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Ulovane Update: All good things must come to an end



Ulovane Update: Marine Guide Course Final Update

This is our final week of Ulovane, almost all of us have been here for 6 months and have successfully completed our Field Guide, Back-Up Trails and now Marine Guide courses. I think I can speak for all my fellow students when I say we are leaving with a very heavy heart. The entire experience has been amazing, and the Marine Guide course is an amazing way to end it off.

This week has been full of assessments. On Monday we did our field observation on the beach, identifying all sorts of shells and seaweeds and even some tracks and feather duster worms we found along the way. We also did our presentations, which were all based on marine conservation and marine life. We learnt a lot about whales from Josien and about plastic waste from Stephan.

It’s amazing how much we have learnt about the Marine world in only 4 weeks.

On Tuesday, some of us went deep sea fishing, we caught geelbek, Carpenters and even a Dageraad. Luckily, no one got seasick this time around. We were all excited to have a fresh fish braai for supper, and we did, and it was awesomely done by our braai master Damon.

Friday we have our final marine exam, so Thursday, everyone will be focusing on their books and smashing the final exam.

After the exam we are going back to Ulovane Campus, we are all very sad to be leaving the amazing view we have of the ocean here at Riet River but it’s exciting to see the bush for the last time from Ulovane. We cannot wait to go on our final game drive and enjoy one last evening around the fire reminiscing about the last 6 months!

Thank you to Shani and Koen for all the help during the Marine Guide course. Ulovane has honestly been one of the best experiences I have had, and if I could do it all over again, I would.

  • Sam Burgess

Ulovane Environmental Training’s Marine Guide Course is ONE of the best in the country, and here is why:

Nestled in the picturesque eastern cape of South Africa, awaits a true to gem just waiting to be explored.

1.Location, Location, Location:

Beautiful golden-white beaches that stretch as far the eye can see, with rolling sand dunes covered with lush green vegetation is your background. Paint on this canvas; crystal clear blue waters of the warm Mozambique/Agulhas current, and you have your artists’ masterpiece.

You cannot ask for a more pristine piece of coastline. The Eastern Cape of South Africa clearly has it all. Away from the hustle and bustle of big city life and traffic, you can experience true beauty on your front porch as we start each day with a sizzling cup of coffee (or tea); as the aroma of salty ocean air mixes with the sweet scent of Wild Jasmin and Cape Honey Suckle flowers in the early morning breeze. You take a deep breath of fresh ocean air and feel how the endorphins in your body rise. According to marine biologist Wallace Nichols: “We are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight. And even heal what’s broken.”

Imagine opening your door, and this is how you start YOUR DAY, every day…

Our beach campus lies in the heart of the Thicket biome in South Africa, which is a mysterious world of well-armed shrubs, ever-entangling lianas, tough succulents, and a variety of plant forms which is unparallel to any other region in South Africa. The thicket biome is truly an ecological phenomenon.

AS IF the species richness of terrestrial fauna and flora is not enough; we are also slap bang in the middle of the majestic Humpback and Southern Right whale’s migration routes, breeding colonies of penguins on off-shore islands, the world-famous sardine run, and plenty of endemic oceanic bird species.

Truly one of the most beautiful bird species is the Cape Gannet – have you ever looked with curious intensity at the magnificent brush strokes on a Cape Gannet’s face? There is so much detail, so much precision – it is as if these birds were painted by Michael Angelo himself! 

Humpback whales feed in polar waters, and migrate to tropical and sub-tropical waters to give birth. Like other whales, the humpback was a target for the whaling industry. Once hunted to the brink of extinction, its population fell by an estimated 90% before a 1966 moratorium. While stocks have partially recovered to some 80 000 animals worldwide, entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with ships and noise pollution continue to affect the species.

Humpback whales are considered a “friendly” species of whale with numerous interactions with other cetacean species. One of the most remarkable accounts up to date was recorded in September 2017 in Rarotonga, the Cook Islands, where two humpback whales were observed protecting snorkeler and whale biologist Nan Hauser from a 4.5-metre tiger shark. One whale was observed pushing the women away from the shark while the other used its tail to block the predator’s advances. This may be the first recorded incidence of humpback whales acting protectively over a human.

Interactions between humpback whales and southern right whales have also been observed and recorded.

2.It is all about the people:

At Ulovane Environmental Training, we put our students’ development as professional guides and ambassadors for wildlife and conservation first. We also strongly believe in the mentoring and development of each and every individual and will go the extra mile to make sure everyone grows not only in knowledge and practical expertise, but also as a human being.

This is what some of our latest Marine guide students had to say:

Josien Suntjes (Ulovane 1-month Marine guide course):

“I am happy that I joined the Marine Guide training at Ulovane. It gave me much more knowledge and understanding of shells, sea plants, the food web and how everything interacts and is dependent on each other. It was a month of beautiful sunrises and sunsets every day, lots of beach walks and studying not to forget.”

“The ocean breathes so that we can too.”

It has been proven that meditation, paying attention to one’s breath, reduces stress, anxiety and give insights into oneself. We usually do not think about breathing as it is such a natural process in our body; day in. and day out. Did you know that according to scientists more than 50% of the oxygen in the atmosphere comes from ocean plants such as algae’s and phytoplankton?”

Samantha Burgess (Ulovane One-year student):

“My experience at Ulovane was awesome! I have enjoyed every second of it. I definitely would recommend it to anyone who is interested in this career path. If I could do it all over again, I would. All the instructors are amazing and have so much knowledge about the bush and animals. All the staff are incredibly friendly! I have made friends and memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”


 Lloyd Cowley (Ulovane One-year student):

“I have found Ulovane absolutely amazing, and as I enter my last week, I just think back to all the wonderful memories and friends I have made throughout my time here. I have learnt so much about nature, my passion. I have realised it’s not only about presenting animals to your guests; it’s about teaching them about nature and sharing your love, passion and knowledge about it.

My final course, the marine course has been absolutely amazing, I have loved every second of it. I have grown up with the sea on my doorstep but I have learnt so much more about the ocean in these last 4 weeks than I ever dreamed about. This is all thanks to Koen and Shani, thank you two so much, I am truly grateful.”

Francois Fourie (Ulovane One-year student):

“I arrived at Ulovane not knowing what to expect…

As field guides, we were not really confident and did not know how everything works around the camp. As time went on, I settled in very well and met a number of people who became good friends! I also met some amazing instructors!

From field guides to Back-up trails guides – we came back, knowing what goes for what, and could lend a helping hand to the now, new faces on the field guide course. Trails showed me that it isn’t just about the big five, but also about those small things everyone else drives past!

So, marines came, and as I grew up alongside the sea, I was most excited about this course! With the ocean waves constantly in my ears, every day felt like a holiday!

The last 6 months went by in the wink of an eye, and I have learnt so much more than I’ve ever thought possible!”

Tamara Richardson (Ulovane 6-month student):

“The Ulovane courses cover a diverse range of interesting topics, each one including practical knowledge which is gained by going out into the field and observing the natural environment. The practical parts of the course were for sure the highlights for me. I have always loved nature and have spent a lot of time in nature in the Netherlands, but for me, it is very interesting to see nature here in Africa, at the other side of the world.

Over here, there are different species of plants and animals, a different climate and different ways in which people manage and conserve the environment. I have very much enjoyed going out into the field and experiencing South Africa’s nature.”

Stephan Lughart (Ulovane 6-month student):

In this Anthropocene era of mass destruction and decline of innumerable species and associated ecosystems, we face a critical point where we as humans can still make a difference by preserving what is left. One of the biggest conservation tools I think we have is to get people directly in touch with nature to show them the stunning beauty, and somehow make them passionate about nature and its’ wildlife.

Therefore, I highly recommend everyone to do the same as what I did these past 6 months and apply for the courses here at Ulovane.  By spreading the knowledge, passion and respect, we still have a chance.”

Damon De Wet (Ulovane One-year student):

“From the beginning of my one-year course here at Ulovane, I was not sure if I have the ability to complete all three courses (field guides, back-up trails and marines). But, soon later I realized that if you work for something you want, you will get it. I have a lot of stories I can tell about my experience here at Ulovane, but nothing can compare to the greatest instructors they have. They have made my whole time at Ulovane amazing! They stand out above anything else!

One thing I can definitely say which I have learnt from Ulovane is that you can never ask too many questions about nature and wildlife. When it comes to guiding in nature, there will always be more than what meets the eye!

We would like to thank each and every one of you for choosing Ulovane as your home – be it for a month, 6 months or a year. We have loved every minute of it. Together we have cried, laughed, grafted and had some amazing memorable experiences! All of you have done tremendously well and we are so proud of you all!

It is with a sad heart that we wave goodbye, but hopefully, we will see you back here soon. Remember, you are now part of the ever-growing Ulovane family, and the doors are always open.

Take care guys and gals – it was a pleasure and an honour.

Open your wings and soar now…

And lastly… Another point I would like to mention, although there are so many more is…

3. It is about seeing the BIGGER PICTURE:

And understanding how everything works together.

It is about realising your place in nature, in this country and in the world.

The ocean covers more than 70% of earth’s surface, and yet, some of us are completely blind in terms of what we are doing to the ocean, and for that matter – planet earth.

At Ulovane, we have a very strong conservation-minded ethic and hope to take this to even greater heights. That is why we absolutely love the feedback from our students at the end of each course – we can only grow and strive to be better if we get honest feedback. We know that we are all human, and we know that we do not always practise what we preach, but we try, and that is as honest as I can be. We all learn from our mistakes and we are all in this together.

Ulovane’s Marine guide course is a jam-packed, fun-filled course which will not only teach you about all the wonders of the ocean, but also give you hands-on practical experiences with conservation efforts in the area. I cannot give all the secrets away, so, please come and see and experience for yourself!

I would like to share some quotes with all the lovely students who we have been so privileged to meet and spend time with over the last 6 months:

Be fearless in your attempt to greatness

What I have learned over the years is that everyone has a story and that we cannot judge if we are not willing to read the story.

We all enter the world in the same way, and we all exit the world in the same way -gasping for our breath.

There is nothing that makes me or you better than the person next to you.

However, it is how we deal with the obstacle’s life throws at us that makes one person rise above the next.

Life is a complex magnitude of beautiful difficult moments interwoven into one web of decisions. Choose the wrong thread at a specific moment in your life and the whole web might get undone.

But, choose the right thread, and, oh, so many magical moments will appear right in front of your eyes.

The sad thing is – too many people are just too happy and content to sit and wait for the right moment or opportunity, instead of working for it and grabbing every opportunity that comes to them.

It is easier to wait than to get up with a “go get them” attitude.

You cannot be angry at your classmate or work colleague because he or she passed an exam or got a raise.

No, at the end of the day, the onus falls on you. Get up early, work hard, and then work even harder, and then the universe will be bountiful in what you receive back.

We create our own lives with what life throws at us. If you want to be great and succeed then you need to recognize those gifts. You need to open your arms and grab every single opportunity.

Do not accept to live a mediocre life.

Live the life you were supposed to.

Many people die at 30, but most only get buried at 70.

Do you want to be one of the statistics?


Then be fearless in your pursuit to greatness!

Follow your joy and only be around those people who fuel your joy. Only perform those pursuits that feed your bliss. Only be in those places that make you feel most alive.

Trust what makes you feel happy.

Your heart knows where you need to be. It is so much wiser than your head.

Instinct knows much more than intellect and intuition is smarter than reason.

Live your life?

Go get them!

Thank you