Marine Guides –
A final Goodbye after an EPIC 6 months
Final blog of Hannah, who has been with us on a wonderful six-month adventure, where she has grown from strength to strength in her journey here at Ulovane. She successfully completed her Apprentice Field and Trails guide courses and has just completed her marine guide course. Read on for more on her time here with us.
As my journey at Ulovane has come to an end it’s difficult to put into words my experience thus far. It all started in June with a bunch of strangers from different parts of the world, all coming together to achieve one goal. Within the first few weeks, we had already got to know each other and were getting into the groove of things.
On day two of Field guides we had an amazing sighting of the herd of elephants and by far one of the best Ellie sightings of the course. By the fifth week, we were having our hosting evening and getting a taste of what the hospitality world was like. We entered week six with our birding week with Piet and learned a whole new world of birds. Week nine and ten came and went by so quickly as we all took on our assessment drives. Our field guide 10-week course came to an end and we were all excited for the next journey!
Our Trails course started a week later and kicked off with a bang…well after a nine-hour lecture, it kicked off with a bang. As we all successfully completed our PFTC we moved on to ARH week, which was full of excitement, nerves, and tears. ARH week for me was eye-opening and a turning point in the course. It made me realize my potential and what I was capable of!
Week three came, and we embarked on our first walk. After our ninth encounter on day three we were exhausted and in complete awe. Our sightings on Trails were out of this world and will be remembered forever! Piet gave us an unbelievable experience and shared an immense amount of knowledge with us. Our three day sleep out started with a day full of sun and sweat but was all worth it when we reached our campsite. We set up camp and admired the silence of the bush and the beautiful view of the reserve. One of my highlights from Trails was sitting on top of a hill watching a journey of giraffe and a few meters next to them a herd of elephants.
As Trails come to an end, we all came together for one last goodbye and a farewell to our Ulovane campus.
Marines although short, was out of this world and filled with excitement and joy. Apart from jam-packed weeks of exams and workbooks, we had an endless amount of complete amazement. Our boat trip to bird island in Port Elizabeth was by far the most memorable experience during my time with Ulovane. Watching a pod of over 800 common dolphins blew my mind away!
Seeing animals in these numbers is hard to comprehend and gives you a good understanding of how powerful and strong nature is.
Learning over 50 shells and algae was a challenge but once you can identify them you can go out and know with understanding, what you are looking for. Shani gifted us our freedom to explore and at the same time taught us so much about the rocky shores and sandy beaches. As marines went by the bond between the students grew and we supported each other through the last stretch.
Here is a little video that the Ulovane Team put together of our last 6 months ~ What an amazing journey!
The marine course ended with much of tears and heartfelt Thank-Yous and goodbyes. It’s difficult to fit my whole experience into one blog but my time at Ulovane will be a journey and experience I will cherish. Thank you Ulovane!
Hannah du Plessis
Together we can face any challenges as deep as the ocean and as high as the sky. Sonia Gandhi
Apprentice Field Guides Week 7
What a week seven the Apprentice Field guides have had! Mikaela studied her FGASA theory on her own and chose to join the Ulovane family to complete her final practical assessments needed for her qualification. What a WONDERFUL account she has written of their adventures of week seven!!
The week started with a nice and early 4 am wake up for our sunrise chorus bird walk with Piet. Well…it was more like bundu-bashing through dense jungly thicket, but it was so worth it! The birds were singing their little hearts out and our surroundings were spectacular.
Mock assessment time has come around in full swing with Zolani sacrificing himself first (probably not by his own will). It was a great drive as we watched two black-headed herons stealthily catching scorpions and three baby black-backed jackals napping at their den.
On Tuesday morning it was Sheena’s turn to drive. The day before we were discussing how we hadn’t seen lions in quite a while. Low and behold, as we left Klipgat gate onto Amakhala, there they were waiting on the plains just down the road. We watched the two brothers slowly getting increasingly irritated with one another as the one was not allowing the other to mate with the female. He reached his limit, and a huge fight broke loose resulting in the brothers tackling and tumbling down the hill. Exhausted and sore, they surrendered to go lie down. Witnessing something like this just reminds one of the sheer strength that these animals have and that it is no wonder they have been deemed the King.
The excitement did not stop there! Straight after that, we joined a sighting of a red hartebeest that had just given birth. We watched as she ate the afterbirth and cleaned her baby. Within only a few minutes the little one stood up and, with a slight wobble, trotted along with mom to be introduced to the rest of the herd.
The nerves were up when we got back to camp to write our birds slide and sound exam for which we had to identify 40 birds by their appearance and call!
Afterward, we could all enjoy a relaxing drive (well maybe not so much for Francois as it was his turn to take the wheel). We saw a wide variety of plants, birds, and animals with a beautiful scenic coffee break to end it off. These mock drives, as daunting as they can be, are so beneficial as we get to learn from each other’s feedback to get a good idea of what is expected to pass our final assessment drives.
On Wednesday afternoon, Anathi took us on a drive. We found the naughty elephant bull that had broken into one of the camps on the Reserve, two days before and had finally been chased out. He seemed unimpressed that he was eating his normal food again… daydreaming about the heavenly plants that had been untouched by other browsers in the camp!
Anathi then drove us to our spot which we were going to camp out and sleep at on Amakhala Game Reserve!
About 500m from our camp, we were stopped dead in our tracks by big old dagga boy and his two younger followers. The three buffalo bulls seemed rather relaxed but had created a bit of tension among our group.
To add to this, it had been a quiet day for sightings over the radio with the whereabouts of certain animals being unknown. However, the last call in that morning for an elephant bull was in the next valley and the lions had been spotted not too far away… Sleep tight everyone!
Our camp was beautiful! It was almost a complete dome of huge trees and vegetation, sheltering us from the chilly breeze. We were welcomed by a warm fire and our guides, Piet, Justin and Adriaan, with their rifles in hand. After stocking up on wood, we put some food on the fire, played games, had great conversations, and had many, many laughs.
As darkness slipped in our team slowly made their way to their sleeping bags. The buffalos taunted us the whole night, feeding around our camp, giving themselves away with only the slightest snort or the snap of a twig, keeping the night watch pairs and our guides on their toes.
After very little sleep we headed straight into our tracking assessments at 6.30 am where Piet and Justin marked off different tracks or signs of which we each had to identify. Any signs could be asked such as dung, spoor (including if it was left/right, front/back or if it was walking or running), wallowing signs, or territorial markings. Tracking is like solving a mystery or putting the puzzle pieces of a story together. It’s so fascinating!
40 signs later, a group of zombie field guides on the back of Sullivan headed back to Ulovane. But luckily Jacques, our amazing chef, revived us with a delicious feast and even some dessert!
The last day of the week and the keen birders are refreshed and ready for Big Birding Day! We set off, with Melissa and Piet, on a mission to beat the last record, driving all the way up to Kenton-on-Sea, stopping at many spots along the way. We had a stroll on the beach and lunch at Bushmans Pub and Grill. By the end of the day, we ticked off 103 species with some highlights being the African paradise flycatcher, the Long-crested eagle, the Knysna turaco, Red-fronted tinkerbird, Long-tailed widowbird, and the Amethyst Sunbird.
We popped in to say hello to the Ulovane family at Intaka and explored their gardens and aquaponics vegetable garden. To say that the drive home was a cold and windy one would be an understatement. Everyone went incredibly quiet at the back of Sullivan, huddling together, mummified in blankets, scarves, and jackets. But overall, it was an absolutely outstanding day!
After a jam-packed week, it’s time to hit the books for the exams over the weekend. Good luck everyone!
The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do. – Kobe Bryant