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!
I spent two weeks in South Africa with Conservation Global in a partnered trip with Franklin University Switzerland. It is safe to say that these two weeks are by far the most memorable of my life thanks to the effort Conservation Global put into both the educational and adventurous aspects of our trip. From hiking up Lion’s Head in Cape Town, diving with Great White sharks in the Indian ocean, and near encounters with the endangered White Rhinoceros, this NGO helped plan an incredible experience for my research conservation class. If it were not for Conservation Global I do not think we could have done many of the activities we did- such as engage with students at Tsiba College on issues of sustainability on our campuses, and meet and listen to Mark Rutherford lecture on how to run Gondwana Game Reserve. I will forever be grateful for these two weeks and for all of the hard work Conservation Global put into this experience!
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.