Platbos Forest has gained several thousand new trees - with the help of our Lotus Princess Vlei Guardians.
Throughout the years, our Eco Guardians from Lotus High School have been hard at work planting indigenous plants, propagating for their own nursery and diligently greening their school, all while having fun!
Lotus High Eco Club has been coordinated and managed by science teacher Shafiek Isaacs. Our relationship with the school grew through our citizen science project aimed at encouraging high school learners to gather ecological data for Princess Vlei. Our citizen science project fosters custodianship through environment activities aimed at reconnecting learners with their natural environments.
On the 15 of March, 15 Eco Guardians took their green conscious spirit to Platbos Forest to help plant trees at the Greenpop Reforest Festival. The learners were accompanied by Shafiek Isaacs, Denisha Anand (Princess Vlei Manager) and student assistant Tihana Nathan. Platbos forest is a rare coastal indigenous forest near Gansbaai, with many very old milkwoods, stinkwoods and other forest trees.
We arrived at Platbos around 13:00 and registered at the Greenpop Reforest Fest table where we were shown to our tents. The learners were bursting with excitement. Colourful tents were scattered everywhere and a forest backdrop set the tone for what would be one of the best out of community experiences for all!
The learners settled in and began exploring - for many their first experience of a safe space in the forest where young girls and boys can just be themselves. As their eco facilitator, I was overflowing with happiness to see my kids interacting with what would be called “bos” back at Princess Vlei. They were so overwhelmed by being “out in the open”, no walls, just plant “borders”, and all commented on how wonderful it was to be in a space free from litter and loud noise. The freedom to explore a natural space was so good for them. They needed to see nature in a state where it does not need to be saved or policed, just loved and explored for what it is.
The weekend was a learning experience for all of us. I was confronted with teenage antics, which was both terrifyingly humbling and hilarious. The learners did not like the vegan food, they made sure that I knew this at every meal but they understood why plant-based lifestyles were good for their bodies and the environment. Despite this, they participated enthusiastically in all the experiences. They enjoyed the workshops, especially the yoga and loved the Heart Space, a quiet spot for reflection.
Later that afternoon Bridget, Gary and myself, had the opportunity to share on our work as a forum and the progress made over time as a civic lead organisation. To conclude our presentation our Eco Guardians suprised everyone with some forest poetry (see their poems below).
In preparation for our Platbos adventure, the eco guardians created beautiful forest poems. They edited their poems under the Old Milkwood Tree in the forest and channelled the forest energies to create the most magical pieces of art. Three learners, Nicole Anthony, Damica Fortuin and Widaad Abrahams shared their experiences with an amazing audience of encouraging people at the Thetha: Canopy Conversation space.
Elzanne Singels, a Paleo-Ethnobotanist from UCT, gave everyone a taste of what our ancestors might have eaten. She specialises in understanding the diets of the Western Cape's earliest residents, and in creating food from local indigenous fynbos plants.
Francois and Melissa, the owners of Platbos, hosted us for supper - they were so happy to meet the kids. It was truly a perfect end to a perfect day. The kids were so happy with their non-plant based boerie rolls!
Great music took us into the evening and I sat and reflected on the experience under the open sky.
As a young environmental educator and conservationist, this experience was life changing. I realised how important reconnecting people, more importantly youth, to green spaces is. Not just the orthodox style of teaching EE, facts and doing tours around parks and reserves. But true immersion. Opportunities to breathe, touch, smell, hear and even taste, nature in its purest form. The need to see natural spaces in pristine environments is vital, it gives us hope in urban conservation spaces where we’re trying rehabilitate pockets of remnant vegetation and doctor ecological drivers.
The youth need to see this, they need to see more success stories so that they know what to fight for and what to live for. The Eco Guardians from Lotus High have been exceptional and we look forward to our journey back to Platbos in 2020.
A huge thank you to Greenpop, Krige Trees, Platbos Forest and Princess Vlei Forum for making this happen, and thanks to to the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust managed by Nedbank Private Wealth for funding our education projects. Thanks also to the following Eco-Guardians who came along: Damica Fortuin, Zoe Paulsen, Widaad Abrahams, Shannon Everson, Chandre November, Terry-ann Goliath, Jay-lee Marthinus, Ferdous Noordien, Cindy April, Amin Groves, Shakeel Groves, Rowan Hendricks, Letino Watson and Nicole Anthony.
So many laughs were shared and so much growth came from this journey.
What the forest told me
I feel the cool breeze on my skin
The forest breeze
Last night I heard crickets come out to sing and play
It sounded like an insect choir
I hear birds tweeting too
But hardest spoke
The forest night
The trees have these long tendrils
They excite my imagination
It feels like I am in a jungle
I took a walk to the old milkwood
And I came across so many beautiful trees
They all had a story to tell, or so it seemed
While I was walking admiring the old Milkwood
I heard people having fun and enjoying the peaceful music
I have come across many insects and bugs
It seems they all have a job to do
The forest awakens all my senses
I feel more, I smell more, I taste more
I see more and I hear more
My Forest Experience
I took a walk in the forest
There were so many beautiful trees
They brought me peace
I saw yellow mushrooms near the old milkwood tree
I saw a sign warning me about the forest bees
I was walking barefoot, little things were jumping around with each step that I took. The leaves crackled too
My forest experience made me feel like I am not separate from the forest
We are nature
The trees are big of beautiful
I use most of my senses while walking through the forest
I heard the sounds of birds
I smelt the plants and some flowers too
A very foresty experience
It’s much different from when I am
In my home and our gardens
We are creations of nature
And guardians of Princess Vlei
And Platbos, our Future.
We are nature and nature is us