Posts tagged Guiding
Attention all guides and nature enthusiasts!

It’s the time of year for the bi-annual Western Cape Field Guides Association of South Africa meeting! Justbefore the annual fynbos forum, so a great opportunity to get your minds stimulated if you are also going to that event.

This year’s theme: DRIVERS OF FYNBOS.

This meeting is always a wonderful opportunity to catch up, re-connect and listen to interesting talks and discussions.

Date: Saturday, 3rd August 2019

Time: 8:00 AM - 14:00 PM

Venue: Groot Drakenstein Games Club (R45, Simondium, Western Cape,7680)


Ants generally get a bad press. They spoil food, encourage aphids on plants, they bite, some of them sting, some even smell. When there’s lots of them in a swarm they can be scary, too, with all those little legs rustling around at high speed. The first question I’m always asked is “How can we get rid of ’em?”

                The answer is that you can’t. Ants are the most numerous insects on Earth, and if you should succeed in removing them from one place there are thousands more to move in and take their place. It’s far more rewarding, in fact, to get interested in them, because not only are they the most numerous insects, they’re also the most fascinating.

                Ants are social animals and they live in colonies where they organise themselves in many ways that superficially resemble human society. Ants feed and care for their young; ants cooperate to find food and bring it home; ants ‘farm’ other insects and ‘milk’ them for nutritious juices; ants care for and nurse their sick and injured comrades. Ants build their own castles from leaves or sticks or tiny bits of plant litter; they build ‘stables’ for their livestock; they excavate and turn over more soil than earthworms. They keep pets and they employ servants. Some of them grow their own crops for food; others employ living ‘nutcrackers’ to crack open seeds. They build road-like tracks across the sand and through leaf litter; they form living rafts and sail across lakes and rivers. And, in their most human-like behaviour of all, they make vicious war upon their own kind.

                There are about 25 000 species of ants in world, about 1000 of them in South Africa. Some are minute and hardly visible without magnification, while others are amongst the largest ants in the world, up to a whopping 25 mm long. Some have different sizes in the same nest; others are all the same size. Ants can be black, brown, red, orange, yellow, green, blue or even the most beautiful shimmering gold or silver – or they can be combinations of the above. They are never, ever white – so-called ‘white ants’ are really termites, related to cockroaches. Real ants are closely related to bees and wasps, occupying top spot on the insect ‘tree of life’. Most of them are completely harmless to humans, and those that are the most troublesome – the food spoilers in your kitchen, the aphid-bearers on your fruit trees – have been spread around our human living spaces by our own human commerce.

                Ants are in fact one of the most fundamentally important vectors in a healthy ecosystem – and that means environmental health for us humans too. So next time they give you trouble stop and think about the good they do, consuming millions of even more troublesome goggas, like the larvae of fleas and flies; cleaning up dead insects and even small vertebrates; recycling plant and animal material back into the soil. You don’t have to love ’em, but if you stop and look at them they’ll give you endless interest.

– Peter Slingsby

Celine MacdonaldGuiding
A Beautiful Sighting of the Moon and WC FGASA Meeting Recap

On Monday 21st of January 2019 in the morning there was a beautiful sight in the sky – A Lunar Eclipse. CWBR reached out to its extended family for photos and received some fantastic photos which were taken just outside of Riebeeck West in direction of Moreesburg. The eclipse started at 5h43 and the moon disappeared behind the horizon at about 6h00. Don’t worry if you missed it there will be another one later this year in July.

The below is on behalf of the Astronomical Society of South Africa -

"Two lunar eclipses occur during 2019. The first is a total lunar eclipse on January 21st and is visible from the Middle East, Africa, Europe, the Americas, most of Oceania and easternmost Russia. From southern Africa the event is marginal, as the Moon sets around the time the eclipse begins at 04:35, mid-eclipse is at 07:12.

A lunar eclipse is visible from anywhere on Earth where the Moon is in the sky at the time (unlike solar eclipses, which are only visible from within a much narrower path. In a calendar year between four and seven eclipses (solar and lunar combined) can occur; at least two, and at most five, can be lunar eclipses. A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes into the shadow of the Earth, becoming dim until emerging from the shadow. The Earth's shadow consists of two parts – the dark inner umbra and the lighter outer penumbra.

If the Moon's orbit coincided with the ecliptic, there would be a lunar eclipse every Full Moon, but because of the changing orientation of the orbit, lunar eclipses occur only infrequently. Total lunar eclipses last for up to 100 minutes but do not require eye protection (unlike solar eclipses).

The second lunar eclipse is a partial one on July 16/17 and can be seen from Australasia, Asia (except in the north & east), Africa, Europe (except northernmost Scandinavia) and most of South America. From southern Africa, the Moon will be well-placed throughout the duration of the eclipse. Mid-eclipse is at 23:30 and the umbral magnitude is 0.658"Astronomy will be a new component to the 2019 FGASA and Life Skills course. At the end of December, a two-day Night Sky course to equip mentors for the upcoming course in March 2019 took place at De Hoop nature Reserve.

WC FGASA Meeting 2018 Recap

A big thank you to everyone who attended the WC FGASA meeting this December!

It was an exceptional meeting hosted at the Astronomical Observatory in Cape Town with a continued group of speakers who have a wealth of knowledge, enthusiasm, and love for what they do. Thank you to Danial Cunnama for making this meeting extra special. 

The Programme

Arrie Combrink from National Sea Rescue Institute. Author and trail mapmaker Peter Slingsby. Biologist, researcher, and author George Branch and his wife Margo, marine scientist and author.

The Guide of the Year Award was presented to the winners, with a special mention for Cameron McMaster.

The meeting drew to a close with a tour of the premises and Astronomical museum by outreach astronomer Doctor Daniel Cunnama.

The Talks

Arrie spoke about breadth of work that NSRI are involved in and showed a video of the volunteers, who give of their time 24/7/365 days a year, training at sea. It became apparent that NSRI in Stillbaai are one big family, who work hard and give of themselves and their time completely to the community. To the motto in their work is communication, knowledge of the vessels capabilities, knowledge of the sea, and continuous practice in what they do. The volunteers at NRI are truly one of a kind.

Peter Slingsby then took the floor to talk about Ants of South Africa, and particularly his new book: Ants of South Africa The Ant Book for All. It became clear how incredible these little creatures are, and how dissimilar they are from termites, a mistake often made. They cover 10 – 15 % terrestrial animal biomass, there are over 20 000 species known worldwide, and they share at least 49 % of their DNA with you! Ants are excellent indicators of the natural environment’s health. There were also some very surprising facts, for example, ants don’t have lungs!

 George and Margo Branch spoke about what they both love: the abundant life in the shores of South Africa. And the new edition of their book Living Shores. South Africa is the only place in the world with such large diversity along the shores, in the water and on land, due to two very different currents – Agulhas and   Benguela. Margo emphasized the importance of safety when exploring the rocky shores. Always have a designated spotter to keep a look out for big waves crashing into the shore.  

Guides of the Year ,  nominee, and judge.  From Left to right. Cuan McGeorge, Arrie Combrink, Tony Rogers, Dalfrenzo Laing, and Stephen Smuts accepting award on behalf of Cameron McMaster.

Guides of the Year, nominee, and judge. From Left to right. Cuan McGeorge, Arrie Combrink, Tony Rogers, Dalfrenzo Laing, and Stephen Smuts accepting award on behalf of Cameron McMaster.

Celine MacdonaldGuiding
It’s here! – The Western Cape FGASA Meeting

Join us, on the 1st of December, at the Astronomical Observatory in Cape Town for the Western Cape Field Guide Association of South Africa meeting!

The theme is ‘Below Ground.’ Talks will include the biodiversity of South African shores, a field guide book about the habits and life of South African ants, NSRI and the work they do in the community and marine guiding.

The programme will be packed with great speakers, FGASA news, Guide of the Year Award, and time for networking. There will also be a special tour after the meeting of the observatory. 

Celine MacdonaldGuiding
The rich marine diversity of the Cape by Gavin W. Maneveldt
(Oceans of Contract): The South African coastline is bathed by mighty oceans (Image credit: Coastcare Fact Sheet Series produced by the former Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, 2006. Used with permission).

(Oceans of Contract): The South African coastline is bathed by mighty oceans (Image credit: Coastcare Fact Sheet Series produced by the former Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, 2006. Used with permission).

An Introduction:

The Marine and Guiding course has started and is in full swing at De Hoop Nature Reserve. De Hoop Collections have kindly sponsored accommodation, and the students have stayed at Mellkkammer, one of the original estates in the Reserve. A unique opportunity.

Gavin Maneveldt, a biodiversity and conservation professor at University of the Western Cape, gave two days of dynamic lectures on marine life and hands-on live experiences on the beach - watching anemones, octopuses, whelks, and many other living organisms on the rocky shores of De Hoop. An interactive walk for adrenaline junkies of a different type.

The rich marine diversity

of the Cape

By Gavin W. Maneveldt

Department of Biodiversity & Conservation Biology

University of the Western Cape

(Marine Diversity): Rocky intertidal shores of the Cape Peninsula are rich in diversity of various marine organisms.

(Marine Diversity): Rocky intertidal shores of the Cape Peninsula are rich in diversity of various marine organisms.

South Africa lies in a unique geographical location and as a consequence boasts an astonishingly high biodiversity.  Its nearly 3000km of coastline (less than 1% of the total length of coastline in the world) is bathed by three oceans (Atlantic, Indian and Southern oceans) and is home to roughly 16% of all the known coastal marine species.  As a consequence of the varied sea surface temperatures South Africa (flanked on its west by the northward flowing, cold Benguela Current and on its east by the south-westward flowing, warm Agulhas Current) has three (a cool temperate west coast, a warm temperate south coast, a subtropical east coast) broad biogeographic marine coastal environments or provinces.  Bordering these provinces are biogeographic transition zones in which there is a mingling of the biodiversity of the two neighbouring regions.  Generally speaking, the western transition zone is located roughly between the Cape Peninsula at Cape Point and that area just east of Cape Agulhas.  The eastern transition zone is located roughly between the area around the Kei River mouth and the Eastern Cape border with KwaZulu-Natal.  Biogeographic transition zones are unique in that they not only contain marine organisms from each of the neighbouring regions, but they often also contain endemic species specifically adapted to only the conditions of that transition zone.  For this reason, biogeographic transition zones are areas of particularly high diversity, with high levels of endemism.

The western biogeographic transition zone (along the south Western Cape) between the temperate regions is most fascinating.  This stretch of coastline represents the greatest change in marine species composition for South Africa.  This is so largely because of the high number of range-restricted endemics that are found only along a very narrow section of the coast.  Within the western transition zone, False Bay and the surrounding Peninsula (at the western edge of the transition zone) have been reported to have the greatest number of range-restricted endemics.  At the eastern edge of the western transition zone lies Cape Agulhas.  New research is showing that this region is similarly rich in range-restricted endemics.    

The meeting of the cold Benguela and warm Agulhas currents at the southern edge of the Agulhas Bank (roughly 250 km offshore of Cape Agulhas) fuels the nutrient cycle for much of the marine life in the area, making this region one of the most productive areas in South Africa.  Also, the greatest calcite (the most stable form of calcium carbonate) gradient exists between the Agulhas Bank and Antarctica.  This makes the region an area rich in calcium (an essential component of the shells and skeletons of many marine organisms) dependent organisms.

(coralline mosaic): The intertidal and shallow subtidal zones of the Agulhas region are rich in diversity of encrusting coralline algae that often form a mosaic of pink encrusting mats.

(coralline mosaic): The intertidal and shallow subtidal zones of the Agulhas region are rich in diversity of encrusting coralline algae that often form a mosaic of pink encrusting mats.

One such group of organisms is the coralline red algae.  These calcified seaweeds are the only marine plants in which almost all vegetative cell walls are impregnated with calcite, making them hard as rock.  While coralline algae are ignored by most marine biologists and even specialist phycologists (people who study algae and seaweeds), they are ecologically very important.  Not only do these organisms help cement reefs together, they are important sources of primary production (taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen) and food for very many other marine organisms.  Recent evidence has even suggested that coralline algae may be one of the largest stores of carbon in the biosphere, making them globally very important organisms considering the impacts of increased carbon emissions and its subsequent effects (through ocean acidification) on the oceans. 

New research (incorporating DNA sequencing) has shown that we have highly underestimated the diversity of the coralline algae (by as much as 2-4 times that which is currently recognised) and that the Agulhas region is particularly rich.  More interestingly, this new research is showing that marine species are generally not widely distributed across ocean basins and are in fact more endemic than previously thought.  Two range-restricted endemic species of encrusting coralline algae, new to science, have recently been documented for the area.  Both species have been found to occur in an area no greater than about 10 km (the shortest range of any known marine species) of coastline at the southernmost tip of the African continent.  Similar findings are more than likely to surface for other groups of marine organisms as new research methodologies (such as DNA sequencing) becomes increasingly more popular.

Figure Captions (all images except, Fig. 1, was taken by Gavin W. Maneveldt)

FGASA Innovation & Courage 2018 - Join the next one!

On Saturday, 27th of January 2018, Field Guides Association of South Africa had its biannual meeting at Tygerberg Nature Reserve, one of the few surviving pockets that host Swartland Shale Renosterveld.

This event is a great opportunity to network and is a platform for lectures and discussions.  The theme for this year’s meeting – Innovation and Courage!

The first guest speakers of the day, were from The President’s Award for Youth Empowerment. They shared how they, as an innovative self-development program, are changing the lives of many youth in South Africa. The Award Programme, works with youth between the ages 14 – 24 year old and is open to working with youth from any of the diverse number of communities within South Africa. The Award Programme offers a progressive programme which includes 3 levels; Bronze, Silver, and Gold. In order to complete each level, participants are required to complete a activities within four main sections; Physical Recreation, Community Service, Skills and Adventurous Journey. With the funding from Athénée Action Humanitaire, in partnership with Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve, 385 youth in the 2 Year Edu-Link Project have completed their Adventurous Journeys! Being led by FGASA trained guides. The Adventurous journeys have had the youth hike through fynbos rich mountains of Hottentots, Omeitbeerg, Dassenberg Hill, and Mont Rochelle Reserve in Franschhoek, as well as the vast terrain surrounding Springbok in the Northern Cape! Taking part in Adventurous Journey’s, facilitated by FGASA trained guides, has given the youth the opportunity to develop deeper awareness and appreciation of fauna, flora, and animals in their surrounding natural environment. President’s Award Programme in South Africa is an extension of the Scottish The Duke of Edinburgh International Award Programme, founded in the UK in 1953. The Award is currently active in 144 countries, empowering youth of all background, worldwide.

Dynamite comes in small packages and the next guest speaker Matilda Burton, is one! Her extensive knowledge in Culture and History gave way to a deeply inventive presentation about guiding and todays culture. She pinpointed the importance of research in the nature of guiding. A guide is not just a nature guide, but can be a guide of culture, traditions, and heritage to name just a few! Matilda Burton is a professor of the Department of Cultural History at the University of Stellenbosch.

The Guide of the Year Award was presented by Tony Rogers to four exceptional guides who each won in different categories this year. Pieter van Wyk, Pinkey Ngewu, Bevan Thomas, and Jannie Groenwald who have all contributed greatly to their field of work in conservation, sustainability, and youth education. 

Pieter Van Wyk, a young wonderfully eccentric man of many talents. Now working at Richtersveld National Park, manages the Nursery, initiated a Desert Botanical Garden, works with youth and elderly, and many more, while continuing to study long distance. And by chance found a new species of spider! His two passions, Taxonomy of Plants and the Nama culture, developed from years exploring the Veld as a child and surrounding himself with family and professionals who share the same interests. He has also written a book, Wild Flower Guide covering 2000 species of plants in Richtersveld and South-Western Namibia, which will be published this year. 

Bevan Thomas, a free-range guide, self-employed farmer, and horticulturist has contributed greatly to getting youth out for adventurous environmental education in the best classroom available: the great outdoors! With his contagious enthusiasm teaching youth how we are all connected to nature. He has been involved with Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve as a guide for TPA hikes and outings and teaches sustainable food production practices with youth.

Pinkey Ngewu, a Level 3 FGASA Guide, currently working at De Hoop Collections as a guide and guide's manager, also a trust manager Dyer Island Conservation since 2015 is heavily involved in environmental education for young children. With her passion for youth education, she aims to create young ambassadors for the environment who will safeguard it with zealousness and produce a generation that will make a difference in the community they are living in.

Jannie Groenwald has selflessly given of himself and his time to help educate FGASA guides over Christmas 2017.

After the colourful presentations by the guides of the year, the guides who have recently completed their Level 1 FGASA Course received their certificates with fervour. All going onto careers within guiding, teaching, and research. In 2017 Athénée Action Humanitaire in partnership with Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve made it possible for guides to graduate the FGASA program.

Doctor Daniel Cunnama, an outreach astronomer at Cape Town Observatory, founded in 1820, took the stage and figuratively lead the audience on a journey through space explaining gravitational waves - ripples in the fabric of space-time, how this discovery has given birth to a new era in astrophysics. Innovative and courageous! 

The meeting closed with the latest news and what will be developing within FGASA in the Western Cape in 2018. Many exciting things!

Don’t miss the next meeting, the first Saturday in June 2018! Keep an eye out for dates and venue. All enthusiastic ambassadors of nature and conservation are welcome!

Guides of the Year FGASA Level 1, and Graduates with Alumni and Professors

Guides of the Year FGASA Level 1, and Graduates with Alumni and Professors

Celine MacdonaldGuiding