PARADISE - 2 week at NVT

Craig Bradbury
2 May 2019

Before I got to the valley

I flew from Birmingham (UK) via Dubai to Johannesburg - Jan 22nd. I spent 6 weeks living with my cousin, in Tarleton - about 2 hours drive from the airport OR Tambo.  I stayed with her on the Farm, along with the 24+ horses, 7 rescue dogs, duck's and chickens (lots of fun). My cousin, Louise, breeds Irish Draught & Sport Horses  (killarus stud)  a very important breed to maintain, they have exceptional temperaments. She's working hard to promote the importance of the breed while trying to establish it in SA. A very passionate and fascinating lady. So When she asked me, "would you like to help out, while Gordon (her partner) was away, working in Cape town", I jumped at the offer. 

I arrived with a 3-month visa. I wanted to make the most of it, so after my time with my cousin, in Johannesburg and living like a tourist for a week or two, visiting the Pilanesberg National park, and down town Johannesburg, (lots to see and do) I flew to Durban. My uncle also lives there. We planned a last-minute trip to the Drakensberg mountains, on Motorbike's. We visited Howick falls, stayed in Pietermaritzburg and Clarens, stopping of at a few other places along the way, my uncle was a great tour guide.


Nature's valley 

I've always enjoyed the outdoors, I grew up on a farm in England, so it's in my blood.  I was keen to learn more about nature, plants and animals, how to conserve and look after the environment. I used Google to do some research, see if there was a charity, community work/conservation or some kind of organisation I could basically just help.

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When I came across the "Natures Valley Trust" website, I was very pleased.  I wasted no time at all and contacted them straight away. I received a prompt, professional reply from Kellyn and she was more than happy to assist and discussed my options.  Here I am now and happy I made the right decision.

My first Day - Saturday, exploring the valley.   I was honestly blown away, the natural beauty here is just like how I'd imagine it to be in heaven. The nature, the view's, even the smells are fascinating, walking around trying to find which plant or tree it's coming from, I wish I could bottle some up to take home, I'd be a millionaire.  You really have to smell and see it to believe it. This place has it all. WOW it's special. I walked everywhere with my camera at the ready, hoping to capture a Baboon or a bird or maybe even a leopard.  For me this is Paradise. The beach is spotless, the lagoon is stunning and welcoming; a swim, a kayak, I hear it is the cleanest, least interrupted river in the whole of SA, or if that doesn't take your fancy, the hiking trails are plentiful.

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My early Sunday morning sunrise jog down to the beach, only 1k from the NVT lodge, started at 6:00am.  I was just a bit too keen, the sun didn't rise above the mountains until 6:50.  It was worth the wait, and I got some good photos of Mercury, just above the sunrise. 

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The stars on a clear night have me mesmerised for hours, stars upon stars. Zero light pollution, there are no street lights in the valley, just the lights of Nature; luminous algae in the ocean, fireflies in the forest and a big bright sky, full of stars. Perfect.

My first day in the office, I had a welcoming introduction from Mark, he wanted to know a little bit about myself and what I was expecting to gain from my time in the Valley. A welcome pack, cap and t-shirt from Kellyn.

In the afternoon I assisted Lauren and Kirwan with a talk on the beach with a local school, a group from Crags Primary - Grade 6/7 around 30 students. Kirwan spoke about coastal erosion on the beach and global warming. It was successful and enjoyable for all. I enjoyed the interaction with the kids and watching them get involved, Lauren and I assisted with some of the equipment, and guided the learners with there observations.

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I enjoyed the 5am bird ringing session, I found it very interesting how they catch and ring the birds. I enjoyed holding them and having my photo taken. Two of my highlights was setting up some trail cameras to capture leopards! Yes Leopards! And kayaking around the lagoon mosquito fish sampling, I enjoyed getting wet and getting stuck into what needed to be done. Lots of fun and helping the environment.

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Generally, the atmosphere in the group is relaxed, laid back but very professional and lots of fun. Everyone has their own little projects to get on with, there's no strict routine, help out where and when you can. Everyone is full of enthusiasm, encouragement and there's no pressure to do anything you don't want to do, but why hold back, for most it's a once in a life time opportunity; make the most of it, live learn and remember, even the smallest of contribution really does make a difference to conservation and the environment.

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Just ONE last thing, be aware of the Boboons! One got in the house, we were in the kitchen, the door was open, it jumped up on to the counter and stole some avos. I found it quite funny and really cool to see a baboon, but honestly they can cause havoc, they’re not to be encouraged.  A lesson learnt fast, keep windows and doors shut.

My only concern would be, "I didn't stay for long enough". 

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