Drop the Mic!

Hayley Mitchell
20 July 2018

To those who are heading out to Natures Valley tomorrow, next week or in a few weeks: I am SO flipping excited for you. You are honestly about to endure a TOTAL adventure; so many things you have not experienced before and moments you will never forget.


Going to see some whales!

Right before I made my way from Canada to South Africa for my 3 month internship, I did what you’re doing now: reading the most recent blogs about peoples’ experiences at NVT. It just so happened that the most recent one was pretty negative… in fact I think it was the only negative one that has ever been written but curiosity got the best of me and I read it.  In hindsight, I should have known that everyone processes things differently and I have the choice to make my time at NVT whatever I wanted it to be, but the truth is, it shook me. It took away a lot of my excitement. So please, to those reading this let me tell you something: Everyone has THEIR OWN experience. Your mindset, your approach, it will be what YOU put into it. Don’t do this internship looking for answers in life beyond NVT. Do this to try something new, to challenge yourself, to do what you love, to expand your knowledge, or to further your education or career. If you’re doing it for the right reasons, I promise you will get what you’re looking for and SO MUCH MORE.

If you’re interested in what my time was like at NVT, read on… but remember your time will be what you make of it!

I had just quit my job as an accountant, was taking a huge plunge into the unknown (a completely different field may I add), to a region I had never been to with a group of people I had never met… as anyone in the situation would be, I was both excited and terrified at the same time.

The decision to go to NVT was a decision that stemmed from passion. I have always been obsessed with the ocean and in the midst of my quarter life crisis, I felt as though I was at a crossroads: do I follow the straight & narrow; continue my career as an accountant in my (semi) small town? Or do I take a less logical, totally experimental and more risky adventure to follow my passion… I obviously decided to go with the latter.


The view from the top of the point, a 20 minute walk to see this amazing site.


Believe it or not, my biggest fear of NVT wasn’t that I knew so little about science and conservation but that I wouldn’t connect with people. I’m an extremely social person and all of my energy comes from others. When I arrived to NVT (in my nervous state) on a late Sunday evening, the valley was quiet, no one was really home and in my jetlagged state, I felt like my fear was coming to life. Honestly… I cried a lot that first night. (I know, total baby).

THEN… I went into the office the next morning, met the NVT team and went on a walk with Mark. MARK BROWN: he is your guy. Mark chatted to me, assured me he knew what kind of emotions can be involved with such a big change, encouraged open communication and was so genuine and honest with me. From that moment on, all of my concerns went straight out the door. I was promptly put into the field, learning anything and everything about the coastal sea birds. It was still breeding season, which meant 4am wakeup calls, lots of bird surveys, and long days. This all amongst marine debris surveys, bird ringing, flower walks, seine netting, school programs… there is SO much to do in February. It’s AWESOME.


That 4am start on shorebird monitoring days... so beautiful!


Marine debris fieldwork along the coast towards Salt River mouth.


A morning swimming with seals.

You’ll be meeting new people, doing new things all the time… and not to mention Nature’s Valley is GORGEOUS. Paradise. You’re a short walk to the beach. In the middle of SO MUCH wildlife… it is truly an amazing time.


Never thought I'd hold a owl! Meet Barney...

In terms of my fear: it obviously never came true. The NVT team became my family. I could write a great deal about each and every person from that team. You all seriously touched my heart and hold a place there. I have non-biological sisters that I know deep down, I will stay in touch with. And even 2 months out, I remain in steady contact with.

group Hayley3

Some of my sisters and also Chewie my running buddy (me chasing him around the table!).

You all played a part in my experience here and helped make it what it was.

I will always carry you guys in my heart.

Even though it was 3 months, it felt like family.


NVT will challenge you. It will help you grow. It will expand your horizons.

Do this for the right reasons and you will get so much out of the experience.

Picture13 hayls

For Brittany