As with all camps, the children were given a presentation on the research of the Cape Leopard Trust, using the camera trap photographs to introduce them to many of the shy mammals of the Western Cape. It has been eye-opening to see how children know the ‘classic’ African mammals, the type you would see if you went to Kruger, but have very little knowledge of the mammals that occur in the wilderness areas near to them. Once they had been familiarised with some of these animals, the Grootkloof children were ready to learn some animal tracking. It is hard to describe the excitement when a child starts to recognise an animal’s track - “Dis die grysbok!”. And then the satisfaction when they collected the photographs from the camera trap on the path and saw a photo of the grysbok itself...
The following day brought the greatest challenge of the camp - climbing the Wolfberg Cracks. It is quite an adventure as one disappears right into these narrow cracks in the dramatic cliffs and, making ones way through some extremely tricky sections, one finally reappears at the top of the mountain!
In the afternoon the children were introduced to various lizards, including the fascinating ‘dragon-like’ armadillo girdled lizard. Most of these children have been brought up to believe that lizards are poisonous and are therefore afraid of them. It took a great deal of courage and persuasion for some of them to touch one, and it was a highlight for many of them. The girl who was most afraid noted in her feedback on the camp that the most beautiful thing she saw was that lizard.
After the lizard experience the children did some drawings of different Karoo plants, finding plants with similar leaves. They were interested to discover that most of the plants either had fat leaves or very small, hard leaves - an adaptation to the rather dry climate of the succulent Karoo.
The final morning of their camp was full of laughter and deep concentration as they discovered the rock art at Stadsaal and proceeded to find their own stones to grind into powder, with which they painted each other’s faces. Then they simply played and played amongst the incredible rock formations, princes and princesses in castles, finding themselves houses with bedrooms and kitchens - “Kyk my huis!”... “Kom sien myne!” When asked if they liked the Cederberg - they are all from the Cederberg after all - they said they loved it, and one girl added that she wanted to stay in her new rock house forever...
What a joy it is to facilitate this sort of experience for young people!
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New expansions of the Education Programme:
Holiday Tracking Trips
One of the new facets of the education programme is providing environmental experiences for visitors to the Cederberg. We offered our first Holiday Tracking Trips to visitors during the Easter holidays. Visitors were invited to join the Cape Leopard Trust for a session of environmental education in the field, learning about the animals of the Cederberg and how to recognise their tracks with a 3-hour tracking and exploring trip. We had interest from visitors at Nuwerust and Driehoek farms, so ran two sessions, one at each.
The Nuwerust session was held in the Matjiesrivier valley at our campsite. This group consisted only of children. The children were very keen trackers and quickly learned how to recognise anything from baboon tracks to porcupine droppings. They were even lucky enough to find some leopard tracks! At Driehoek we had a mixed group of adults and children and had a wonderful afternoon of exploring. We were all thrilled to find a very curios looking mantis that blended in perfectly to its background of slangbos (picture below).