Wake up on Table Mountain – New 7 Wonders of Nature

Surprisingly, very few people are aware that you are able to sleep on top of Table Mountain. Imagine going to sleep with a canopy of stars above you and then waking up with the city beneath your feet? overseers-cottage-large1

The Overseers Cottage is part of the Hoerikwaggo Trail and you are able to rent it for a night or a weekend.

Why not gather your friends together for an opportunity which will leave all your friends and family back home envious of the awe inspiring experiences you are having whilst volunteering in Cape Town? The cottage falls within the within the Table Mountain National Park.oversears-cottage-jpg

The cottage is self-catering and is as comfortable as the Aviva Volunteer House. It is a renovated stone cottage with a large fireplace and gas-heated showers. The bedrooms consist of two x 4-sleeper bedrooms and four x 2-sleeper bedrooms and can accommodate up to 16 people. It has a braai area so you are able to enjoy a wonderful South African tradition of cooking your steaks on a wood fire whilst gazing at the stars.  The best thing is that it is fully equipped – just bring your food – AND – you can hire portage if you do not want to carry your own backpacks as you will need to hike there.  Naturally the portage is for a small fee.

The rate is very reasonable at approximately R2,700 for 6 people and about R400 per person for additional adults.

Now what are you waiting for?  Speak to Megan, our Volunteer Coordinator, and get the weekend planned!

 

 

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Balule Wildlife Conservation Project – Part 2

There were far too many highlights during my three week stay at Paradise. One of the major events that left me with sleepless nights occurred two weeks into my stay.  Spencer returned from one of the lodges clutching a box which he told me was my project for my final week, in his words I was to “keep it alive”. Inside the box was a cloth which I carefully unwrapped to find a tiny baby squirrel.  Its eyes were barely open and it easily fitted into my hand when I made a loose fist.  After a degree of “faffing” by the men, the sensible woman in camp (did I mention I was the only woman there at the time??) dismantled a biro and used the tube with thumb over the end to create suction to make a feeding device.

Unfortunately at the time the only thing we had suitable to feed him was a protein shake and ended up being the inspiration behind the squirrels name, Arnie, after ultimate muscle man Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Thankfully Arnie took to the strawberry flavoured protein shake and the new feeding device, although he expressed no opinion to this new name.  For the next week I constantly had a squirrel attached to me, usually down my cleavage (well it was warm down there and meant my hands were free). In just a week Arnie flourished, he became hairy, especially his tail. He even started to eat mashed up bananas and he loved to be touched and would lift up his arm so you would scratch him in the right place. I was worried about what was going to happen to Arnie when I left, but the men about the camp assured me they would look after him and after watching them with him, I felt secure.

We had many close encounters with the wildlife during my stay; being approached by two male white rhino; watching a herd of 30-40 elephants come to the dam for a drink 15069040_1256464067743513_5083334806709702438_oand play; seeing two male elephants fighting; occasionally being mock charged by various elephant who disagreed with having their photo taken; watch Spencer flee from the tracker seat at the front of the Landrover to the back after coming across a rather upset and trumpeting lone elephant at night (we did get close); have three male lions walk right next to usaviva-volunteer-balule-conservation-22 in what suddenly felt like an overly open and exposed game viewing Landrover.

We witnessed a male lion following a female lion one evening looking like they intended to go mate. We sat in camp with solifuges (sun spiders) and scorpions running around our feet and watched a large black mamba snake rear up out of the road as we drove past. We were stopped by a family of jackals and being amazed by the boldness of the juveniles who walked up to us to get a better look; 15493329_1283381658385087_103040995881605297_oseeing elegant giraffe stare at us through lone eyelashes and getting close to herds of buffalo, impala and zebra.

We had chances to glimpse hippos in the dams and river and caught a rare day sightings of a pair of civets and the list could go on and one. aviva-volunteer-balule-conservation-21

There are many things that I will miss about Balule and Paradise Camp, that will forever stick in my mind such as hearing the leopards and lions calling whilst we sat around the camp fire, the spectacular storms, the millions of stars on a clear night, the wildlife and of course my baby squirrel.  But what will really last a lifetime is the education provided by Spencer and his team and the dedication they offer to keeping wild areas wild, protecting the creatures that live there. 12234992_996786050377984_5857198991547250773_nSadly man can destroy an area in a matter of days but to conserve it takes lifetimes. Thankfully there are people like Craig Spencer and his team doing such work. Thank you guys for an unforgettable three weeks.

Nikki Williams

 

Balule Wildlife Conservation Project Part 1

Testimonial by Guest Blogger, Nicola Williams ….

Located in the Balule Nature Reserve, the aptly named Paradise Camp is a slightly rustic but comfy, camp, it even has flushing toilets and showers, open air of course; no doors or walls but a stick screen to provide a degree of modesty from human eyes, the wildlife on the other hand are free to stop and stare or you’ll be joined by a millipede or two or some other creature as you go about your business! There is also electricity when the sun shines (which thankfully was often during my stay) thanks to the odd solar panel, what more do you need in paradise? 13731781_1146047932118461_7192078559983034925_o

Paradise Camp is proud to claim that it is one of the only camps to not have a fence surrounding it, meaning that all creatures great and small, friendly or fierce are free to roam where ever they please (quite rightly too!). One evening, after returning from an excursion into the local town of Hoedspruit, we discovered that the creatures of the area certainly do exercise their right to roam.

As we got out of the Landrover we could see a light from the game viewing tower. The Research Assistant called to us to warn us that the camp appeared to have some new guests.  We all made it up the tower and listened and sure enough you could hear the tell tale sound of branches being broken punctuated by the deep tummy rumbles of an elephant located just behind the left hand toilet (why, oh why hadn’t I gone to the loo in town???).12485991_1025306984192557_7547421732433862336_o

As we continued to listen we could another elephant, this time near one of the cabins, so going to bed AND going to the toilet were both out of the question, may as well make ourselves comfy on the tower.  Another elephant could then be heard near the car park. They had obviously heard about Craig Spencer’s fabulous cooking skills over the camp fire (he’s won awards for his skills so I’m told), or maybe they felt sorry for the Research Assistant whom we had abandoned in camp, or maybe it was those irresistible marula trees that had brought them into camp either way the weren’t in a hurry to move so we sat and enjoyed their company.

I stayed in one of the five wooden cabins on stilts that are scattered in the bush and made sure that every evening I monitored my intake of water due to the proximity of my hut to the toilets and all creatures great and small right to roam rule. The other two main buildings (very open and wooden sums them up best) are the game viewing tower, the perfect location for a drink as the sun goes down and it provides a stunning 360 degree view over the bushveld out towards the Drakensberg Mountains, and which accommodates the kitchen beneath it. Then there is the office where the ever so slightly eccentric scientists, rangers, researchers get their work done.

I should really make a formal introduction of Craig Spencer who heads up the team of highly qualified people.  Craig is the scientist (yes a slightly mad one) who analyses the data, writes the papers and does other important scientific things.  He has a number of degrees behind him a wealth of experience in the conservation of wildlife that is best explained by the man himself.  12374774_10153651663279473_6397391258382530311_o

Spencer is a lean, tanned, enchanting eyed, charismatic character who is passionate about the protection of wildlife. In my opinion the world needs more people like him to ensure a secure future for our wildlife.

There are a number of aspects to the research and work that goes on at Balule.  There are basic things such as maintaining roads (put a saw in my hand and I am a happy woman removing trees from our path!); erosion work; monitoring boreholes to check ground water levels are not being affected by the various lodges; monitoring the need (or lack thereof) of water holes, to more in depth research such as identifying elephants in the area which they collaborate with other researchers to establish movement patterns, herd sizes etc; tree monitoring to establish how much damage to trees is done by elephants which will hopefully prove the idea that elephants are environmental moulders 15895716_1311735108883075_8744824296453161362_orather than environmental destroyers; and finally game counts which are carried out almost daily and will hopefully cut out the need for disruptive and expensive aerial game counts and give more accurate information on the number and composition of mammals of Balule, and then can be used as a future way for counting game in other areas.  This data will be given to the head warden so he has hard facts behind future management policies.  Spencer says it will take five years to collect all the data he needs.

My adventures in Camp Paradise will continue …..