My amazing experience at NVT
March 18, 2024

by Nicole Aebersold

So many happy memories, I don’t even know where to begin!

Leaving the cold winter in Switzerland behind and flying into summer in South Africa already puts you in a great mood. After visiting a couple of friends in Cape Town that I still know from growing up there, I drove up the beautiful Garden Route with a rental car.

Arriving at the Nature’s Valley B&B on a Saturday a few days later, I stumbled upon Julien, a long-term intern from Cape Town who had just arrived himself. He invited me to a braai the same evening where I met Flow, another long-term intern who would start with us on Monday, Sky and Kayla. Sky is head of the forest programme and will be working with me in the Hebron forest and Kayla manages the marine & coastal project and is our scientific writing wizard. Already meeting a part of the amazing team on this first weekend really put me at ease.

My amazing time at NVT really started the following Monday, starting with team introductions. Afterwards Hendri drove us around Nature’s Valley, showing us all of the important places, introducing us to the people in Covie where he’s very invested in social studies, showing us around the Hebron forest and a quick stop for pies at the Nature’s Way farmstore.

After this plunge into nature conservation it is all a blur of colours and wonderful experiences, learning something new every day.

My special project was on the Black Ironwood, providing baseline data for a long term study on how climate change is affecting their population. Doing this I received a lot of help from the whole team so don’t worry, you are not alone in this! I learned so much on how to collect data, working with your results and writing a paper, something that will help me a lot during my future studies.

One of my fondest memories is seeing a white-fronted plover chick for the first time. They are so small and well camouflaged! NVT has managed to rase the survival rate of the chicks from 6% to an astounding 36% by putting up signs in a 30m radius around the nest and declaring leashed-and no dog zones.

Collecting data for ongoing studies is so much fun, we spend whole days at the beach doing plover monitoring, marine debris and microplastic surveys, doing bird surveys while walking through Nature’s Valley or on the Groot river in a canoe, spotting octopus and other marine life doing rocky shores monitoring and so much more.

The evenings and weekends are spent with good company, many braais and going on a lot of adventures! During my time we went swimming with seals, zip lining through tree canopies, kloofing and I was even able to get a spot on the Ottor Trail, along with a fellow intern!

Overall I had the absolute best time at NVT and would not miss this for the world. A huge thank you to the team for making these experiences unforgettable!

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