Kate on Conservation

Shamwari Diaries: Act 2, Scene 1 – Seeking out the past and opening up the future

Shamwari diaries - between the past and the future title card

In this week’s Shamwari series we visit a neighbouring reserve to go in search of ancient cave paintings and I receive some big news during a beach camping trip! A welcome return to normality after tackling the world’s highest bungee jump and avoiding and elephant charge in my last Shamwari Diaries post, which you can catch-up with here: Act 1, Scene 5: Surviving an elephant charge and a 216 metre jump!

In case you missed the start of Act 1, you can discover why I’m revisiting this time here.

Climbing for cave paintings

Tuesday 12th August, 2008

Visited a nearby reserve called ‘Bushman Sands‘ today and went looking for ancient cave paintings.

This involved lots of hiking and climbing up rocks, which was good fun — even though myself and three other girls got separated from the group and were totally lost for about 15 minutes after getting distracted by passing wildlife!

On the hunt for cave paintings

We found three lots of cave paintings, which were really interesting to see, and it was quite incredible to think that humans created these works of art in such a different time.

Saw elephants, ostriches, baboons, zebras and impala out on the reserve and finished the day with a presentation about a new project involving the tracking and radio-collaring of brown hyena on Shamwari reserve that’s due to start soon.

Wednesday 13th August, 2008

Off on a camping trip today and tomorrow, to go camping on the beach!

A couple of hours spent travelling to the coast, but we were given the chance to stop off at a supermarket on the way and stock up on food — and chocolate!

Simple pleasures, but I enjoyed a wonderful couple of hours as we stopped off at a beachside restaurant for pizza, and spent an hour or so sitting in the sun, enjoying the newfound friendships that all of us volunteers have built up over the last few weeks.

Collected all our bags and sleeping bags out of the cars, to go on a 3km walk along the beach. Although it was nice, it was incredibly hot, and carrying our equipment quickly became tiring.

A huge relief when we reached our destination and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon sunbathing, making ‘sand men’, daring one another to roll down huge sand dunes and of course burying one another!

Making ‘sand men’ on the beach

Cooked dinner on a portable stove, and ended a perfect day by chatting round the camp fire, and opting for an early night — I think we were all pretty tired out after the hike.

Slightly optimistic with our thoughts of a good night’s sleep though: we were sleeping out on the sand (with no tents) and the night was freezing. I never knew sand could get so cold (or uncomfortable!), and barely slept at all!

Thursday 14th August, 2008

Unsurprisingly, I woke up very early this morning after a difficult, restless night. Neck-ache has definitely set in, and looks like it’s going to be with me for the day!

My negative mood paled away quite quickly though, as I received the news that my mum went to collect my A-Level results from my college this morning… I have enough UCAS points to confirm my place at my top choice of university! And what’s more, my grades are good enough to qualify for the Gifted and Talented scholarship I applied for: £10,000 towards my tuition! I’m going to be the first person in my family to go to uni!

What an incredible feeling after such effort! A letter from the college confirmed that I’ve been awarded a Special Award for Outstanding Achievement, but as I’m out here, I will have to miss the awards ceremony.

Night out to Louis’ Bar to celebrate tonight. Of course!

Friday 15th August, 2008

Tracking cheetahs and leopards this morning — a good way to recover from the night before!

Discovered two cheetahs within half an hour of setting out on the drive. They were quite close to the fence line of Madolas Lodge, and seemed on edge at first, just skulking away through the tall grass. But after a short while of us quietly watching, they seemed to grow accustomed to the presence of our vehicle and rested for long enough for us to take a few photos.

We spent roughly another hour tracking the leopard. Although we had a strong signal on the radio transmitter (from the cat’s radio collar), the vegetation was too dense for us to see where it was coming from exactly.

Sadly, in the end we had to give up without a sighting.

Things move so quickly out here, that there was barely enough time to dwell on the missed opportunity to see the leopard — instead we were successfully able to track down the reserve’s Southern Pride of lions (found south of the river), which consisted of an adult male and 2 females. A big cat kind of day!

Spent the afternoon at the Alicedale Community Centre playing with the kids — we mostly played ball games and let the girls braid our hair. They spent about an hour playing with our hair, telling us that they like the way it feels different from theirs.

Sunday 17th August, 2008

My nephew celebrates his 1st birthday today. I managed to speak to my parents on the phone, and there is a family get-together to celebrate. I hope one day he thinks of me as a cool auntie, wishing him a happy 1st birthday from a lodge on a game reserve in South Africa!

Had to pack my suitcase today, as tomorrow we are moving to Bushman Sands Lodge (quite the upgrade!) — 4* accommodation in the nearby town of Alicedale, close to our beloved Louis’ Bar.

We are to spend two weeks staying there at no extra cost, as Madolas Lodge has been double-booked, with a bunch of students arriving, who are studying to become nature guides.

Join me next week as I move lodges, change volunteer co-ordinators and spot my first brown hyena! Discover why I’m revisiting this time here.


HAVE YOU HEARD?! This first post of my Shamwari Series will feature in a brand new book, The Wildlife Blog Collection: a compilation of 70 amazing stories celebrating some of the most memorable, entrancing and exciting wildlife moments as told by top nature writers from across the globe. Order your copy here

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