We were delighted when Holly asked if she could take Matt’s ashes with her when she went to visit South Africa for six weeks. Holly was one of Matt’s oldest and closest friends, and they thought the world of each other. Matt would have loved nothing more than to have accompanied Holly on her travels, especially on such a worthwhile trip …
Holly went to Cape Town, South Africa on 24th April, 2017. While she was based at Cape Town for her first few days’ acclimatisation, she took Matt to the top of Table Mountain – something I feel he would have highly approved of!
Part of the Table Mountain National Park is Boulders Beach, which Holly was also able to visit, famous for its African Penguins.
As part of a placement for her university degree she decided to work under the guidance of Edge of Africa – a charity which is committed firstly to that of supervising sustainable grassroots programs that are making actual, tangible differences to the local community, and secondly to programs which contribute to the conservation of Africa’s magnificent wildlife. So it was that, after an eight hour bus journey in non-air conditioned 39° heat, she found herself in Knysna, in the Western Cape Province – forming part of the Garden Route.
This main Township within Knysna is home to approximately 51,000 people. During the week her time was split between working with people in the local community, and a combination of whale and elephant conservation.
To help in the community Holly did a variety of things: there was a regular weekly soup kitchen, which would often feed up to as many as 50 people, projects to promote sustainability within the Township, and educating children in green issues. One of the sustainability projects encouraged children to bring in empty plastic bottles (which were used to make greenhouses) to a ‘swap shop’. In exchange for the bottles the children were given something that they needed – such as a toothbrush, or perhaps a toy.
Holly’s group also ran some classes, sexual education and body image with the older pupils and an ocean class about sea animals for the nursery age children.
Finally, Holly had to help run an event for the children of the Township. Her group decided on a Sports Day to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Edge of Africa. As most of the children spoke either Afrikaans or Xhosa it was a challenge at the start of every race to get them lined up and ready to go, but everyone had fun and it was very enjoyable. At the end the children from Percy Mdala High School sang songs for everyone, which Holly said was a very emotional experience.
The second aspect of Holly’s voluntary work was conservation, and she started off working with a team concerned with ocean conservation.
Female whales will often use the conservationists’ boats as a means of protection from some of the males. Whilst Holly was aboard a pregnant whale kept very close to their boat, and kept going underneath it to escape the attention of seven male whales who were pursuing her. Holly was lucky enough to see a pod of Southern Right Whales.
However, she spent most of her conservation time working with rescued elephants that had previously been in the hands of poachers. The elephants, including Marula (the matriarch), Taba, Thandi, and Timelo, had to be cleaned out and exercised. Marula and Thandi were inseparable, going everywhere together.
At one point baboons ran on to the enclosure, the elephants all banded together for safety, trumpeting warnings to each other.
Many elephants are killed by poachers for their tusks. Holly was told that there is now evidence to show that babies are being born without the ability to grow tusks due to the effect on the gene pool by poachers consistently targeting those animals with the best ivory. Although being born without tusks may mean that elephants avoid the poachers’ gun in the future, it still won’t be an easy life for them as they should use their tusks for a variety of things such as: digging for food and water, self-defence, and for attracting a mate.
Weekends meant R & R, and Holly was able to do some really fantastic things. The first was a bungee jump from the highest bungee jumping bridge in the world, Bloukrans Bridge …
Next, a trip to Africanyon which meant abseiling, swimming in caves & jumping from waterfalls …
Finally, a safari at Addo Elephant National Park. However, it wasn’t just elephants there and Holly was able to see quite a range of animals: elephants, zebra, lions, meercats, wart hogs, buffalo to name but a few …
I asked Holly what the most favourite parts of her trip were and she said it was organising the Sports Day event for the children and hearing them sing afterwards, closely followed by the bungee jump! She was also very keen to give a shout out to Edge of Africa as they do such marvellous work within the community, so please don’t forget to check them out if you are considering going on an adventure of your own!
Congratulations Holly for completing such a fantastic trip xx