Ulovane Update: April Field Guides & May Marine Guides

04 Jun

Marine Guides Week 1

Our marine guide course started off on Sunday afternoon when we left the Ulovane campus and moved to a beach house in Riet River, which will be our home for the next four weeks. It is a beautiful location with a great view of the beach from the house!

Our first day was a relaxed start and good beginning to the rest of our stay here with an introductory talk and an orientation walk along the beach, and in the afternoon some of us needed to go and get supplies from the nearby town of Port Alfred.

Monday night, however, it rained very hard and this continued until Tuesday late afternoon. Therefore, we decided to stay inside on Tuesday and do a few lectures and discussions. In contrast to the Field Guide course and the Trails Guide course which has pre-set programs, the Marine Guide course is very variable as it is extremely weather dependent. Thus, if it is too windy, rainy or any other extreme condition, we stay inside and spend time studying and identifying shells and other stuff which we find on the beaches. And if the weather is nice, we go outside to explore the area and for activities such as fishing, snorkelling, surfing, beach clean-ups and beach walks. The time is always well spent indoors as there is a lot to learn and absorb in four weeks.

Wednesday we went for a long beach walk to the rocky pools and especially focused on identifying different species of algae and seaweeds. On the way towards the rocky pools we walked along the seafront and, on the way back, we walked through the dunes. This was actually very shocking as we encountered heaps of plastic and other rubbish. Most of us have a lot of knowledge about the impact and problem of plastic on the environment as we have learnt that at school, however, it comes with a very different feeling if you see and experience it in real life. This particular part of the dunes is not often visited by tourists nor locals; thus, the rubbish has not directly been dumped there, but instead, the rubbish has been washed onto the shore from the ocean!! It is shocking to think about the amount of plastic that is floating around and to realise how much impact humans have. We all worked together to clean up as much as possible and to dispose of it in an appropriate manner.

Thursday was amazing (for most of us). We had a day trip, going out on a deep-sea boat to the St. Croix island, which is just off the coast of Port Elizabeth. On the way, there were saw multiple pods of the Indo-pacific bottlenose dolphins and on the island itself, we saw many of the African penguins. On the way back we saw even more penguins which were out fishing in the ocean. They are such beautiful animals. The sea was rough though, so a few got very seasick…, making the trip far less enjoyable for them. We finished the day with dinner at a Japanese restaurant in Port Elizabeth before heading back to our beach home.

Friday started off on the beach again, spending all morning outside, fishing and harvesting some mussels. Also, we saw some dolphins swimming along the shore, which we could admire from the balcony of the beach house! Amazing. In the afternoon we had a lecture on the ecology of marine environments. Did you know that corals are actually living animals? And that kelp (a type of seaweed) grows up to 35 meters in height?!

 After a first week full of fun activities and studying hard, Friday evening ended with a social evening on the beach.

On Saturday morning we went snorkelling at a beach in Port Alfred. The water was cold, as winter is really beginning to kick in, but nevertheless, it was nice to get into the water and to observe some of the fascinating wildlife which we have learnt about this far. The rest of Saturday we prepared ourselves for Sunday morning’s exams.

A great start to our marine guide course!

  • Francois and Tamara

By discovering nature, you discover yourself. Maxime Lagacé

Field Guides Week 8

This last week was an exciting, different, and fun! There was a group of American students from AAEC college in Arizona who came to visit our campus at the beginning of the week, so our field guide group got to go on a field trip of our own to Mansfield Private Reserve for a few days.

Our journey to the reserve on Monday was a relaxing start with a stop in Kenton-on-sea to stock up on grocery supplies, and then we got to stop off at a beautiful beach in Port Alfred to have some fun in the sand and sea for a bit.

Before we got to Mansfield, we had lunch at a place called ‘R72 Saloon’. It is an American themed restaurant with a massive burger weighing 2,8 kg!!! Some ate a quarter, others half; I went for 3 quarters but could not manage it, however, one of our fellow students (Jamal) somehow managed to eat an entire burger! Even though I loved the whole week, this stop was my highlight because it was so good to be together as a group and let a bit of the stress off and have fun all together.

Mansfield was a nice place, but it’s different from our home at Ulovane. There, we stayed in tents of sorts overlooking parts of the reserve and the river.

We spent most of our first-day fishing and playing football and in the evening, we played a fun game called ‘Spot the lantern’, where our instructor would have a spotlight looking for us and we would hide and try to get to another lantern without being heard, to win.

The next morning we had a plan to go walking in the reserve, but it started raining the night before and it was still raining the next morning, so we had to change plans for the day. After some class time, some of us went fishing as the rain had subsided, and Justin our instructor, caught a Pufferfish, which are not safe to eat and have some really sharp teeth, it was very interesting to see!

Amongst the fun and games, we also still had lessons and our slide and sound exam mid-week on Wednesday. Later in the evening, we drove to Guido’s for dinner, where we had pizzas, steaks and ribs for mains and Mississippi mud cake, Strawberry cheesecake and Malva pudding as desserts. It was a fine evening with fun had by all.

Thursday was time to head home to Ulovane, with one final test to write at Manfield before we left.

The route we took home allowed us to stop at the ‘Karel Landman’ monument, a part of the history in this area. We took some great pictures of us looking like we are lifting the globe. The name of the road that runs through the reserve itself was named after this monument.

Our Field Observation Assessment took place on Friday morning on Ulovane Reserve. We were given 50 questions about anything Justin saw, from bird identification by sight or by sound, plant identification, arthropods, mammals and tracks. Everyone passed this test! The tests we wrote this week showed me how important it is to continually go over everything we learn because sometimes the finer details can be forgotten. I feel I especially benefited from the recap on knowledge of dangerous game animals.

The weekend had us on our final model game drives before our own assessment drives start next week already! We had some amazing sightings and even got to see 6 otters and a set of Aardwolf tracks – both very special things to see!

Learning things theoretically is good but one also needs the practical side of things. At Mansfield, we did a lot of fishing and I finally learnt how to remove scales and how to rinse a fish. I fish sometimes back home in Sweden, but I don’t think I’ve ever done the dirty work after I have caught a fish!!

  • Oscar

People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built. Eleanor Roosevelt

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