The 2017 third year botany excursion has sadly come to an end. Since leaving fair Cape Town, our Super Botanists have taken the time to reflect on their experiences over the four days away. Each group has written a short review of their most memorable moments while on this excursion, which are now being shared with you, our readers. Please feel free to post comments – and don’t forget to visit our daily photo galleries…
The third-year botany excursion was a wonderful, educational experience. Each day we learnt more about the plants around us: those in the Nama-Karoo and the succulent Karoo, in the Renosterveld and, of course, the beautiful flowers of the Afromantane Forest.
Let’s not forget how much we discovered about economic botany and its impact on our daily lives. We left Mooiplaas Wine Estate knowing from which cultivated grapes different wines are manufactured and how to taste the various notes in each of the wines presented.
At the end of the day we were tested on our absorption of the new material. Writing tests everyday helped facilitate our learning experience and taught us how work under pressure.
We had a memorable walk with Andrew at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and enjoyed our tour of the Compton Herbarium. The excursion was, overall, informative and most enjoyable. It was an experience we would happily repeat.
The third-year excursion was both an amazing and memorable experience to the Western Cape Province. It was a trip of many firsts – among them our first time flying, which was incredibly exciting, but also adrenaline pumping. The visit to Blouberg Beach was amazing – another first for most of us.
The four days away were always filled with new knowledge. Seeing the remarkable variety of plant species was eye opening and truly beautiful. Visiting the different biomes was exciting and so triggered our curiosity and interest. This approach to learning is so much better than studying the plant from a text book – it’s fun too! We learned a huge amount – from herbaria to wine making.
Visiting different towns also contributed to the unforgettable experience as we encountered, and learnt from, different cultures. Meeting people along our travels who truly value nature, and visiting places that conserve and preserve that nature, has led to our own appreciation of the natural world. We have all fallen in love with Mother Nature even more. The excursion has left us wanting to know, and do, more to better our environment in the future.
Flying down to Cape Town for the third-year botany excursion was the first time any of our group members have been in an airplane. It was a scary and exciting experience. Most of the places we visited, we had only heard of from TV programs and documentaries. It was special seeing our group members outside of an academic environment. We could test our strengths and weaknesses – together. We experienced wonderful moments of silliness and laughter which brought us together. It was fabulous seeing Cape Town and we hope to see it again soon.
Our first day of the 2017 botany tour began at the Tienie Versfeld Wildflower Reserve in Darling. Despite severe drought and empty dams, the earth still flourished. Beautifully coloured flowers hid the Reserve’s dry soil, and butterflies, caterpillars and the ever-present (biting) “midges” filled the air above.
The following day, the slopes of Table Mountain became our classroom. Later, at the Compton Herbarium, we were introduced to the world of taxonomy – in terms of both its origins and its subsequent growth. Then, at the Kirstenbosch Gardens, our fitness was shameful relative to that of our tour guide: the jolly, joking Andrew (nearly 3 times our age), who inspired us with his knowledge of the varying floral types that made up the Afromontane Forest. At the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden, we observed the incredible adaptations of flora to desert life. Fat, stubby little succulents, and big, thick, white-trunked plants were representative of a landscape of hardy survivors, amongst which flowered beautiful vygies – jewels of the sun.
From medicinal plants at Parceval in Wellington, to wine tasting on Mooiplaas Wine Estate, our final day highlighted the versatility of the Floral Kingdom. To top it off, we hiked 5km to the crest of a hill, from which we could see the whole Cape region – and the mountains beyond. What an experience!
For our group, the second day’s visit to Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens was the highlight of the excursion. Our tour guide, who was not only knowledgeable and plant loving, but also humorous, made the outing particularly memorable. The best moment: walking on boomslang bridge – it was priceless! After an afternoon in these Gardens, we realised just how much impact plants have on our lives. We left armed with many thought-proving facts and the wish to return.
This year the Western Cape is experiencing severe droughts. It was most interesting to see how plants adapted to the arid conditions, despite looking their ‘worst’, are nevertheless able to survive. Studying these plants in the Karoo National Botanical Gardens, given the exceptionally dry conditions, was especially enlightening,
Visiting Parceval on the last day of the excursion provided surprising insight into the production of commercial herbal medicine. We left realising that plants have plenty of untapped potential and uses.
The trip to Mooiplaas Wine Estate was another group favourite. The 5km mountain climb was challenging, but exciting. There were team building experiences during that time. The post-hike refreshments and wine tasting ended off the excursion on a high note.
The Cape Town excursion was exquisite, rich with knowledge and had educational benefits. It was the best experience I have ever had and has left me appreciating nature and plants even more. The excursion and, more specifically the trip to Compton Herbarium, has trained me to understand taxonomy better. All the staff members who accompanied us were fantastic and they have taught me that we can achieve more when working together. Thank you very much Michelle for the great experience. – Moses Magwai
The excursion to Cape Town was filled with so much excitement. It was my first visit to Cape Town. It is also the first time I have travelled by plane – a cherry on top. What I most enjoyed about the trip was the exposure to growing plants that I had previously only seen on microscope slides. The trip also armed me with knowledge I can use in the future – in particular, the possibilities in botany as a field of study and that what is most needed in this field is passion. – Siyabonga Zulu
The excursion to Cape Town was a wonderful experience, as we had the opportunity to be exposed to different fields of botany and to become more familiar with what one can do with botany. I also learnt the importance of a wide variety of plants and how they can be used for the benefit of society. This I learnt during the trip to Perceval’s pharmaceutical factory. The wine tasting was also fabulous as we obtained some knowledge about the various types of wine, how they differ, and how they are made. We also had the opportunity to see the grapes from which each wine is made and how they are cultivated. – Xichavo Mathebula
The excursion was very interesting and I learnt a lot of things which I did not know before. My highlight was our visit to the Karoo Desert Botanical Garden. Here, I saw so many plants species which have adapted to arid conditions and have very interesting features which enable them to survive in the dry desert. Another great experience was when we visited the Mooiplaas Wine Estate. While there, we went for a mountain hike. It was very good exercise even though it was very tiring at the time. – Calphonia Shilaluke
Organising a trip of this kind takes hours of preparation and dedication. A special thank you goes to Michelle van der Bank and Thinus Fourie who so willingly shouldered this task. A second round of thanks goes to all the wonderful people we met on our travels – from hotel staff to tour guides. You made our trip memorable. To Tielman Roos, owner of Mooiplaas Wine Estate, thank you for sharing your time and knowledge. Of course we’d be woefully lost without our bus driver, Patrick, who ferried us back and forth from one phenomenal venue to the next for the full four days. Thank you.