Ulovane Update: Field Guides Week 8 and Marine Guides Week 1

28 Nov

Field Guides

This has been a week of mock assessment game drives, a sight and sound test,  practical assessment and the final written exams on Frogs, Amphibians and Fish. The usual Eastern Cape weather – very sunny one day and raining the next or even the same day, it keeps life interesting that is for sure. On Tuesday it rained so hard we went into the Conservation Centre for our coffee break, and met Nibbles the hand reared Kudu. She is very inquisitive and used to humans – so much so that it is time for her to move, so she has been paired up with a Sable in the south of the reserve – good luck Nibbles!

Tuesday was all about frogging, there is a simple pleasure about being knee deep in muddy water with a net and a cup. We found tadpoles in various stages of metamorphosis, and even a nest of an African Pipet in reeds in the centre of the pond.

So the eighth week has come to an end, and it has been amazing seeing the flowers come and go, and the spring young arriving.  One big event was the arrival of a young elephant calf – not the best photo but we were trying to give then some space. They took it on an incredible hike on its first day on the planet. We also finally found the giraffe female that we saw in the throes of giving birth a couple of weeks ago, and then waited several days before we managed to see the calf – which was a brilliant sight.  The impala and springbok young are starting to arrive, and it’s going to be very hard for some of us to return to a cold European.

  • Clare and Simphiwe

 “People Who Are Crazy Enough To Think They Can Change The World, Are The Ones Who Do.” – Rob Siltanen

Marine Guides

Our first week of the Marine Guide Course was wonderful and fascinating. The ocean is incredible, because you never really know what is actually happening in there. It feels endless and exciting and I love to learn about the weirdest and prettiest creatures.

On a boat trip, we got a glimpse of a humpback whale mother with her calve and at the end we were surrounded by Long beaked common dolphins and saw them jumping and swimming with the boat. They live in big groups and prefer to be in the open ocean and not near to the coast. It was a rough ride and I had to stare at the horizon against my motion sickness, but it was so beautiful.

After the boat trip we went to the orca foundation and were privileged to talk with marine biologists about the research projects they were leading and passionate about. Getting insight in their work in conservation was very interesting. One project concentrates on analysing the scat of the cape fur seal to be able to tell what they are actually eating and therefore being able to prove to fisherman, that seals are not a direct competition.

The humpback dolphins live close to the shore and like all dolphins around the world that live in very coastal regions they struggle a lot. They are very vulnerable to pollution through human activities, because pollutants are more concentrated in this habitat than in the open ocean. And like all marine top predators at the end of the food chain, they have huge problems with micro plastic. Micro plastic particles get eaten by fish, that store it in their bodies and the dolphin ends up collecting the stored micro plastic of many individuals.

On our beach walks we collect as much plastic lying around as possible, so it doesn’t end up in the ocean, where it starts to break up. But there is so much plastic in the world. Every time we wash our cloths (that are often made out of synthetic material) tiny fibres end up in the water and very often in the ocean.

We found a stranded octopus on the beach. We only found him, because we saw a guy on a beach walk filming him and walking on after some time. We were curious what it was, that he saw. I don’t understand how someone can watch that wonderful sea creature struggling on the land and not try to help. When we put him back into the water he was disoriented and tumbled in the waves. He immediately changed his colour from a sandy brown to red. It seemed like he caught himself after few moments and moved into deeper water. Often octopus die after they reproduced and took care of their babies, but I hope he made it.

One day we took canoes to get to a beautiful hiking path through the Knysna forest. I love forests and their light, colours and sounds and the walk ended at a waterfall. This environment is unique in South Africa.

On Wednesday a fellow student left us to go back home. It was lovely to spend some more days together with Martijn after our intense trails course. We experienced so much together and were so close at times. That is a beautiful thing at Ulovane – you really get to know people that you probably would never have met somewhere else and that are very different from yourself. And we all learned so much from one another and it hurts to part.

I am very happy, that he found what he was looking for and wish him all the best. I am sure we will meet again.

  • Maya

“Knowing Is Not Enough; We Must Apply. Wishing Is Not Enough; We Must Do.” – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

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