Recently, twenty three Africa Nature Training students (NEC alumni and a few correspondence course students) enjoyed an awesome weekend in the Waterberg Mountains. No pressure, no notes, just pure enjoyment!

Sunset at the dam, which was really more of a puddle – end of dry season

As usual the ANT team laid on a full weekend’s entertainment, very different from our usual course weekends, with four teams and four very different activities.

It was fantastic to meet students past and present, and share information and ideas – a great way to learn and make new friends.

Most participants arrived on Friday evening and, after a leisurely walk round the farm, we settled in to watch ‘Bush TV’ with a difference.

Not only did we have a lovely fire burning, but wagers were exchanged as to what time the resident Lesser Bush Babies (Galago moholi) would emerge from their roost under the thatch of the lapa.

It was great fun watching them (watching us!) and eventually by 18:35, they had all emerged and disappeared into the surrounding trees to forage.

Saturday morning started early with practical tracking. We tracked the usual suspects and even found the spoor of a few specials, including Puff Adder, Brown Hyaena and African Civet (including pastings).

Watching bush tv!

For me, though, the highlight had to be the fresh Water Monitor spoor we found at the dam. It was so fresh, even impressions of the scales on the reptile’s foot were visible!

Fresh Water Monitor track with scales visible

Andre found a grasshopper and showed us the tracks they make!

Puff Adder track, with diagnostic ‘tail drag’ through the middle

After a tea break, we headed out for a re-cap of the trees in the area. Most trees had new spring growth so keying out species new and old was an excellent refresher.

We also had a chance to identify André Veenstra’s collection of indigenous bonsai trees.

I must admit that the miniatures were far trickier to identify than their grown-up cousins. Just shows how much we rely on the ‘jizz’ (GISS) of the tree for identification purposes!

After a long siesta we headed out on an interpretive walk. The brief was for each team to use their knowledge of the medicinal uses of indigenous plants in order to find a cure for Ebola using various plants found on Andanté. So, with books in hand, we started to research and find specimens for our various remedies.

The teams all met at the dam for sundowners and delicious snacks, laid on by the ANT team, but before we could relax and enjoy the surroundings we had to present our ‘Ebola cures’ to the visiting Sangoma, Doc ‘Shake-Shake’ Veenstra.

At sunset we strolled back to the Lapa and enjoyed a lovely evening round the fire sharing bush stories, with some reminiscing a little longer than others!

Doc ‘shake-shake’ Veenstra in action, shaking those bones

Birders putting their skills into practice

It was an early start on Sunday for our bird ID walk. We spotted LBJ’s, raptors, passerines and a very special colour morph!

We then met back at the Lapa for a team quiz challenge. Nicky certainly outdid herself here, creating a quiz with three sections (trees, spoor & birds) that encouraged great debate between team members and some serious searching of the ‘grey matter’ for answers. The Nyala team were ultimately victorious with 30 points!

During our weekend activities we collected various tree seeds and, having soaking them overnight on Saturday, we had the opportunity to plant them out under the guidance of André on Sunday morning.

Adding seeds and potting soil to seedling trays

Hopefully his tuition will enable us to propagate our own little indigenous bonsai trees.

After a sad farewell to friends new and old, we vowed to return in 2015!

So, make a note in your diaries now for the ‘2015 ANT Refresher Course’ which is set for the weekend of 10th and 11th October 2015. Book early to avoid disappointment!

The ANT Blog
(With grateful thanks for text and images to Jenny and Rod Bell)