Witnessing the most incredible wildlife imaginable, sleeping out underneath the stars in the African savannah and watching the sun set after a long day’s safari; these are just some of the experiences the students from Cornwall College Newquay got to encounter on the field trip of a lifetime.
Returning from their week-long trip to the Kruger National Park in South Africa, the group of students and college staff have described the field trip as incredible and enlightening. The National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa and the area the group stayed, known as the Makuleke concession offers varied vegetation, great wildlife viewing and folklore of the early explorers and ancient civilisations. The group, who were completely cut off from the rest of the world and restricted from using technology or even wearing a watch, completely immersed themselves in supporting some of the numerous conservation projects that take place in the national park.
Julia Sullivan, Programme Manager for the FdSc in Animal Behaviour & Psychology at Cornwall College Newquay, said: “Our annual field trip to the Kruger National Park is an incredible experience for our staff and students. Getting the chance to closely observe the wealth of wildlife and actively take part in real-life conservation projects has been a life affirming experience and offers the students a new perspective on their studies now they have returned to the UK. Many have come back with a renewed focus and determination in terms of what they want to achieve in their own career development.”
Student Joe Saunders is currently studying the FdSc in Animal Husbandry and Welfare and enjoyed his second year running attending the trip. Joe said: “I thought last year’s trip was amazing and didn’t think it could get any better, however I was wrong and had the most incredible experience of my life! My favourite part of the trip was when we were camping out on the bank of the Luvuvhu River. When we were setting up camp, 50 plus elephants came down to the river to drink and wash, and they were roughly 200 metres away. There were elephant calves as well as adults. It was like something out of an Attenborough documentary!
“The trip has changed my approach to learning about animals in general and I believe it has given me more motivation towards my studies and for what’s after university. If anyone has an opportunity to go to Africa on a trip, I would a say take it because it will change your life for the better!”
In addition to providing the unique opportunity to witness breath-taking wildlife in their natural habitats, the trip was also designed to equip the students with practical knowledge and skills to enhance their learning. With the help and expert guidance of various guides and game rangers, the students learnt safari guide techniques, conservation skills and wildlife photography as well as a wealth of practical information about the animal and plant life they encountered in the various habitats.
Jason Birt, Programme Manager for the FdSc Wildlife Education & Media at Cornwall College Newquay, said: “One of the key intentions of the trip is to give our students an idea of jobs outside of Cornwall. They get to see a range of different wildlife-related employment options available internationally which they could progress onto following their degrees. These include field guides, back up guides, trackers, game rangers and jobs in rehab and captive breeding. This gives them a sense that there is something out there and that doing a course locally can lead to a job anywhere in the world.
“I hope that the trip has made the students realise that to be truly good conservationists and scientists, it’s not all about the science or the facts, it’s about something deeper. It’s about internal passion and demonstrating they have a fire inside as well as the necessary knowledge and skills. There is more to science than what is in their mind; it’s also what’s in their soul.”
Student Max Rowe, who is studying the FdSc Conservation and Ecology at Cornwall College Newquay, was another student who had an incredible time on the trip. Max said: “The trip was nothing short of a once-in-a-lifetime experience! We had the chance to immerse ourselves in pristine African savannah and the wildlife we travelled so far to see allowed us a unique and intimate view into their lives.
“This was certainly not just a Safari trip! It was educational, challenging, character building and more than anything smile forming! We not only saw some of the greatest wildlife spectacles imaginable but we learnt how, in many different approaches, conservation work took place in a country culturally very different from ours.
“I now feel even more confident that I have chosen the correct path in life and Cornwall College Newquay, with its informal and personal approach to us all, to me, feels like a perfect place to learn. It was purely down to the college, the hard work of my course lecturers and the high calibre of my fellow students who joined me on something that I’ll be talking about for years to come!”