Until We Meet Again
After the most amazing time of my life, it is time to say goodbye. My 5-months internship with the Nature’s Valley Trust has come to an end, but what an amazing experience it has been. I have seen and done more than I could have ever hoped for. When I got here, I did not quite know what to expect. Of course Mark told me about a couple of projects and activities which I would be involved in, but many of these projects and activities I’ve never worked with before. Yet, in the end, this was the reason that I have learned so incredibly much in the last 5 months.
During my first days here, I was completely amazed by all the wildlife here. Even the ibises (which I don’t think I will miss very much after spending 5 months between them) amazed me. And of course there were the bokkies and the rainspiders, which were common guests in and around the house.
After a couple of weeks, I got introduced to my own project that I would be running during my stay. I would be collecting GPS data of both beach litter and visitors to enter these into a spatial distribution maps which show any correlating areas of occurrence between categories of these two. For this project, I would do two field days a week of 8 hours each. In total, I have completed 34 of these field work days, walking a total of 272 hours. During these hours, I have come across some of the most beautiful, awesome, crazy and sad things on the Nature’s Valley beach. Some of these were, for example, the great amount of nautilus shells that I have found during my fieldwork. Everybody in the office now has at least one. But things like these weren’t the only crazy things I came across. A few months into my project, a big blue marlin beached. I found the animal dead on the beach around 7 AM and immediately called everybody to come to the beach. Word spread quickly and before noon half the inhabitants of Nature’s Valley had come to have a look.
One of the bigger projects I have helped with was the seine-netting in the lagoon. Never before have I helped with something like this. I have measured more fish than I could possibly keep track off, but it has been a great project to work with. Definitely a great way to get to know the South African estuary fish. The first time I helped with seine-netting, we caught over 8000 fish and it took us the entire day to count and measure these. While this was a lot of time to spend on measuring fish, it was definitely a wonderful experience.
Besides all the research projects I have helped with, I was involved in a number of environmental education projects, which involved several schools around Nature’s Valley and sometimes a lot further. This was a great opportunity for me to learn something about the South African education system and gave me some insight in how things are different here than they are in The Netherlands. These projects included the Adopt a River and the Adopt a Beach projects, during which Yanga would reach a class of primary school children about the rivers and beaches close to them and how to preserve them for the future generations. But a lot of the projects were entire camps, where a group would come and camp at the campsite nearby and we would guide them through the valley and nearby areas to teach them about what we do and what they can do to help keep the area pristine.
Besides all the research and education projects, I had a lot of chances to explore the area myself. Many a time have I visited Monkeyland, Birds of Eden and Jukani to explore the primates, birds and big cats of Southern Africa and anything else that has been brought to these sanctuaries. I even had a chance to complete the highest bungee bridge in the world at the Bloukrans Bungee Bridge, which is something that I would have never done if it wasn’t a once in a lifetime experience, such as this one.
All in all, I have seen and done so many things that I would have never done if I hadn’t come to South Africa for my internship. I have expanded my knowledge and practical skills incredibly and this knowledge I will keep with me forever. It has been the best time of my life and I have been so lucky to have spent this time with the awesome people that I met here. It will be immensely difficult for me to get used to my old life again after an experience like this, but you can be sure that I will never forget this. The stories that I will take with me to The Netherlands will be some of the craziest ones that my friends and family will have ever heard and I am incredibly proud that I was part of this crazy team of people at the Nature’s Valley Trust and I can guarantee that this will not be the last time you will see me! One day I will come back and I am hoping to find you all here again.
I got here to meet strangers and I am leaving behind family.