River in Flood while on Trails

Monday 18 February 2013

One Week at uMkhuze

By Tom and Olly

No electricity, no hot showers, no worries. Our week at Mkhuze was basic to say the least but absolutely fantastic.
Three students including ourselves and Arlo set off for Mkhuze earlier than the rest of our group to set up camp. After finishing we headed to the pool for a much needed rest, on our way back Paul our training assistant treated us to a brief game drive to see the observation point, little did we know we were going to be further rewarded with an awesome leopard sighting. We managed to catch him/her resting in the shade resting from the heat of the days and he/she posed beautifully for our eager camera lenses. We also spotted a large male white Rhino on reaching the observation point after a brief detour to retrieve Olly’s forgotten camera so he could take photos of the leopard.
We slept well that night despite the calls of Spotted Hyaena echoing round the camp. Blissfully in the morning we awoke to find a lack of mosquito bites on ourselves, we soon realised we hadn’t seen a single one and had stumbled upon a safe haven from these blood sucking manifestations of Satan.

The camp came to life Monday morning when the rest of the Amakentshane group arrived on the game viewers to a 5 star reception. We showed off our leopard pictures but little did we know that other members of our group would be treated to an even better sighting later in the week.
After catching up with the rest of the group we headed out on a game drive, the sheer amount of information thrown our way by the guides (or as we refer to them “walking encyclopaedias”) was enormous. What seemed like thousands of names of birds/trees and bugs brought about the realisation that one day we would hopefully be able to guide like them, albeit a long time away!
In the evening we quickly mastered the use of flashlights as without lights it got dark very quickly, and the odds of walking into trees or taking the wrong path to your hut multiplied tenfold.
On the second day we rose with the sun, and headed out of camp by 5:00am much to the shock of several members of our group. The morning drive was quiet and we found ourselves at Kumasinga hide at around 8:00 for breakfast. Once the cereal was inhaled we entered the hide and had several good sightings of birds to add to our ever growing species lists.
We returned to the environmental camp and spent an evening around the fire eating up a stew made by the student duty team. The darkness made it a lot easier to eat! We were also welcomed to the camp by a resident genet that watched over our fire from the branches of a Lembombo Wattle.

 Day three was fantastic however, throughout the morning game drive several acacias were brutally attacked by our guides cutting off branches with their Leatherman’s. It didn’t take Sherlock holmes to figure out what was coming our way, was less than desirable. However we were offered some light entertainment by Wanroe’s odd bird identification, especially his stringy call on a “knob backed lark”. We spent the afternoon identifying those damn saplings. General moaning about how the branches weren’t in the book, or the fact they all looked the same were occasionally punctuated with shouts of pain as people (mainly Brett) stabbed themselves on sharp thorns and spines. This was only the beginning of the hard work….
Day four and so the students take over. This was the first of many days in the Hotseat, as it became to be known. While there we were required to take over guiding duties and show the rest of the vehicle what we had learnt. So we threw in all the information we had gained on birding, trees, mammals, tracks, the park itself and the vehicle we were riding in. We were such good guides we even managed to track down the elusive black rhino in thick bush and show it off to our guides, this is when the student surpassed the master for a few brief seconds.
Later on that day we were taken to the observation point to have a night time astronomy lecture. This was particularly awesome, as there is nothing that can really compete with staring up the stars on a clear night with hyaena serenading us in the background. Nick held us captive with his stories of the heavens and the various mythologies behind them.

Day five marked the end of the week and the resident nicotine addicts in the group could stop thinking about rolling up various types of animal scat into a cigarette and look forward to a proper one when they returned to camp. We had a morning game drive which was mostly uneventful except for a close encounter of the horned kind. One of the guide vehicles was charged by a male white rhino trying to protect his female. They rewarded us afterwards with some stunning photo opportunities. 

Many of us weren’t too keen to head back as we were very happy to have no electricity over mosquitoes any day.
It was a nice feeling to know that when we next returned we would be on our assessment drives for our FGASA level one qualification and would definitely know tonnes more than what we currently do.
All in all we squeezed every last drop of information and experience that we possibly could out of the week. We would like to give a big thanks to our guides, Paul, Nick and Pieter for blackmailing our tired and weary minds into work for a refreshing pool session at the main camp.

Wednesday 6 February 2013

My First Day at Bhejane

By Ollie Weaver

So after 26 hours of traveling and about 3 hours of sleep the planes wheels touch down in Richards Bay. I was worried i wasnt prepared enough about silly things like, 'had i packed enough or had i packed too much.'
I stood up on the plane, nearly cracking my head on the overhead baggage storage. I looked down onto the seat infront of me and saw a pile of FGASA study books and bird books stuffed into a bag for life. Turned out Sarah, who is on the same course as me, sat right in front of me for the whole flight. My first thoughts were how did she get all those books onto the plane as hand luggage and secondly, secondly, i was both excited and disappointed; excited i wasnt the only English person but kind of disappointed i wasn't.

As i stepped out of the terminal i was literally slapped across the face by the humidity of this area. Hanroe met us at the airport. My first impression was that he was a pretty laid back guy. Later in the car this was reinforced by his music choices, which practically sent me to sleep!

Upon arriving at Bhejane i realised i had it wrong. It was pronounced be-jan and not be-jane like i had been saying it the whole time! My tent wasn't what i had expected. Well actually i didnt know what to expect but i found it  to be perfectly fine as a place sleep, while most our time will be spent in the hut studying.

My fellow room mates! Wanroe and Brett! Firstly with Wanroe sounding a lot like Hanroe and secondly, the odd pronunciation of the 'w', kind of threw me, so i was instantly relieved when he said it was ok to call him 'Van'.

Our first day started off with a tour of the camp, where we got shown around by Jennie and what followed was an incredible cock- up that resulted in a resounding win! We got paired into 4 groups and had to take 5 litre containers to carry around the reserve along with bird books and cameras, while navigating. Being set off at 20minute intervals resulted in a nervous 40minute wait while watching all our fellow comrades leave. I was a little bit worried about how our group would operate after only knowing each other for such a short time. Now saying we got lost while looking for the 'well' is an understatment! The bush had grown so thick we couldn't spot it despite my thrilling heroics of climbing a monstrous tree. After 2 hours of stumbling around the bush we arrived back and had to translate a whole bunch of Latin words, which was interesting and i found it fairly fun. Later that evening while discussing our various interesting endeavours, we heard a loud bang as Van shot from his chair by the bookcase like a startled rabbit. The ceiling fan then promptly occupied his seat! Needless to say his over enthusiastic Afrikaaner side took over, proclaiming how he nearly died and accompanied by countless repetitions of the word, 'brew'!