Mind-Blowing Marine Guide Adventures
It has been one week since we arrived at Kleinemonde. We have already done, seen, and learned so many amazing things! After two canoe trips and one barge trip into the estuaries, two beach walks, and our first snorkeling session, the Eastern Cape has pulled out all the stops. We have managed to already hit one of the first goals we set for ourselves; spot all five kingfishers that live around the estuaries. The pied, malachite, and giant kingfishers were easy enough to see and were already spotted during the canoe trip on our first day, but the Brown-hooded kingfisher took us a little longer. It was the half-collared kingfisher that posed the real challenge, though. On Thursday we got incredibly lucky, and the Kowie River treated us to an amazing sighting; for 10 minutes we watched one sit on the water’s edge, waiting for a nice meal to swim by. The cameras were working hard!
But this hasn’t been our only special bird sighting; on our first canoe trip, we saw the goliath heron for the first time, which was later chased off by an African fish eagle. The goliath heron in itself is one of the most amazing birds I have seen, and that interaction made the sighting even more special. I have been keeping a list of all the birds we see and our count is already on 49, I’m curious to see how far we will get during these four weeks…
For me, one of the most important things I have learned the past week is how little I knew about the ocean environment. It turns out there are whole Phyla of organisms I never knew existed! Every day I get surprised again, and it is amazing to see how beautiful and intricate life in the coastal marine environment is. It got me even more curious about what I don’t know about the marine environment back home in the Netherlands, and I have set the goal of reading up on that when I get back.
It has also been very cool to see what incredible things you can find on the beach here, simply washed up. On one of our beach walks, we saw that a fisherman had caught a lesser sand shark, and were able to look at it carefully before setting it free again. Later we found a washed-up rocksucker (another animal I never knew existed), other types of sharks, and a common octopus. Of course, there are also many shells, seaweeds, sponges, and other types of organisms on the shoreline, and it is very nice to see that you start recognizing more things every day.
Other cool experiences included catching crabs for the first time, learning new tracks (goliath heron, water mongoose, and cape clawless otters), seeing a group of hundreds of bottlenose dolphins from the beach, seeing bottlenose dolphins surf the enormous waves, and having Paul, our amazing host, dissect a huge fish and teach us about fish anatomy.
This morning we had our first exam and tomorrow our second week will start. I’m curious about what’s to come!
“Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.”―
A change of scenery
My name is Lisa and I’m a student at Ulovane environmental training. This week was week 8 already, time flies! I joined the marine guide training course for a week, and I had an absolutely amazing time.
The week started with an early morning so that we could ‘catch’ the ocean at low tide. The water was almost at its lowest when we arrived at the beach, and as the tide lowered further, rocks and pools of water left behind started to show. We got into our wetsuits and prepared ourselves to enter the cold water. At first, not a lot of life seemed to appear in the rocky area, which is only left alone by the ocean for a short time of the day. But as soon as we sat down at the side of one of the pools and turned over a few rocks, the total opposite seemed to be true.
The first thing that we saw, was an octopus. Well, everybody else told me there was an octopus in the small pool where we were looking, but I didn’t see anything. The octopus was so well camouflaged that it was almost impossible to see. But then, one tentacle moved just a little bit which allowed me to follow the shapes of its body, and eventually, I saw the whole animal. It does not only change colour very rapidly, but it also changes texture. Therefore, the octopus looked exactly like the finely forked coralline; the seaweed it was sitting on top of. Absolutely incredible.
As we turned over more rocks in the little pool where we were sitting, we found another outstanding creature; a brittle star. It looks like a sea star, but with a small round body and five long ‘legs’. It moved quite fast but one of the students managed to catch it and show it to us. I found myself amazed by all the things we saw in this little pool of water, especially because to me it did not look like there would be much life at all when I first looked at the little pool. It is amazing to find out more about this stunning world of the ocean, which I’m getting more intrigued by every day I spend on the South Coast of South Africa.
The ocean is this beautiful, unexplored place. Why on Earth everyone isn’t down there, I don’t know. – Graham Hawkes
Desire to inspire
We had a few exciting early morning canoe trips down the estuaries to understand the role of fresh water in the oceans better. From expert crab hunters to very long disappointing fishing days where you catch nothing but seaweed. We tried our luck in the rocky pools and snorkelled for a few days to see what we can find and wow! Sea spiders? Is that even a thing? Being able to learn all these new things about the ocean that I never knew is just absolutely amazing. The Marine guide course is definitely a must.
I’m very much enjoying the Marine course. We conducted a beach walk for some Americans that came to Ulovane. After spending a whole day in the sun and running up and down sand dunes we finally arrived at our destination where we had a well-deserved lunch on the beach. We saw a pod of 300 dolphins coming past us surfing the waves and jumping out of the water.
Currently 3 weeks into the marine course I start to place all the little things into their place and start to understand the wicked ways of the ocean. From the birds flying in the sky to the dolphins surfing the waves, every organism has a place, and to finally be able to understand that place makes the ocean such a remarkable environment. Time is running way too fast and I now realize standing at the end of my journey at Ulovane, I can say that I have truly learned a lot about myself and about nature and that is what made it worth it at the end of the day.
“Life is a first impression. You get one shot at it. Make it everlasting.”―