Ulovane Update: October 2017 Newsletter

03 Nov

Welcome to the October Ulovane Update.

It has been an outstanding October!! The rains came and with that, the Eastern Cape has treated us to outstanding sightings and beautiful sun shining days!

We kicked off the month with a team building session with the whole team, which included some interesting team building sessions of puzzle building (for some of us more challenging than others), ball exercises (teaching us to work in a team and that communication is key, in NOT dropping the ball no matter what), a day of ten-pin bowling (Joyce who has never played this game in her life, sure showed us who was boss!) and lunch in PE (ordering from a Thai restaurant was more challenging for some than others ;)). Finally, we ended off with a cook-off after being split up into 3 teams. Somehow though I think this was rigged as our two cooks ended up on the same team and of course, they won and proved why they are the ones tasked with preparing the delicious meals at the campus. 2018 planning and operations were also discussed and we are all excited, to say the least for the year ahead! Thank you to Schalk for organising the fun and games, we appreciate the time you put into making it a great couple of days!

We then dove straight into a very successful Open day at Ulovane campus. Our busiest one this year. Dates for the 2018 Open days can be found at the end of the newsletter and we hope you can join us.

Following that, we welcomed the October 2018 intake our fourth and final intake of the year! We have a lovely big Field Guide group from all over the world, South Africa, Sweden, UK, Germany, Netherlands and even a Canadian living in Panama! 4 ladies and 10 guys make up the group, aged between 18 and 55! As always a packet of liquorice all sorts, which makes for interesting dynamics and lots of entertainment. They are already halfway into the course and going strong. Their results are looking great and we are slowly but surely polishing these rough diamonds to prepare them for their up and coming game drive assessments and soon after the final FGASA exam. Teamwork plays a huge part in this, from the student’s side and from the Ulovane team side. Once again we see that good teamwork is what makes a successful campus life and course! Our three back up trails guides, returned from a well-deserved break after the Field Guide course and have had an incredible few weeks together. Their on foot sightings have been out of this world and I have to say this group really knows how to work like a well-oiled machine!

We hope you enjoy the news from the staff and students, as always lots of interesting updates and fantastic photos!

Each of us has a spark of life inside us, and our highest endeavour ought to be to set off that spark in one another. – Kenny Ausubel

News from the Field Guides

Week 1: There are many reasons why people take Gap years or wish to try something completely different than the norm, I wanted to see if I could still learn something new. I wanted to further myself in the world of conservation and stay close to nature. What I found in South Africa was Ulovane Conservation Training. The world of guiding, educating and simply learning how to show people the true beauty of this planet. It has been an intense first week and I did not simply learn, I am expanding every part of my knowledge. Of what I was still capable of doing… and believe me, you do a lot. I have been ultimately impressed by my fellow trainees. A dedicated group of young people, actually much younger people, but you would not know it if you were to meet them. They are interested in nature and it’s preservation and they are immersing themselves in it here on Amakhala Reserve. The one thing I did not expect so early was to find family. Close knit already, I love these people and this course. I wish more would consider this. What made this possible is some of the most knowledgeable teachers that I have met in a long time. I cannot imagine how much more I could possibly absorb, but I know they will guide us all through to the end of these ten weeks. Because you can feel that they want you to succeed and they want us all to share in their passion for the conservation of nature. – Phil Dankiw, 53

A Canadian, living in Panama, finding inspiration in South Africa

Week 2: Its week 2 at Ulovane and what a busy week it’s been. We have all finally settled in and it starting to feel more like home every day. Our week started with a very wet but very enjoyable drive. The next day we had a full day drive which was lovely as we had a bush braai. We also had the opportunity to create a war cry as a team-building exercise. After that, we had a lovely swim in the Bushmans River. We were lucky enough to go on our first-night drive where we saw an amazing night sky which tied in well with our astronomy lecture.
After our first weekend of exams, we got the opportunity to have a relaxing day at the beach at Kenton on sea which formed part of more team building exercises. We even had the amazing sightings of whales offshore. – Jordan McDowell, UK

Week 3: Another wonderful week here at Ulovane. It has been a tough week but luckily it ended well. We’ve continued to learn more and more about sustainable living.

One of the cool things that we have learnt is how you can use old glass bottles to create a greenhouse. We are currently in the building process but when we are done, we will be one step closer to becoming self-sustainable, growing and consuming are own vegetables. A step closer towards becoming “green”.

Another thing we’ve learnt about, and one of the coolest trees in that regard, is the Spekboom. It has amazing attributes. It’s an odd looking tree with small but thick leaves. The leaves are edible and contain high amounts of Vitamin-C. But the extraordinary thing about this tree is its ability to absorb an extremely high amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. One single hectare of spekboom trees can actually absorb up to 4.2 tonnes of CO2 a year. That is about 10 times more efficient at reducing carbon dioxide levels than tropical rainforest trees! Please go plant some spekboom in your garden!!

Every day here at Ulovane you learn something new and realise how important the little things around you are.

A wise man once said: “Listen to someone and you won’t remember much. By reading the same thing you might remember twice as much. But by being out in nature and using all of your senses, that’s when the puzzle pieces start to fit together”

  • Oskar (Sweden) and Robert (SA)

Week 4:  When people think of safari they think of the lions, elephants and cheetahs. But working in a game reserve is so much more than that. Here at Ulovane we as students get a chance to learn about every single part of nature and that does not always include the most ‘exciting’ stuff. Last week we learned about trees and plants (Botany), a subject which people often forget is not only an important part of nature but also a very interesting subject when you start learning about it. Week 4 was insect and fish week, two subjects which are very interesting but difficult to spot during our game drives.

So on Tuesday, we went out on one of our drives not focused entirely on this week’s subject but mostly trying to find some beautiful sightings. In the afternoon while we were driving towards a viewpoint for are drinks break, a student spotted an object in the distance which looked like it could be a lion. We decided as a group to hold off on our stop and headed towards the suspected lion. When we got there we were in for a nice surprise. It turned out that all four lions of the Amakhala game reserve were all situated close to the road which enabled us to get a very good view. The male and female lion together with their two offspring were all lying next to each other. As we watched we had first row tickets to some amazing lion behaviour. Playing, grooming, interacting, challenging – it was wonderful to watch and learn from this family. I don’t think I’ve ever seen people taking that many photographs. After the sighting we discussed the events, some people said they even had tears in their eyes during the viewing. Some claimed it was the strong wind but more suspected it was because of the sheer beauty of these amazing animals.

At Ulovane we learn so much about our environment and the wildlife in it. There is never a boring day out in the bush and that Tuesday during this perfect sighting this was truer than ever. – Tobias Hall (Netherlands)

The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.
– B.B. King

News from the Trails Guides

Week 1: Arriving back at Ulovane after a 2-week break felt like coming home. It was really fun meeting all the new people and settling back into everything. We had the privilege of having the Woodridge Prep, marimba band perform for us. A wonderful job by such a young, but rather talented group of individuals!

Our first week consisted of rifle handling. It was really interesting handling firearms and getting out on the range for the first time. Looking forward to the weeks to come. – Roelof (SA)

Week 2: Week two already!! The crazy phenomenon is it’s still shocking how fast time moves in this beautiful place!

The first two weeks back home at Ulovane saw us through our ARH safety and training. Being able to get to the outdoor shooting range was so much fun! Being a first-time shooter myself has been no problem whatsoever, Pete is an incredible mentor and always, always ensures we believe in ourselves as much as he does. It’s been a tremendous learning curve for myself already, I can’t wait to see what the next 5 weeks hold! 🐾

We had an eventful night drive with the current Level 1 field guides on Thursday night, and a wonderful end to the week with a team bonding session of volleyball on the beach today, with the most SPECTACULAR whale sighting!!!!

A wonderful week indeed 🍃🐾 Melissa (SA)

Week 3: It has been a spectacular week! We started our bush walks and we’ve had some great sightings already! One magnificent sighting of the herd of Elephants drinking water.

It is a completely different world when you’re out there on foot. Learning about all the small things and the different animal behaviour. Being a backup guide for the first time was a massive learning curve as you need to be aware constantly and it is very intense concentration. – Rogan (SA)

Week 4: Week 4 flowed unhurried than previous trails weeks, due to the Eastern Cape flu that hit the Campus. The seasons have been changing dramatically from to summer from winter and then winter to summer and rain in between. Nevertheless, we had a great week and had some incredible sightings on foot.

An elephant, lion and rhino sighting in one day – outrageous! An experience like this does not just happen every day, please understand this!! To be lucky enough to encounter 3 of the big 5 on foot within a couple of hours, was truly a blessing.

A fair amount of the trail walks are focused on the finer significant things (like wildflowers, tracks, insects, weather etc.) which is really interesting and makes you appreciate nature and how organisms and the environment fit together. We appreciate these times as they allow us the time to really connect with nature and refine our knowledge and skills as guides.

Friday we were lucky enough to have Schalk lead us on a bush walk. It was an incredible experience and amazing to learn from him! I am loving every second of this incredible course, and it is busy flying by. I am really excited to see what the coming weeks have in store for us! -Roelof

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.   – John Muir

News from the Ulovane Team

While out on bush walks or game drives with the students. We often take a half an hour quiet time, to just be still and listen to our surroundings and see what we can learn from the bush just by listening. Here is an interesting article on insects and their sounds……

Love Songs and Serenades

Male insects rank among the world’s best crooners. The serenading skills and love songs of such insects as crickets, grasshoppers, katydids and cicadas are the most famous and, to their female counterparts, simply irresistible. Many other insects, less known for their singing ability, are equally adept at attracting sexual partners with special melodies. They include beetles, moths, water bugs, planthoppers, flies, ants, termites, and others. With such a rich ensemble of singing insects, it is no wonder that the types of songs, musical instruments, and orchestral methods are equally diverse.


Insect Violins and Harps

First, consider the types of musical instruments that insects possess and the way they sing. The most common musical instrument is composed of paired structures commonly referred to as the scraper and file. As the names imply, the scraper is a device that rubs against a roughened file and the repetitious friction between the two creates a vibration, which to the insect ear is a sexual melody. Entomologists call this stridulation. The song doesn’t come from the mouth or the voice box, but rather from these tools which may be on the legs, wings, or other adjacent body parts. Humans may hear the chirp, chirp, chirp of the cricket or the grasshopper, but the female of those species hears the insect equivalent of Frank Sinatra.

The grasshoppers typically have the scraper on their inner “thigh”, which they rub against the file on the nearby wing, a crude but effective violin. Crickets have a portion of the wing that is called a harp, which produces the call when the scraper on one wing rubs the file on the other wing. Some Katydids have scraper and file mechanisms associated with the upper lip, so in fact, they sing with their mouthparts, an unusual and non-traditional use of an insect’s oral apparatus. – Shani

The earth has music for those who listen. – George Santayana

Moments to Remember

It’s mid-day in the Eastern Cape bush, the heat of the sun radiating off the rocky slopes forces the bush to quiet down as everything finds a cool shady spot to shelter and rest. Being animals ourselves and trying to understand the daily routine of nature and all of its amazing components as trails guides we were not excluded from the need for some shade and rest. We just left the dominant elephant bull feeding along the river line and started the search for our resting place. In the near distance, we saw a secluded Karoo-boerbean along one of the slopes. After fighting our way through some Blue-bush on a path the animals carved out over time we reached the welcomed shade….and what a spot we chose.

As we started to settle down and get comfortable the dominant elephant bull made his appearance once again and started to have a good mud-spray session below us using a small warthog- wallow as his personal sunblock supply. After being satisfied with his efforts he slowly moved back towards the river line and disappears into the lush vegetation. We were not the only ones watching this amazing scene because just across the river from where we were the pride of lions was also finding cover along the thickets of the river line and preparing themselves for a good mid-day siesta. Now I’m pretty sure most will agree this is already a picturesque scene and one cannot ask for more….so did we, until a whole crash of rhinos started making their way across the grass flats to our east, it was clear they were on a mission as none of them wasted any time in feeding and all of them were moving with one common goal…mud-wallow time. As we lost visual of the rhinos moving towards one of their favorite pans we decided it was time to move on as well and seeing as they were heading in the same direction as us we agreed to follow in behind them and set up a new spot to view them while they enjoy a good roll around in the cooling mud.

We barely set off when we came across a boomslang male, his brilliant yellow and green body standing out boldly against the red mudstone cliff. Pied Starlings started to dive bomb the snake, pecking at his head and body and screaming profusely in an attempt to get his attention away from the hole in the sandbank. It is breeding season and they have got eggs hidden away in there. As valiant an effort as it might have been, with one of the starlings even following the snake into the hole, they had to abandon the fight seeing that the snake’s determination, unfortunately, exceeded theirs. Luckily these starlings are known to have no issues in laying replacement clutches and being early in the breeding season I am positive they will already have new eggs to protect.

So what is the purpose of me telling you about these spectacular events? The thing that stood out for us all is the realization that you do not need to go out and find nature, take a step back and let nature come to you. If you truly want to have memorable sightings in the bush then start to truly observe nature, don’t just look, but actually experience. Do not be just another radio jockey who jumps from one sighting to the next, without even trying to find any animals we had the most memorable couple of hours by just sitting in one place and observing nature, and not observing them reacting towards our presence, but observing them doing what they do without the presence of humans.

Stop being a visitor in the bush and actually take the time to learn how to become part of it. – Pieter

Hartebeest Bulls giving it horns!

As a Field Guide, we are fortunate to see amazing encounters between animals of the same species or even between different species. However, it is very easy to get wrapped up in just looking for “Big 5” animals and we tend to overlook incredible interactions that are unfolding right before our very eyes. Having just come from a Lion sighting with a small pride just resting in the shade during the warm hours of the afternoon, we managed to see two Red Hartebeest bulls both with tails raised horizontally. This was the very start of the powerful showdown we were about to witness. Suddenly both bulls moved towards each other and without any warning, there was a thumping butt of heads followed by strategic manoeuvring to interlock the horns and gain the leverage on his opponent. Once the desired position was gained there was brute force being applied as both bulls were trying to push the other and overthrow the opponent. The end result in was that the older bull on the left still had enough strength in him to teach the younger bull on the right a lesson but the key was his experience he had gained throughout his lifetime.

The biggest lesson to take out of this was the manner in which the students were truly fascinated by what they were witnessing and once again establishes the point of not to overlook what nature is providing us with. It might seem like an everyday occurrence at times to see Red Hartebeest, however, for the next person, it could be something special that brings a smile to their face.

Secondly, there are no shortcuts in life and when taking on an obstacle give it 100%, put your head down and go for it. Lastly, win or lose the most important is the manner of recovery. Quite often in life we all get pushed down but it is in the rise where character shows and the willingness to continue. – Justin

Please do not miss out on our Open Days in 2018. Meeting the team, viewing the facilities and getting more information on what to expect, really will make your decision to join us a very easy one!

2018 Applications are coming in fast and furiously! Please contact us to book yourself a spot ASAP!

Huge thank you as always to the students and staff for the incredible photos, videos and words of wisdom. Without your input, this newsletter will not be possible! Thank you for taking the time to enjoy our updates. Any positive feedback or comments are always welcome.

Until Next Time,

Candice and the Ulovane Team

 “Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in an office or mowing the lawn. Climb that damn mountain.” – Jack Kerouac


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