As crazy as this year has been, I had the most wonderful time at Ulovane, and I couldn’t have asked for a better place to be.
After living in the bush for many months and seeing and studying all the incredible things from termites to elephants every day, the ocean was calling and it was time to learn more about the amazing place where most of the oxygen we breathe comes from.
Marine life has been very new to me. At the beginning of our first beach walk, all I could identify was the difference between sand, pieces of shells, and algae. As the walk continued, I realised how diverse the marine life is. I saw that algae come in many different kinds of colours, shapes, and sizes and that shells are not just shells, but different amazing creatures with different purposes. But this was only what we could see on the beach, and not even what is found in the ocean.
In the following days and weeks, Schalk taught us a huge amount of new things and he created a fabulous time for us with many different activities. To learn what was going on in the ocean, we went snorkeling a couple of times. It was very interesting to see a variety of fish and even a fish on a kill, as well as other animals, from sea anemones being attached to rocks to a sand shark swimming underneath me.
Another great experience was a two days canoe trip we did including a sleep out next to the water. We paddled up the river and were surrounded by fish swimming in the water, wading birds foraging on mud banks, and raptors trying to catch prey. And we even saw elephants in the distance walking on the plains. It was just incredible being on the river, as it puts you in such a calm mood while you observe the environment and take in the sound of nature.
THANK YOU RAGGY CHARTERS!
Probably the most special experience for me was the full-day boat trip to bird island in Port Elizabeth with Raggy Charters. It started with different sightings of a Bryde’s whale not too far from our boat and it was amazing to see how big these animals are. Then we continued to a small island with many Cape Fur Seals. They made such a noise and it was very interesting to listen to them communicating with each other, as well as observing different behaviors. When we got to bird island, I couldn’t believe the amount of birds I saw and heard. There were about 150.000 Cape Gannets sitting, flying, feeding, and making the loudest noises.
Then the most fantastic thing happened on our way back. The scenery with the sand dunes was already stunning. Then we saw a few dolphins swimming around our boat. Before we knew it, we were surrounded by 400 dolphins. First, I didn’t even know where to look as they were everywhere. There were mums with their babies. Other dolphins were jumping and playing and giving us a spectacular show. It was a very special and magnificent moment to experience.
In the last week, we did a bit of tracking on the beach. As much as I love tracking in the bush, following the tracks and signs of marine life is very exciting as well. I realized how much I’ve learned in such a short time and how amazing it is that walking on the beach now is more than just feeling the sand between your toes, but is actually understanding what the different animals are up to every day.
I’m incredibly grateful for the different opportunities Ulovane has given to me. I’ve experienced the most wonderful moments, gained many new skills, and also learned a lot about myself. I’m ending this year here at Ulovane where I started it and I’m taking with an insane amount of new knowledge ready for a new exciting year to come.
HUGE thank you for this absolutely amazing year to Schalk, Piet, Candice, Tatum, Jacques, and to everyone else from all over the world I had the honor to meet and spend the most fantastic time with!!!
The Earth is a complex, fascinating place. From its vast oceans to its towering mountains, arid deserts, and lush forests, the beauty and wonder of our planet is truly staggering. – Michael Bright