4 Week Nature Experience Wrap
Rosie, from England, was with us for her Apprentice Field Guide course 2 years ago and has recently come back to spend a month here on our 4-week Nature Experience. It has been WONDERFUL having her ‘home’! Lachlan is a guide from Australia, who has a superb account of what their 4-week Nature Experience entailed. Read on to delve right into the memories!
To be honest, I’m not sure how to begin summarising my experience here at Ulovane. When I arrived here in 2017, I could never have been prepared for the impact that it was going to have on my life. The people I’ve met, the places I’ve seen, have built memories that will stay with me for many years to come. It’s been wonderful to be reunited with old friends and to make new ones. Even so, it’s the smaller things that I’ve come to appreciate greatly; the thumping of a kudu’s hooves, the sound of the ocean when I wake up, the finest hairs on a giraffe’s nose and the call of a Cape Turtle dove in the morning.
As sad as I am to be leaving, I’m so grateful for the time that I have spent here. I have some other parts of my life that I need to start, but I’ll be back in South Africa as soon as I can.
As David Bowie once said,
“I wish I could swim like the Dolphins can swim. We can be heroes, just for one day”.
I have been lucky enough to spend the past 4 weeks at Ulovane Environmental Training gaining an insight into an amazing facility and joining in with the Apprentice Field and Apprentice Trails guide training.
I flew into Port Elizabeth after quite a long journey from Australia.
I got to start off with a tracking week where for the first two days, we spent all day on Amakhala Game Reserve looking for any and all tracks and traces! From millipedes to hares, to lions and elephants. We were even lucky enough to find a beautiful footprint from a honey badger (one of my favourites).
That week while the Apprentice Trails students were having class, I was able to join Piet, the Trails guide instructor, on his trailing assessment, where we spent the entire day tracking and trailing certain animals. By doing this you are able to see things through the animal’s eyes and for a moment put yourself in their shoes, or feet. I spend most of my days in the bush and this was by far one of the best days I’ve had in the bush. By the weekend it was time for the assessment where we were tested on what we had learned the previous week!
Somehow, I was able to surprise several people and managed to achieve a Level 2 of the International Cybertracker track and sign qualification. This is truly a credit to the level of teaching Ulovane provides! Especially Shani with the tracking.
For my second week, I joined the Apprentice Field guides for their mock assessment drives where I was able to see what they had learned over the previous 7 weeks. I was able to provide a different view and give some feedback which I hope helped them along. (I’ve been guiding in Australia for 8 years).
It was a fantastic week as I got to sit on game drives all day for 5 days!!
For my third week, the focus was birds where I had the privilege of spending a day out with Schalk Pretorius. When this man speaks you can’t help but listen to every word he says. I was like a little kid at storytime! While we were focusing on some of the amazing birds South Africa has to offer, we were also presented with an amazing giraffe encounter. These animals exude peace and calm and all you can do is watch in awe.
The knowledge Schalk was able to share is more than you can get from a book.
The next day I was treated to a full day out with Melissa who has previously completed a course at Ulovane and now works for them. We delved into my special interest and found some amazing porcupine and vervet monkey tracks; we saw some of the best views in South Africa and had one of the best encounters with a very cheeky elephant that I’m sure was teasing us and pretending to eat! We were also lucky enough (through Melissa’s knowledge) to see a pair of near threatened Lennar falcons!
The next day a few of us went with another instructor on an outing to Addo elephant Park where we competed with one other to see who could spot the most wildlife. I managed to spot an Addo flightless dung beetle of which I may have taken 50-60 photos! It was an amazing day with so many elephants I literally have no idea how many we saw; however, we were so lucky to see some very young baby elephants. Towards the end of the day through the knowledge of Justin our instructor, we were able to find a sleeping spotted hyena which, next to the dung beetles, was the highlight of my day! (Also, the kudu steak at lunch).
Next day was time to hit the road to Riet River and join up with the Marine guides at the beach! It was an amazing time walking the beach and assisting the students in identifying different shells, algae, weeds and other sea life.
I was also able to squeeze in some fishing time!!
On Sunday we took a quick day trip to a quaint little town called Bathurst where we had a nice lunch and had a look through some nice local craft shops. We also visited the big pineapple, apparently the world’s largest pineapple!
Next in store with the marines, we had a boat charter for the morning where we learned about conservation happening around Marine life in South Africa. We were also treated to an encounter with the most dolphins I’ve ever seen in one place, and many African penguins! That week, the students had some time snorkelling and viewing life in the tidal pools where I decided to be the photographer instead of freezing in the cold water!
Very early on Wednesday morning, being a bushman at heart, I left Riet River and made my way back to the bush at Ulovane. For my last few days, I joined on the Apprentice Field guides final assessment drives and was able to see how far they had all come from their first mock assessments. I am very pleased to say that they all impressed me, and I was treated to some amazing final game views before I, unfortunately, had to leave.
The students and instructors put on a delicious final meal and Melissa made a video of our time at Ulovane.
All in all, I could not have asked for a better four weeks at Ulovane (except for maybe more time).
I cannot recommend this place highly enough. With Schalk and Candice running the show and the team they have put together, far surpassed all my expectations.
What you can learn from them, you can’t learn in a book.
The things I’ve learnt and people I’ve met will stay with me forever and I know I will be back; it just can’t come soon enough.
“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.” ―
Marine Guides Week 2
You met Chiracq when he gave a wholesome account of his journey as an Apprentice Trails guide. He has been with us since the Apprentice Field guide course and is here to tell you all about week two of the Marine guide course in Riet River, in the Eastern Cape!
We started the week with a trip out to sea with ‘Raggy Charters’ visiting the St. Croix bird Island, where we saw Cape Gannets, African penguins, bottlenose dolphins and many more, but what stood out the most were the efforts made by the marine guides to try and help a Humpback whale which was caught in an old fishing rope. This piece of rope started to cut into the whales’ dorsal fin leaving it in agonizing pain. A guide from another boat grabbed a pair of flippers, a snorkel and a knife, and dove in after the whale to try and cut the rope loose but unfortunately, he had no luck; the whale was too fast for him alone, so they had to wait for a rescue team to come and assist. We are still waiting for an update on whether they were successful in removing it. Later, we went to go buy some fish, seeing that Francois couldn’t feed the family that day!
Brett from Woodbury lodge, came to join us for a snorkel this week, in a breath-taking rock pool in Kenton-on-sea. He taught us about being attentive to the sea in a different way; counting waves and how to have fun floating, drifting, watching spectacular critters going about their daily routines in their little habitat! Afterwards, he showed us a little tunnel through the back dune where the thicket begins, making our trip back to the car a lecture on coastal plants and shell middens. Once back at the beach house that evening, he showed us all the constellations and shared his knowledge on astronomy with us. Danike captured some incredibly beautiful pictures of the night sky, have a look and see for yourself!
In some lectures mid-week, we got a reminder from Shani that we have to work hard to be able to play hard, but the lectures were fun and it gave us a chance not only to discuss the work but also give our opinions about the topics at hand, as well as sharing some self-study knowledge with the rest of the group. It’s a great opportunity to be able to have discussion sessions like this.
We had a few days this week that began with beautiful early morning, sunrise walks. Thursday was one of these, where we were able to walk purely for the enjoyment of nature. We had some great discussions though on sharks, dolphins, orcas and many other fascinating sea creatures as well. We were lucky enough to spot two Cape Fur seals from our ocean view classroom!! They were great to see. We had to knuckle down on our workbooks this day too!
The next early morning walk towards the end of the week was used for learning new, as well as recapping on all our shell and plant identification skills. We had a braai to say goodbye to Rosie and Lachlan, who joined us for their ‘marine week’ of the four-week Nature Enthusiast course. The great thing about this four-week course is the chance to experience and explore whilst learning and helping the environment too! Both Rosie (from England) and Lachlan (from Australia) had amazing stories and experiences to share with all the students, motivating and giving us advice where it was needed. It didn’t take them long to fit in with the Apprentice Field or Marine guide families, and they will be missed by all of us!
The family at Ulovane would also love to thank Schalk and Candice for all the blood, sweat and tears they put into Ulovane and the students; you are wonderful people and you will forever stay in our hearts.
Lots of love,
Marine guides (Chiracq).
“The universe is an ocean upon which we are the waves. While some decide to surf, others venture to dive.” – Charbel Tadros