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Pride of Table Mountain's Cape Leopard Trust Environmental Camp

Published: 19 February 2010

The group of volunteers - Pride of Table Mountain - who take children from Cape Town townships on excursions up Table Mountain, were privileged to take part in a Cape Leopard Trust Environmental Camp (22 - 24 January 2010) sponsored by The Three Cities Group. Some of these young adults have been volunteering every second weekend for years with Pride. It was a great pleasure, as the Cape Leopard Trust, to run a camp programme in the Cederberg for this particular group. The programme aimed at deepening their knowledge and observation of the local environment and giving them new ideas and subject matter to bring to their voluntary work.

After hours in a struggling bus, they finally arrived at the new Matjiesrivier campsite and set up camp.

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The campsite is awesome - saving water for example with the bucket showers...excellent idea. Sleeping in those tents instead of chalets, fantastic. You’ve really showed me how budgets can be managed. - Ebrahiem (bus driver)

Immediately the issue of fear of animals, especially snakes, was raised. Later that evening, they were given a presentation on the work of the Cape Leopard Trust and the animals of the Western Cape, including snakes.

This year I’m turning 28 years of age, but not even once in my life have I heard about Cape leopards. - Brian

As the Cederberg is very hot in summer, all activities were planned to take place starting early in the morning or late in the afternoon. We set out with the morning light to do some animal tracking and walk up a beautiful valley to Disa Pool, a deep pool of cool mountain water on Kromrivier farm. On the way we identified various animal tracks - mice, birds, klipspringer, duiker, greysbok, genet, baboon and leopard! It seems that a few days before, a female leopard had walked along the very path we took.

I found tracking animals and looking at their waste to recognise them very interesting. - Mpendulo

We passed an old, stone ‘wolfhok’ which was used to capture and kill brown hyenas and leopard in the past. From there the group spread out for some solo walking, 100m between each person, trying to be mindful only of the present, aware of their own movements, the sounds and smells, the feeling of the uneven ground and the sight of their immediate surroundings. This was no easy task, and for some required courage, as walking alone in the wilderness, in silence, was very intimidating. 

The biggest challenge was walking in the rocky edge of the mountain and through the bushy places that we had to pass cause I was walking alone there and I felt like screaming, but I managed to calm myself down. - Anelisa

Something I’ve learned that I can use for the Pride of Table Mountain walks is that its important to walk in silence and listen to nature. - Ngqulu

Eventually we arrived at the pool, all hot and tired, and swam, played in the water and rested.

Later that day we went out to Lot se Vrou, on the Dwarsrivier farm, to explore the fynbos in different ways. To begin with, each person chose a plant that appealed to them and sat and drew it through carefully observing it. They were encouraged to give a feeling for the plant as a whole, and then look more closely at some of the main parts of it and draw those in more detail. This was an eye-opening experience for many of them and they were surprised by their own abilities.

The experience that changed the way I thought was when we got to draw flowers. It showed me that flowers differ in every way. I’ve always put them in one category. - Zimkhitha

My favourite part of the camp was where I chose a plant and drew it. To me it was very interesting because I’m not used to going alone in the bush and taking the time to draw. - Sonwabile

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We followed this by looking further into the ways that plants are designed for survival and at how flowers are designed for pollination relationships. With this input, the participants will be able to look at any plant and discover much just through their own observations. This is a very empowering form of learning.

Now I can tell many stories about a certain plant even if I don’t know the name of it, by looking at its leaves, how strong it is, what colour it is and why its that colour. - Sipho

That night we set out to search for scorpions, with much trepidation. The moon was quite bright, which is not good scorpion conditions as they prefer the dark. Using an ultra-violet light, which causes the scorpions’ exoskeleton to glow in the dark, we were able to find a beauty. They are fascinating creatures and it was good for the group to have the opportunity to have a close look and even touch one without being afraid. This was the final opportunity to work with the feelings of fear of animals and already by this stage in the camp that fear had shifted for many into curiosity and respect.

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Something new I learned is that snakes are scared of us and they only bite you if they feel attacked...animals need to be respected just like us. - Nolubabalo

This experience changed the way I think and feel about animals, because before it was like animals were scary, I didn’t even want to see them or touch them, but today I know that they can be friends. - Soyiso

Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to come here and overcome my fears. - Pam

The Cape Leopard Trust wishes to thank The Three Cities Group for sponsoring this camp. We would also like to thank the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust (managed by BoE Private Clients in its capacity as sole Trustee) and Cape Nature for making these camps possible, as well as the Cederberg Conservancy members for access to land.

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