Category Archives: Tribe Life

Field News July & August 2020

Angasi Updates

The Angasi is the 2nd year group of the Bhejane 3 Year Advanced Course. They returned late in June to resume their fragmented second year! The months over April, May and June are usually when the students assist in various reserve and conservation management tasks. This year the Isimangaliso Whale Monitoring Project was unfortunately cancelled due to COvid 19, however the students were very fortunate to have still been able to participate in the KZN Wildlife Game Count project at Mkuze Game Reserve. This was an intensive two week period with many hours spent in the field every day! This is also an unsupervised practical, meaning the students are required to cook for themselves and with so many hours out in the field, and then having very limited time to plan, cook and clean, this practical is often a real test of character for students and often a great learning experienced in many ways. The EKZN WIldlife Team supervises all field activities so this is well supervised.

In addition to Game Counts, we are also very grateful to Somkhanda Reserve Manager Meiring Prinsloo, that allowed our group to participate in and learn from the reserve;s field staff on a variety of activities. Most notably road and fence maintenance. These are two high priority tasks on any game reserve, that need constant attention and we hope the students were able to contribute positively in the few weeks that they assisted.

In what was an extremely practical 2nd term, the students also managed to get in a good amount of field hours with their instructors, and also were lucky to be able to gain quite a few very valuable mentored guest hours as well. The group got the opportunity to host Wildlands Trust CEO – Roelie Kloppers, and Somkhanda Reserve Manager Meiring Prinsloo on a sleepout as part of a fundraising project. They also managed to join as 2nd rifle guides on many guest walks with instructors Dylan Panos and Stephen Ingram, and walked a variety of interesting guest groups. The opportunity to gain mentored guest hours in the second year of the course, is one of the key advantages of doing the longer 3 year course. For many guides in industry, it is the lack of opportunity to do this – since it often has to be done during off days at an extra expense – that prevents them from progressing to Lead Trails Guide. We still have a few months to go, and hopefully many guests to take out to help our current 2nd year group get the most out of their time with us.

Tommy with guests on a mentored walk.
Hosting the Wildlands and Somkhanda Group
Warwick and Jess with a guest group, getting ready for a mentored walk.
Tegan, Kayla and Rikus hard at work on the Sleepout.
Warrick and Jess with their Guests
Christiaan on the sleepout walk.

Ukuhlukile Year 1

The First Year group – Ukuhlukile started their post lockdown training with completion of their NQF 2 Practical assessments. The full group managed to pass all theory and practical assessments! Well done Ukuhlukile! They then joined forces with the Imvubu 1 year PNG Group and completed their Apprentice Trails Guide Course. Trails Guiding starts with 2-3 weeks of Rifle Training during which the students complete their PFTC (Professional Firearm Trainers Council) qualifications. The PFTC Qualifications form the legal basis for firearm training and must be done first before we can proceed with FGASA Advanced Rifle Handling, known in short as ARH. PFTC and ARH Training is a lot of fun, but also quite serious business. It requires focussed attention, awareness, good physical strength and fitness and the ability to perform under pressure.

Connor and Tyler demonstrate one of the firearm drills

The Trails practical was very successful with students walking on average 8 hours a day and getting some really good encounters. Students must walk for a minimum prescribed amount of hours and log at least 10 encounters as participants in the group in order to qualify for Apprentice Trails Guide evaluation.

Connor helping Daphne to gear up!
Ukuhlukile / Imvubu Apprentice Trails Guides
Sicelo, Piet, David and Jordan

Ingulule Updates

The Ingulule Group was supposed to start their Course in May this year and finally got going in July after the lockdown regulations lifted! The last two months saw them doing their NQF 2 Apprentice Field Guide Course. We still have practical assessments ahead but they all recently passed their theory examinations! Well done Ukuhlukile. As soon as the practical assessments are done, they group will start with their Apprentice Trails Guide Course.

On Game Drive – Ryan, Dylan, Nosipho and Thando
A head-scratcher on the Slide and Sound Challenge!
Spending some time with Ngcebo

Marine News July & August 2020

Running the first marine course post lockdown was a daunting task! Our usual practical camp sites were not yet open for business, and with no real news on when we will be allowed access to beaches for beach and rocky shore practicals as well as the water based activities, it was a daunting task to plan for this course. We are extremely grateful to Heinrich and team at Isibindi Africa Lodges and in particular Thonga Beach Lodge for their assistance in making sure our Beach Practical Camp can happen! We were also fortunate to have Sthembiso – one of the Thonga Guides, attend the course with our group, and it was great to get some of the local stories and information from him.

Well done to all students that passed both Theory and Practical assessments on this one of a kind course!

On the deck at Thonga Beach Lodge – we camped next door at Mabibi – a truly magical spot!
Exploring the Raffia Palm Forest is always a course highlight!
God Knows Tuck Shop! A traditional stop on practical outings.

We are also grateful to Adventure Mania from Sodwana Bay that was able to assist us with the Diving Component of the course. We have been exploring more options in Sodwana and have really enjoyed working with Reef Teach and the Adventure Mania Crews and look forward to many dives with them both going forward. The Bhejane Dive crew has also been working on putting all the pieces in place to start offering the full PADI Dive Master Qualification to our 2nd Year Students as an option for those specialising in Marine. We hope to run the first pilot now in 2020 and go full steam ahead in 2021 qualifying Bhejane Dive Masters!

Launching with Jacques from Adventure Mania.
PADI and Bhejane Instructor Nicole, teaching Open Water Skills in the pool before hitting the ocean.
Snorkel briefing on the Mabibi Beach before heading into the water.

The whole Bhejane student community also had the opportunity to get involved in a large scale beach cleanup with the Isimangaliso Wetland Park authority, and the dive operators in Sodwana. Pollution of our oceans is a very real concern and one that needs constant care and attention! We took part in two beach clean-ups in the last two months and hope to fit in a few more for 2020!

What is a PADI Dive Master?

Becoming a PADI Dive Master is the first step towards a career as a Marine and Dive Professional. A Dive Master is able to plan and lead a group of divers on a dive. If you are registered on the Bhejane 3 year Course, you will already have the opportunity to qualify as a Rescue Diver. Become a Dive Master is the next step from there, but while you can progress swiftly from Open Water, to Advanced to Rescue, Dive Master is a step towards becoming professional and taking responsibility for others, so experience is key! To start your training as a Dive Master you must have already logged a minimum of 50 dives. It is good as a pro tip to remember that when a standard requires a certain amount of minimum hours, it is exactly that – the bare minimum! Your personal goal should always be to aim for more, and to qualify with far more than the minimum required. To this end we have started a Bhejane Dive Club, to enable students to make good use of weekends and off days to log some extra dives! Nicole – our in house PADI instructor, supervises the Dive Club, with the help of the 2nd Year Group in the Activity Centre, and work hard to get good rates to make this an affordable way to get your required experience dives!

Once you have logged the required experience, you can commence with Dive Master Training. It is an intensive but fun course with no shortcuts! When we assume leadership roles in any activity, a new level of personal commitment is required and the Dive Master Training programme will require you to step up to showcase your commitment and professionalism on a new level.

DCIM\100GOPRO\GOPR0332.

Camp News July / August 2020

The Khoffee Khaya Vision!

After a long and very uncertain lockdown period, the Bhejane camp slowly kicked into gear again as students started rejoining for courses! We have made a really big effort this year to take our little tuck shop to the next level – and that gave birth to what has now very proudly become Khoffee Khaya!

Khoffee Khaya is a concept that has been long in the making! It started simply as a desire to make camp life a little more colourful during off days and especially for those that could not get to town but it was soon identified as a really good tool to help us achieve our community training goals! After about 18 months of operation, Khoffee Khaya is now 100% run by our intern team, and the little bit of revenue generated here, goes toward supporting the learning programmes of the intern team. They are therefore truly working for themselves and gaining some entrepreneurial skills along the way! Even though it is still a baby, we are very excited to keep growing the Khoffee Khaya / Intern project and looking forward to writing about the amazing careers that started here.

Reading Night – with candles, smores and Hot Chocolate!

Khoffee Khaya had a bunch of first milestones achieved in the short period past lockdown! Student Katinka Soller took the lead in getting involved in the shop, and baked some brownies to sell in the shop! Part of the Khoffee Khaya goal is to be the platform for a mutually beneficial network of partnerships between Bhejane and the student community! All students are encouraged to use the shop to trade their products!

Another first, inspired by the suggestion from Student Prakash Kannan, was the very first Reading Night! This was a great success. While story-telling is a much needed guiding skill, this was more about connection and sharing what is important to you. All students were given the opportunity to contribute and simply share what they loved!

Nicole is the Khoffee Khaya Manager – are you thinking of making your own weekend money? Get in touch with Nicole to brainstorm some ideas of what you can sell via the Khoffee Khaya Platform!

Contact Khoffee Khaya on Whatsapp to get involved!

079 510 8729

Follow Khoffee Khaya on Instagram!

News from The Bhejane Outpost Camp at Somkhanda

With many weeks of no activity at camp, we soon found out when we returned to normal operations, that we have to reclaim our space! The young and very curios lions on the reserve kept things very interesting at the Outpost on Somkhanda! If you have not seen it – watch 2nd year student Pierre Barauss meal time tussle with a female lion visitor!

Thats my Potjie! Video by Pierre Barau

We have spent every spare minute updating and making the Somkhanda camp feel more homely! Student Misae has done an excellent job adding some decorative elements to the central dining area, and the 2nd Year Angasi Team has put in enough blood, sweat and muscle to truly call this their camp! We hope they will leave Bhejane with many happy memories as the first senior group of the Bhejane Outpost! A big thanks also to Ncgebo Mhlambo – ex Bhejane Intern now guiding at Ndaka Game Lodge in Nambithi – who spent much of his lockdown time with us and showed us how to build a traditional Zulu fence in front of our birdbath at the dining area.

Students working in the dinning lapa at the Outpost.
Ncebo with instructor Stephen Ingram and the Ingulule Group
Leopard captured on a camera trap near the camp.

We have installed a few camera traps around camp to keep an eye on what is happening around us, and some of the highlights were Leopard, Brown Hyena, Serval and Bushpig. No traps are needed to observe the lions that have been hanging out around the camp, and it seems the elephants have now also discovered an additional source of water in the camp jojo tanks! We are grateful for all the volunteers, interns and ex-students that helped us keep an eye here over the quiet times to make sure everything stays in tact!

The Magic Of The Elephant Coast

I am often told, how lucky I am to live where I live, and do what it is I do for a living – I am sure people in similar positions, also often hear this and over time you really get use to being told how privileged you are from someone else’s point of view- so much so that I have developed a pretty standard response – I smile, and then agree with them not thinking about it too much.

After all it is what I do every day, if I had to articulate the way I really feel about this place called the Elephant Coast- I would not know how as it triggers an emotion so immensely strong I can barely control myself and in that moment words become meaningless and the only words I am left with, sound a little something like this..

“It left me speechless”

I write this today, although I have been writing this in my head for the past 5 years, forever letting it linger until I can find the  perfect words to be able to formulate a sentence, never mind string them into a story for anyone else to share into this experience, and too be sincere I am not sure I would ever find the right words to describe the impact the  Elephant Coast has had on me, this is one of those “see it to believe it” cases and I highly recommend that you do.

IMG-20190413-WA0031

 

The Elephant Coast is a narrow stretch of land, touching home to the vast warm waters of the Indian Ocean & multi diverse Zululand (KwaZulu Natal, South Africa). It is here where you can come to feel the breath of the Sub tropical, it is here where my words become buried so deep beneath the history that these soils contain and spread so far across the floodplains and into the open ocean. The only place in the world where you can come to witness so many different ecosystems, vegetation structures, and climatic character variations flow together in perfect harmony earning the right to be classified under its own biome, namely the Indian Ocean Coastal Belt.  A pure example of outstanding ecological processes, superlative natural phenomena and scenic beauty, and exceptional biodiversity and home so many threatened species.

How does one even begin to explain something so diverse, unique and endemic in simple forms?

20161114_104812

 It is in these sand forests where the last remaining herds of ‘Big tusker’ elephants roamed for centuries and left their mark on the very tips of our tongues. It is here where coral reefs have formed on remains of ancient sand dunes creating one of a kind reefs, home to over 1200 fish species, including the Coelacanth, a fish species thought to be extinct but still lurks in the depths of these waters – described as The Living Fossil. It is here where the largest estuarine system on the African continent, you can come to see the largest population of hippopotamus and crocodile share a space with the Bull Shark that follow the high tide in to feed on any juvenile life hiding among the aerial roots of mangrove trees that stand as guards along the edges of our coastline, giving chance for other habitats to develop, it is here where King Shaka’s right hand man fled to after fearing he too would suffer the same fate and be assassinated- found himself emerged deep in the beauty of the flat, vast and open land with many lakes in 1828– It was the home of the Tsonga people, then known as Tembeland – Upon arriving, the beauty that overwhelmed him set the core for the naming of this region, the name so perfectly chosen for this region ‘iSimangaliso’ meaning miracle and wonders remain as true today, as it did almost 200 years ago.

Magical.

Once it lures you in, it has got you for life. I cannot recall the exact day I fully grasped the magnitude of the words “You are lucky” meant for me. I was raised in the guiding industry, both my parents are guides and passion driven people, passion not only for the natural surroundings, but for creating a community of like-minded people to create, spread and share more moments of magic.

IMG-20190413-WA0021

A passion, I guess you can say it is in my blood.

I was born with it and so I will continue to grow with it every day being reminded through a series of moments- like the first time I got to witness a loggerhead turtle emerge from the comfort of her  aquatic environment to lay eggs in the coastal dunes of Bhanga Nek, Kosi Bay. That moment upon realizing that this turtle has survived the odds, living through natures natural process and unpredictability, that realization of “Here I am, in her presence, watching her… what a rarity” , even walking back up the beach, with every step brighter than the next as my feet shuffle and awaken the bioluminesence hidden beneath the surface of the faintly wet sand. The first time I ever got to witness a Humpback Whale and her calf swim right by me while diving a spot called Pinnacles in Sodwana Bay, sharing a momentary glimpse of each other as one tail movement sent her meters ahead of me and within seconds they were gone again and just like that, an appreciation for these waters I find myself in. I am quickly reminded that these are not only the breeding waters for whales, but some of the most unique reefs dominated by soft coral and marine life so diverse, significant that with every breathe fueling your lungs as you sink down deeper you become almost instantaneously humbled.

It is in these moments when it becomes clear, how lucky I truly am.

The Elephant Coast captured my heart and became my home and my office – Privileged to share the stories of the past, determined to keep a sustainable present and looking forward to many more once in a lifetime experiences, never failing to appreciate any moment whether I find myself under a blanket of stars on a clear night or even just hearing the rumble of the ocean on a windy day.

Speechless is the only way to describe the feeling one gets upon realizing that every day you get to live and breathe in a place of miracles, a literal heaven on earth, a sacred place.

There really is no place, like home.

By:Nicole Panos

My Bhejane Hart: Kayla Pieterse

Ek het nog altyd geweet dat my liefde vir die natuur diep binne my gewortel is.

Van die dag wat ek gesien het wat Bhejane vir my kan bied het ek onmiddelik besluit om deel te word van die 3 maande kursus, min het ek geweet dat ek kort daarna sonder huiwer sou aansluit by die 3 jaar kursus. Ek het nie besef ek stap in by een groot familie nie. Ek was eintlik so bevoorreg dat ek so kort nadat ek die grootmens wêreld betree reeds my tuiste kon vind. Bhejane is my huis weg van die huis af. Om te kan wakker word in die getjirp van die voëls & te kan rustig raak in die aand voor die ongelooflikste sonsonderdergange hier in Zulu land, gee net nuwe mening tot lewe want ek dink selde aan hoe baie ek eintlik het om voor dankbaar te wees.

Bhejane Angasi Students taking a group picture while the Zululand sun sets.
Bhejane Angasi Students taking a group picture while the Zululand sun sets.

Elke gesig wat mens in die oggend sien straal ń ander emosie uit. Emosie van blydskap, emosie van hartseer, emosie van verlange of emosie van liefde. Almal bied altyd ń skouer aan, almal is altyd daar om saam jou bly te wees & daar is altyd ń ekstra handjie wat wil help. My hart word warm as ek besef dat daar steeds sulke goeie mense in die wêreld is.

Bhejane bestaan uit slegs hoendervleis oomblikke uit. Daar gaan nie ń dag verby waar mens nie sê  “wow, dis crazy” of “ek het nooit geweet nie”. Jy leer elke dag iets nuut van die natuur & selfs meer as wat jy besef iets oor jouself. Bhejane stel jou nooit teleur as dit kom by die natuur nie. Jy groei & verander saam die seisoene. Ek is bevoorreg om my fondasie in hierdie industrie by Bhejane te kan neerlê, om blootgestel te word in alles waarin ek nou blootgestel word maak my net nog meer opwindend vir wat die toekoms vir my inhou. My huis is waar my hart is & my hart sal vir altyd by Bhejane wees.

IMG-20190405-WA0010 Deur: Kayla Pieterse