At Easter my wife Linda and I visited South Africa and had some wonderful experiences. On the coast of KwaZulu-Natal north of Durban is an amazing resort called St Lucia. It lies on a river between the national parks of iSimangalisu (a coastal wetland park) and Hluhluwe game reserve. After dark the streets empty very rapidly as hippopotamuses come into the town to feed, not your average holiday experience. As well as an extensive range of mammals, the area is a paradise for birdwatchers. There are over 500 species of bird native to the local area. However, without a guide it is not easy to find them and when you do see them not easy to identify them. In advance of our holiday I booked a birding trip with a local guide. This involved getting up at 5.30 am and walking into the leafy heart of the town and then into the neighbouring forest following the tracks left by the hippopotamuses. Our guide, Themba Mthembu, is astonishingly talented. Without binoculars he could identify numerous birds at great distance, leading us to the best places to see them, and even imitating their calls to attract them into the area. During a pause in our tour he told us a bit about himself and about his project to create a Zulu Birding Centre in St Lucia. The aims of this centre are:
- To educate local school children about their environment
- To train new bird guides giving employment opportunities to local people
- To encourage local people to develop their land to encourage bird life providing a potential income source
He already has the building and is well on the way to achieving his goal but progress is limited by the amount he raises from his guiding. I would like to devote some of the funds we raise this year to helping him with his project, which seems to me totally admirable. What’s more, supporting Themba chimes well with this year’s Rotary theme – Rotary Connects the World.
If you would like to get to know us, text the President, Friddy Bishai, on 07764 662001 and she will send you a link to our meeting.