It is the fourth week of the five weeks and People and Conservation Officer (P&C), Nobulumko Gantsho and team in Tsitsikamma are still going strong.
Five hundred learners (500) from 10 schools are hosted as part of the Kids in Parks Programme. The Programme is funded by South African National Parks (SANParks) and the National Department of Environmental Affairs.
So says Gantsho ‘we have five weeks with 10 schools which amounts to 2 ½ days spent with each school. This year participating schools include Coldstream, Storms River primary, Paul Sauer (2 farm schools), Nooitgedacht, Bo Plaas, Joubertina, Clarksen/Amamfengu, Kareedouw Primary, Woodlands, Tsitsikamma Laer, Johannes Primere and Lily’s Bush.’
The Programme is interactive with a chunk of practical work out in the field. ‘This year, we roped in the Natures Valley’s Trust to focus on the rocky shores as part of the Programme and SANParks scientists on fynbos.’ Learners get to interact with nature, experts, rangers and volunteers. Learners are accommodated in the De Vasselot camp in Natures Valley during the duration of the Programme and get to experience staying in a National Park.
Although this is a drop in the ocean considering the number of learners who are in the Eastern Cape who have never visited a National Park in their lives, but the Park tries to engage with as many schools as possible and has ‘eco-schools’, campaign days celebrations with various schools and invites and facilitates a lot of schools programmes. Gantsho quickly points out ‘the Kids in Parks Programme is unique because it’s curriculum-based, opening up the outdoor classroom the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park is. Through practical demonstrations, the learners are able to see for themselves what is written in textbooks.’
More about Tsitsikamma:
The word ‘Tsitsikamma’ means ‘the place of clear water’ is what the Khoisan called this area with a dramatic coastline, lush indigenous forests and lots and lots of water. The word “Tsitsikamma” hails from the Khoekhoe language tse-tsesa, meaning “clear”, and gami, meaning “water”, probably referring to the clear water of the Tsitsikamma River. Other meanings are ‘place of much water’ and ‘waters begin.’ Its MPA is largely a ‘no-take’ area and has a controlled zone for fishing by nearby local communities. Sea wildlife in Tsitsikamma includes over 200 species of fish in the MPA (2004 data). Types of sea mammals include the Bottle nose dolphin, Bryde’s whale, the common dolphin, humpback dolphin, humpbacked whale, Southern right whale.
It is home to one of the Garden Route’s big trees, a Yellowood tree that is nearly 1000 years old.