When I look back at the first week at Ulovane environmental training I can only say it was overwhelming. A new environment, new rules, new friends. Just being in the southern hemisphere and in South Africa away from everything else and learning so much more about nature, brings me absolute joy.
There were two moments this week that were special for me. One moment was when I realised what humans can do to the earth and the second moment was seeing what animals can do to the environment.
I am from the northern hemisphere and I love stargazing. But the Dutch night sky is covered with pollution, so there is not much stargazing to do. Therefore I’m really happy with the clear and crisp skies here at Ulovane. Every morning when I get out of bed at 05:00 or 05:30,I go out of my room directly and start stargazing. The sky is bright and full of stars, sometimes so filled with stars that it’s hard to recognize any of the constellations. One morning I stood outside, half awake and half asleep, and I looked upon my veranda. For a moment I thought I was dreaming. Am I seeing a train? Am I awake? Aliens? And then it suddenly sunk in, this was the satellite train. As a stargazer, I was really thrilled with what I was watching. The train was visible for only 10 seconds and then the night train was gone. At breakfast I suddenly realised when I thought back at the satellite train: We are not only polluting the earth but we are also polluting space. Of course, this information was not new but seeing the satellite train, it got to me in a completely new and different way, space programs will never be the same.
At this time of the year, the Bitter Aloe is flowering. Beautiful orange flowers and in the back green landscapes. As a bonus, many birds will come and feed on the nectar. Ulovane is full of these flowering Bitter Aloes! When we left Ulovane for a game drive onto Amakhala Game Reserve, I could see the difference between the two landscapes. Amakhala means “place of many Aloes”. But there are barely Bitter Aloes left.
Karien, our teacher, explained to us that the elephants love to eat the Bitter Aloe as much as we like to look at them. Seeing the difference between the landscapes with my own eyes made me realise how complex it must be to balance the environment of a game reserve. All kinds of questions came to my mind, but I couldn’t find any answers yet.
While looking for answers and thinking of more questions I will enjoy the stargazing and being so close to the elephants.
Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Apprentice Trails Guide News
A short break after our Field Guide course was enough to miss the Ulovane environment. I was excited for the Trails Guide course. While on the way to Ulovane from Port Elizabeth where I spent my break, I got to meet a few of my course mates as well as Field Guide students. I wasn’t surprised to learn that they were equally excited to be here and to start their course as well. It’s always great to have like-minded people around.
We started off with the rifle handling theory class. It was so interesting to learn how the bullets are categorised and how different bullets react to different situations. The rifle ballistics is technical but essential when operating different types of rifles. The most crucial part is to never create a situation where you have to use a rifle. The safety of the guests and the animals are of biggest importance for a Trails Guide.
We went on a walk on two days so far, both equally exciting and adrenaline pumping and more importantly a huge learning experience to take forward. We had a huge hope of viewing Hippos as we found their tracks that they had left behind the night before. This gave us many clues that they were close to us, but unfortunately we couldn’t find them. However, we saw a herd of Buffaloes from about 100 meters and we even followed it for another 100 meters before we extracted ourselves safely from the sighting. We also trailed and encountered White Rhinos – a female and her calf about 40 meters away. Yes! Just 40 meters!! That was an unbelievable moment to experience!! We also learnt a lot about dung of antelopes and predators, as well as about different tracks and signs of small and big animals.
I’m very excited for the practical Rifle Handling and many more walks and encounters in the upcoming weeks. Stay tuned.
“Always respect Mother Nature. Especially when she weighs 400 pounds and is guarding her baby.” ~ James Rollins