Real-time following of our latest college group – the animal care course from Mid Kent College 2011.
Stay tuned for all the news, pictures, and gossip as our students run riot with sharks and monkeys in South Africa.
Many of you asked if you could donate some money to Victors Monkeys.
Our Environmental Awareness Course with Mid Kent College is now featured in an educational catalogue!
As always the day to leave has crept up on us :(
There were lots of sad faces this morning, and a couple could only nibble on their french toast. There is nothing quite as bad as the mixed feelings experienced by all of our students on the last day with us. Excited about going home and seeing everyone, but at the same time not wanting to leave – ever!
Driving past one minibus now all I see are grumpy little faces, and one or two scribbling furiously in the diaries they have been dutifully keeping.
See some of you next year!
The last full day in South Africa for our UK students. We’ve done everything else, so what better way to spend it than experiencing some of the culture.
We meet our guides at the shop, a small one roomed shop that serves the needs of the whole community. Then it was time to walk to the primary school, a walk many young children are happy to walk as it takes them to their friends and an education that they are all grateful for.
Many of the children that attend the school walk even further, sometimes on their own and this made our students realise just how lucky they are.
Luke even helped to push one of the teachers cars when it got stuck in the mud.
The African students are always very excited to see our students and teach them songs, and dances as they try – even at 5 years old – to connect with their new friends.
To say thank you for taking time out of their lessons to talk to us and teach us about their community the UK students brought with them a large donation of chalks, pencils, crayons, notepads, clothing, toys and sweets for the children which they left to be distributed amongst the most needy children.
We learnt about the way in which traditionally women must sit on the left of a house and men on the right. We also learnt about the gender roles within the community – which the girls did not think were particularly fair!
But sadly it is now time to go back to the camp and begin to pack for the flight back to the UK tomorrow.
More shopping, except this time our students find themselves away from the big shopping centre of Durban.
The market is local to the lodge where every item has been made or grown by the women of the community to give them independence and provide for their families.
There is a vast choice of things to buy – almost too much choice!
Many people went round the market not once, not twice, but four times.
Before we left the market everyone had the chance to taste properly prepared, fresh pineapple. The way to prepare the pineapple is to cut of the skin but leave the grasses intact so that you can just turn it upside down and munch it like a lolly.
But no one wanted pictures of themselves with juice running down their chins on here – so I am afraid you will have to wait till they get back and show you their photos.
Dinner time soon! Macaroni cheese and chocolate cake :D
This morning we all got to play with Rambo, Rachel, and Jabulani.
Otherwise known as daddy elephant, mummy elephant and baby.
We all heard the tragic story of how Rambo lost his ‘finger’ on his trunk. And now rather than eating like an African Elephant he eats like an Asian elephant by scooping the food into a hollow on the underside of his trunk.
Rachel still eats like an African elephant should because she still has both of her trunk ‘fingers’.
Everyone got to feed Rachel and then interact more closely with Rambo.
We were shown his second nose (Jacobsons organ).
We felt the satin soft skin behind his ears, stroked his tusks and trunk, and a few brave people even got to feel his tongue.
We are not allowed to directly interact with Jabulani the baby as the keepers would like to see him released into the wild when he is old enough. But he didn’t understand this and tried to interact with us instead!!
Ever got to cuddle a Cheetah? No? Our students have.
From learning about the smaller of the African cats (just like larger versions of the tabby cats at home) to watching the Caracals ‘hunt’ their food by jumping in the air, it has been an eventful day.
This is the part of the course where we learn exactly how our food is prepared.
It is very similar to a biology lesson and our facilitator Tommy is very professional in his approach to skinning, dismembering, and dissecting the animal – in this case an impala. The students are welcome to participate as much or as little as they want.
There is always at least one person peeking out from behind their hands at the beginning, but inevitably this person is one of the last left right through to the end.
Each organ is named and its role in the body explained. Then one lucky volunteer gets to blow up the lungs to show their capacity (after they’ve been washed obviously – we aren’t complete barbarians!).
This group was particularly inquisitive, nothing was left unstudied. Eyes, tongue, brain, ear canal, legs, nasal passages, tail, stomach, intestines and even the bladder. Anything you can imagine was carefully dissected and scrutinised by eager eyes.
The environmental awareness course topic today is an introduction to venomous snakes – including how to treat a venomous bite.
So, first things first – Forest Cobra.
Followed by a Puff Adder, a short snake with a big bite.
Everyone then got the chance to touch the puff adder, but only if they want to – we don’t force anybody!! Very few people get the chance to touch a puff adder, and when they do they are always surprised with quite how soft they are.
Scorpions are abundant in South Africa, so we teach the students how to distinguish between the two types, deadly and not so deadly. It is quite easy, big pincers and little tail is good, big tail and little pincers are bad.
And spiders. We know that the college has lots of spiders and tarantulas and so we show off a couple of indigenous spiders and our favourite non-indigenous one Curly.
There was also a chance to get some pictures of a rubber frog and some bullfrogs who we rudely woke up ;)
Then it was time to cuddle bob and fluffy our resident red-tail boas.
All the other pictures can be seen in Fluffy’s Photo Album on facebook.
It was time to venture deeper into the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
Starting with the St Lucia estuary cruise. A chance to take to the water with the hippos and crocs, not to mention the countless bird species.
St Lucia was having water supply problems today, and on the boat we soon found out why. Below the bridge (the only way in and out of the town, a bit like the Isle of Sheppey in the UK) is the water pipe, and where the water pipe usually is… was a hole. The towns drinking water was pouring from the pipe and gushing into the estuary. Now, why am I telling you this? Well, the section of the bridge from which the water flowed was the only section of the bridge that the boats could get underneath… yep, you got it, that means we were going under this temporary waterfall.
There were onlookers on the banks gleefully rubbing their hands as they waited for the boat – with all the unsuspecting tourists on board – to get doused in water. But, it was a hot day, and – unknown to the onlookers – by the time the water reached the boat it was little more than a mist. It was rather pleasant actually.
Lots of Hippos and crocs were out in the water as well as the fish eagle swooping above.
After the estuary, we went hunting for more crocodiles and even a couple of alligators. Except this time they were safely behind the fences of the St Lucia Crocodile centre.
From babies and dwarfs to humungous adults, the variety at the centre is astounding.
Led by Mark around the centre he made sure that by the time we left we began to learn all the little quirks about each species and even got to see a couple that have been rescued.
A very important part of the Environmental awareness course today – perhaps THE most important bit – Game Drive!!
So all the students are currently on safari at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game reserve. One of the oldest game reserves in South Africa, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi has well established herds and territories (including the ‘big 5′) within its 96,000 hectares. The big five includes, elephant, lion, leopard, rhino and buffalo.
Some of them were even lucky enough to see an Elephant nearly as soon as they got in the gate!
Who completely ignored them on his way to a tasty looking tree…
And as if a baby giraffe yesterday wasn’t enough, they even got to spot a baby Zebra.
Tomorrow is a trip to St Lucia, where we get to play with crocodiles!
Well, Africa weather is here at last.
Many students throughout the trip had been complaining that it was too cold, that they thought Africa was hot and they can handle the heat. The temperature reached 28c and then there were complaints about the heat – some people are never happy :)
We didn’t have the heart to tell them that it wasn’t even summer yet!
Thankfully their walk in the shady avenues created by the overhanging acacia trees left them with plenty of shade to hide from the midday sun.
Even the heat couldn’t kill morale as the animals appeared out of the bush. Firstly zebras, monitor lizard, impala, warthog, red and grey duiker and then the giraffes (including a baby one on spindly legs) all of which seemed content to pose for pictures.
Follow a long afternoon splashing around in the pool playing shark, well in the pool for some, like Emily who found out why you never trust a rubber dinghy – especially when fully clothed.
Pictures to follow tomorrow evening.
Ok, now is where the work begins – Well, after breakfast anyway!
After breakfast there was a little bit of time for chilling out by the poolside or just chatting in the shade (terrorised only by me and the camera) whilst waiting for everyone to locate socks from the bottom of their bags ready for the mornings walk at the game reserve next door.
Well, the time has come to leave ‘Victors place’.
Sad little faces all round, many of them tired as they wanted to sit around the fire that little bit longer last night. It was a cold cold night but no clouds so the stars were out and what else can you do except lounge back in the chair and toast your toes in the warmth of the fire.
But the next place is awesome! It is here, at Albizia Camp which is part of Umkhumbi Lodge.
Albizia camp even has a swimming pool – luxury!
First of all girls and guys, apologies for the radio silence yesterday! The big storms here have meant powercuts and little to no phone signal on the South African sims yesterday.
After an early night (hahaha – you have to be kidding after that much cake!) everyone was up bright and early – well, after a little help from Seargent Major Tommy anyway ;) – and ready for a little walk at Victor’s place. This is an introduction to the environmental awareness course that will be taught at Albizia Camp, made better by finding the giraffes having a quick snack on the path on the way back!
Then was a talk from the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), where students found out about the cruelty statistics in South Africa which is high due to a combination of the weather, poverty and most importantly lack of education.
Despite the shocking stories that both inspectors had to tell, everyone wanted to know more. So eager were they with their questions that they didnt even seem to mind that it was lunchtime and instead carried on firing more and more questions about the neutering program that was running in the country in an attempt to lower the number of unwanted and neglected animals.
Zoo time! This is an important part of the trip as it shows the importance of the right habitat and conditions to each and every animal. The enclosures of the animals at this zoo show a stark contrast to most zoos in the UK. To quote one student “this place makes our Zoos look like palaces”.
The students were told to observe the enclosures at the zoo so that they could draw direct comparisons between the zoo and the raptor centre.
What a stark difference at the Raptor Centre! First let me explain what the raptor centre is for.
Ben and Shannon run two different sides to the raptor centre. Ben has a rehabilitation centre where injured birds are brought to get them ready for release back into the environment. They may need help for anything from poisoning, hunting, accidental injury or even rescued from situations such as the muthi market or even zoos.
All birds that can survive in the wild are released. Any birds that cannot be released due to their injuries, such as missing a wing, leg, tail, eye are kept at the raptor centre and are bred to increase the numbers of the species in the wild.
Walking around the raptor centre is a treat as the enclosures all have specific decor – for example the barn owl enclosure has been decked out as a barn complete with hayloft ladder for them to perch upon.
Companions for each animal are carefully selected to ensure that their quality of life is high as possible despite their disadvantages.
Despite the cold wind coming up the valley – blankets were provided after a few of the students were asked why they weren’t wearing any clothes – girls you know who you are…
The highlight of the day for many was the flight show where the more able of the birds have a chance to show off what makes them them great hunters.
The birds included among others; the little goshawk who didn’t want to be released.
YBK, the Yellow billed kite with the broken wing feathers. The stroppy owl who when scared or bored ‘runs’ (not flies) away, and ‘Chicken’ the Peregrine falcon who was poisoned.
Shannon kept the students on their toes springing question after question – premempting which questions we were going to ask. Rather than just giving us the usual tourist talk, the show was tailored more specifically to animal management, husbandry and rehabilitation to tie in with the course curriculum.
Shannon also taught us some very important life lessons after seeing poo on the back of the Yellow Billed Kite – never sit below your boyfriend.
The raptor place even had cuddly little bunnies!!
And what a view behind the show stands, no one could resist posing for a photo.
Happy Birthday!! One of our students turned 18 today! It can’t be easy being away from family, but at least she’s here, in South Africa with some of her friends.
She got the most important bit of any birthday though, embarrassed by being the centre of attention whilst everyone sings to you and of course the most important bit of all….
Video coming up soon.
A morning at Victors place. Even getting to his house is a game drive with Zebra and Impala!
But breakfast first, where some of the girls volunteered to pitch in and help. Scrambled eggs, toast, sausages, cheese, cereal, yoghurts, copious fruit juice and tea and coffee to wake everyone up and get them ready for the day. Everyone sang Happy Birthday to our birthday girl as well who has just turned 18!!
Then at his house we find, marmosets, vervet monkeys, samango monkeys, a giant eagle owl, crocodiles, more bushpigs, spiders, frogs, a worm lizard, ducks and a whole platoon of weaver birds busy building their nests above the crocodiles.
Each group was challenged with sitting perfectly still and watching the monkeys and studying their behaviours. Then Victor decided to get in with one of the hand reared samango monkeys to show us all some interactions.
Some students even got to feed the monkeys, but not quite what you would expect…
They certainly seemed to enjoy the lollies,
And one of them even mugged a smaller monkey for his lolly too!!
Now back to camp for lunch and the beginning of the environmental awareness course with Tommy.
Victors place is certainly more like the South Africa that all the students expected. Many were disappointed that there were not wild Elephants, Lions, Zebra or Giraffe roaming around the streets of Durban.
After a picnic lunch in Durban’s botanical garden the minibuses left for ‘Victor’s place’ . On arrival everyone was bundled into the game vehicles and taken on a quick tour of the property/bush where there are Giraffe, Zebra, Impala and countless other species.
After the tour, everyone had the chance to help Victor feed the troop of wild vervet and the bush pigs too. Accompanied by Victor with his stories of the monkey antics.
Biggest shock so far to the students despite the muthi market was the size of the grasshopper on the safari vehicle!
Everyone enjoyed their traditional dinner of pap ‘n sous (maize meal – like mash potato – and tomato and herb gravy) with lamb chops, chicken, boerewors and salad and countless other sides.
But now it is bedtime and time to watch the thunderstorm!
An eye-opening experience for our students today as they discover that despite all the endangered listings of species, and the supposed protection that they receive; many are still slaughtered and sold in the open at Muthi markets.
Muthi markets are markets that sell particular ‘medicines’, it is a part of Zulu culture. There are many beliefs and superstitions about different animals and animal parts, so walking around this market can be both and upsetting and enraging event – as our students found out today.
It is important however that the students understand that despite being protected – this means very little.
Below are a few pictures of what was present.
On the brighter side however the students had a chance to explore the traditional Victoria market – spices, clothing, bags, paintings, watches, parrots, meat, veg, books e.t.c
Particularly popular were the sheep heads – we didn’t take any photos of those as the facial expressions were much more amusing!! Especially when they realised they were for eating :)
After the market everyone was happily showing off their new purchases – or even other peoples.
The last thing to do at uShaka, visit the dangerous creatures chamber of horrors.
With lizards, scorpions and spiders filling the small nooks and crannies of the room everywhere you turned was something new. Not to mention little tricks and pranks just like Craig found out… man, you squeal like a girl!!
From the bearded dragons to the basilisks (small lizards who can run on water!!) to bullfrogs the same size as dinner plates everyone found something to admire, photograph and want to take home.
The eight year old iguana got petted by nearly all 29 students, eyes closed in ecstacy as you can see.
The baby alligators got fed, grabbing chicken necks as quick as they could, be it from Jason’s (their keeper) tongs or from each other. Masters of disguise, just as you think you’ve counted them all, another one appears out of the water to chow.
And then the snakes, from twig sized indonesian eyelash vipers, to boas that could eat small dogs and even a 5/6ft (approx) 64kg Python who does not have a waterbowl, but a bath tub!!
After that was a brief talk from two of the keepers about the importance of cleanliness within the cages – especially when there are so many in close proximity.
Well done Charlie for giving all the UK students a bad name….
Only joking, Naomi has nicked his shoes!!
Anyway, day three finds our students at uShaka the marine life centre on Durban beachfront.
Here everyone got to see…
There was the chance to get up close and personal and find out how a fish breathes.
Although not everyone liked the smell, again!
Poor old Luke whose bag decided it didn’t want to leave Heathrow (but with some coaxing has joined us) got the chance to make a new friend.
…a very good friend ;)
Now time for the creepy crawlies and snakes before a spot of snorkelling- stay tuned!
So after a nice little morning cruise, and breakfast at Spur, it was time for a quick shopping trip to South Africa’s equivalent of Bluewater.
Loads of shops, loads of restaurants and even a Mc Donalds to make everyone feel at home!
Then it was time to learn more about the sharks, and how better than with a dissection!
The speaker throughout the shark dissection had everyone – young and old alike in stitches.
And even gave the girls some very good relationship advice “don’t date a shark, they have very small hearts” as she lifted the exceptionally tiny heart from the Dusky sharks chest cavity.
In previous years the emptying of the stomach contents has been a very popular part of the dissection (despite the smell!)…
…but sadly this particular shark had a completely empty stomach. No car license plates, no animals, no bracelets, not even a fish!
Everyone managed to get up, close and personal with the shark after the speaker had finished and were able to feel its skin. The shark skin is textured in such a way that from head to tail the shark skin is smooth and streamline to make it more streamline, but from tail to head it has the texture of sandpaper.
After everyone had finished photographing the shark there was plenty of time for fun before venturing off to try their haggling skills at the seafront market.
Goodnight everybody, wheels roll at 6am!
Groans all round as everyone realised that that meant an early morning.
But that was last night, and here they all are at 6am ready and waiting… well most of them.
Durban is unique in the world for its shark nets and we are out on the boats to learn about them, their maintenance and their history.
Everyday one of these giant nets is hauled up, checked and replaced to prevent growth of sealife that would attract sharks e.t.c.
The students were even lucky enough to get to see a pod of Dolphins approximately seven dolphins playing in the waves. One of the boats was nearly close enough to touch them!
Right, off to Spur for breakfast!!
At 14:40 today we were joined our latest college group from the UK.
After speeding through the airport our tired but happy students were more than glad to collapse into our minibuses and proceed to their first bed for the trip.
Phoning home to mum and having a shower seemed to be the top 2 things on most of the students minds – not necessarily in that order.
But dinner, who could forget that first meal after airplane food! Everyone was enthused at this idea!
So rather than give them any old food we took them to one of the best Italian restaurants in Durban.