When they docked in Cape Town, students on the "Semester at Sea" programme opted to either spend time in the mother city or in Kruger. These students from all over the United States of America spend 100 days at sea while completing a semester towards their undergraduate qualification in various degree programees.
As from the next voyage, the University of California will become the academic sponsor of the programme, which provides students with the opportunity to study courses such as the environment, populations, foreign policy relationships and economics, and then observe these in the context of the countries that they visit.
As the students dock at the various ports they have the opportunity to spend a few days in those countries to observe and analyse theory in practice. In this instance, 52 of the students opted to visit Kruger and the Kruger Park Times caught up with them at Malelane camp where they were hosted by Siyabona Camping Safaris.
The group appreciated and made the most of the opportunity to learn more about Shangaan and other African folklore firsthand from the locally recruited black guides, the trademark of Siyabona.
According to some of the students, the game drives, excellent food prepared by chef, Tsakani Ntambo and camping experience exceeded many of their expectations. Having expected landscape like Kenya, they were surprised by the hills and dense bush of the Malelane area.
On the first evening some of the groups had already spotted big game and by the following morning one group had been fortunate to have seen the big five by the end of its morning drive, including a glorious five minute display by a female leopard.
Siyabona prides itself on its ratio of four staff members to nine guests, giving the students ample time and opportunity to interview guides, drivers, chefs and trainees to finalise their assignments before they had to get back to school at sea.
Students have classes daily while at sea and, most classes average between 20 and 30 students.
The group departed from South Africa on February 20 and was scheduled to dock in Mauritius on Monday February 27. Other ports on their way home included Chennai in India, Yangon, Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, Hong Kong, Qindao and Kobe in Japan. They should finish their voyage in San Diego, California on 28 April.
Rodney Maibane could not find employment. Despite his degree in Business Administration, obtained at the University of the Witwatersrand, he did not have experience. "But how could I get experience if no one was prepared to give me a job?" "Fortunately, I was introduced to Intac and had the opportunity to do something else," he added. Rodney chose to train as a guide with Drumbeat with the studies facilitated by Intac.
He also studied at the Southern African Wildlife College where he finished a certificate in business management. He is now waiting to register as an assessor. "Last year I had a wonderful opportunity when Hans Gerridzen of Siyabona and Mari-Tinka Uys of Intac facilitated employment for me at Siyabona Camping Safaris." "I enjoy guiding very much and would love to couple it with business administration."
Rodney also believes the government should play a stronger role in promoting tourism, "much the same as they do with promoting HIV/Aids." He would like to become more active in promoting tourism because "I have learnt that every international tourist that comes to South Africa creates one job." He also enjoyed having the 'Semester at Sea' group as he learned a lot from them - 'even if they are so young.'
Joyce Hlungwani, guide safari leader of the "Semester at Sea" safari is from Makuleke. She spent some time in Rustenburg before she obtained her nature guiding qualification at Mapulaneng College. She spent a short time as waitress at Honeyguide before she was appointed at Siyabona on NQF level 2. "What was wonderful is that I had the opportunity to study at Siyabona and now I am at NQF level 4."
Tsakani Ntambo, Siyabona's chef, was born in Malamulele and sharpened her hospitality skills at Nature's Group in the Kruger National Park. She moved to Thabazimbi for a short while before she joined Motswari Lodge where she stayed for some time before joining Siyabona in May 2005. "I love what I do."