I have just spent the most joyful three days in Hlatikulu in the Lower Drakensberg with 24 kids. Most of them I have known for many years through the MMAEP and a few are real favourites whom I have watched grow up. This picture was taken in 2006 when I spent a day creating an indigenous garden at their school – they now say that is the day they started their Eco-Committee. They are literally double in size now (although the garden isn’t!).
I secured some funding, through a very dear friend, to take them on a fieldtrip – as a reward for their commitment to environmental issues and as inspiration to ensure they stay keen.
We spent happy hours looking at flowers, hanging out with a tame crane, hiking, swimming, dancing and learning together. They got excited about everything we saw and photographed the plants, insects and animal tracks as we wandered about.
Fortunately for me, the flowers were really interesting, so I had a real treat. A selection of flowers that I photographed follows: Ranunculus with a shiny beetle and a bee.
Something I can’t identify – think it is some sort of Ledebouria – it was really tiny.
and beside a mountain stream that we all frolicked in, I found this purple flower. I think it is a Gladiolus. Possibly Gladiolus microcarpus.
Near the forest – delicate little Geranium (likely wakkerstroomium).
We had a great time searching for small creatures, talking about vegetarianism, climate change, detrivores, water, football, teenage pregnancies, fungi, emails, religion and a myriad other topics which individuals asked questions about.
It was pretty tiring and the noise was ovewhelming when we were stuck in the dining hall during a thunderstorm, but I had a ball.
The enthusiasm the kids showed for photographing flowers was a real thrill for me. Getting down on their knees and right up close.
Nkulu is hoping to do media studies when he leaves school and is a keen amateur filmaker. He took what I thought was the very best photo of our entire trip – below. I’m using it in my press releases, so he will be delighted to have his name in the newspaper!
This was my version (below) – I’m never that keen on people in my pictures, but will admit that Samkelisiwe (above) adds a very special element to Nkulu’s pic.
Hlatikulu is a huge vlei, so I discovered some wonderful wetland plants I’d never come across before. These orchids – Red Torches – literally glowed.
There were masses of these small white Knipophia albescens – really lovely.
On the rocky outcrops up Mount Lebanon there were carpets of mauve Aster perfoliatus and Wild Garlic which filled the air with fragrance.
What a fabulous opportunity to spend time sharing the magic of our biodiversity. How lucky I am to have these wonderful young people in my life.
“I’m a person who that believe that everything is possible. I really appreciate to have people like you Nikki and I promise I won’t let you down. Thank you for for everything you did for me and the things you say to me really motivate me and make me happy. It is good to have people that care about me. I am sure I can be a photographer or film maker as I am still alive and can keep going.” Nkulu Mdladla
read an account of the trip at: