Farewell from Felix

Felix Zundel
19 January 2015

Thank you Nature's Valley Trust

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Unfortunately my internship is coming to an end now and it is time for me to look back at the time I spent in South Africa. What do I start with? I think I should start with the expectations I had before I came here. This Internship was my first big journey, leading me to another continent. Of course I had expectations, I expected vast coastlines of amazing beauty and a powerful ocean. For the rest I did not expect anything because no matter what you figure out it is going to be different anyways. The time I spent here was absolutely incredible, I definitely fell in love with this area. The first four months I basically spent based in Natures Valley, I experienced this place out of the season with empty beaches and so much space. It was wonderful. Fortunately I also had the opportunity to stay in Plettenberg Bay for a month which also was amazing, the difference between empty beaches just for yourself and a bit of “citylife” in Plett was perfect for me. My job during this internship was to interview fishermen on the beaches and collect data concerning litter, catches and attitudes of anglers, enabling the Trust to assess the ecological impact of shore based fisheries. For me it was the perfect job, I am an absolute outdoor and ocean person so it perfectly fitted my interests. I was out on the beach for hours and hours and even in my spare time I could not keep off of the beach. Due to my research I had the opportunity to get in contact with a lot of different characters which was very interesting for me. And my work would take place in 3 beautiful sections along the famous Garden Route coastline, each completely different. What more could you wish for?

Felix at work

Felix working on the Fisherman's Ecological Impact Program. He spent 450 hours over 4 months, conducting over 100 fisherman interviews! Our fieldwork is not for sissies!

Next to my work on the beach I was still participating in all other projects run by the Natures Valley Trust. As I look back now I did a lot of different things and experienced all different aspects of conservation. I took part in educational programs working with children of local communities, I ringed birds, I rescued cormorants and penguins we found on the beaches, I planted trees in local communities, took part in educational planning meetings of communities organised by SANParks, I worked together with various organisations such as SANParks and Tenikwa. Within the December holiday program I experienced the fun parts of working with groups of kids, something I always thought I would be bad at but now I saw that it can actually be great fun. Not to forget the fish netting in the lagoon, quantifying and measuring the fish populations by gill and seine-netting, which was one of my favourite experiences. What I liked most I think was the way the internship was set up from the Trusts side, it was not just taking part and helping out but I had my own project where I had to take full responsibility for and I really worked as part of a team taking part in all other projects.

Felix NVT

Felix on other NVT programs: working with kids, ringing Kelp Gulls, and rescuing birds for rehab.

Volunteering with the Trust was a great experience, all the work I did mostly not even feel like work because it was so much fun. The people at the Trust are really nice and accepted me as full part of the team from the beginning on. Besides the amazing experiences I had with the Trust I also really enjoyed my spare time, even though I was mostly busy on weekends as well I found time to travel a bit, I did a little surftrip to Jeffreys Bay and Cape St Francis and I had an incredible time travelling to Cape Town for new years with some of the good, good friends I made here in South Africa. I also (more or less) accomplished my main personal goal for Africa which was to learn surfing. I spent a lot of time in the water, even though the first months of learning to surf where quite frustrating, making the drop on the first proper wave was rewarding enough for all the work. I really got hooked on surfing and I found something I really, really want to pursue. For me it is going to be very hard to live on the dry land again, for the last 5 months the focus of my life was the Indian Ocean, I spent no day without at least getting my feet wet. At night I would always hear the sound of the ocean crashing into the beautiful coastline, at home I got a similar sound which is created by the highways, not quite the same as far as I am concerned. Well so much for the depressive part.

Felix surfing

Felix in his element - the ocean and a surf board!

Felix in field

Felix making the most of the internship!

 South Africa, the people and the whole experience definitely changed me, I feel that I am a different person now which has grown in various ways, luckily for me I kind of like that person. It was a huge step forward for me, I also got to make various contacts and get to know people from different organisations and institutions which I am convinced is going to help me with my future career as networking and working together is one of the most integral parts of the conservation sector. Looking at Africa as a whole continent I have not seen much but I’m very keen to discover more, all the unbelievable stories I have heard about Namibia, Botswana and Mozambique definitely put some wood on the little fire of adventure burning inside me for a long time already. Not to mention all the surf breaks Africa seems to be equipped with. As weird as it is but South Africa seems to be a place which is fitting me and my interests quite well. Well the second coffee is finished, the bill paid so as well as my stay here this final blog seems to come to an end, I could go on for hours but as always time suddenly shows up as an limiting factor. For the rest I want to thank everybody I met here for making my stay so special, of course special thanks to the Nature’s Valley Trust and its team for such a good internship. I really fell in love with South Africa and its ocean, so much diversity and beauty in one place is incredible. Whatever I am sure you got the “in love with Africa” part by now….only thing that comes to mind for the final sentence:

 I will be back ASAP…

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One of Felix's survey zones was the spectacular section from Grootbank to Enrico's restuarant.

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