Six weeks away from home collecting data for a master’s dissertation sounded like a life time but before I knew it my time in Gondwana was coming to an end. South Africa was always a dream to me from a young age and this experience has certainly been a dream come true. That life time of six weeks was certainly not a life time, it flashed within a blink of an eye! Every single day Gondwana took my breath away and gave me unforgettable moments I will treasure for life. From deep red sunrises, the mountain range backdrop, morning bird point counts, vegetation surveys in thick protea, game transects surrounded by a high diversity of species, habitat mapping in the pouring rain, nights around the fire to the incredible starry night. The list of what made me fall in love with Gondwana is endless. The South African winter weather also kept surprising me daily with piercing wind and rain, deep misty mornings, intense sun and one morning the camp even woke up to frost!
I came to Gondwana as a dissertation student to complete my own project for my master’s degree on antelope habitat selection, but I found myself on other projects such as vegetation surveys, dung surveys, bird point counts, elephant behaviour and habitat mapping. From this my eyes were opened wide to the insane biodiversity that Gondwana has to offer! Alongside these surveys’ lectures allowed me to learn even more and I have never learned so much about an area in such a short space of time. These extra projects gave me more valuable information to help with my own project. The game transects were my favourite surveys, not only did it allow me to get close to my study species but every transect was a different surprise to what species we would see. Never in my life would I have thought I’d study, never mind get close to African elephants, white rhino, hippopotamuses, giraffes, lions, wildebeest, zebra and even impala! It was exciting because the ecology and behaviour of each species was very different, and I learnt something new about them every day. I was amazed daily and would think how is this dream my masters project?
As a dissertation student there was pressure there to get my project complete but with the help of the staff, five other dissertation students, safety officers and research assistants the process ran a lot more smoothly than anticipated. Within a couple of days, the staff made me feel part of the team and my project was meaningful to such an amazing area. Staff did not only reassure me about my project, but they inspired me greatly and made Gondwana feel like a second home. I was fortunate enough to spend my birthday in Gondwana and everyone made it a one I’d never forget! With a surprise braai in the evening, lovely birthday messages, camp fire games and an amazing late evening sighting of the lions I didn’t stop smiling all day.
I can’t say Gondwana without thinking of the other dissertation students. I have made life time friendships with these people and we have laughed hard through the whole six weeks together. It has been inspiring and refreshing working with people interested in the same subject all from different backgrounds. The support from them all throughout my project has been incredible and certainly a team I hope to be part of again in the future.