Last month was extremely exciting for us here at Djuma, it saw the opening of our new camp, Djuma Research camp.
Its residents for the next 3 months will be 20 students from the University of Connecticut (UConn). 4 groups at 3 week intervals will embark on the most amazing experience.
Nature Guide Training the facilitator is a specialist guide training company owned by Sarah and Lee Gutteridge. The school has been training guides for over a decade with many of their students going on to become Head Rangers, Managers and even General managers.
Lee is one of only 7 FGASA Scout guides in South Africa, with FGASA Level 3, and SKS qualifications in Dangerous Animals (DA), Dangerous Game (DG) and Wild Flowers (WF). He is also a Palaeo-anthropological specialist guide and a Senior Tracker and Tracking instructor and assessor. He is a recognized Assessor and Trainer for FGASA with more than ten years of assessing and training experience in the field. He also completed a diploma in Game Ranch Management during the mid-nineties.
He has authored 5 books so far including the best selling South African Bushveld – a field guide from the Waterberg (2008), as well as co-authoring the Okavango field guide (Gutteridge and Reumerman 2011) and Bushman Rock Art (Forssman and Gutteridge 2011). He is a passionate trainer and loves what he is doing!
Joining them is their Principal Instructor, Diana Griffioen who has trained with them full time for over six years,and is a qualified school teacher with an additional 8 prior years of experience in this field too. She is a FGASA Level 3 Guide, with a Cybertracker level 4 in Track and
Sign, a full level 3 Tracker and is also an experienced Trails Guide. Diana is currently completing 2 different SKS qualifications in Birding and Wild Flowers.
There’s nothing better than to kick the course off with first aid practical training with Jens. Bandaging, back-boards, CPR exercises, judging wilderness hazards, carrying “patients”, suffering the screams of the “victim”, and watching out for wild animals. With no better teacher than experience, the students take control of learning the basics by really getting into the first aid scenario. Though the wounds were fake, the adrenaline and sense of urgency was real, and the ability to make the right decision is the real test. I just hope this time I am informed of when the practical will happen and avoid scolding myself with hot coffee again as I jumped to my feet to figure out what and where the screams were coming from, there were certainly a few great actresses in the last group and although serious training, the students seemed to have great fun.
The Students also partake in a track and sign course ending at he end of their stay in an assessment. Lee and Diana put the students through their paces teaching them the difference between a buffalo and rhino track to name a few. To my amazement, the students at the end of their three week course could tell the minuet difference between a Yellow billed Hornbill and an Arrow Marked Babbler – truly amazing!
During the first week they were also joined by Derek Solomon who opened up another dimension of the bush with his sound equipment, it can pick up and amplify distant calls of the wildlife around us. It was interesting to sit by the dam at dusk with our headphones on, and listen to the dynamic spectrum of the bush “radio”. The sound safari really does open up ones senses to the bush.
The Students also enjoyed an interesting lecture from our very own Jurie Moolman about the history of our beautiful county and Michael Grover about the Ecology of the Sabi Sand.
Besides amazing sightings the students were also part of some other very exciting activities. Wisani Day Creche in the village of Dixie, just on our reserves borders were lucky enough to have the students volunteer to give the school a much needed freshen up. The ‘artier’ students painted beautiful murals on the walls, the stronger students to make fun and interesting obstacle courses sank tires and I… well, stood back and enjoyed watching humanity at wok.
It was very sad indeed to see our first group leave but just as exciting to welcome the next! More on the shenanigans of Djuma Research Camp soon to come.