Last week CCF hosted our first ever Teen Waterberg Naturalist Training Camp 28 April – 2 May. The camp was a huge success thanks to Ignatius, a fellow educator, and all of the wonderfully helpful CCF staff. We hosted 17 students all in the 11th grade and one teacher in total (10 students and one teacher from Okakarara and 7 students from Otjiwarongo). The goals of the camp are to educate the teens about the greater Waterberg area for those interested in working as a guide or educator in the local area. We created field guides and structured talks/lessons around educating about the surrounding area’s flora, fauna, and history as well as teaching from first hand experience what it means to work as a guide or educator. The group also engaged in game drives and learned about game counting, conservancies, animal tracking, and predator kill identification as well as getting a full tour of the CCF Research and Education Center to learn about the work that we do.
Each day started very early with exercises, yoga, or team building exercises. Exercises lead by Matt and Ignatius were great in getting the group to focus on taking care of their body and their mind. One of the lessons that particularly spurred some conversation was that on poaching and specifically rhino poaching. Matt, a graduate student who has first hand experience in the fight against poaching, lead a talk about creating awareness of the effects that poaching is having on the animal populations as well as the economic toll that poaching is taking on the local communities. We all had a good discussion about the real life side effects that poaching is having or could have on the communities right here in Namibia as well as what communities and the government could do more to prevent it.
Ignatius and I also led the teens on nature trails learning about tourism, birding, and the work of CCF. We had some stimulating conversations about all the information that a guide needs to know as well as how a guide should interact with guests who could come from all over the world and speak many different languages. It was exciting to see the interest the students had in learning about the local flora and fauna, but also the eagerness to hear about what it means to work as a guide or in the tourism industry.
The last night ended with a braai at our Lightfoot Camp along with a cultural dance celebration. The students represented a wide range of Namibian tribes and each group presented a dance of cultural significance for the group around the campfire before settling down and enjoying the final meal of the week. The night ended listening to natural Namibian night sounds, which added to the overall experience. After the week was over the teens were begging to stay but Ignatius, Bobby, and myself were eager to catch up on some much needed sleep. This was the first camp of many to come!