A Week of Appreciation in the Life of a Bhejane Student

There is something about the bush, the sound of the birds singing early in the morning, the branches breaking in the distance by elephants, the roar of the lion spreading through the mountains. Waking up in the cold winter morning staring ahead with your head peeping out the zip of your safari tent, overlooking the Mkuze River, having breakfast around a fire pit still warm from the night befores boma fire,feeling refreshed and ready for a full day of walking trails – This is how you start your day at Ebandla Camp.

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Working with Colin Patrick and his amazing K9 sidekick (Anne) is one of the best experiences, just by observing them work together, side by side and with a different insight! Trailing an animal gives you the courage to improve your skills. As soon as you find a fresh track, the hunt is on, bundu bashing through the bushes looking for any sign of the animal you are tracking in the sand, in the trees along the river banks – to find an animal you need to think like one!

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This is such an amazing experience because you can learn a lot about the animals behaviour, By asking things like ‘What type of food it eats?  Was it on its way to a specific location? or maybe just wondering around? by looking at the tracks you can see if the animal is relaxed and walking slow or on edge walking fast.

It is hard work and requires a lot of concentration, but the thrill of tracking a wild animal never ceases to excite me!

As the days go by tracking different animals and learning more about ourselves in the process just adding on to knowledge displayed all around us with every step we take. I remember how nervous I was for the assessment day -It was a perfect sunny morning, everyone was standing around the boma and you could just see the stress of test day show on their faces, but the we started walking and  I couldn’t help but to look at my surroundings and just seeing how beautiful nature really helped me to calm down.

We walked for a while before Colin stopped us and split us into two groups and briefed us on our task at hand – one group would walk for 15 minutes to get as far away as possible and hide away and the opposing group would have to track the hiders down! The assessment has begun. After 15 minutes one person was chosen to lead the track for the hiding group – As we tracked and trailed we finally found them and it was now our time to hide.

This process went on until everyone had a chance to track spreading this experience on for 2 days! Every moment as exciting and challenging as the next, when we were all done leading, Colin sat us down and the feedback process began.

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After meeting with each of us, we were all happy to hear how well the assessments went.

I was sitting outside enjoying the beautiful view that Ebandla camp has to offer and it just got me thinking of how amazing this week was, how wonderful it is to learn something new everyday and how amazing and thrilling it is to track an animal and become one and more connected with this beautiful country.

I could do this for the rest of my life.

 

By: Karla Swart (Advanced Course Student)

Reflecting on a year of discovery and growth

By Manuel Weber

The day I decided that I would dedicate my life to the conservation of the superbly beautiful ecosystems that still cover a large part of the African continent, I was only a 6-year old boy that had just moved to Africa, without any understanding or knowledge about the complex world I was about to discover.

But this dream accompanied me over the next 13 years, motivated me every single day, shaped my way of doing things and caused me to collect every piece of information available to me, desperately hoping that it would eventually bring me a bit closer to that big goal. When I found Bhejane, I would never have thought that this would mean the ultimate break-through for me in achieving my dream. At the same time, the course gave me more than just a confirmation for what I always wanted to do: It opened a whole new world for me.

It was like looking for a sparrow and finding a twinspot (I have no issues with sparrows!). In fact, I didn’t even know that twinspots existed. Or what the difference between a sparrow and a starling is. This winter, not even a year after I left Bhejane, I returned and passed my regional birding.

This is only one example for how Bhejane changed my life, my way of thinking and my relationship with nature. The unbelievable perfection and creativity of evolution that Bhejane allowed me to discover still makes my heart beat faster every time I think about it, or realize how crazy it is that spiders can detect stress allelochemicals thanks to the lyriform organs on their legs (first example that comes to my mind). You never stop learning! And there is no bigger honor than working for nature and with nature.

The environment Bhejane is operating in would be more than enough to amaze every lucid-thinking human being. But additionally to that, I got to meet people that think like me. It may sound crazy, but I actually never had considered in the past that there might be other people that share my passion. I probably don’t have to mention that I got to know a large number of special persons that became some of my closest friends and my idols. I had the privilege to meet some people with phenomenal knowledge and skills, to watch them and to learn from them.

It was like coming home. And it will always be like coming home when returning to the places where all this started. Because it’s not going to end soon.

Elegant Grasshoper - Bhejane Gobandlovu Camp

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

Marli se laat aand leeu-loop.

Deur Marli van den Bergh

“Warwick dis tyd vir jou nagdiens…” breek Quintin se stem deur die koue. Met die ysige koue wat deur die loop van die aand in my tent in gekruip het, prober ek met ‘n swaar lyf uit my bed kom.

Die vuur het begin bedaar en ek besluit om nog hout te gaan haal sodat ek bietjie warm kan word.

Ek loop na die hout-hoop toe en kry my eerste lekker stuk hout, ek besluit om nog te kry wat ek langs die vuur kan op hoop vir later. Ek kry my tweede stuk hout en met die omdraai slag vang my flitslug twee gloeiende oë wat in die pad afgestap kom langs Graham en Robyn se huis… my liggaam word yskoud en ek voel die lewe uit my tap…

‘n Leeu wyfie, rustig en tyd-saam gaan staan so 15 m van my af weg.

Met ‘n benoude stem roep ek vir Graham oor die radio. Toe ek my weer kry is Graham langs my met sy .416 Remington… saam staan ons en kyk vir haar terwyl sy ons aanstaar met n swaar intensiteit en nuuskierigheid.  Na so 5 minute, wat vir my soos ure gevoel het, besluit sy om weer aan te gaan met haar nag mars en het weer in die skaduwee van die donkerte verdwyn.

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We lead the way . . . follow us into Bhejane Territory!