From Crawfish to Mosquito fish

Olivia Saacke
6 December 2018

After leaving Natures Valley a little over a week ago, I already miss waking up to the sound of birds outside my window, swimming in the estuary, the zebra fudge squares from Nature’s Way (highly recommend) and of course working for NVT. Interning at Nature's Valley Trust was my first “real world” experience after graduating college and it was the right decision. After graduating in May, the last thing I wanted to do was work a desk job and sit in front of a computer all day. I was looking for an opportunity to go somewhere new, work outdoors, and gain hands-on conservation experience. My time at NVT came nothing short of this. Between shorebird surveys, marine debris surveys, mosquito fishing, fisherman bins, and bird ringing we were kept very busy. However, there were opportunities to explore our own conservation interests or research ideas. Mark was more than willing to listen to our ideas and enthusiastically guide us in implementing them. The great thing about NVT is they let you dive right into the work they do. I couldn’t believe all of the experience I gained in less than 3 months and the progress I was able to make in that short of time. After feeling somewhat lost after my first shorebird survey to being able to clearly recognize tracks and assist in locating eggs was very fulfilling. One of my favorite things (besides mosquito fishing of course) was learning how to take birds out of the nets while bird ringing. It was easy for me to dive into any task or job presented knowing that it was actually making a difference. For example, sorting out fisherman bins wasn’t the most exhilarating work but seeing the huge heap of fishing line that had been collected over the past few months that would have probably otherwise been in the ocean made me realize the importance of everything we do. My time here made me appreciate the wide variety and range of conservation efforts, big and small.


Olivia about to release a female Southern Double-collared Sunbird (Top left); learning to extract birds from the net while bird ringing (Top Right) and two White-fronted Plover Chicks, newly ringed (Bottom).

Flying halfway across the world for a program I found on the internet was risky, but as soon as I got here, I trusted I was in the right place. I enjoyed the people I lived with and became close with the other intern, Rose, that was there for most of my time. With the help of Patricia, the project car, we were able to explore the area and enjoyed hikes, farmers markets, too many farm stall visits, and even a horseback safari at Plett Game Reserve. My favorite hike we went on was in Robberg Nature Reserve which I definitely encourage anyone doing this program to take time to do. There were also plenty of hikes that were walking distance from the intern house (Salt River, Pigs Head, and The Point) that never got old. Not only did I grow professionally, but on a personal level as well. This trip taught me how to become a more independent individual. Also, with the encouragement of my housemates, I even improved from eating only peanut butter to (kind of) cooking!


Posing in our super attractive wetsuits after Afri-Canyon (Top Left); marine debris survey with Rose on Salt River (Top Right); hiking at Robberg Nature Reserve with friends (Bottom left) and a Horseback Safari at Plett Game Reserve (Bottom Right).

The natural, raw beauty of Nature’s Valley is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Exploring natural areas, that would be overcrowded and over-regulated in America, was a way more authentic experience here. I’ll always remember my time here and the work, people, and adventures that made it so special. Thank you to the NVT team for letting me into your lives and work and letting me be a member of the team for a few months!


Baie dankie!

Olivia (Laura)