Marine Guides: Week 1
After a brief but well-rested break, myself, Wesly and Therien started on the first week of our four-week marine guide course in Boknesstrand, Cannon Rocks here in the Eastern Cape!
The first week was a real eye-opener for the three of us newly appointed marine guides. Our first day out on the beach we walked 8km to get to a beached humpback whale on the shoreline. It was magnificent and awe-inspiring to be so close (as you can see from the pictures!). Being so close allowed us to study the whale barnacles, as well as some whale lice. We then continued our walk along the beach to the Diaz Cross memorial which allows for an exquisite view of the Alexandria sand dunes.
Our next day was a more relaxed walk, finding shells and identifying them and learning many interesting facts about limpets and mussels. I even found small-spotted genet tracks on the beach next to some water mongoose tracks! That was a great find, and thanks to our tracking skills we have been acquiring since our Apprentice Field Guide course, we were able to recognise what they were.
Then came the day that we were going to actually get into the sea – the real watery day! Some of the marines had never been snorkelling before, so they got a few tips from others that had, and then we went down into the bubbles! We found a few zebrafish shoals and a three-spot swimming crab exoskeleton. The focus for the day, however, was algae and we found out about how many products have algae in them which was fascinating!
The week was coming to a close with a very exciting activity on the agenda; a boat trip out to sea with Raggy Charters in Port Elizabeth. We were all very excited about this, even though some were a bit apprehensive with the thought of possible seasickness! We had good weather though and a very calm sea. We saw a few of our bottle-nosed dolphins who were jumping around with one baby amongst them!! What a treat! We also had a few interpretations on African penguins and found a small pod of humpback whales slapping their fins on the surface of the water, which was unbelievably loud, but an amazing sight to see. After the boat trip, we visited SANCOB, Port Elizabeth’s sea bird rescue and rehabilitation centre. Recently, there was sadly a massive oil spill in PE harbour, so there were still some birds being rehabilitated from this spill that we saw. We watched how they cleaned them and saw all the new-borns, who look like little grey fluff balls, and we also learned how each individual is marked and data kept track of to determine who’s eaten sardines in the morning and who wants in the afternoon; which was quite a funny sight!
We had a weekend in camp at Ulovane, where we wrote our first exam for the course and then headed back to Bokknes on Sunday!
A great start to the marine course!
“All doubt, despair and fear become insignificant when the intention of life becomes love.” ~ Rumi
Field Guides: Week 8
The week before Assessment Drives!
We had a busy week with our slide and sound exam, field observation, tracking and S.O.P’s exam, which is a standards and operations procedure exam we must write and pass before we are allowed to do our assessment drives on Amakhala Game Reserve next week.
This busy week started off with an amazing day out to enjoy the reserve with our last mock drive. However, my favourite part of the week was the field observation and slide and sound exam. We first started with the slide and sound exam to test our identification skills of animals. The field observation was not what I expected; it was a really fun activity done with Justin wandering around Ulovane’s property to test our knowledge and test our skills of identifying anything from the sound and sight of birds to animal droppings and calls, plants and trees.
Our tracking assessment for the week was the real challenge. We had a perfect day for a tracking activity, with perfect weather and perfect tracks that our amazing trainers Schalk and Justin were able to find and test our knowledge on. Even though it was an assessment, Justin and Schalk interpreted each track after each person had given their answers, so we all learned a tremendous number of new things this day too. Our most interesting sign we found was an Aardvark digging as well as it’s droppings. It warms my heart to know that these great creatures still roam around, even though we don’t always see them. Tracks can be very complex at times to correctly identify, but that’s exactly what makes it so fun and exciting. The type of tracks and signs given to us were things that we would most likely have driven past or over-looked before this course began. The field observation and tracking have really opened our eyes, and it is amazing that once the eye is taught what to look for, the world comes alive even more! We take notice now of tracks and signs no matter if we’re on foot or on a drive.
Along with hard work though came a little fun too! We had goals on learning as much as we could about how to conduct a guided experience, so we had a couple of mentored drives to allow us to learn as much as we can. We drove in areas on Amakhala Game Reserve this week that were still new and as yet unexplored areas to us. The drives were fun and adventurous! On these adventurous game drives, we got to be with one of our favourite guides Melissa, and when we were out, we tried to capture as much as we can on camera in order to be sure to make the memory last. Things like standing at one of the beautiful look-out points on the reserve, or a coffee stop to get a group photo! We got creative and decided to try some recording too, which was a good laugh between us all, but memories to last a lifetime were made! It is the little things in life, moments like that, that you will never forget, along with everything else we learn here at Ulovane.
We were finally done with our workbooks which meant we were able to spend even more time outdoors. This week has been jam-packed with lots of practical activities and final assessments like our field observation, and slide and sound assessment. It was so fun to test our knowledge and everything that we have learnt so far. For the field observation, we walked on Ulovane Reserve and were asked questions on nearly everything we could see; it was such a beautiful day.
This week we also had our final tracking assessment where we were joined by Schalk and 3 of the guides from Amakhala, who were also testing their knowledge. It was great and very motivating for us still learning to see experienced guides who have been guiding already for at least 1-4 years, also furthering their knowledge! We spent the whole day out on the reserve, and we got through a lot of awesome tracks, some of which we had never seen before. We also had lunch out on the reserve which was great as we had all made sandwiches and were eager to fill our hungry bellies after burning off all that energy in the morning session of tracking.
Overall the highlight of my week was the tracking assessment because there were a lot of laughs and a lot of uncertainty at times, but we all had great fun and learned so much. On Sunday morning we had an incredible sighting of three lionesses chasing a warthog and then we sat with a tower of 12 giraffes nearby to us for almost an hour; it was magnificent!
Now we head into week 9 to prepare for our assessment drives and recap on everything we have learnt!
“Do one thing every day that scares you.” ―