Winter holidays are not for staying inside - but for being outside!

Winter holidays are not for staying inside - but for being outside!
Published: 05 August 2019

During the winter school holidays, the Cape Leopard Trust EE team conducts a holiday programme consisting of ten days of experiential adventure-based learning in nature. It’s a great way to keep youngsters busy and doing something positive when the weather is cold and sport is off. This year we hosted two different groups from the Paarl area: Butterfly House Community Centre and Buffet Olives Aftercare School.

The programme, in partnership with Regina Mundi Global Advisors, affords children from disadvantaged backgrounds the unique opportunity to be out and about in nature, discovering, seeing and learning all that is to know about the leopards of the Cape, fynbos diversity and Western Cape ecosystems. The course is jam-packed with a range of activities including hiking and exploring, studying fynbos plants, collecting ants in the field as well as visiting nature reserves and various animal centres.

The children were given the opportunity to visit and hike at Paarl Nature Reserve, a first time for many. We visited animal facilities nearby such as Eagle Encounters at Spier, where the children learned about how raptors and other predators play an important role in the ecosystem. LeBonheur Adventure Centre offered the children an exciting chance to see fully grown crocodiles up close (but not too close) and learn about often misunderstood snakes and other reptiles. Butterfly World was a fantastic place to visit when the rain dampened any plans of hiking, and the youngsters were treated to a ‘live’ butterfly interaction.

Cheetah Outreach in Somerset West was a highlight for the children, where they enthusiastically learned about the differences between cheetah and leopard. The bonus was seeing cheetahs up close and personal! Together with Stellenbosch University and Iimbovane Outreach Trust, we enjoyed a day of learning about ants and their role in the ecosystem as masters of team work and mysterious communication. Participants collected ants in the field and had the chance to examine their specimens under microscopes while understanding how to identify different ant species.

We covered a wide range of topics, including biodiversity of the Western Cape and the secret lives of leopards. We shared information on research being done by the Trust, as well as facts on radical raptors, fynbos diversity, fire ecology, predator-prey relationships, geology, threats to landscapes including alien vegetation, water scarcity, human encroachment and the harmful effects of inhumane practices such illegal wire snaring.

Most of what our young participants encountered on this programme were firsts, and we know that this experience will have a lasting effect on them. As a result of their time with us - we discovered that at least two young participants have decided they would like to pursue a career in conservation.

The Cape Leopard Trust Education team would like to thank Reginamundi Mundi Global Advisors (www.reginamundi.org) for partnering with us to share the costs of the programme. Without this generous support, we would not have been able to make these priceless experiences possible.

We’d also like to express our gratitude to the partners who collaborated with us to make the holiday workshops possible, including the Iimbovane Outreach and Stellenbosch University; Eagle Encounters, Spier; Delvera Wine Estate and Wiesenhof; Cheetah Outreach; LeBonheur Adventure Centre and Butterfly World. Also, a big ‘shout out’ to the volunteers who assisted us: Jessica Jansen Van Vuuren; Brigitte Pegado; Lorraine Du Toit, Briggita Africa and to the staff and facilitators at Butterfly House and Buffet Olives who got involved and entrusted us with their young charges. It’s amazing to see how happy and excited young people become when, despite the cold, they are outside being inspired by nature!

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