The Students from Askham Bryan College recently returned from their trip to the Shamwari Conservation Experience – Have a scroll down to see what they got up to!
Day 1 – Composed by Wesley Agor-Bell
Today was *bare cold! We saw two nocturnal animals for the first time. A jackal hydrating in a muddy pool of water and a spotted thick-knee. We were blessed to be about 10 meters from 3 white rhino who stayed in our immediate vicinity for enough time to receive the paparazzi treatment, then the alpha bounced off and his gang followed. Our guide, Chanel educated me about the differences between elephant and rhino faeces, but I didn’t manage to retain the knowledge. As we rode in two separate vehicles, we don’t always bear witness to the same visions, for example, one group clocked a massive leopard tortoise and the other (mine) did not.
15 AFRICAN ELEPHANTS MAN!! At first there were 5 bulls yonder, *manaman had to use maximum zoom to *pree them, then they disappeared into the bush. Then literally a couple of minutes later on the steepness of a bushy hill another 10 elephants including a few calves graced us with their magnificent and intimidating presence. As if to magnify and highlight the occasion of seeing our first elephants, the sun ripped through the rain and soggy clouds and painted the reserve with its fiery beams and the flora and elephants became extra vivid through our lenses, organic and digital.
I’m actually not recollecting the day’s events in order, but I’m tired so deal with it yeh? Bless.
London slams and colloquialisms:
*Bare: meaning very/much/a lot of
*Manaman: plural of man e.g. men or people. Example, “manaman going out tonight!”
*Pree: to view/look/see for example “can I pree the menu please?”
Day 2 – Composed by Lorraine
Great day today, started off by doing road maintenance, we drove through the reserve looking for a spot to collect rocks and stones of various sizes, on our way to this spot we spotted an abundance of different species which included kudu, warthog, springbok, giraffe and zebra – AMAZING
We all filled our buckets with suitably selected rocks and then filled the truck till we were almost overflowing and moved on to find a part of the road that needed fixing. The roads are more like dirt trails so a lot of off roading is needed which makes the whole experience more fun! We found a spot and offloaded the rocks and tools and we were set to work. The holes in the road were full of rain water so we emptied the water using the buckets and then packed rocks in using sandstone and rhino dung to help them set, others helped by cutting down needle plants and boy did they have needles, ouch! We ran out of rocks pretty quick so made another stop to collect more, upon loading the truck we notice a group of zebra had come close and had been watching us, again amazing and surreal!
Once we had finished road maintenance we drive back for lunch before heading back out for black rhino spotting
A very bumpy ride on our way up the mountains to find black rhino. We came across a cheetah sunbathing in the open space with her older cub, spotted by Chanel, our ranger. A fantastic spot as she was completely camouflaged in the grass and quite a distance from us so binoculars were needed and a major zoom 😉
Once we had finished watching the cheetah we continued on with our journey before stopping quickly to notice a male lion laid right on our path, how lucky are we?! Two predators in one day, words cannot describe! The lion was a little upset with us at first so we had to sit tight and turn the engine off, nerve racking… but he soon accepted us and settled down before wandering off to start a hunt… we followed him but he gave up and just wandered off into the bush, I could not believe how close we got to a male lion. 3 meters between us and the king of the jungle!
After this the animals just kept popping out, more giraffe, zebra and a bull elephant, again all within meters of the truck! On our way home we spotted 3 white rhino another amazing species, so peaceful.
We headed back for dinner where we all shared our stories with the other groups, still buzzing from today’s events! Once we had all freshened up we settled down to play some games and finished the night off watching a movie, Jurassic World.
Day 3 – Composed by Lauren
It’s Friday!!!! Which means lie in till 9 o’clock followed by an amazing full English breakfast. It’s just felt like being back at home, bacon, mushrooms and egg – everything you could ask for just to start your day.
Once we were finished we all met in the lecture room to find out our teams for treasure hunt 😀 this was amazing for me because I felt like a child again exploring around the area discovering new and exciting things. We had to collect a list of items anything from sectors of plants, bones and dung from different animals. We also had to take photos of a variety of birds and mammals and discover what species they were. We also learned what symbiotic relationship was and how different plants and animals use this to benefit their survival and to finalise everything we made a PowerPoint of our findings.
We then had lunch which was a variety of sandwiches suitable for everyone. They were delicious and you didn’t need any more.
After that we ventured out on the main reserve to identify different birds for the South Africa association so they can analyse the different populations and find out where and why they are more popular in different areas.
We got back just in time for dinner which was rice and curry sauce. Also the winning team of the treasure hunt got a vanilla sponge cake which we all shred and it’s was delicious. I can wait for fun tomorrow 🙂
Day 4 – Composed by Wesley
Change of plans, embarking on the zipline/Segway trail adventure instead of whale watching ‘cos of uncontrollable circumstances’. Some of the group opted out.
I feel tethered to my companions, but my minds in isolation right now. Writing ‘Afrika’ on the windows condensation in various styles with my fingernail only distracts me so much from the life I left in England to escape. Rosie is sat adjacent to me, she smells nice. Amy just realised she doesn’t know jack about the GoPro camera she has brought along haha. Oh and it’s battery is outta juice, peak times.
Enter Tsitsikamma National Park!!!
First on the agenda…zip lining! There were some cool weaver birds doing their thing in beautiful nests precariously hanging from two fragile tree stems. Man was impressed. We got fitted and strapped into buckles and metal before the operators began introductions and health and safety.
Manaman just done the zipline ting! 8 ropes in total, exhilarating! One of our gang, Alex HAD a fear of heights. Yet this geezer went first FOUR times and conquered his fears and anxieties so we are all proud of him. Big up Alex for having the esteem and bravery to try something new. Our guides, Curtis and Lionel were gents and had jokes with us. I got to fit in a bit of cultural exchange with Curtis. KNOWLEDGE SON! Everyone wanted to do bare more rounds but time waits for no man and is of the essence.
We’re currently driving to a restaurants and I’m gassed because venison is on the menu. The man dem are getting big steaks you get meee! Everyone can’t wait to munch still! Afterwards we’re reaching a Segway trail, I swear I got no qualms manning any vehicle. I like the company I am in. Honestly, I love being in the company of all these ladies, shout out to the gyaldem.
Next up was the garden route national park. We parked outside the Cattle Barron restaurant (Where we would eat an ample sufficiency, situated on the Swartif/Skietklip Coast) everyone enjoyed their munch, Alex destroyed his steak quick time boy!
Day 5 – Composed by Alex
Today we went whale watching at Algoa yacht club with a company called Raggy charters. We went to an island inhabited by Africa penguins and although there was plenty, their numbers have reduced by 66% due to over fishing. On the return to Port Elizabeth Sam spotted some Indian bottled nosed dolphins and we spent about 20 minutes taking videos as that was all the company permit allowed.
Next we had lunch at the yacht club and Alex was a complete pig and ate 3 meals. The afternoon was spent at Duncan park and then at a market selling local art and carvings as well as clothing. We got back to Shamwari around 5:40 where most of the group watched Maze Runner 2 and The Martian before going to bed.
Day 6 – Composed by Angela
AM is alien plant management
The day started with the 4 jokers Amy, Alex, Lorraine and Sarah rushing to the back seat of the truck to get the bouncy roller coaster ride as we went over the many pot holes. Steph got out to demonstrate her expertise at opening the gate that has flummoxed everyone each time. It was a short ride to the spot that needed clearing. The alien plant is prickly pears which is taking over the landscape. We get to wield pick axes and machetes which is quite fun.
After 2 hours we had a tea break with homemade biscuits (yummy), the cooks never disappoint and always spoil us with their great cooking. We are now heading back for lunch just in time as we’re all starved after a hard mornings graft.
PM Predator tracking
On our way to their last known location of the cheetahs we saw not one but two families of elephants with youngsters and a lone male.
Even with the tracking device we did not spot any cheetah which is a bit sad but a least it’s a Monday and we all get barbecue and some dessert when we get back so happy days.
At 3.30pm Rosie spotted a family of white rhino whose horn had not been shortened and it was amazingly long and sharp looking (still no predators, on the lookout for lions now) at 4:17pm another white rhino group spotted and this one had the cutest baby.
Day 7 – Composed by Sophie
Today we started by going to collect rocks, this was because we were going to do the dreaded road building again (which again was fun after all) we collected heaps of rocks and filled the van with them in the hope to only have to make one trip for them (didn’t happen, we had to go and find more). We then headed back to the place we started on the road the week before and we got straight to it.
Half of us were packing the rocks and various poo we could find into the ground to make the road flat, the others were busy chopping down and injuring themselves with the horrible spikes bushes which began growing into the road which made you have to duck down every 10 minutes when driving to avoid getting a full face of spikes! Once we had finished our road we made our way back and had some lunch.
After lunch we headed to a different area where we met a man called Andrew, he was going to show us how to shoot guns so obviously he had everyone’s thorough attention as we’re all excited to do this. At first I wasn’t sure whether to do it but I’m so glad I did because it was a brilliant experience and very fun. We spent about an hour and a half there if not longer which was great but it was so hot and sunny so I think we all got a cracking tan. We had a 5 round on 2 guns, shooting bull’s eyes and metal cans and 1 round on different gun that was everyone’s favourite because it was so strong, so now I think I am a professional and want a gun!
After our shooting experience we all came back for tea as we definitely worked up an appetite. Overall today was brilliant; I’m loving every minute of it!
Day 8 – Composed by Sarah D
Today we went to the local community, Paterson. While we were there we helped out in one of the nurseries which was quite poor compared to others in the area. We helped the children with arts and crafts and other games such as tennis and football. I really enjoyed going to the nursery as it was lovely to be able to spend some time with those who aren’t as fortunate as us, and it was a huge eye opener for a lot of us.
After the nursery we drove up to the north side of the reserve and a stop with a lovely view for lunch, while the sun was shining. Then we went to one of the 5* lodges and identified some plants on the small nature trail so that they were able to update signs, plants included prickly pear, wild olives etc…
On the drive back to our accommodation we spotted quite a few animals, first off we saw three black rhinos including a calf (which was a first for our time in Africa) also a male lion who we were told was released into the reserve with his brother at the beginning of the year and finally just before leaving the reserve we came across a herd of elephants.
Day 9 – Composed by Courtney Betham
Born Free day today. Before we headed out to the Born Free Centre an early awakening was ahead of me… 7.30. Missing breakfast gave me that half an hour lie in. Then it was 8.15 we were all roaring, get it, to head off to the born free centre. After the breezy drive up there we were greeted on arrival by Glen, a born free staff member. There was never a boring moment with Glen as he was always cracking jokes and making us laughs. Even the introductory talk was a barrel of laughs. When he spoke about born free he told us the hard truth that these big cats may not be happy, there’s no guarantee, however they are provided with three much needed things; food, space and mates. However from my perspective all the cats looked stress free bar one big cat, Sinbad but I’ll get to his story later on. We were all hoping it would be a feeding day for the cats however it was the day they miss out to mimic the feeding regime in the wild. The way they work the feeding is they feed one day and miss out the next. Depending on what the vet recommends and the condition of the animal determines how much they get fed. The lions and lionesses get fed up to 10kg of meat and the leopards get fed 3kg of meat. The reason for the difference in amount is not just because of the size difference. The leopards were all castrated so that instantly made them gain weight so they can’t be over fed.
So we started the private tour after the initial introductory talk from Glen. He asked us if we wanted to be treating like staff or like guests. The group chose to be treat like staff and believe me that was the better option. We were took behind the scenes literally, right the way around the enclosures with only inches between us and the cats; the fence was between us of course. We first saw the enclosures they use to feed and carry out veterinary procedures on the cats. After that we walked along the enclosure with two cats called Marina and Brutus. Marina was an absolute stunner, she carried herself with so much grace and my God she was a poser! Marina loved the attention. She came from someone’s apartment and honestly she looks very happy in in her born free home. Marina nearly died when she came to born free as she had serious issues with her digestive system. Brutus was a big boy with beautiful black man. Since he came from a circus he associated men with pain so this mean he wasn’t too keen on the male gender so he was a tad on the grumpy side. Photographs taken, we moved to the next enclosure which held 3 leopards who came to Born Free from an army camp being used as a sort of guard dog. Instantly two of them were intrigued by a swarm of people and came up to the fence curious to figure us out. They were rolling on their backs and rubbing themselves up against the plants, truly spectacular. As we walked down the enclosure to locale the final leopard the two others followed us all the way down; mainly because they got excited to see Glen that feed them. At the bottom lay the final leopard so chilled and relaxed seeing all of us didn’t bother it one bit. Nearing the end of the tour we walked along to the enclosure with 3 cats in: Simbad the lion and Maggie and Sonia the lioness. Simbads story is one that will tug on your heart strings. He was fed on scraps in his old home which made his body take a turn for the worst. He’s half the size of a normal lion and because of his poor previous diet he had a nutritional disease which stopped him from walking normally, he was permanent unbalanced. Maggie and Sonia came from a circus that had run out of money. Sonia was the most dominant of the 3. Maggie lost her tail in her old home. It occurred when she was walking in the enclosure and they released the metal shutter down on her tail. Last but not least the two white lions whose names have escaped my mind. However these were captive bred for captive breeding so they know nothing of the wild. The lion lay flat out absorbing the rays on the other hand the lioness was not so laid back. She wasn’t liking the large crowd so we didn’t stay for long. And that was the end of the unforgettable tour. Saying bye to Glen we headed back for dinner and soon headed back out to visit the anti-poaching team
The anti-poaching team were on duty 24/7 and had very little so they didn’t show their whereabouts. They had a look out point along with two tents for sleeping in. They rotated shifts so that one was watching out for poachers whilst the other slept, they made a good team. The camp was located near the main road because that is where they poachers are most likely to enter. After the short visit to the anti-poaching camp we headed back to collect our layers and sleeping bags ready for the night drive and sleep out. At 4:30 we headed up to the camping site to have tea. Chanel set up a fire and we all sat around it attempting to make bread on the end of a stick. Most looked burned on the outside but were fluffy on the inside. Followed by bread was curry. Once we had tea and chatted around the fire it was time to head out for the night drive. Preparing for cold temperatures I had all my layers along with a sleeping and a blanket. The temperature varied throughout the drive, it couldn’t decide to stay hot or cold! We each took turns to shine the lights out in the open to see if we could spot any animals and we were in luck. Rhino and her calf, elephants and their calves along with hippos appeared from the beam of light and it made the 3 hours’ drive worthwhile. At around 11:00 we arrived back from the night drive and those who wanted to camp out stayed on the truck and those that didn’t returned to their rooms. I decided against the idea of a camp out and had full night’s sleep back in my warm room.
All in all it was an eventful and eye opening day. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute and id wish to live it all again
Day 10 – Composed by James
Plans for today are long safari and lazy afternoon. Currently we have spotted very few reptiles and not even a single snake I hope to find one in the afternoon but in previous searches the most I’ve found is a singular gecko but I can’t complain they are still adorable. During the safari we saw several lions including two cubs and one young make. We also saw a terrapin during basking time
Day 11 – Composed by Claire P
Day 13 in the Shamwari camp. It’s the weekend and we’re off to Grahamstown market for the day. I ended up on the party bus with Amy, Lorraine, Angela and Walter the driver. On route we stopped off at some monument and music hall and were given some history about the local area.
We arrived in Grahamstown to discover there is no market but we went for a sneaky coffee with Angela who’s not had a proper coffee for almost 2 weeks and then didn’t shut up for the whole trip back to Port Elizabeth. Almost 2 hours of speed talking.
We arrived at Port Elizabeth, went for a walk along the beach where the markets was. Ended up haggling for a beaded rhino and wooden elephant, we then set off to the shopping centre for food and more shopping and free time before heading back to camp Shamwari for rice and curry.