My Time with NVT
Three flights and two time zone changes later, I arrived in probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever been - Nature’s Valley. The drive from George had already given me several lifers in terms of the birds I’d seen; pied kingfishers and hadeda ibises, which would soon become a regular site, were really exciting to see. And to give me an even better introduction to the birds of the valley, as soon as I arrived I was handed a sunbird that had just been ringed. Handling these amazingly patterned birds didn’t get any less exciting no matter how many times I was able to watch them flutter out from my hands to the freedom of the fynbos, each bird unknowingly carrying its own little contribution to science around its leg.
For the following four weeks, I was never bored. Whether it was planting trees in a local community, measuring sucrose concentration in nectar or just hiking the many trails in the area, there was always something to do in and around the valley. One particular trail, the Salt River, stood out for me and I ended up hiking it twice, once picking high tide to go (accidentally!), and another, much less nerve-wracking time at low tide when I took a picnic to the little bay and watched African fish eagles and giant kingfishers as I lunched. Getting such amazing views of eagles, and the other, often amazingly colourful, local birds was something I never quite got used to. I was also excited to see plants like sundews that I had only ever read about in textbooks.
Another of my favourite things about the valley was that nature was everywhere - both outdoors and indoors! - and for the most part, nature and people seemed to live happily together (with the occasional break in by the local baboons causing a temporary rift).
I learnt so much in the relatively short time I was with NVT and the experience really opened my eyes to the inner workings of a conservation NGO. It also helped to reaffirm that fieldwork is what I want to do in the future.