In my last blog post at the end of the Trails program, I began by saying that time is warped at Ulovane. This one, I will begin by saying the Marine course is completed in warp speed. The 4-week Marine course passed in the blink of an eye (or maybe I could say without even the blink of an eye as there didn’t seem to be time for any shut-eye during the course). It was a 28-day full-on sprint from start to finish. It seems that I haven’t had a moment to reflect upon how to write this final post, much less what I will take away from the entire experience.
What can one say when they have reached the final day of a life-changing experience?
The words I write to summarize our time together at Ulovane will not begin to reflect the impact that these last five and a half months will have on us as individuals and on us as a group for the rest of our days. We have been together 24/7 for 160 straight days (a baby leopard would already have been born and nearly weaned in that amount of time). Needless to say, in those days we have grown together, had countless laughs, shed tears, fallen in love, shared stories and made more to tell, helped one another to succeed and picked one another up after failures. We formed friendships that will last a lifetime.
There were only 4 of us who continued on to the Marine program (a note to everyone that left us – you definitely missed out). Sun, Sand, Surf – how could it get any better? Don’t get me wrong, the marine program was a tremendous amount of work in a very compressed amount of time but it was worth it. 6 exams each week plus a week of assessments at the end – it definitely was a lot of late nights and early mornings. All of the hours with our noses buried in the books were offset by the incredible days exploring the Eastern Cape’s unbelievably gorgeous coastline.
Shani and Koen, thank you for opening our eyes to the marine environment and giving us a whole new world to explore. Before I began this program, the ocean was a playland that I would visit to surf, swim, and snorkel. Now it is much more awe-inspiring. From the little curiosities like lace animals and nudibranchs to the larger wonders of dolphins and whales, I am captivated. I have gained a larger appreciation for how vast and important the health of the marine ecosystem is and how important it is to our lives on land. I understand how people can be drawn to the mysteries of the oceans. Collectively, we know so very little about the diversity within the marine environment. Vast areas are waiting to be explored and discovered.
We all came to Ulovane for very different reasons, from very different points in life. Our paths likely would not have passed one another’s for any other reason than our shared love of nature and a desire to know more (and the luck of google popping up Ulovane in the results when searching for wildlife field guide training + malaria free + South Africa).
Thank you Ulovane for providing me with a wealth of knowledge and countless adventures that will remain with me for a lifetime, but also for introducing me to a group of wonderful people who I will always hold dearly in my heart. We are privileged to have had the opportunity to live and learn and grow. We are all scattered around the globe, having returned to our homelands, but a part of each of our hearts will forever remain in the Eastern Cape, with the people we shared this special time.
PS – For anyone reading this that is not from SA, the beaches here are absolutely magnificent. You can walk kilometers on the beach through huge sand dunes and past rock outcroppings and not see another person. And the Indian Ocean is warm – no wetsuit required. I came to South Africa for the animals, I will return for the beaches.
A word from the Ulovane Team
2018 has been a crazy year for everybody and Ulovane has been no exception to that! With 59 new students through our doors this year and our family growing with every nature lover that we cross paths with, we couldn’t be prouder of the successes of this year.
Our fearless leader, Schalk Pretorius got back from East Africa on the 20th of December after 2 weeks of training. An incredible opportunity for him and we are so proud of him and consider ourselves so lucky to have him as our leader.
A number of people’s time at Ulovane came to an end this year, and with the sadness that comes with saying “see you later”, comes excitement for their futures and all that they will achieve. We hope that everybody who joined us this year had an incredible 2018 and to everybody, a happy, healthy and prosperous 2019.