Our intrepid young blogger and Apprentice Field Guide, Amy, writes about her final week at Limpopo Field Guiding Academy and summarises the entire experience of training to be a Field Guide in Africa.
Week 8: As the hot African sun disappeared beyond the horizon and the clouds changed from yellow, orange to pink, the sky darkened and the stars begin to show their glittery light. All the while, I reflected on my time here in the bush. Taking this course has been the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of my life.
Before coming to Limpopo Field Guiding Academy I thought I knew a lot about animals but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The knowledge I gained over the past two months has been invaluable. Now when I look at a monarch butterfly, I no longer see bright colors. I see aposematic coloration and a holometabolic lifecycle.
When I look at the stars I don’t see Orion’s belt. I see Mintaka, Alnilam and Alnitak. And when I see a snake I no longer run the other way. I know whether it has cytotoxic, haemotoxic or neurotoxic venom and the symptoms of the bite. If trees can communicate to each other through a network of fungi and roots as well as by releasing pheromones then surely there is so much more to learn from the bush, nature and our planet.
Everything you need is inside you just like the tannins in the trees. I never thought I’d be able to drive anything other than an automatic car (if that) and left being able to drive a manual Land Rover with passengers. I learned how to hot wire a car, change a tire and start a fire with sticks.
During my first presentation I was so nervous I almost cried. Through practice, lectures and experience in the field I was able to give a guided tour through the bush to my peers and someone I respect and look up to. Mark, the owner of LFGA assessed us for our final game drive where we applied all of our knowledge we gained over the last two months.
Completing this course has been my proudest accomplishment and hands down the best two months of my life. I laughed, cried, loved, lived, learned, was scared, inspired and grew immensely. I made friendships that will last a lifetime and learned lessons I’ll never forget.
I’ll miss showering with birds flying overhead, brushing my teeth under the stars and watching out for lions, hippos and crocodiles when I left my tent at night. I’ll miss falling asleep to jackals calling and lions roaring. I’ll miss the adrenaline that goes through your body while being charged by a black rhino and having a male buffalo walk by while hiding behind a tree.
The bush keeps your senses on high alert all the while making you yearn for more. What I will miss most though are the incredible people I met on this journey. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to Pines, Graham, Janesta, Massi, Caterina, Didi and Mark. You have all impacted my life in more ways than one and I admire and look up to each and every one of you. With the heat, the rain and the unpredictability of each day, this is where I’m meant to be. This adventure may be over but the journey just began…
This blog concludes the series “Student Diary” by Amy Andree, a zookeeper from Wisconsin, USA, who followed her heart to Africa and maximised every minute of her time here. Like a breath of fresh air, Amy energised the people around her – both students and trainers – and was instrumental in the success of this 2 month, FGASA-endorsed Apprentice Field Guide course.
For this we thank you, Amy, and we wish you only the best in your career as a Field Guide. Reach for the stars!