Activities

During this expedition course, we will conduct the following activities:

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Alien vegetation clearing

Alien cactus species introduced from North America poses a very serious threat to the biodiversity of Southern African flora. These species have no natural enemies and must be exterminated manually or by means of herbicides. Herbicides are used in the field to combat alien invasive species such as the Barbary fig (Opuntia ficus-indica). We travel in open Land Rovers on bush roads, as plants can be spaced many kilometres apart so travel time can be long. Backpack spray cans are used and each can is only filled half to reduce weight as many of the plants can only be reached on foot. All treated plants are monitored, students assist with the use of GPS and complete the specific data forms.

A current plant density of 3.5 per 100 hectares is represented on a GIS model allowing systematic targeting of the plants. We employ a 2.5% mixture of a glyphosate-based herbicide with water and soap. Backpack spray cans are used to apply the herbicide to the foliage of the plants. Students will use adequate protection gear in the form of gloves and facemask when handling or in proximity with the pesticide. Manipulation of the pesticide gear is optional and is subject to each student’s choice.

Students are required to assist with the field data-capture (records) as well as preparation and application of herbicides. Observation skills and orientation is developed as map-work is involved as well as a keen eye to spot the plants.

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Elephant herd dynamics data-capture

We go on regular game-drives to locate African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) herds and identify individuals using photographic records of the earflap fringe. Students are required to assist with observations from a vehicle, using standard field data-capture forms relating to herd structure (number of males, females, ages, etc.), herd activities, the status of large bulls in musth (an external signs of high testosterone levels), herd size and number of cows.

Each student is tasked with a ‘focal field’, i.e. one student will count all adult cows, another will count all adult bulls, etc. This activity helps to develop observation skills.

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Fence patrol

During the expedition, we patrol a 26 kilometre long section of the western boundary fence of the Kruger National Park, checking for, and repairing any holes. 

Animals dig holes and push over the fence to escape from the reserve, where they risk being killed by farmers, poachers, etc. Any places that show signs that animals have dug underneath or broken through must be repaired, using new fence material or other present items such as stone.

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Tracking wildlife in the field

This special activity will be introduced with necessary safety procedures and adequate behavioural instructions, a lecture on ‘Tracking wildlife in the field’ that introduces the necessary survival skills and behaviour to be demonstrated and used during this excursion.

This is a walking safari, with tents and real bush adventure! We walk from Paradise Camp to an overnight camp located in a dry riverbed, tracking on foot with expert trackers, and learning crucial survival techniques.

Explorers are led on an educational walk from the bush camp, and animal tracks and trails are followed while tracking skills and track identification is taught. We arrive at a dry riverbed where tents are erected. Students will make their own fire and learn observation skills - using all their senses!

This humbling experience will leave our explorer with memorable and incredible souvenirs for the rest of their lives!

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Game drive and counts from vehicles

A presentation on ‘Animal counts and Population dynamics’ introduces the necessary techniques to estimate fast moving wildlife numbers, and understand the reasons for counting wild animals in the reserve for monitoring purposes.

This activity takes place either during the early morning or late afternoon. We learn and apply standardised methodology for game count from open vehicles. Good observation skills are required to spot game from an open Land Rover, and to complicate matter further herd structure dynamics (i.e. age and sex ratios) are also recorded at this time of the year.

All students participate in spotting game and recording sightings using the field data capture sheets. This activity is a lot of fun and teaches valuable techniques, while challenging everyone’s observation skills to their limits.

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Subterranean water table monitoring

Subterranean water levels are also monitored to prevent the over-exploitation of ground water resources. Monitoring water levels in the boreholes, used to supplement water shortages during the dry season, spread around the reserve is an important task for the team. Measurements are taken at three locations in the reserve; this activity also includes a lot of travel time in the open Land Rover between locations. The Transfrontier Africa team will establish the recharge rates for the aquifers from the collected data.

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Journalism

An essential component of all the activities is documentation. A record of the explorer's experience in writing a journal, articles and blogs, as well as recording still photography and video is important and is a transferable skill that will be very useful in later life. Apart from wildlife sightings, the daily routine is an adventure and definitely worth documenting. Camp-life and day-to-day experiences in themselves also make good material. Daily journal entries should be completed before turning in for the night.

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Routine duties

In general, students will be helping with routine camp chores: cleaning, cooking, fire-wood collection, filling the water tank, etc. We also swim in the Olifants River, picnic and cook our own food on open fire.

A day trip to Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and an excursion to the famous Blyde River Canyon, one of the largest canyons on Earth, is possible if they can be fitted in.

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