Ecological Journeys

Africa 2012


In January 2012, fifteen Millikin students traveled to South Africa for a three week course trip.  They were led by Judy Parrish from the biology department, Mark Parrish (degrees in non-European history and horticulture) and Peter Scheepers, a retired English and history teacher from Capetown. 

We spent 11 days in the Capetown area, studying the unique fynbos plants and animals, swimming in the Indian Ocean, visiting Robben Island led by a tour guide who had been imprisoned there with Nelson Mandela, and participating in discussions led by Peter about apartheid, the “Rainbow Nation”, South Africa’s constitution, and challenges facing the new South Africa.

We evaded baboons successfully at De Hoop Nature Reserve, although we were awakened each morning by jumping baboons – and one who appeared to be reading a newspaper on the roof. We visited the Cape of Good Hope, the succulent karoo desert, and we all worked to learn to sing “Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika”, the old “struggles” anthem that has morphed into South Africa’s national anthem. 

In the Nuy Valley, our bed and breakfast had no water, so we had to make do with local wine. We toured Capetown led by a man who was a student revolutionary during the 70’s and 80’s. We visited Khayelitsha, where we shopped at the Philani Nutrition and Employment Project, with handicrafts made by women from “informal settlements” (shantytowns), and Langa, a township planned for 60,000 people where over 300,000 live now. There we had a buffet lunch of traditional African foods cooked by Sheila Mahloane (including ostrich), who turned her home into a restaurant and now trains Langa women to cook and serve so they can get good jobs. The delicious meal was accompanied by a group of traditional musicians, and local handicrafts satisfied our urges to “winkle” (Afrikaans for “shop”). 

We also visited Solomon’s Haven, where Maria and Alec Solomon have helped over 400 children escape abusive homes, go to school, and grow into healthy adults. We were able to take Maria and Alec over 5400 rands ($700), school supplies, toys, and clothes donated by the Millikin community for this mission. Then we flew to Johannesburg, where we toured Pretoria, and visited the Voortrekker Monument and Paul Kruger’s home as well as Freedom Park, a monument celebrating democracy and sacrificial achievements of the new nation. 

The trip culminated with a five-day safari in the savannah of Greater Kruger National Park. We managed to get great views of elephants, cape buffalo, rhinoceros, leopards, and lions, as well as giraffes, saddle billed storks, buffalo weavers, eagles, and dung beetles, sometimes too close! 

Then it started to rain – over 20 inches in 30 hours. Roads washed out, land rovers got stuck, solar power depleted, and lions started using the remaining roads to stay out of the water. We were on the list to be evacuated by South African Air Force helicopters, but when the rain finally stopped and the raging waters slowed down, neighboring lodges were able to work out a shuttle plan so that we could ride to the washout and be picked up on the other side by another 4x4. 

All were a little disappointed not to get the helicopter ride, but we saved our hosts a LOT of money and managed to make our plane despite wearing a bit too much mud. 

Millikin students included Dexter Bunch, Jared Cerny, Cody Hubble, Sarah Huber, Isabelle Jeffries, Ally Staudenmeier, Maggie Tate, and Sam Nesemann (Biology), Ali Oremus and Jay Woodrum (Communication), Kris Orlando (Chemistry), Jane Daniels (Elementary Education), Conor Wrigley (Political Science), Kasey Hoogervorst (Human Services), and Jennifer Petagno (Theatre).

Kris, Maggie, Jay, and Ali admiring a chameleon at Rondevlei Nature Preserve 

Our group at the succulent Karoo botanical garden near Worchester 
Back row: Jane Daniels, Judy Parrish, Sam Nesemann, Jared Cerny, Cody Hubble, Maggie Tate, Dexter Bunch, Kasey Hoogervorst, Isabelle Jeffries, and Jennifer Petagno 
Front row: Mark Parrish, Jay Woodrum, Kris Orlando, Ali Oremus, Sarah Huber, Ally Staudenmeier 

Back row: Peter Scheepers, Judy Parrish, Maggie Tate, Sarah Huber, Cody Hubble, Ally Staudenmeier, Isabelle Jeffries, Conor Wrigley, Jared Cerny, Sam Nesemann, Jane Daniels, Dexter Bunch, Audrey Scheepers, John Carolissen (bus driver) 
Front Row: Mark Parrish, Jennifer Petagno, Jay Woodrum, Kris Orlando, Kasey Hoogervorst, Ali Oremu, and South Africa’s flag