A Dream Come True!

Louise Bestea
2 August 2018

Living in Africa has always been one of my biggest dreams, maybe THE dream I knew I would realise one day. I took the opportunity to go to this continent for a 6-month internship which I had to do for my MSc. degree in ethology and ecology. I wanted to travel and experience living abroad, so I chose to “take the risk” and join this awesome NVT team for several months rather than go back to an academic place that I already knew.

Would I be able to collect enough data to write a good thesis? That was my main fear as I arrived in Nature’s Valley. Then, a chat with Mark reassured me (a bit, yes, I put too much pressure on my own shoulders) and not long after my days were taken up studying a really pretty plant - Watsonia Knysnana. I studied its breeding system and found it so interesting! I also received help from interns and staff members, and back in France, I scored high marks for my thesis and my thesis defense thanks to them!

Enjoying some field work about W2. knysnana

Enjoying some field work about W. knysnana.

I also took part in other very cool surveys such as marine debris surveys, shore bird monitoring and mosquito fish surveys (this one is not that great, but we made it very funny), etc! My favourite activity though was the bird ringing! Oh, you have to get up really early but it’s so worth it, especially when Brittany teaches you how to take birds out of the net! What a great feeling to hold birds in your hands! And when Mark is there it’s always a pleasure to listen to him because he’s so knowledgeable about everything! 

Taking out a yellow bishop and a very cute african paradise flycatcher

Taking out a Yellow bishop and a very cute African paradise flycatcher!

Joining NVT allowed me to meet incredible people from different nationalities and backgrounds. We had so much fun together because I guess everyone realised that we were all here together for weeks at a time and we tried to make it as entertaining as possible! However, the first weeks were very frustrating for me because I wasn’t good enough at English to make jokes or to respond fast enough to them. I said: “You know guys I can’t make jokes like you right now, but I’m really funny in French, trust me!”. Those who were present laughed, and I think this is how I started to feel more comfortable with humour. We had some crazy nights in the intern house, in Rocky Road, in Plett, in Wilderness and in Pretoria, we went often to restaurants, we did some braai or potjie, we visited wildlife sanctuary, we went to safaris or horse riding, we swam with seals, we did tough but beautiful hikes… What a life!

Some funny crazy moments with the guys some are missing

Some funny crazy moments with the guys (some are missing)!

Being in Nature’s Valley was also incredible with this magnificent nature surrounding us. The huge beach became my new house. Spending hours and hours laying on the sand alone or with other interns was amazing! I remember the first time I saw it, it blew my mind! I knew I would be happy there. 

The Point and when the estuary reaches the Indian ocean

The Point and when the estuary reaches the Indian ocean

My other favourite place is the Robberg Nature Reserve. The hike gets you out of your comfort zone and the landscapes are beautiful! I did it three times and I was never disappointed.

3 photos of Robberg taken the 3 different time I got there

3 photos of Robberg taken the 3 different times I went there.

I also felt lucky for having seen beautiful birds, sneaky vervet monkeys, impressive baboons almost every day, but not so lucky when a massive rain spider was chilling in my bedroom. In this case you can always rely on a more courageous intern to take it away… Also, being very close to elephants, giraffes, seals or a whale during (marine) safaris was unbelievable! Again, a dream came true!

Magic meetings in Addo Elephant Park and in the Plett Game reserve

Magic meetings in Addo Elephant Park and in the Plett Game Reserve.

Although I am very happy to see my family and my friends again, it’s been a bit weird to be back in France after those 6-month in Nature’s Valley. It was my home, my daily routine. The people with who I worked became my friends and family. I’ve never felt home sick, like I’ve always belonged to this place, this country. I’m not saying I didn’t have difficult times, but I always tried to look at the bright side. And the presence of other interns helped.

In NVT you say hello and goodbye a lot, especially if you’re here for several month. Some goodbyes hurt me hard and I cried a lot because even if you want it, you don’t really know if/when you’ll see those people again. But then you make plans to visit your new friends in their own country, or they come to see you! When my turn came to say goodbye, I wouldn’t leave. I wish I could have stayed longer.

threesome

One of the hardest time after a crazy journey to Pretoria, saying goodbye to Hayley and Liezl at the same time, while I was going back to Nature’s Valley.

But I promise I’ll come back in South Africa. Maybe for work. Surely to see you again guys!

Thank you everyone. You gave me unforgettable wonderful memories. I still feel so lucky. Love you!

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