SGS College recently returned from their trip to the incredible Shamwari Conservation Experience, below is the diary entry from their first week – keep an eye out for part two next week!
Tuesday 26th May
Dan & Jacob
After our briefing of the area we loaded up the trucks and headed off on our adventure, tracking any animals we could find. First up “Pumbas” – and lots of them! Unfortunately we couldn’t find Timone. Hakuna matata! Shortly after, we found white-tailed gnu (black wildebeest) and impalas. After another short drive we found ourselves behind a male elephant that joined us at a watering hole for a drink.
We then found some lion tracks but no lions to go with them :(. We then travelled up a hill and posed for a group photo on top of the cliff. Whilst up there we found a southern rock agama that everyone crowded round to take a picture.
On the way down from the hill we found more impalas. Later on we spotted a lion lying by a fence at the Born Free Centre as we drove past, shortly followed by some springbok. Suddenly a flash of electric blue darted past which we found out later to be a type of starling. We then travelled up the side of a ridge where we expected to find a female cheetah and her cubs using telemetry but unfortunately we were unable to pick up her signal due to the layout of the land.
After that we slowly made our way back to base to find vervet monkeys climbing along the entrance gate. We then headed down to the canteen where lunch was being served: burgers and chips! After we had eaten we loaded up the trucks with machetes, handsaws and a chain saw and set out to kill some aliens (plants as opposed to real ones!). After chopping down as many of the alien pine trees we could, we headed back for a chicken and potato tea.
All the cool kids then relaxed playing card games in the corridor in our pyjamas, after which we all retired to our rooms for the night very much looking forward to tomorrow.
Wednesday 27th May
Charlotte & Ceri Ann
Today we headed off on the trucks at 8am to do some elephant monitoring, we aimed for a specific area and drove around the area for a while, the first elephants spotted were from a distance and on some higher land, the two elephants we spotted were the two males; Rolo and Rambo.
We carried on driving along where we then saw a few elephants followed by a heard of elephants situated around the corner, as a group we stopped the vehicles for about 20 minutes where we observed them and tried to identify which elephants were who, this was done by looking closely at the ears for any obvious cuts or marks. Between us we managed to identify a couple of the elephants but not all of them were recognisable until we got back to our accommodation where we could look at photos taken to correctly identify the right ones.
After observing and monitoring the elephants they began to move off in one direction together, where we began to slowly follow them before they headed off into the trees not allowing us to follow them any longer.
After monitoring the elephants we headed back to our accommodation for our lunch, after lunch we all got back on the trucks where we headed off to a neighbouring farm to cut down as many pine trees as we could, as a group we did well cutting down at least 10 trees. The weather was sunny and warm which made cutting down the trees more enjoyable, after doing so we then went back to our accommodation ready for tea.
To end the night we had an outdoor movie night where an old 1980’s African film was played on screen, the film was enjoyed by all.
Thursday 28th May
Charlotte & Ceri Ann
Today we went to the rehabilitation centre in the Shamwari game reserve. This is where wildlife from around the reserve (and occasionally from neighbouring reserves and farms) come if they are injured or need specialist care. The drive to the centre is approximately 1 hour from the reserve base; it is located in the south. When we got there we were given a talk and a tour by the manager of the centre. He talked to us about the poaching problems regarding rhinos in the reserve as they haven’t had any poached on Shamwari since 2011. Unfortunately they had a new addition to the centre on this day; it was a female white rhino that had been the victim of a brutal poaching. The rhino had been attacked by poachers and had both horns removed, from the bed of the horn. This was done by taking away the top section of the face of the animal to ensure that the poachers got the whole of the horn. The rhino was in a very bad state, with a large open wound on its face. The rhino is suspected to be pregnant, so the centre is doing everything that they can to ensure her survival and also make sure the calf survives.
We were given a tour around the centre; they had a very small selection of animals to show us, which is good as there are not many casualties in the area. The species that they had included a caracal, zebra, impala, kudu, springbok and white rhino. They also had bomas at the rehabilitation centre for antelope species. All of the animals apart from the rhino were recovering well and expected to make full recoveries and to be returned to the wild. We were at the centre for approximately 45 minutes; we then went back to the reserve.
After lunch we went to see all of the bomas that the reserve had for the animals that were outside of the enclosure. This included buffalo and also hippos. Whilst on the way to the hippo boma, we encountered two lionesses on the road; we stopped to watch them. Whilst we were observing, they began to hunt. We followed them to a group of warthog with several young; they stalked them all that way. Unfortunately they were unsuccessful as the warthog sensed them and ran off, but it was an amazing experience to watch!
To end the night, we were provided with a film to watch which was based on the history of the Bushmen. It taught us a lot about the history of South Africa and was very informative.
Friday 29th May
Amber & Georgina
Today the group headed off in the trucks to a local village in order to visit a day care centre and help out for a few hours in different ways. On the way to the village we stopped at a local shop in order to buy treats or other helpful items/necessities such as toilet roll, rice and maize meal. Everyone in the streets seemed really friendly as they waved at us and smiled.
We arrived at the day care centre and were given a quick tour around the building, we saw holes in the ceiling and even the roof, and it was heart breaking to see the condition of the place that they had to learn in. The sight of the damage was enough to make me want to help and donate in anyway. We were then led outside to their vegetable garden where we stopped and one of the teachers spoke to us. Cindy (our ranger) asked the teacher how much it costs for the children to attend the day care centre for a month and the answer was ‘R30’ for kids not in nappies (kids in nappies are R50) which are R1 a day. R1 a day is equivalent to about 0.06GBP (Great British Pounds).
The children inside the day care centre ranged from the age of 2 to 6 and were split into two different classes. Georgina and I ventured into the older kids class to help the with colouring and writing the letter at the bottom of the page which was ‘d’ or ‘c’ depending on the picture they had. I sat with a girl called Iminanthi (Im-in-an-ti) who was nicknamed ‘Nonolo’ and immediately started taking pictures with and of her on my camera, the smile on her face when she saw her picture was the cutest thing and it made me happy to see her happy. Cindy told me how to pronounce her name properly and I attempted to learn the other children’s names but unfortunately forgot them pretty quickly, I also told the teacher my name because I was asking her to translate different things for me. I then showed Iminanthi the other pictures on my camera from the previous days to which she eagerly pointed out the different animals in Afrikaans and I’d repeat them in English for her to learn. I pointed out the different people in the pictures and she repeated their names before moving onto the next photo. I showed another girl the photos too and the kids seemed very fascinated with the technology.
I headed into the younger kids room to see a few people from our group with them singing ‘Ring a Ring of Roses’ and teaching them the actions. I took a picture with them and then another as a group photo. Playing music for the children instantly made them smile and with a little encouragement they were dancing along to the music. We took them outside to play in the sun and on the playground, it was so much fun to play with the children and watch them having fun.
We got to donate the items we had bought for them then and the words of gratitude we got in response nearly made me cry. When we get back to England I can’t wait to start some form of fund raising for the children and their day care centre. I plan to use some of the photos I took today, and perhaps some from other people, to draw them when I start my art course next year and use them as an aid to raise money for them. We’re so lucky in England for the education we get and sometimes we forget what developing countries are like and how some people have to pay for their education.
After we enjoyed a lovely lunch of seasoned chicken wraps and potato salad, we got back on the Land Cruisers to travel to the neighbouring farm to check the camera traps that the rangers had put up a week previously. We were checking the cameras for signs of leopards or other predators. This is because the Farmers of the three neighbouring farms have reported leopard prints and there were a few sightings. The rangers wanted to confirm whether the leopards were established in a territory or were just nomadic leopards passing through.
We checked the first camera trap as a group; we also secured the carcass of a hare in-front of the camera trap in hopes that we can see a leopard taking the food. The carcass was secured so that the camera trap would definitely get the image of an animal as it only takes a picture every second when it detects movement.
For the second camera trap a small group which consisted of Mike (the ranger) Dan, Lewis, Levi, James and myself. Mike’s ‘Jog’ turned out to be a sprint and when we arrived at the second camera trap, to collect the data, I was feeling very unfit. The way back was sporadic ‘jogs” and walks.
After re-setting both traps we left to go back to the lodge and we will return next week to check the data collected.
The day was topped-off with macaroni and cheese with salad and hot chocolate. I decided to jump in the freezing pool after much cajoling from my friends. I declared that it was liquid England, due to a sudden and abysmal lack of judgment jumped back in going on the notion ‘it couldn’t have been that bad the first time’. I was very wrong.
Sunday 31st May
James and Louis
We woke up at the second site we stayed at which was a lovely rustic style setting where all the houses/bungalows were in a semi circle set up, went to breakfast in a building where an entire side of it was glass so that when the sun set it would illuminate and bathe the entire room with golden/orange light purer than the mid day sun back at home in the UK. The food that we were given included pancakes, porridge, bacon and other assorted cereals. After breakfast everyone played with the Alsatian a little bit before we left as it was the most ‘teddy bear’ like guard dog any of us had ever seen!
We then drove for about one and a half to two hours for a forty minute canoe session that was broken up by continual stops and a small snack type picnic with mars bars, toffee lollypops, juice boxes and crisps which was followed by a 200 meter bush walk.
Levi and the one of the guides (Thomas) fell in the river after trying to help people get out of the reeds, we then sat with them for ten minutes while we scooped all of the water out of the canoe. We took all of their stuff on to our canoe, as they fell in a little way down from the faster flowing areas it made it a very real situation and the two of us could see the two fatiguing in the water. After making sure Thomas was alright we pulled Levi in to the canoe and then Thomas climbed in after him.
The men that accompanied us (Stephen and Thomas) were absolute lads the entire time, making jokes and having fun, either laughing with or at the students (in a good way). It was definitely worth the R1000 we paid.
When we got to the other end of the river everyone sat down for a rest and as an opportunity to dry off before we got back in to the vehicles and sat in the car for a further 2 hours back to Shamwari.
When everyone got back we were all pretty fatigued from all the driving and the canoeing, we all went down for tea, which is usually a gift from god! Always with many flavours, smells and textures and always contain some sort of delicious meat.
After dinner the group split into separate groups and eventually went to bed.