Last month for the first time the Haarwegskloof Renosterveld Reserve became the base for running the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA) Level 1 course. FGASA promotes the training of guides through a series of structured courses to facilitate sustainable and professional capacity building within the nature guiding, safari and tourism industries. Through these educational opportunities they seek to promote the conservation of the cultural and natural heritage of Southern Africa.
Eleven students attended the twelve day course, taught by Louis Willemse. The course was taught through a series of lectures, discussions, written assignments, presentations and interpretive walks. Students learnt about everything from snake venom to stars, the latter of which involved a very early start to see the stars visible in the sky in the early morning. Lectures were given on taxonomy, mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. The group also went on day and night walks through the Haarwegskloof Renosterveld Reserve led by our Reserve Manager, Jannie Groenewald. Some good birdwatching was to be had and the students saw one of the resident duikers, as well as venomous scorpions, stick insects, a tok-tokkie beetle and button spiders.
There was also a highly informative guest lecture on overlanding by Buks Griesel from Nomad Tours. The students also went on a field trip to the neighbouring De Hoop Nature Reserve, known for its huge acreage of beautiful limestone fynbos, its vlei and stunning coastline, visited by many each year to see the Southern Right Whales as they come north to breed. The group saw various antelopes, baboons and a variety of birds, including hamerkop (nesting), dabchicks, kingfishers, red-knobbed coots, black oystercatchers and a sand piper.
A wonderful time was had by all and the course went well in the cosy and well equipped facilities at Haarwegskloof. It success also shows the value of Haarwegskloof Renosterveld Reserve and its surrounds as an outdoor classroom, encouraging learning about its biodiversity for people of all backgrounds and ages. Long may it continue.
Photo credit: Linsey De Jager