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 …..

 

Super Sunsets in Sizzling Summer

I was listening to experts last night, giving their advice of the El Nino effect on the world – some are mild and some are severe. Apparently they know when a severe occurrence will happen. So why no warning? Why could I have not been told to expect one of the hottest summers we have experienced in Cape Town for the last number of decades in order to prepare a wardrobe befitting to the unforgiving African sun and heat as well as to stock up with a dozen fans all aimed at my body to keep me cool? Seriously, one fan does not cut it for me. I have so far, gone to great lengths to keep my body temperature chilled from time to time:

  1. I store my wet wipes in the fridge. They are so cold when I wipe the gazillion beads of sweat on my forehead, I am in my element. Downfall is that I go through enough packets to keep the manufacturers happy.
  2. I freeze a face cloth to wrap around my neck.
  3. I top up my hot water bottle with cold water and freeze it. One would think I had just invented the most ideal ice pack – it is that good.

The only blessing is that we have water in Cape Town to do such things and make ice. Other parts of the country are not so fortunate and though I feel for those people in the small towns where the taps have run dry, I feel for the horses, donkeys and livestock the most. They are dropping like mosquitoes who have flown into a room recently sprayed with Raid. It is tragic. I wish I could buy feed and make sure their water troughs are filled to capacity every day. I wish I could hose them down to keep their bodies cool. I wish it would rain.

Before getting off track even further, back to Cape Town. One cannot concentrate in such heat and that is a sad state of affairs as who does not want to work! With the volunteers out of the house, I thought of moving my computer to the edge of the pool and working from there. Note to self: bring laptop to work tomorrow. I wonder if someone would be so kind as to invent a waterproof laptop with an attachable Go Pro?

The only good thing about this hot weather is that we have the most beautiful aviva.cptsunset.1sunsets and watching the sun slip down into the sea whilst socialising at one of the various restaurants at Eden on the Bay, sipping chilled wine or beer or fancy cocktails with brightly coloured umbrellas, is just another superb evening in paradise.

Barcode: 01301968  Title: Table Mountain at sunset  Province: Western Cape  Location: Cape Town  Notes: Copyright by South African Tourism (1/713) Table Mountain Pristine beaches, sheltered by bays and secluded coves encircle the majestic might of Table Mountain which towers 1086 m above the Mother City. Table Mountain is also a World Heritage Site which boasts 8 500 species of wildflowers  Keywords: Western Cape, Table Mountain, Places of Interest, Mountains, Sea and Beaches, Large Formats  Photographer: Hein von Hšrsten  Original File Name: CF70083C.JPG  Copyright Owner: Copyright SOUTH AFRICAN TOURISM

And I hear some of you say “But I am not volunteering in Cape Town, so it does not affect me”, to which I will remind you that all our volunteers, no matter where you are volunteering can experience staying at the AVIVA Volunteer House and enjoy the sights and sounds of Cape Town. All you need to do is pick the option Cape Town Week …. and your wish will be our command.

It’s the time to be Merry

December. The Silly Season. The time where people go crazy at the stores buying more stuff to clutter their lives. More stuff they don’t actually need.  And those that need, go about this month oblivious to the amount of money spent at this time of the year on unnecessary material things.

TLC Christmas 2015 CollageOne organisation that ensures the communities they care for are blessed and for one day could experience the joy of receiving something just for them.  Here is a collage of a TLC Christmas Party – one of many they have for the community.

It is a wonderful feeling to give and exciting to receive but in my humble opinion, I think that the time has come to give meaningful gifts.  Adopt a Penguin for your parents or a friend, or adopt an Elephant or a Rhino and the donation will go a long way in helping to save our Endangered Species.  Pledge to raise funds for a Wildlife Conservation Project or an Orphanage. Send school supplies or clothing or books to Schools who badly need these items especially in South America, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Africa, South Africa. These are the gifts that could have a snowball effect on someone’s life or to the safety of Wildlife.

Pledge that a group of you will volunteer in 2016 and ask family and friends for money towards your trip. Volunteering will make such an enormous impact on your life and the communities and wildlife projects you are coming out to support.

So why not make a commitment in 2016 to volunteer with AVIVA Volunteers?  Visit our website http://www.aviva-sa.com and complete a non-obligatory booking form for an opportunity of a lifetime.

When Love Comes Knocking

In Africa, we do wild and we do life so it is no surprise I have made a new friend in surburbia. She visits almost every day and is not afraid to come up to me for food and will even wait patiently whilst I go inside to retrieve her food. Here she is …. a Cape Spur Fowl. She is adorable, I think I should name her.

Francolin criard. Famille des Phasianidés. Ordre : Galliformes

I would like to mention to the volunteers who stay at our Volunteer House in Table View.  There is a lovely walk on the vlei and even a bird-watching hut.  On a lovely sunny day, pack a lunch, flash of coffee, pick up your journal and camera and take a walk for a moment of tranquility with exceptional views of Table Mountain.

This is what volunteering at AVIVA Volunteers is all about … discovering new things to explore.