The Cape Leopard Trust's Education Project moves from the Cederberg to Cape Town during the winter months (May -August) and busies itself with the enjoyable task of getting people into their natural surroundings.
Even though Cape winters have a bit of a reputation for being hostile our June/July holiday programme remains a popular event. The main aim of this series of hikes in the Table Mountain National Park is to expose a wide variety of young people to a side of Cape Town that is oft kept secret, one that is not often appreciated - its natural winter wonderland.
Amongst the many highlights during this time are experiences like seeing Cape Sugarbirds and a variety of sunbirds dancing between the newly opened proteas, witnessing the power of the Atlantic ocean as it gets whipped up by front after front of low pressure or the wonder of the Newlands Afro-montane forest, its ancient canopy silenced and shrouded in mist.
Surprisingly the winter programme fills up quickly with youth from all around Cape Town. Other groups also make use of the opportunity to get out and about. Marine Primary School from Ocean View have their own eco-club run by the passionate Mortimer Petersen. Mortimer organised two trips with us during the winter. One was to visit the fascinating Harold Porter Botanical Gardens in Betty's Bay, which lies within easy prowling distance of the Cape Leopard Trust Boland research area where the highly successful male leopard, Scott, is king.
Steenberg Primary, as always, with the brilliant teacher Glenda Samuels around, made use of our holiday trips as well as a few exclusive trips for their wonderfully motivated pupils. It was through Glenda and Sharon McCallum of the Zandvlei Trust that Vrygrond Library also got involved and had a day out exploring Newlands Forest.
Although the weather didn't always cooperate, the holiday programme managed to deliver nine trips and attracted children and young adults from a diverse cross section of society with between 25-30 people on each. Three of the trips linked up with the AfriOceans Warriors Programme and it was great to have such willing input from their excellent staff.
A large number of the children were also members of the SANParks Junior Rangers programme, so knew a thing or two about conservation and biodiversity.
Zeekoeivlei Environmental Education Project (ZEEP) also helped out, and offered some of their interns to assist with facilitation.
Kalk Bay Caves is always a popular trip, and though this year was extremely wet it was still enjoyed by all! One group went to Silvermine looking for black eagles on Noordhoek peak, where it was so windy the group had to form a human chain to make sure no one blew away. The Silvermine river walk follows one of the Cape's cleanest stretches of water and there were glimpses of the Cape ground woodpecker, some jackal buzzards and a variety of sunbirds. Here wildlife abounds and southern-girdled lizards and rock agama were spotted, as well as the odd dassie and evidence of porcupines, genets and caracals.
One of the most popular yet most exhausting trips is climbing the Table Mountain via the awesome India-Venster route - the exhilaration of being on tiny ledges so high above the sea is priceless. Cape Point is another top choice and includes the excitement of seeing the wreck of the 1942 US Liberty Ship, the Thomas T Tucker which sunk three months after its launch - this is just one of the many historical anecdotes set in this detailed park. Wildlife sightings here include bontebok and a non-affected baboon population as well as the occasional herd of Eland. Otter tracks and scats are often found along the coast.
Further inland Klapmuts Primary School visited the neighbouring Delvera wine estate on the Simonsberg Conservancy that includes Klapmutskop. The flora here is unique and has a small patch of granitic Fynbos and Renosterveld, and beyond that a yellowwood forest at its crown. Delvera js a family owned wine estate that also has its own environmental centre run by the wonderfully dynamic Adele - another good reason to take a trip out there.
All 17 learners of Pringle Bay Primary School - third place winners of the Cape Leopard Trust Calendar Competition - took a trip into the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve on a grey day and were entranced by the sheer splendour of the Palmiet River in full flow.
It is always refreshing to experience these trips through children's eyes as they learn about the Cape's natural wonders - be it the smallest foraging spider or a torrent of tannin tainted water pouring itself over a grey sandstone outcrop, the children are happy just to be outside, regardless of the weather. The smiling faces and bright eyes at the end of the day really make our efforts worthwhile.