From our working holiday volunteering with leopards, caracals and Cape biodiversity in South Africa

Like the swallows who departed from my fields in Scotland last month, I too have completed my annual migration. I have arrived in South Africa.

The joy of travel is apparently in the journey, not just the destination. However, delays at 06:00 on my first flight quickly eroded some of that enjoyment. But, four flights later and I’ve finally made it to George. It is great to be back.

I’ve met up with Alan, we picked up our cooks (Melda and Gurli – great to have them back) and we completed the supply run – though Alan did most of the work before we all arrived in town.

The joy of the journey quickly returns when you take the two hour drive north to Blue Hill; our expedition base for the next two weeks. As George disappears into the distance, the roads narrow, the vistas widen and the mountains rise.

We are all heading on a ‘journey with a purpose’ – well, that is how the dictionary defines an expedition. And talking of that purpose, Alan suggested I might want to set the scene for our forthcoming activities…. these will include:

– Deploying camera traps to new positions, service existing camera traps;

– Assisting with bird and biodiversity surveys in the Karoo with BirdLife South Africa’s Dale Wright (Western Cape regional manager);

– Assisting with a PhD project looking for Cape Rockjumper nests (working with John and Lizzy from the USA), and possibly some trapping;

– Establishing permanent monitoring plots for endemic plants used to make tea;

– Mammal mapping, and;

– Of course looking for leopards!

We’ll also squeeze in some bat work and data entry. Should keep us all busy.

Your journey is almost complete, the purpose is about to begin and on arriving at Blue Hill you may realise that this expedition is very much about the destination.

Safe travels, group 1. You will be picked up at the assembly point by a bus from Zeelie Taxis (same procedure for group 2). They will make sure you get here and Alan, I and the rest of the team at Blue Hill look forward to seeing you soon.

From our working holiday volunteering with leopards, caracals and Cape biodiversity in South Africa

Hello everyone

With a week to go before the expeditions starts, it’s time for the initial introductions. I am Craig Turner and I’ll be your expedition leader in South Africa this year. It is fantastic to be going back to this part of the world to work on this project.

I am not on route yet, but I am in the midst of preparations. So I thought I’d take the opportunity to introduce myself, and Dr. Alan Lee, our project scientist for the duration of the expedition. It’s great to be returning to work with Alan (and his family) for a third year. I’ll save the rest of the introductions until later next week, so they are fresh in your memory.

Craig (front) and Alan (back)

I am guessing many of you, like me, are in a whirl of preparation and beginning to think about packing your bags. So I hope you’ve all been eagerly reading your expedition materials and know to bring many layers of clothing. The weather can be a bit like four seasons in one day, so prepare for warm, cold, possibly wet and hopefully dry. Just like the weather in my adopted home – Scotland!

Hopefully you have also seen the recently published 2016 South Africa expedition report, so will have an idea of some of the planned activities. This also is my opportunity to flag up our expanding bat survey work. As this year, in the spirit of citizen science, we are hoping to turn your iPad or iPhone (if you are travelling with them) into a bat detector.

I’ll leave you to continue your preparations and will be in touch later this week from South Africa. I look forward to meeting group 1 next weekend.

Safe travels…

Expedition leader