Students currently studying Animal Management at Solihull College & University Centre have returned home from a once in a lifetime trip to South Africa. The students set off on 20th May from Birmingham Airport on their 12 day adventure.
Grace Dawson, Animal Care Lecturer and Extended Diploma Course Co-ordinator at the College said: “This was the first time the trip has been run with Animal Management students at the College and to summarise, it has been amazing. We set off on the twelve day trip full of enthusiasm and excitement and this did not stop for the whole duration! On the first morning, we woke to three giraffe observing us from the garden area – about 10 metres away! Each night, we had a camp fire and fell asleep to the sound of Lions, Impala, Hyena and Zebra; truly at one with nature. The trip, from start to finish, was insightful and inspiring, giving everyone a detailed view into wildlife conservation.”
Students began their South African adventure when they arrived in Johannesburg and then travelled to the town of Hoedspruit, which is known as the gateway to Kruger National Park. The student’s home for the duration of their trip was in an isolated rustic house right inside the national park in the Nthaba private reserve.
During their time the students of Solihull College & University Centre were able to explore the African bush in a variety of workshops and practical experiences in the field. The students, who are currently in the second year of their studies of their Animal Management Extended Diploma, endured a number of early starts in order to capture the time when the animals are most active.
Students and staff from the College enjoyed walks and drives in the area, lectures and interactive sessions on conservation, as well as helping to prepare dinner each evening. The College students were able to extend their knowledge with the workshops with topics such as animal identification, bird identification, tracking, bush skills & safety in the field, biodiversity study, approaching dangerous game on foot and using camera traps.
Other highlights for the students included a night drive to observe nocturnal wildlife as well as a reptile handling course. The students are already very familiar with handling reptiles as there are a number of exotic animals homed at Solihull College & University Centre’s Blossomfield Campus, and they were able to put their skills to the test as they identified and handled dangerous snakes and reptiles at the Khami Reptile Centre.
The 15 students also visited Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre where they enjoyed an informative tour of the facilities before being able to participate in the feeding rounds and meet the ambassador cheetah.
Student, Charlotte Bridgewater thoroughly enjoyed the trip, commenting: “This trip was very memorable as it is not every day you see wild African animals and get to experience the animals being so close to you. You learn a lot about their behaviour and feeding habits and get opportunities to see what is being done to help the animals.” Charlotte’s peer Sarah Linley added “It was a life changing experience.”
To top off the students trip of lifetime, they embarked on a 2 day guided safari through Kruger National Park in the search for the ‘Big 5’: African elephant; African lion; Cape buffalo, African leopard and white/black rhinoceros and were fortunate enough to spot a few. They also slept the night in Kruger National Park, camping out under the stars before setting off on their long journey home.
Emma Collingswood, Animal and Land Management Tutor and Programme Manager at Solihull College & University Centre, joined the students on their trip and commented: “The trip was incredible. It provided learners with an amazing experience, which has developed their knowledge and experience of animal welfare, behaviour, conservation, cultures and independent life skills. The trip provided some amazing memorable opportunities for learners to embed learning and inspired them. For me one of the highlights was tracking a lion pride and observing their feeding behaviour after a buffalo kill, just meters away from them, it was such a privilege. It will be a valuable addition for learners’ success in employment and progression opportunities.”
With the success of the first trip to South Africa, the Animal Management team at Solihull College & University Centre look to organise a similar adventure for next year’s students.
For more information on the courses available at Solihull College & University Centre visit courses page or call 0121 678 7000.