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The Wilderness Within: Unveiling Personal Growth and Resilience

First Week Fever

Arriving in the Eastern Cape from the Western Cape was really astonishing and immediately I felt out of my depth. What lessened the blow and made me feel more at home was that there were two other students who arrived with me from the Western Cape and I felt like I had an impromptu friend group.

My most outstanding moment during the first week arrived in the form of spotting the herd of giraffes that make their home on Tanglewood Conservation Estate. The realization that I was here, so close to these majestic beasts hit me like a pile of bricks. I had an emotional reaction and felt a little shaky, not from fear but excitement. I had already observed the Impala, the Cape Mountain Zebra, even the lone Springbok yet somehow it hadn’t dawned on me yet that I was actually living this. It was a powerful moment for me. I had been so caught up in being busy with workbooks and studying for the exam that I forgot to realize that I was living a moment that I had not thought possible a mere two months ago.

Learning about the Geology of local surrounding areas was interesting as it differs so much from that of the area where I had grown up and spent most of my life. The history of the area, i.e. the Frontier Wars that was waged in the area was also an interesting fact to learn about. On our very first drive around the area, Schalk showed a musket ball that he had found along the riverbed and literally amazed me. It really made me wonder about what other relics might be found around these areas.

A budding new skill that I’ve been developing is bird identification through sight, behavior, habitat, and bird calls. This was not a skill that I particularly deemed necessary when I was working in factories and later on, in the hospitality sector. However I have grown to appreciate the wide variety of birds found that are found in this area of Tanglewood Estate and surrounding areas. Because of this ability to connect with nature, have actually been able to enrich my other senses of smell, hearing, and even taste. I can feel myself growing in this regard.

Personally, I discovered that I am still the good student that I have always been and that I have enormous potential. The thing that I can improve on is that I need to tap into this and need to motivate myself constantly not become too comfortable.

In conclusion, this first week has been a massive adjustment for me and has challenged me a lot, yet I look forward to the rest of the course. I am excited and enthused to go into the second week.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

– Benjamin Franklin

Second Wind

My outstanding moment for the week was exploring the area around Tanglewood and then traveling to Buffalo Kloof Reserve. Right after entering Buffalo Kloof, we were so lucky as to see a herd of male Cape Buffalo, a herd of TseTsebe, and two Bontebok, or what I call a welcoming committee. It really kickstarted our journey through Buffalo Kloof Reserve, which had so many highlights that I can’t put it all in here.

Honorable mentions were the respective white and black Impala that we spotted, the Sable Antelope, and the Cheetah female, who hid very efficiently from us. What blew my mind completely was seeing a herd of African Elephants while they were feeding before they headed to the lake. They were so majestic that I asked Schalk to just allow me to observe them for a while, which we did. It made me emotional looking at the calves who were being so playful and at ease with humans (us) nearby because it knew that the matriarch would be keeping a watchful eye out. Heart-warming and so relatable to how we as humans also are as children. Our experience at Buffalo Kloof Reserve ended off strong with a rare sighting of an African Harrier Hawk. Completely mind-blowing stuff.

My favorite theoretical component was easily Astronomy. I loved going on the night drive up the mountain face to look at the stars. Laying on the ground on blankets, observing the night sky and its spectacular show, will be a moment I cherish always. Observing the constellations and stars as well as the Southern Cross was awe-inspiring and left a massive impression on me.

In the same vein, being able to orientate myself using the Southern Cross at night, and the stick-and-watch method were so insightful. I implemented the method using the Southern Cross practically and I loved every moment. Astronomy was a very fun topic for me during this week.

My personal growth moment came when I realized that I needed to be more disciplined and meticulous. I have been curtailed by procrastination tendencies and I need to be more proactive in my studies.

 To sum up, I love being here and I can’t wait to learn more.

Ivanna Williams (Ashton Western Cape)

Editor’s Note: This course is the result of a strategic partnership between Wilderness Foundation Africa and Ulovane Environmental Training, with a focus on revolutionizing the guiding industry in the Eastern Cape. Through WFA’s Umzi Wethu accredited vocational skills training program, students are undergoing training provided by Ulovane. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Wilderness Foundation Africa and their accredited vocational skills training program, Umzi Wethu, for generously sponsoring four of our students. Additionally, we would like to acknowledge the invaluable support from the Community Conservation Fund – Africa NPC (CCFA) as another key sponsor for this course. We extend our sincere thanks to all involved for enabling Ulovane to make a meaningful impact on lives and contribute to our communities. Together, we are nurturing the next generation of exceptional Nature Guides and dedicated conservation advocates, one stride at a time.