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I am almost at the half-way point of my South-African adventure, the second week of my volunteering has gone by very fast. As the saying goes “time fly fast when you are having fun”.

Game Drives - Buffaloland

We had few game drives, with the usual focus on wild life viewing and photography, but emphasis was on specific photography aspect. This week we had two game drives to Buffaloland reserve. On one trip the photographic emphasis was on motion and for the second one it was on minimalism.

The highlight of those drives was a sighting of a baby black rhino with his mother (picture), The “baby” weighs couple of tons and is tied to his mother and follows her until he his about four years old and the mother is about to have another baby. It was interesting to see how the baby was relaxed while the mother kept a watching eye on us all the time. Another sighting was of a beautiful jackal (picture).

Leadwood Estate

Another trip was again a combination, this time of game drive and community work. We went to Leadwood Estate which is a private reserve on the edge of Hoedspruit (the nearby town). This estate is active in many fields. They have large citrus plantation, a game reserve and residential area within the game reserve. The owners are allowed to keep their homes fenced or non fenced. Since you may be curious as I was I did enquire about the prices, a two acres lot with a nice bricks house costs about 150,000 USD.

We spent quite some time in a hideout where we had to be a absolutely quiet, lie on the wooden platform and wait for the animals to come and drink water from the nearby waterhole. After some time a couple of white rhinos approached but they charged off before we had a chance to photograph them since they were scared by a sudden activity of nearby hyaenas.

We did see lots of birds flying around, wilder-beasts (Gnu), buffalos and antelopes drinking from the waterhole (picture). After a while we set on the ramp and had a drinks and cakes break. After enjoying the drinks we drove along the dirt roads of the reserve and cleared branches of the acacia that were growing into the road. The acacia has very strong and sharp thrones, about 5 cm long, which can even puncher a car tyre, let alone hurt the visitors passing by in an open game truck (picture). This is not an easy job as the branches are high above the ground and we needed to clear way above the game car and passengers. The acacia is a stubborn tree to cut and we had to use machetes and loppers, not an easy work.

Blyde - Landscape photography

An half a day short round trip form the lodge brought us to a totally different setting. The Blyde (pronounced Blaydeh, meaning ‘glad’ in Africans) is a large canyon which cuts through the Darkensberg (dragon) mountains. We made few photographing stops along the route, in one of them we hiked to a small waterfall and took beautiful silky like pictures of running water (picture).

The Photography Course

This week the photography training emphasized hands on experience in editing our pictures and, as mentioned above, on taking pictures with emphasis on specific topic. The lectures covered photographic reportage and portraits. The exercises included taking pictures of each other of the photographers and of the staff and volunteers during a party celebrated here from time to time.

Sundowners Cocktail Party

This event doubles up as a fund raising event as the participants pay to get their picture taken and later can buy their edited digital photo for a small fee. It is named ‘Sundowners’ as it occurs just before sunset, the golden hour which is best for taking pictures. Each participants gets a free Jin & Tonic cocktail and pays for additional ones if he wants to drink more. Social games are played and people pose in funny poses to get their picture taken. This was a pleasant and funny event.

This time party also served as a farewell party for two of the local staff who completed their two years in Dumela and are moving to Scotland.

Community Activities

African Impact is involved in conservation of the local communities as well as wild life. Within this frame we got involved with two activities: the reading club and Sasakile Gardens.

The reading Club

Since education is key to advancement in the life of the local population the staff in Dumela came up with a plan to encourage 7’th graders to improve their English level. Once a week the children participate in an activity that involves reading a story to them, reviewing the kids reading ability by having them read from a book to the volunteers and playing a game that is based on the story read to them at the beginning. The kids are also encouraged by a point system that counts how many books they read in those meetings. A joyful activity that we gladly participated in.

Sasakile Gardens

African Impact is providing gardening guidance to five young man so they can take care of a small plot of a vegetables garden. The gardens are located in a local high school, which provides the land and water. Each gardener has his own 14 garden beds. The vegetables were picked up by them and they have to maintains their own section on a regular basis.

Since unemployment is very high in the area this activity is keeping the participants busy, they will get the harvest and will be able to provide some of the food for their families and if there are left overs they will be able to sell the produce and make some money. At least one of them is thinking of turning the garden into a business and planted chili peppers as he wants to produce his own chili sauce. This type of thinking is very much encouraged by African Impact staff.

All the volunteers get to participate and take turns in helping the staff and gardeners to maintain the program. This week our major contribution consisted of digging up holes for poles for a fence the gardeners want to put around their area. The fence itself will be placed next time. On top we helped in watering the garden beds and weeding them.

Weekend Plans

To my disappointment the wind was too gusty on Friday afternoon and the microlight was postponed again, I hope I will be able to enjoy it before my time here is over. The rest of the weekend I am supposed to be fully loaded with two one day trips, to Kruger park and a panoramic route around the Blyde canyon. More on these next week.

Thst’s it for now.

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