Programme Highlights

  • Walking with wildlife
  • Spear fishing in traditional fish traps
  • Genuine community engagement
  • Tailored community / conservation modules
  • Great opportunity for both marine & land wildlife
  • Can be tailored for your subject
  • Optional Cape Town add on

This programme can be applied to the following subjects:

  • Animal Management
  • Conservation
  • Science
  • Geography
  • Biology
  • Sustainable Development
  • Photography

Description


Zululand and Maputaland is the last region of South Africa to fall to colonialization in 1900 and has always retained its king, its wildlife and its Zulu heritage.  It is the most incredible outdoor classroom and playground for wildlife, conservation, authentic culture and adventure experiences.  

Somkhanda is our main base for this field trip and is a 12,000ha Big Five game reserve.  It is 450km south east of Johannesburg International Airport with a travelling time of 5hrs 30mins.  From Durban International Airport it is 325km north with a travelling time of 4hrs 30mins.  

A short drive away over the Lebombo Mountains and onto the coast flats is Maputaland, the most remote and undeveloped region of KwaZulu Natal, on the boarder with Mozambique and Swaziland.  It is a gem in terms of biodiversity and unspoiled landscapes and offers incredible wildlife and adventure opportunities.

The aim of this experience is to “Inspire, Educate, Empower” the participants by taking them on a comprensive field trip that takes full advantage of the opportunities that this unique destination has to offer in terms of environment, culture, wildlife and adventure.  
 


Sample Itinerary

Somkhanda game reserve

Somkhanda game reserve

Day 1: Getting there
On arrival in South Africa it is a full day of getting through the airport and travelling to Somkhanda.  On arrival the group settles into their accommodation and recieves and orientation and health and safety briefing and then relax.

Days  2 – 6:    Conservation Experience
The day starts at first light with tea/coffee and a cold breakfast (cereal, yogurt, fruit, muffins etc) before getting out into the field for a physical activity. We working in small groups of a maximum of 10 students, one tutor and one local guide.  Each group will have a different activity and rotate through all the activities during the course of the week.  The early morning activites include:


Checking Camera Traps – the use of this technology has become a fundamental part of wildlife conservation for the purpose of monitoring wildlife activity in general as well as species specific projects and in anti-poaching surveillance.  The aim of this activity is to show the students how camera traps are being used on Somkhanda to monitor the leopard population, why it is important to conservation.  Students know how to set a camera trap, retrieve data and analyse data.

Telemetry Tracking – A number of key species of wildlife are monitored for ecological, security as well as socio-political aims.  Radio tracking devices are built into collars which are fitted to key animals.  These animals are monitored both remotely and through direct physical tracking on the ground using field telemetry.  The aim of this activity is expose the students to the technique by going into the field and tracking.  Usually we use white rhino to demonstrate so students can get to experience these awesome animals in the wild.


Nature Guided Experience – Walking is the only way to really get to know the  African bush. The purpose of this activity is to take the students on a short hike that focuses on teaching them to identify some common animals, birds, plants,  insects, animal tracks and dung as well some basic ecology, medicinal and traditional uses of plants and animals.  This is the primary skill of anyone working in the wildlife industry.

Cattle Dipping – working closely with the reserve’s neighbours is fundamental to the success of establishing the long term sustainability of Somkhanda.  This programme is aimed at improving the health and welfare of the communities cattle by treating them against ticks. For the surrounding community cattle is the backbone of the economy.  This project improves cattle health which directly benefits calf survival as well the intercalving period. Students will get to see first hand the challenges facing the community around the reserve and therefore having a direct impact on the reserve itself.

Game Counts – The numbers of wildlife on the reserve in comparison to its ecological carrying capacity is vitally important information for many reasons. This activity will teach students the importance of carrying capacity, species mix and how we count animals, determine carry capacity and how this information determines management interventions.  
  
Alien Invasive Plant (AIP) Management – It is the vegetation (producers) that sustain wildlife populations.  The more diverse the vegetation the more diverse the populations of widlife (from insects through to mega hebivours).  Therefore threats to plant dieversity need to be identified, managed and monitored.  Through this activity we introduce and explore the concept of biodiversity and ecosystem services and the threat posed by AIPs on Somkhanda.  Students will participate in an eradication programme. 

Students in the community completing the school project

Students in the community completing the school project

The above activities will take 3 – 4 hours afterwhich groups will return to base for bruch, which is a cooked meal.  Having worked up a hunger it is a substantial affair!  

As it starts getting warm out in the field and animals are not so active, we head inside. The late morning / post brunch session is an approximately one hour  lecture, debate, presentation or discussion on one of the following relevant conservation topics

  • Rhino conservation covering the current threats and the controversial question of legalization in the trade of rhino horn.
  • Hunting vs Eco-tourism
  • The sixth extinction
  • Sustainable community focused wildlife management - biodiversity based economic business model
  • Wildlife rehabilitation and endangered species breeding programmes
  • Insight in traditional contemporary Zulu culture

After 1 – 2 hours rest we begin the afternoon programme which is one of the following activities:

  • 3 hour game drive based activity where we explore the reserve in search of wildlife and learning opportunities to highlight various ecological principles, animal behaviors, conservation management challenges etc.  
  • A comprehensive biology lesson whilst we dissect an animal.
  • Mini “track and trail” programme with option of a sleep out.

We return to camp and have an opportunity to shower and clean up before dinner.  After dinner we have a number of optional audiovisual presentations if students are interested or we can enjoy informal discussion around the campfire.   On one evening we will night go frogging or “scorpion hunting” and on one night we will do a night drive in search of nocturnal wildlife.

Days 7 – 11:        Optional Experiences
This particular region of Zululand offers a number of unique experiences that will add an entirely different spice to your field trip.  Choose from one of the following options:

Option 1:         Zonyama Homestay and Community Project (2 or 3 nights)
There is no better way to get to know a community than to live and work with them.  For many this will be a life changing experience. It is a 2 or 3 night opportunity for the group to live with a Zulu family and during the day get involved in a community project and help with daily life.  The aim of this activity is to have an authentic traditional cultural experience whilst also giving a little back to the community that has made Somkhanda possible.  

The group is billeted out 2 or 3 students to a host family.  Each group of students is allocated a local ‘chaperone’ who is not a trained  guide but a young adult from the community that speaks English and is able to ensure an authentic experience.  There are a few structured activities to compliment the programme.

The daily routine is to have breakfast with the host family and then walk to a community project site where the group will work until lunch time.  After lunch each group will go off with their chaperone and spend time with their host family helping with daily routine of herding cattle, collecting firewood, collecting water, working in the vegetable garden, cooking dinner etc.  

Option 2:        Pongola River Adventure (2 or 3 nights)
This 2 or 3 day adventure is based on the Pongola river below the Jozini dam.  The group will paddle in toatal approx 20 km of river and in between engage with local schools, doing water quality assesments and learning about river ecology.

Overnight accommodation will be in a tented base camp and one night sleeping out on the river bank.

Option 3:        Tembe Elephant Park (2 nights)
From Somkhanda we drive over the Lebombo Mountains to the remote Tembe Elephant Park where, from our accommodation at Royal Thonga Lodge, we explore one of South Africa’s truly wild Big 5 game reserves. This unique experience compliments the Somkhanda experience with a Big 5 safari experience. This remote park lies on the border between South Africa and Mozambique, where over 250 of the largest elephant in the world roam. Here we will enjoy unlimited safari drives in our own private safari vehicle and guide.  

Options 4 & 5:    Kosi Bay Marine Learning Adventure
Kosi Bay 2.5 hours from Somkhanda is the perfect environment to fully embrace the ultimate sense of adventure. Kosi Bay is located in a remote corner of South Africa named Maputaland, bordered in the west by the ancient Lebombo Mountains and in the east by the turquoise blue of the Indian Ocean. Be swept back into time where local traditions and the rich cultural lifestyle of the Tembe- Thonga people have been passed on over generations and are still a modern day reality.

Depending on the interest of the group this can be a 2 night option restricted to the Kosi Estuary and mouth.  Or is can be a full 5 night academic marine adventure.

Surrounded by an array of biodiversity where long narrow beaches, sandwiched between the ocean and some of the highest coastal dunes in the world, are highways for armies of ghost crabs. In the lee of the dunes, the lofty crests give way to a sloping mosaic of grassland and thicket, which rapidly descends towards a complex of four interconnected lakes. 

The Maputaland coastline can be divided into a number of discrete ecosystems which lends itself the perfect opportunity for both adventure, learning/ educational purposes:

Rocky Shores: The rock-pools that have been created in the sandstone platforms by the movement of the water are habitats for a variety of marine life. Do you know what zoanthids are and what anemones eat? Why do ascidians squirt? And what makes sea cucumbers so interesting? Twice a day these rocky platforms are exposed at low tide and this is the perfect opportunity to explore these magnificent havens and identify these marine invertebrates amongst other interesting facts!

These crabs have adapted for swimming in the estuary currents

These crabs have adapted for swimming in the estuary currents

Sandy Beaches: Although often considered to be merely a place to suntan or play beach games, sandy beaches are host to a variety of burrowing animals ranging from ghost crabs and mole crabs, to snails and tiny worms. Hundreds of minute animals, that are capable of living between the sand grains, are also found on the beaches. Each summer, hundreds of female loggerhead and leatherback turtles lay their eggs, at night, on these beaches. The eggs remain protected in their nests in the sand until the hatchlings are ready to emerge, and face the gauntlet of predators as they scramble to the water’s edge.

Estuary: This is most probably one of the most mind-blowing experiences Kosi Bay has to offer. The estuarine mouth forms part of a much vaster lake system. The lakebeds are ancient submarine canyons carved out of the Earth by the relentless forces of the ocean. Salt water intrudes into the system every high tide and this is where the biodiversity is nothing short of spectacular! The Kosi system is one of southern Africa’s most pristine estuary systems! We learn more about halophytes, food webs and ecosystems around the estuary. We also get the opportunity to snorkel in what is locally known as ‘The Aquarium’ – where some of the objectives we focus on are fish identification skills and species counts. Be prepared for the experience of a lifetime.

Traditional Fish Traps: The Kosi system is inhabited by 133 species of fish and the Tembe- Thonga people have known about this interestuarine- marine movement of fish for more than 500 years and have designed an ingenious fishing strategy to take advantage of it. Come and explore these intrinsic ‘Utshwayelo’ (fish kraals) with us and be swept back into time as we witness this ancient 700-year-old family tradition. 

The Kosi Bay Coastal Adventure program offers students the unique opportunity to learn more about the diverse marine and coastal environments of Maputaland’s Marine Reserves. Practical activities/ learning includes snorkeling, sandy shore, rocky shore, dune interpretation, human habitation and conservation management.

Day 12:    Return to Airport and return flight home.
An early start and full day transfer to either Durban or Johannesburg.
 


Whats Included

As standard in our quotes we include the following (based on our experience this just works best):

  • Full Board Accommodation (tented camp or lodge)
  • Activities as mentioned above
  • All excursions
  • Transfers in-destination
  • Group travel Insurance
  • Assistance of local in-destination partners on the ground
  • 24 hrs emergency contact locally & in the UK
  • Parents evening representation
  • Glo-Ed Basic Travel Pack: Travel t shirts, lanyards, ID cards, wristbands

Whats not included 

As standard in our quotes the following are not included but most can be added for a supplement:

  • Flights (unless otherwise stated - please add to your quote form)
  • Visas - please see your country's embassy or home office website
  • Inoculations - as above
  • Airport transfers in your country of origin

Optional Extras

  • Glo-Ed Travel Pack Premium: Everything in Basic, plus team travel hoodies, water purification/filtration bottle, Glo-Ed trucker hat, day pack, micro-fiber towel, sweatband, sanitizer, torch, sunscreen.
  • Glo-Ed Luggage Bonanza: Canvas backpack, canvas holdall, bumbag/fannypack, rip wallet