Ulovane Update: July Semester Week 10

17 Sep

Marine Guides: Week 3

This week has been such a wholesome experience filled with all kinds of amounts of new information. Our eyes were opened to the good and bad facets of the ocean, thinking of all the years of being so scared of “aggressive” sharks, only to realise the aggressive predator is humankind.

Something that really stood out to me was seeing the physical differences in animals on the rocks of where people are able to go and then seeing the difference in the environment where humans can’t get to; it is absolutely shocking.

An almost indescribable feeling is being able to spend time snorkelling and observing life under the waves, in the calm of the blue waters here on the Eastern Cape coastline. The marine life passes you by; fish swimming along on their daily routines, seemingly without fear of us who come only to observe. The feeling I got was that I was almost one with the life down there.

This week, we had an incredibly fortunate sighting of an octopus! One of the most fascinating things for me was learning about it and how each of the eight tentacles has a mind of its own, literally. It is an extremely intelligent animal, but it only has a life expectancy of about one year. They use what are called chromatophores to change the texture and colour of their skin within seconds, for a multitude of reasons, be it to blend in to their environment to escape predators, or to ambush their own prey, to signal they are ready to mate, to show emotion; it is really quite fascinating!

I feel as though sometimes one comes to a stage in their life where a situation causes one to feel unhappy in a particular moment in time and all you wish to do is blend or melt into your environment so as to escape, even just for a little while, to cover things up; the octopus does much the same thing by releasing a black ink to show it’s discomfort or displeasure at the sign of a threat.

There’s a lot to learn out there. All we must do is open our eyes and look deeper than what is right in front of us.

The life that’s underneath the ocean surface is so vast and flourishing in most circumstances. I feel that these are the areas that humans can’t get to, so they don’t or can’t (thankfully) care to remove what’s there. Human greed is catching up with us, and we need to act fast to conserve what is left now before it’s too late. “There is plenty”, said everybody, until “there’s nothing left”, said nobody.


“The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul.” – Robert Wyland

Field Guides: Week 10 THE END!

After ten very busy weeks, especially the last one with the assessment drives, it’s time for me to take a step back and have a look at this fantastic Apprentice Field Guide course.

The first thing I want to share is that I enjoyed it from many different points of view. For me, being able to live in the bush and on a property bordering a game reserve for quite a long time was an amazing experience and I’m very happy to have had this opportunity. Living immersed in nature, with the elements, close to wild animals in a peaceful atmosphere was incredible. It has been like a balm for my soul. It helped me to reconnect with myself, to understand what is important in life and to stay in the present moment. Listening to the lions roaring from my bed to the black-backed jackal calling when I was studying in the classroom late at night or to have the visit of the Vervet monkeys in my bathroom, were all surprising experiences. I feel so blessed for that.

The last ten weeks were very intense and full of new discoveries. I started this course like a new-born discovering everything for the first time. For me, it was a totally new world. Every day I learnt something new and day after day I understood how much nature is incredibly perfect and every little living being or element has its own place and reason in this world. I started to see everything around me differently, taking note of every little insect, bird, plant, flower, stone, and respecting it in a different way than before. I particularly enjoyed tracking, in which I discovered a very new way in which I could connect with animals.  Thank you so much to our instructors for sharing their incredible knowledge with us! The two sleep outs were exciting moments too and the opportunity to get to know each other better was wonderful!

I met fabulous people on this course, instructors and students, all very different but with special and unique qualities. It was not always easy for me to live in a community, but I learnt a lot about patience and respect.

I want to say a special thank you to our instructors. Justin, our main instructor for this course, for sharing all his stunning knowledge with enthusiasm during the lectures as well as on game drives and thank you for his patience and wise advice.

Thank you to Melissa for her happiness to share her passion for nature and the nice game drives we had with her and the moments dedicated for sustainable living projects.

Thank you to Piet for the time he spent with us and for being present for my mock drive; the feedback he gave helped me not to give up! Thank you also for giving me the desire to continue with the Apprentice Trails Guide course!

Thanks to Shani for the interesting lectures and for sharing her love for the garden. To have her next to me for my first assessment drive was a blessing.

Thank you to Schalk for his charismatic presence at every moment, being with us or not. Thank you for his peaceful energy that helped me a lot to stay focused on my second assessment drive and to help remind me to enjoy it myself too! A huge thank you to him and Candice for making Ulovane, being alive and allowing all of us to experience this incredible adventure!

I never thought I would be able to accomplish all the different steps we needed to, and I’m very proud of myself to have been through this demanding process and not to have given up, even though I felt very discouraged at some points, especially with English not being my first language.

It is important for me to always give my best and I am so very happy to have accomplished the Apprentice Field Guide qualification.

  • Sandra

“The real gift of gratitude is that more grateful you are, the more present you become.”-Robert Holden

Throughout the 10 weeks, I have been here, I have learnt so many things and I have changed in so many ways, I feel like I have grown as a person and have become more mature.

The hardest week for me was week eight because we had all our final practical assessments like slide and sound exam and the field observation as well; that week taught me a lot about myself and how to cope with stress.

My favourite week was when we did animal behaviour because I learnt so many answers to questions I had about animal behaviour. For example, I always wondered why lions make this funny ‘smiling’ face? It is called a ‘flehmen grimace’, which is something a lot of male animals do to check the pheromones in the urine of the female to see if she is ready for mating. They do this by pulling back their top lip showing their beautiful smile, allowing the scent particles to pass through to the Jacobson’s organ, and then on to the brain to decipher the message.

I also really enjoyed the assessment drives we had in week nine. I did both my drives on the first day of assessments, and I passed them both, so essentially, by default only, I was the first person to pass which made me happy and very proud of myself. For the rest of that week, I was on hosting duty for my teammates. I surprised myself and my instructors too on the day of my game drives because I thought I would be unorganised and nervous, but I was actually very organised and prepared – even waking up at 4 am which is a feat for me! Once on my drive, I was surprisingly calm, a little nervous at first, but then when we saw some lions, which was one of my guests’ interests, I got into the swing of it and enjoyed the whole experience.

Final Group Photo

The last week had me finding the discipline for myself to study for our final exam on Friday. I am excited to write it and look forward to our awesome graduation ceremony afterwards. We have a lovely 2-week break ahead of us before we come back ready, excited and determined to do well in our Apprentice Trails Guide course!


“Don’t be pushed around by the fears in your mind. Be led by the dreams in your heart.”― Roy T. Bennett

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