Student Diary – Amy Andree, Week 6

Fire Sticks with Massi

Pick up the story in Week 6 as Amy and her class-mates prepare for the big FGASA exam, spend time with another iconic trainer, and continue to learn the practical skills that will prepare them to enter the industry as Apprentice Field Guides.

A Journey of Giraffe

Week 6: Observing elephants and giraffes in the same setting was such a beautiful way to wrap up week five. After another week of lectures, studying, walks and game drives, we made time to relax by the pool and made a trip to the shop to get food and supplies we needed for the week. We played sports and laughed a lot. Not only is it important to engage your body and mind but also to enjoy every moment. Balance is as important in life as it is in nature.

Stick shift Series 3

Studying occupied most of my days this week with our FGASA (Field Guides Association of Southern Africa) exam coming up. It covers all of the 15 modules we have learned so far as well as the two we learned this week. After our astronomy lecture we gazed at the night sky identifying The Southern Cross which can be used to find Celestial and true South. We also learned how to use Orion’s belt to find true North.

Study session with a view

That night I fell asleep to the soothing sound of lions roaring in the distance. Losing is where you begin to learn about yourself. I didn’t perform my best on our last exam and it lit a fire under me to do better. The more you put into something the more you get out of it and you can achieve anything if you want it badly enough.

Young Males

Our new incredibly knowledgeable instructor, Massi arrived and taught us how to make fire using sticks and elephant dung. It was a strenuous task but such a good skill to learn. After our hands got tired and sore we would switch with someone until we produced smoke. Our persistence paid off and we finally got a flame which we fueled until we got a fire. When you fuel a fire the flame will burn.


Another good skill we learned this week was how to hot wire a car after “Martha,” our Land Rover broke down. If you can be a survivor you can succeed in anything. On one of our game drives this week we followed fresh lion tracks to a pride of seven lions. While observing them, four white rhinos slowly approached. Due to the rhinos’ poor eyesight they were unaware of the lions’ presence. It wasn’t until the wind changed directions that the rhinos smelled the lions and retreated. Seeing just one of these species is an incredible experience but seeing them together is pretty breathtaking.

Hot-wire to start

Credit: Denise Eriksson Photography

The momentum of this week continued on our morning walk. We tracked a black rhino by following the spoor, ground scrapings and fresh dung. Suddenly, we heard breathing, branches breaking and feet pounding as loud as my heart. He veered off to the left in a blur of black through the bush. Getting charged for a second time by a black rhino is no less nerve racking than the first.

Black Rhino Territorial Scrape

After our nerves calmed down over breakfast, we had a lecture on weather and climate. We paid attention to the different clouds in the sky and pressure systems. As I sit here writing with a crocodile swimming by, a river bush willow impaling a cumulus cloud like cotton candy on a stick and elephants walking by the river of our camp I’m struck silent with the thought: life can’t get any better than this moment. Never stop learning, living and exploring. We have exactly one life in which to do everything we will ever do…make the most of every second.

In front of our camp

The Meaning of Life

Just two more short weeks and Amy wraps up her FGASA-endorsed, 2-month Apprentice Field Guide training course at Limpopo Field Guiding Academy in South Africa. Follow her journey right here on our blog!

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