Ulovane Update: January 2020 Semester Week 9

18 Mar

Apprentice Field Guides

Rebecca has brought to you, her story of week nine of the Apprentice Field Guide course, which she joined us for all the way from Germany. She has worked in conservation for the last five years in Germany. It has always been a dream of hers to work as a Field Guide in South Africa.

The second last week! Everything is different now, as it is the week of our final assessment game drives. I already miss the ‘normal’ Ulovane, where our weeks were filled with lectures and game drives and all of us studying together. I miss them as I know they will never come back. From this week on, everyone has been busy with their own preparations and thoughts, but still, we help each other improving on our safari and animal knowledge.

Interesting facts are everywhere. People quiz each other about the animals you will most likely see during your assessment drives in every possible situation, whether it’s making coffee, eating, or busy with inside duty. This morning, as I was just passing by Simon, he suddenly asked me: “Did you know, that the dominant waterbuck male accepts up to three satellite males around them if they show submissive behavior”. I did not know, but now I do! I really like this way of memorizing things. Whenever I will see a waterbuck male, or talk about them in the assessment, I will think about Simon, my friend from the Netherlands, that is 14 years younger than me and that I would never have met if I did not come to this amazing place.

We all are now in charge and you can literally feel the excitement in the air. Luckily even though we are a big and pretty young team, we are a great one as well, looking after each other and offering help with all the preparations.  We have our ‘hosting’ teams too, who are at the lodge preparing coffee, cleaning up and preparing the lodge to receive the guests when they arrive and return from the drive, in order to practice how this situation would run at a real lodge.

Every morning, this hosting team which consists of the people that have their assessment drives the following afternoon, as well as the two drivers for the day, get up before sunrise to prepare. Like in a beehive they are everywhere, cleaning and tidying up whatever needs to be done before the guests arrive. The drivers make the last checks of their vehicles, checking the fuel and fluid levels, as well as giving it a wash too. It seems like “Sully” and “Theo”, our game drive vehicles, have never been washed that often!

It is interesting how different people behave in the last minutes before being assessed. Some can’t stop talking, whilst others just do not speak at all and become introverted. But there is one thing we all have in common when the guests are gone and the campus is “ours” again, we all laugh and share experiences from our drives. Good ones, the ones we find embarrassing and the ones we want to laugh about, but it takes a little more time to do so if you know what I mean!!

Those of us that have not had game drives during the day have already begun preparation for the last week, the week with our final theoretical test, the last thing to be accomplished! Some of us who were not hosting or driving, helped Ben, the landowner, with practical conservation work on Ulovane Reserve, of maintaining and fixing the roads. It was good to get rid of some pent-up energy doing this!

After nine weeks together we all are so close now, that I have already started missing my new friends when I realize, that there are only a few more days left. A few more days in our paradise. Then we all will be apart again, some will travel on through South America, or Tanzania, others will go home to Port Elizabeth, Addo or the Netherlands. Most of us will come back after a short break to fulfill the Apprentice Trails Guide course if the current Coronavirus situation allows it.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to do so now. But I know already that I will come back one day. And make new friends. The whole Ulovane-time is a big task, studying and giving guided experiences in a language that is not your first one; living close to almost 20 people, that surround you more or less all the time; driving on the left-hand side of the road, which means using the gear on the left side too.

All in all, I am already very proud of myself! I, for sure, grew a lot with all these tasks. These last two weeks are really emotional, as for me it is the end of a long journey. The Ulovane course was the highlight of my sabbatical, traveling and volunteering through Africa. So far it still feels unreal and the tasks of each day allow me to escape this reality. But when we sit on the porch overlooking the wonderful Amakhala Game Reserve during sunset, I start to realize, that this journey is at its end. But we all know every new beginning starts with another end.

I would like to thank you all for making this experience possible. It is a once in a lifetime experience with the potential to change your life.


“Sometimes in life, a sudden situation, a moment in time, alters your whole life, forever changes the road ahead.”― Ahmad Ardalan

Marine Guides: Week 2

Tyron has been with us for both Apprentice Field and Trails guide courses, and now he is here to share his experiences this far of week two of their marine course.

Week two began with a road trip to Port Elizabeth, where we went on a boat charter with the company Raggy Charters, in order to learn more about the marine life in our area and try to see the Indo-pacific bottlenose dolphins and African penguins. We learned more about the history of our coastline and how human interaction has affected marine life populations. We were fortunate enough to see Prince Edward Island where penguin populations are slowly increasing. At the beginning of the charter, we were indeed fortunate enough to see dolphins mating as well as jumping; unfortunately, the weather didn’t play its part though as it was a bit cold and rainy.

On the way back to Kenton-on-Sea we drove through the dune forests of Alexandria which was amazing as we got to see the forest and how tall indigenous trees grow in our area.

On Wednesday we went to ‘The Three Sisters’, where we walked on pristine, almost untouched land, and examined all the rock pools we could find to look for new species to add to our lists as well as observing smaller marine organisms in their natural habitat. The day was topped off by taking an hour break on the top of one of ‘the sisters’, where we sat in silence and observed the natural beauty of our coastline as the tide was coming in.

The next day we were fortunate enough to write some of our revision tests early and got to have another entertaining class lesson! On Friday we embarked to Middle beach to go do some snorkeling, which was all fun and games until we felt how cold the water was, at which time we decided to end snorkeling early!! We were allowed to venture into the Bushman’s river where the girls decided to have a swim in the river while the boys tried to do some fishing.

As it approaches closer to Sunday, we start our preparations for our tests. It has been an amazing week that has been filled with laughter and new knowledge. During this week we also all tried to give surfing a try but were humbled by the strong rip current! Unfortunately, none of us were able to stand up on the board.

We have had an amazing time so far on the Marine course and we wish it didn’t have to end. Attending this course has been surreal, I grew up at the coast and thought I knew a lot about marine life, boy was I wrong, the last 2 weeks has been a huge eye-opener and I am only now able to know and understand everything I saw growing up.


“Like the waves in the ocean, life changes every moment.”― Debasish Mridha

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