In this week’s Shamwari series, I return to Shamwari’s student programme, where conservation work gets physical once more, and I find myself in the middle of a herd of 26 elephants! This comes after a visit South Africa’s only wolf sanctuary. You can read all about that in the last Shamwari Diaries post: Act 4 Scene 5 – Parting from the pack. Or, read the series from the very beginning here.
Home from home
Tuesday 30th September 2008
Today, I arrived back at Shamwari! Yay!
It feels so good to be back here and I definitely feel like I’ve made the right decision to return. When I left Amakhala I felt quite nervous for some reason. I got the taxi to Madolas alone; it cost 250 rand, but I didn’t mind paying it.
I arrived at Madolas at 11.30, which gave me time to unpack and settle into my new room (different from the one I had before, and the shower isn’t mouldy!), before I got to meet all the other new students who arrived yesterday lunchtime.
Everyone seems really nice and it feels welcoming and more student-focused than Amakhala.
We spent the afternoon at the breeding centre, feeding Temba the 1-year-old elephant and Melvin the young giraffe; whose going to be moved to Pumbaa Reserve on Friday to prepare him to be released there.
We also got to see some of the episodes of the second series of Animal Planet’s Shamwari: A Wild Life being edited – including the one about the dead rhinos that I got to see being lifted from the river and given an autopsy!
On the way back we happened across a giraffe that had just given birth! Literally within the hour! The mother still had the afterbirth on her, and the calf was tiny. Amazing!
Wednesday 1st October 2008
Nice busy day today where I felt I got lots done. I’ve missed days like these over the last couple of weeks!
We started out by driving into a part of the reserve that I’m not familiar with and we tested the Land Rover to the max, by going off road up an extremely bumpy, steep, rocky mountain. It was so much fun!
Here we stopped to do some wire fence removal, which was quite difficult because the fence was literally on the steep mountain side, so we were having to balance as we were cutting!
It was really good to feel like I’m doing physical conservation work, rather than data collection — which I’ve discovered is not really my cup of tea.
After lunch we did a 3-hour trek along the fence line, because the fencing in that particular area doesn’t have electric trip wires at the bottom – so warthogs are able to burrow under it, which can cause lots of problems with animals escaping.
So, our job was to patrol the fence line and fill any burrows we came across using rocks. The only difficulty was the heat!
It was so hot today, possibly the hottest it’s been since I arrived here, and the water ran out within an hour. It was so gruelling! Especially as it was mostly uphill! Felt so good when we finished it though.
Thursday 2nd October 2008
Today we started out by doing some good old pine tree cutting. We spent the morning on quite a large hillside, which was absolutely covered in pines and by the time we left; about 11:00 it was about cleared.
We went back to Madolas for lunch and then picked up the spekboom cuttings that were planted several weeks ago that we have been nurturing ever since.
We took them out onto the southern section of the reserve where there are quite a lot of ‘cut lines’ along the mountain side (gaps in the vegetation where the farmers that previously owned the land had erected fences).
We planted all of out cuttings (about 40) along the steep side – it was very strenuous work, as the ground was solid and covered in rock, so we first had to pick axe the ground, then shovel out all of the loosened earth before we could plant them.
Friday 3rd October 2008
More hard work this morning, as we headed onto the reserve early and finished off removing the wire fencing along the hill that we had worked on on Wednesday.
It didn’t take us too long though as we’d cleared a whole section when we had worked on it previously, so there wasn’t too much left to do.
We finished at about 10.30 and rather than make us work on a new site, Jaco decided to take a slow drive through the northern section of the reserve to see if we could see any wildlife.
This was done as a bit of a treat for the new students who arrived on Monday. You can’t work on a game reserve without taking a safari!
We saw quite a few types of antelope, 2 species of zebras and white rhinos.
We came back to Madolas for lunch and then did a even more of a game drive in the afternoon – during which we encountered a herd of 26 elephants (including young) who were drinking out of a waterhole!
It was awesome! They walked right by the landrover, and then started running across the plains!
Wow. An incredible day, which beautifully ended with a walking safari, to see the two cheetah brothers on foot!
Next time: We conquer fire, head to Port Elizabeth for some sandboarding, and meet our match in Death Valley! You can read the series from the very beginning here.
CHECK IT OUT! The first post of my Shamwari Series features in a 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