Yesterday was mostly a driving day, so I’m thankful we spent some time on Table Mountain in the morning. Table mountain has more plant species than the entire UK, its one of the new 7 natural wonders of the world, and its one of the oldest mountains in the world since its 260 million years old! It’s also the only part of the earth that has a constellation named after it! After we left, we drove most of the day with the exception of some Oreo milkshakes and an AMAZING colorful home cooked dinner with grilled meat, veggies, and everything we could’ve wanted after being welcomed into a local home. We finally arrived to Plettenberg Bay where we will start most of our nature and conservation studies in a more rural area at Forest Hall. Forest Hall focuses on alien clearing and reforestation, which is why we will soon be planting trees in efforts to counteract our carbon footprint. Forest Hall perceives conservation as an imperative responsibility to improve future generations.
We started today with a bird studies talk – we learned how to label, ring, and record a bird to study migration patterns for conservation efforts. We got to fetch the birds from the net and then, after ringing them, let the birds to back into the wild. Then we took a walk to see Fynbos (a small shrub land biome unique to the Western Cape of South Africa with extensive biodiversity) and then talked about the social implications of the environment. Our guide Cindy told us that the biggest problem regarding environment conservation is poverty. I asked the question: if poverty is the biggest problem of environmental conservation from a socio-economic perspective, then that would imply that increasing monetary wealth would mitigate the problem. However, wealth isn’t a silver bullet solution because people tend to consequentially consume more food, water, land, and distance themselves more from the land as their monetary wealth grows. This would suggest increasing education programs to spread the idea of conservation, however I know many people (including me sometimes) who are educated and have enough money to live, but still chose convenience over conservation. I asked what were her suggestions to combat this problem between lack of action despite education, and she said that it is imperative that we get people out of poverty through subsidized programs that encourage a stronger love and passion towards the environment so the desire of conservation comes naturally. She said that these programs don’t necessarily make these families rich enough where they would consume much more than they did before, but it would put food on the table, which is the most important.
This nature walk and lunch on the farm with cows, chickens, sheep, etc., was a great example of becoming closer to the land to grow appreciation to where we live, what we eat, and how we eat it. We finished the day with a braai (the typical southern African BBQ). A braai, or braaivelies, is the Afrikaans word for grilled meat, but it usually relates to a social event, which revolves around chicken, pork or lamb. It was great to relax after so many action packed moments! Can’t wait to swim with seals tomorrow!
My week spent on Gondwana Game Reserve with Conservation Global was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I was fortunate enough to travel to South Africa with Franklin University Switzerland on academic travel in the spring of 2015. Bonding with the staff and learning about the animals in their natural environment made for one incredible week. Each day was filled with activities and lectures that were as entertaining as they were educational. As a group we had a lecture in the morning either from a member of the knowledge staff or from a local expert. We learned about native bee populations and were treated to honey samples from the region and were given a demonstration on the practice of tagging and tracking animals on the reserve. Perhaps the most memorable was when we were taught how to properly handle a tranquilizer gun and had a competition to see who could get a bullseye! After the morning lecture, the group would split up for the safari in which the staff took great care to make sure we saw as many animals as possible. Later in the afternoon we would regroup for a drink and to admire the scenery. I have the utmost respect for Conservation Global and the work they are doing—hoping to return to South Africa soon!
Conservation Global provided a comprehensive and engaging travel experience for a group of seasoned travelers. My expectations were exceeded due to the organization’s ability to strike a balance between learning and fun, academics were firmly grounded as the motivation for all activities. We had access to sustainability focused thought leaders who were great privileges to learn from; many of whom were only accessible through this fantastic organization and their vast network of environmentalists. From a beautiful sunrise hike of Lion’s Head in Cape Town to spending time with the students at Tsiba college in Knysna, I would happily relive this trip in a heartbeat. I am grateful for Conservation Global and the time and energy they put in to ensure a memorable, inspiring and educational South African adventure for all involved.