Megan and I have been tasked with writing about the favourite aspects of our time in South Africa. I could write forever about our experiences here, so I’ll write about the favourite critters that I saw. I am a big amphibian and reptile fan. I know plenty about the species at home in Canada, so it was really exciting for me to come to a new country and learn all about the species here. Unfortunately, a lot of them are venomous and I couldn’t catch/pick up any unknown snake-likes creatures which may not have been safe. I also enjoy insects, even if most people find them yucky. South Africa has large and beautiful insects! The favourite one I have found is the millipede. These insects are slightly poisonous when they bite, but it doesn’t have a large affect on humans. Besides, the usually curl up in a ball as soon as you pick them up. I loved finding these docile insects under logs and rocks and seeing how they vary in size. In Xhosas, it’s called a, “Shengololo”. Coincidentally, this is also my favourite Xhosa word.
Back to amphibians and reptiles! I only found one frog on this whole trip. It was a river frog that I found in a pond during one of our hikes in Storms River Rest Camp. It is currently winter here (even though it ranges from 10-30 degrees) so most are in hibernation. You even have to work hard to find any reptiles. Most of the reptiles I did find were skinks such as the striped, cape, and variegated skinks. It’s hard to take a photo of these guys because they are super speedy. Another common reptile that I found were geckos!!! I have never interacted with geckos before and I discovered that this species is pretty cute. I found lots of spotted geckos who have large heads and eyes, short bodies, and fat tails. They’re not as fast as skinks, so I have photos aplenty. They also squeak in protest whenever I try to pick them up before they scamper away.
I also had the amazing opportunity to see some snakes. The first one I only saw a glimpse of. I was flipping over rocks and something with a snakelike tail slithered into its hole when it was exposed. It may have also been a legless skink (which resembles a snake) except for the fact that it was pretty thick and had a greenish colour. Perhaps it was a spotted bush snake, but they don’t usually burrow underground. Any suggestions from fellow herpetologist (someone who studies amphibians and reptiles) would be great! The second snake I saw was found embedded in the wall/roof on the side of the main lodge. This was a venomous but shy snake called a boomslang. They rarely bite, but in any case, we were safe because it was just looking for a comfy place to hibernate. The third snake we saw was one I was really hoping to see while in South Africa. The puff adder!! This snake has beautiful markings and has a wide head. It is also venomous, so we kept a good distance from it. Dr. Parker found it on a path about to chow on a large vlei rat. He ran back to the lodge to get the rest of us to see this.
I’m so happy to have seen this snake.
Tomorrow, we get the treat of having a herpetologist give us a lecture! I believe she is even bringing some species to show us. I’m very excited to add more to my list of findings and learn even more about the species here. Hope everyone enjoyed! Maddie :)
Maddie did a wonderful job explaining her favourite parts about the trip. Although we have experienced a lot, I personally cannot pinpoint one specific part of the trip that I can classify as my favourite. Therefore I’m going to talk about this experience as a whole. For me, this opportunity has opened my eyes by showing me how everything on this beautiful planet is connected in some way. It has showed me the importance of every individual living thing that exist, and the impacts that one missing individual has on not only its surrounding ecosystems, but the earth itself. The rhino is a perfect example of that. I learned that as humans, we all need to take a step back and realize how precious our wildlife are, and how important it is to appreciate them. And the group that I have traveled to South Africa with have realized that, making a strong connection between all of us. I can honestly say that I have gained amazing memories from traveling here, but I also like to think that this has opened my doors of opportunities in the future. I’m sad that this trip is coming to and end, but it’s just the start of our friendships.
Burton Empey says
Well who wouldn’t like saying Shengololo at their next dinner party or family get together? Beyond the bewildered expressions you’ll enjoy having quite a good storey to tell …. A storey of adventure, about your explorations and revelations, while on the hunt (for knowledge) in the wilds of Africa.
What is clear from your blogs, live video feeds, and many text messages is that you’ve all had an amazing learning experience! This of course was the hope as we wished you our reluctant farewells, but I fully expect you’ve also discovered unexpected friendships which will last a lifetime and, just as important, new found purpose for the knowledge gained and love for all creatures great and small.
Can’t wait to hear of the many stories still to be told and welcome you home ….at least until your next grand adventure…. Our thanks to Dal and for the staff which made this trip of a lifetime possible!
Burton and Julie xoxo
Great blog girls! Maddie, I certainly can sense your passion for the amphibians and insects. Megan, we are so excited for you; for all that you have learned and the friendships you have created there. We can’t wait to see what opportunities and possibilities lay ahead for you in the future. And for the greater good of all the beautiful creatures that live there, may you all find a way to contribute to keep them safe and thriving for many many decades to come.
Thank you as well to Dalhousie University, to all the staff here and there in South Africa that made this amazing trip possible for these students! It truly was the trip of a lifetime.
Stay safe, stay healthy!