A diverse group of marine biology students and aspirant environmental journalists have applied to take part in an eight-day Wild Coast hike in aid of marine conservation and grassroots eco-tourism.
“Selection of the most deserving candidate has not been easy,” said Roving Reporters director, Fred Kockott.
The trail, from Sunday, July 21 to Sunday, July 28, passes through the Mzamba fossil beds, the Pondoland Marine Protected Area and the Mkambathi Nature Reserve, several pristine estuaries and other biodiversity hot spots threatened with destruction.
Hikers will also crisscross red sands earmarked for heavy minerals mining by Australian-owned Mineral Resource Commodities. The controversial Xolobeni Mineral Sands Project was the focus of a recent Amabhungane investigation, The mine, the murder, the DG – and many unanswered questions
Aside from immersion in nature, the hike is a cultural experience with hikers accommodated at rustic home stays along the route.
“We all sleep on mattresses on the floor of mud huts. We use basins to bath, no showers. We use a long drop toilet, and eat local food,” said Singegugu Zukulu, an award-winning conservationist who is leading the trail.
As part of its mission to develop environmental watchdogs, Roving Reporters, assisted by the 8 Mile Club and other organisations, raises funds for candidates to take part in these Wild Coast trails. Writing mentoring results in publication of thought provoking stories arising from each hike.
Click here to read the opening stories in Roving Reporters Wild Walk series produced by Natalie dos Santos, a final year marine biology student enrolled on the educational Ocean Stewards programme, Mlu Mdletshe, a Durban University of Technology journalism graduate serving an apprenticeship with Roving Reporters, and Matt Vend who joined the trail as a writing mentor.
In support of the training programme, the South Coast Herald has assigned Shona Aylward, to cover the forthcoming trail and serve as a writing mentor. Annemarie van Wyk, a seasoned, 54-year-old journalist from the Eastern Cape, is also keen to help ensure that stories about the people of the Wild Coast reach a wide audience.
Shortlisted applicants for the forthcoming trail include:
Ocean Steward, Mthokosizi Blessing Xulu. Mthokosizi, a 22-year-old Zoology student, is keen to take part in the hike to develop reporting skills about conservation. He says that as a researcher, writing is one of his daily activities, but until now he has yet to be equipped with reporting skills. “This training will unlock a pivotal door for me to become a complete scientist able to explore and report on the environment,” says Mthokisi. >> Read more here
Mandisa Mpulo, a 34 year-old Rhodes journalism graduate. Mandisa would like to research issues related to mining in Xolobeni and the development of the toll road along the Wild Coast. He is completing a Masters in Media Studies about inequality in South Africa and would like to move beyond the theoretical, and receive training that will sharpen his instincts in environmental reporting. >> Read more here
Ocean Steward, Jamila Jenna. Jamilla says she would like to create an appreciation for the Wild Coast and to showcase this through art, but first she needs to truly experience it. The 22-year-old marine biology honours graduate, who had originally planned to study journalism, sees it as an opportunity for her as a scientist “who always had to have a rigid, precise and very factual style of writing, to learn the art of intriguing people through the fluidity yet factual nature of journalism”. > > Read more here.
21-year-old zoology student, Thembelihle Dube. Thembelihle loves nature and appreciate its diversity and its vastness, but has never been on a hike. “If my application succeeds, this will be my first time. I have only seen wild places on television. I am interested in receiving environmental journalism training because this will improve my communication skills. Journalism is a powerful tool to advocate for the natural environment, also informing the public how to experiencing the beauty and wonders of nature in sustainable ways.”
Abigail Rohde, is a 22-year-old unemployed marine biologist, looking for opportunities to gain new skills and experiences that will help forge a successful career. Rohde is involved in beach cleanups and educating other youth about the importance of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) through the Youth for MPAs network. “I care about the environment and all that benefits from it,” says Rhode, who completed her honours degree in marine biology last year. “My university studies taught me how to communicate science in a very formal manner. However, it has not taught me how to communicate my knowledge of the marine environment in a language that other ‘non-scientist’ people can understand and enjoy. Many people know about the ocean but are unaware of how complex and beautiful all the creatures and marine habitats are.” Rohde believes the writing mentoring will be useful in her work with the Youth for MPA group. >> Read more here.
WildOceans project officer, 23-year-old, Ayesha Bobat. Ayesha loves the outdoors and is open to new experiences and adventures. She has completed an honours degree in Biological Science and is a marine research intern at Wild Oceans. “I believe educating and informing the public on environmental issues is a worthy endeavour,” says Bobat. “Being part of this trail will give me the opportunity to further my practical experience in the field. My aim is to give back to the community and benefit nature in any way possible whether directly or indirectly.” >> Read more here.
Ocean Steward, Andlile Kuzwayo, has many reasons he would like to go on a Wild Coast trail. First, to take him out of his comfort zone. “An experience like this would be exhilarating and different to what is depicted on the internet and television. I would get firsthand experience – outdoors, get to visit a new province, meet new people and experience the lifestyles of people in a part of land that has unique history . . . It will help me learning new things about the world we want to protect, because this Earth is our home and if we destroy it by not taking care of it, we will be the ones who will affected.”
24-year-old Roita Nesengani. Roita is also an intern at WildOceans, and is curious about different approaches to marine biodiversity and reporting onthe condition of our environment. She has an honours degree in Environmental Sciences from the Department of Ecology and Resource Management at University of Venda. She reckons the scale of the environmental threats facing the planet means effective environmental journalism is now more important than ever. I am keen to be trained to advocate for change to improve the quality of our planet, says Nesengani. >> Read more here
WildOceans project officer, Masha Ramsamooch. Masha reckons taking part in a Wild Coast trail will be a new experience, adding value to everything she has learned as a young marine scientist. “Ever since I was a little girl I have always had a fascination with the ocean and all the mysterious creatures that reside within it.” After completing her honours degree in Marine biology in 2018, Masha vowed to dedicate her life to educating others on the important role the oceans play in our lives and why it is vital to protect it. >> Read more here
Other environmental journalism training opportunities
Impressed with the quality of applications received for the forthcoming Wild Coast hike, several seasoned journalists have expressed interest in assisting Roving Reporters in providing environmental journalism training. This means those who do not get enrolled on a sponsored hike, will get the opportunity to take part in equally exciting assignments. These opportunities will be advertised under the training section of our website and posted on our Facebook page.
Designated writing mentors for the forthcoming Wild Coast hike are:
- South Coast Herald reporter, Shona Aylward . . . Shona sees the Wild Coast as a special part of South Africa, but confesses to knowing little about area, hence her excitement at taking part in the forthcoming trail as a Roving Reporters mentor. “I would love to learn about the cultural aspect and the biodiversity this specific stretch of coast has to offer. I have a passion for wildlife and ocean conservation, and can use the knowledge gained during this trip for future articles which hopefully will educate and inspire the youth to care for their environment,” says Shona. >> Read more
- Roving Reporters online editor, Matthew Hattingh . . . Not a wordsmith – a panel beater! That’s how this seasoned news editor describes his job as a Roving Reporters writing mentor. “Think of it like this,” explains Matt. “You’re a used-car dealer. You’ve promised a client a Toyota Lexus. Then, last minute, instead of the expected Japanese Rolls-Royce your supplier arrives with a barely-running skedonk. You’ve got to make a plan – just like that wreck on wheels, when a mangled story arrives at the word workshop, it has to be hammered into good shape.” >> Read more
- Julie-Anne Reid, a veteran storyteller, documentary editor and producer with an extensive and varied body of work. Her passion is natural history, the environment and cultural development on the African continent, producing predominantly for international broadcasters like Nat Geo, Smithsonian and The BBC. She has also produced for Carte Blanche and Reuters. Julie-Anne moved from Cape Town to Durban two years ago to run production at Earth Touch and fell in love with the climate, the warm water and the slightly slower pace of life. This year, 2019, she decided to make KwaZulu-Natal her permanent home and left full time employment to start her own projects. This includes a fixing and location production company for international documentary crews coming to work in South Africa and across the continent. She is looking to get back into reporting and has linked up with Roving Reporters as a part-time writing mentor.