Friday June 22, 2018
We’re in Johannesburg and ready to rumble! It may be winter here in South Africa, but the sun is shining and we’re eager to depart for home base tomorrow morning. Each student has had a tremendously long journey across the world but we’re super impressed with their energy and enthusiasm so far. We’ve played games, played with puppies, gotten to know each other, shared meals and curled up by the fire to end the night.
It’s been a whirlwind day and we’re so happy to have such a strong and solid team. We are also excited to welcome two more students due to arrive later this weekend and meet the wildlife experts. Stay tuned!
Fun fact: The Sardine Run (a fish migration) spanning from Cape Point to the Southern KwaZulu Natal is so huge it can be seen from space!
Peace, love and elephants,
Sunday June 24, 2018
Today we started our services which began our exploration of South Africa. Today we focused on the technical aspects of rhino tracking and preventing the growth of invasive species of alien plant life. During our rhino tracking we, basically, went on mini safaris throughout the reserve. During our mission to track rhinos we saw many different animals including giraffes!! Thanks to Kya who spotted them.
Later in the day we got to see and name the new baby rhino. Her name is Winter in English, but in Zulu her name is Makaza. After dinner we had a mock debate discussing cultural and environmental rights. We learned how to become more open minded while having lots of fun! Right now we are sitting by the fire and enjoying the company of our peers. With an early morning ahead we will head to bed soon! What a great way to start our adventure!
-Mary T. & Kya S.
Monday June 25, 2018
Hello parents! Today our adventurers took a trip around the reserve in search of the black rhino, different bird and tree species, learned about rhino and elephant conservation, and spotted night creatures! While driving around the reserve we saw giraffes, white rhino, warthogs, Impala, kudu, crocodile, vultures, water bucks, and nyala. We spotted birds and trees, using research equipment to identify the species. Heike talked to us about the ongoing problems of poaching, including ways to prevent it. Taking a step back from the reserve, we were able to collaborate with our peers and learn more about each other as our bonds grow tighter. We finished off the day with a night ride through the reserve in search of the flashing eyes of many nocturnal animals. Furthermore, we used UV flashlights to expose the hidden scorpions within cracks and crevices of logs and trees. We are all having a fantastic time 🙂
Sincerely, Hannah and Maggie
Tuesday June 26, 2018
This morning after a healthy balanced breakfast, we engaged in our daily services: Alien plant eradication and our search for black rhinos. Soon after we ate some delicious macaroni and cheese for lunch, we went out with our guides for tree and bird identification training. Then, we had a delectable high tea of vanilla and chocolate muffins. Yum. The highlight of the evening was learning how to make a traditional South African dish: “The Potjie”. The final event of the night was the scorpion hunting and night drive. The group that went on the night drive was anticipating for a leopard, but only could smell the strong sense of buttery popcorn. Believe it or not, this particular smell is an indication that a leopard was recently there! Meanwhile, the other group got to see the scorpions glow bright green under the UV light during their scorpion hunt. The day was packed with many activities and we are excited for the many adventures that are awaiting.
Peace & Chow,
Catherine & Sowon
Wednesday June 27, 2018
Greetings loved ones. Today, we woke up to a loud and friendly knock (😉). After a delicious breakfast we headed to a nearby Zulu Village. We were taught how to do traditional beading. It was a lengthy and tedious process though, the outcome was great. Then, one of the families from the village made us a traditional lunch. They invited us into their homestead to enjoy the delicious meal.
Afterwards, some of the ladies from the village performed a traditional dance for us and some of us joined in. After the performance was over we continued beading. We also bonded with many children from the village during our stay. We all took funny pictures together and enjoyed each other’s company. In addition, we bought many souvenirs that the ladies made. Then, we headed back to the reserve. When we arrived back we did a fun team building activity then enjoyed dinner. Proceeding dinner we did another bonding activity. Now, we are enjoying our 1 hour of wifi for the week. That’s all for today!! See you guys soon!
– Victoria-Alexandra and Mecca
Thursday June 28, 2018
Greetings from Somkhanda Game Reserve!
Today we ventured out of the Pongola base camp to Somkhanda, a reserve working to conserve and provide habitat for the big 5. The activities consisted primarily of game drives where we assisted the reserve’s interns in tracking a select few of the big 5. Each mentor group helped with leopard identification through camera traps and tried to locate elephants and buffalo using a telemetry system. Team EXTREME was able to get signal of the resident elephant herd which was particularly exciting after witnessing a giraffe fight of proportions to Apollo creed and the Italian Stallion.
Team Awesome (who are way better than team extreme) was able to use the telemetry system to track a herd of elephants, and some wandering buffalo. We got an amazing view from the top of the mountains and got to take in some incredible sights. While driving through the reserve we were able to see giraffes, wildebeests, kudu, elvis guinea fowls, and a ton zebras. Afterwards we checked out the camera traps and were able to see up close images of rhinos and warthogs enjoying water at a local waterhole. Images of leopards were used for an identification activity, and most of the group did well (Maggie might need some more work in this area)… But overall it was a really fun day where we all got to enjoy an incredible amount of nature up close.
-by Bella Jacobs and Priya Krakker
Friday June 28, 2018
Hey, it’s Kris and Brian and welcome back to the blog! Today is June 29th and quite an action packed day.
Today we awoke at 6:30 to a crisp and cool South African morning. Before gathering for breakfast, we noticed lots of movement among the impala in the bush. We concluded that they were alarm calling, meaning that there was a predator in the area, possibly a leopard or hyena! After eating a nutritious meal of eggs, sausage, and toast, we departed to the museum nearby to learn about elephant conservation on the game reserve.
We then split into two groups; one to eradicate alien plants, and one to embark on a trek through the bush. We saw many Impala, but alas, saw no elephants or rhinos on this day. Lunch today consisted of burgers and a bounty of vegetables to use as toppings. Following lunch was a much needed siesta where many of us slept away the lingering tiredness of the week’s work.
After waking up, we played a few games to pass the time until dinner. After consuming a healthy chicken pot pie for dinner, we split into mentor groups and discussed this week’s happenings and reflected on the things we learned. We ended the night with thirty minutes of wifi. In conclusion, today was quite a day.
Saturday June 30, 2018
Blog written by Audree Hedequist and Elizabeth Purcell:
Hey! Today, after breakfast, we watched a BBC “doco”, as Ash says, about how the elephants of the reserve arrived here over twenty years ago. Then we went on snare patrol (just like Dian Fossey’s patrol in the mountains of Africa!) We picked up lots of trash and a few metal wires along the railroad. It was a very hot walk back to base camp so we had to choose between walking or driving to our campsite.
Elizabeth drove and Audree walked, both saw some always interesting animals of the bush. We arrived at the campsite about two hours later (the walkers took a while) we took a tour and set up our beds. Most people are sleeping in tents, including Audree, and a few chose to sleep in just a sleeping bag outside, like Elizabeth.
Then we all participated in a group star gazing using a green laser, where we were able to identify planets such as Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Venus, and even the Milky Way! We saw multiple constellations too. Then we had a cook out where students took different roles in the cooking process.
Pria and Bella sacrificed their hands and arms to the heat of the fire while cooking, Victoria was slightly less vegetarian while preparing chicken, and Mary and Maggie washed all of our dishes for us. After that we grilled chocolate bananas on the fire for desert. It was a really fun day with lots of walking and a lot to look forward to!
Monday July 2, 2018
Greetings! We woke up today, day 9, to the birds chirping outside and the cold morning air slowly creeping into our tents. Some of us even slept under the African stars, listening to the calls of the wild.
After breakfast, we headed to collect firewood and chop down wild cotton plants, an invasive species. Many of us were tired, so we rested for about 30 minutes before going out again. Considering that it was our last time doing service, we worked especially hard to get rid of as many of the cotton plants as we could. Then, we had lunch and many of us took a nap to re-engerize for the late afternoon.
The scavenger hunt was on after we woke up from our nap. Splitting into 4 teams, we spread out to find impala dung, knobthorn trees, and porcupine quills, among other things. Team Honeybadgers took the victory and won a jug of gummy snakes. Team Flying Spaghetti Monsters lost and now have to come up with a choreographed dance.
Around the campfire, we shared stories about a place that is dear to our hearts. We bonded as a group and learned new things about each other. During chow circle, we said our thanks to Shadreck, our awesome mentor and bush guide who will unfortunately not be joining us at Kosi Bay. For dinner, we had a traditional Zulu stew called Pojtie. It was delicious over rice– thanks to Nakhutula, our wonderful cook! To end off the night, we made s’mores over the fire. Peace and chow!
Tuesday July 3, 2018
After nine days in the African bush, we were all ready for a more coastal change of scenery. We arrived at Kosi Bay around 12:30 and were welcomed with tasty sandwiches. After being given room assignments, we headed down to the beach for either kayaking or touring the fish traps nearby. Despite the chilly water, both groups had fun with their activities.
Kayakers got in a nice workout and got to see a beautiful sunset on the water. Fish trap tourers did not catch any fish, but they did get to learn about the benefits and challenges of fish trapping here at Kosi Bay. They were then able to spend some quality time chilling on the beach. Following the evening activities, we all regrouped for dinner (and finally got to shower after two days at the Bush camp).
We finished off the night with a GLA group activity that allowed for more self awareness and group bonding. We had a great first day at Kosi Bay. Also, Michael Dane Anderson (our guide) says hi.
See ya soon,
Maggie McElhaney and Priya Krakker
Wednesday July 4, 2018
Sowon: Sanibonani (Hello)
Catherine: Sawuboni (Good morning)
Sowon: Kunjani (How are you)
Catherine: Ngiyapila (I’m fine)
Sowon: Ngiyapila Mina (I’m fine too)
^Traditional greeting in Zulu^
This morning we sat down for a nice meal under the palm trees of beautiful Kosi Bay. We then played some fun team bonding games before setting out to our exciting daily adventures. We got our snorkeling gear and hiked to the beach, Kosi Mouth. Some exciting finds include lion fish, eels, angel fish, and even sting rays! After a short break with our packed lunches, we began our next activity. Half of the group went spear fishing and they ended up catching a delicious fish that we ate for dinner.
The other half went kayaking in the lake and ended up cutting it short since there was a hippo blocking our path! Exhausted from this jam packed day, we got a fun ride in the back of a truck to the lodge. After relaxing for a bit, we played some more fun team bonding games and then met for our daily chow circle. We all came together for a nice spaghetti night that everyone enjoyed so much that we all went for seconds! After that, we listened to Jaime’s presentation on community organizing. It was a great learning experience for the whole group and we overall had a great night.
Peace and chow,
Catherine, Sowon, and Audree
Hey guys! It’s Hannah and Mary here! This morning we went for a very long hike (10k) through the mountains and four ecosystems to the Kosi Mouth. The walk was strenuous but successful, being worth every second when we reached the top. We all spent the day playing games and jumping waves, more or less successfully, in the Indian Ocean. The view was breathtaking and was a fabulous way to end our trip.
Reflecting so far on everything we have done, this adventure has created strong friendships, unforgettable memories, and the enlightenment of world conservation. Thank you all for the opportunity to love, live, and learn, we can’t wait to see you all soon. Thank you.