Kate on Conservation

Shamwari Diaries: Act 5 Scene 2 — Burning bright


In this week’s Shamwari serieswe head to Port Elizabeth for some sand boarding, and I discover the importance of fire in my first controlled burn. This follows my return to Shamwari’s student programme, where I found myself in the middle of a herd of 26 elephants! You can read the series from the very beginning here. You can read all about that in the last Shamwari Diaries post:Act 5 Scene 1 – Falling into place. Or, read the series from the very start here.

Shifting sands

Sunday 5th October 

I’ve spent this weekend in Port Elizabeth, staying in a backpacker’s hostel with my fellow student volunteers. After a night of fruit cocktail and clubbing, we went to a gorgeous little cafe for breakfast this morning, which was amazing! I had the nicest fruit smoothie I’ve ever tasted.

Two of the guys who run the hostel we’re staying in took us sand boarding this afternoon, on some huge sand dunes! 

It was so much fun — despite the fact it took me a few attempts before I could start off properly without covering my board in sand!

But once I’d got the hang of it, it was awesome. And just as we were taking a bit of a break, a privately owned plane flew over head and out to sea, where it began doing all sorts of mad stunts! 

He kept flying upside and down nose diving over the sea; getting so close to the water before whipping upwards again, as well as stalling the engine as he neared the water! A scary but exciting free stunt show!

Better to burn out than to fade away

Tuesday 7th October 2008

Today was absolutely boiling! Around 36- 37 degrees C.

We began the day’s activities with a two and a half hour hike through Death Valley (a valley in Bushman Sands reserve that I hiked through a few weeks ago). 

The formidable Death Valley

Although the walk itself was tough, it felt really good when we’d finished, and the route itself was an interesting one. 

We ended the hike at a cave at the top of a rock formation, where there were some ancient bushman paintings

End of hike victory, and noticing our outfits match

After we had hiked back to the truck, Jaco got a phone call to say that they are carrying out controlled burns in the southern section of the reserve to regenerate the dead grasses there. 

The purpose of this is to intentionally set a wildfire for the sake of land management; the fire helps to manage (burn away) weeds and shrubs, and therefore reduce the risk of accidental wildfires (the likes of which I’ve seen before out here).

The fires have the added effect of restoring nutrients, so that more desirable plants grow in the future. This process occurs naturally in certain biomes as well.

It was such a hot day as it was, but it was unbearable in the truck driving through the fires, checking that all was in order .

In the afternoon we were supposed to remove some wire fencing, but Jaco decided it was way too hot to do that, so instead we did a short game drive back to Madolas.

Wednesday 8th October 2008

Had a really good day! Started out by visiting the southern Born Free Centre and having a guided tour around all of the enclosures with Glen Vena; the manager of the centre. 

2019 Note: I would see Glen Vena 6 years later, at a special event in the UK to commemorate 30 Years of the Born Free Foundation.

An amber stare from Achee

Although I’ve been there several times before, this is the first time that I’ve been able to see Achee and Ma Juah, the two lionesses (I previously adopted Ma Juah as a Christmas gift) and both have bone deformities due to previous bad diets – Achee is also incredibly small (half the size of a normal lioness) due to her condition. 

Ma Juah strides by

After that we took a short drive around the reserve and found a male and female lion from the southern pride mating! 

We watched them for quite a while before moving on to do some wire fence removal for a few hours in the afternoon. 

Sunset, as a storm is brewing

We had a huge storm in the evening, which is the first proper rain fall in weeks – which will be brilliant for the burn site yesterday.

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Next time: I head to Mossel Bay to see Great White Sharks! 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

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