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Matrics in De Hoop - In their own words

27 Feb 2021

On the weekend of 19-21 February, 2021, five 2020 Matric learners were hosted by CapeNature and world-renowned adventurer Riaan Manser at the De Hoop Nature Reserve. These five matriculants; Jama Paliso, Hannah Chetty, Abdullah Seedat, Silondukhule Nquma and Lucy can der Meulen were the runners up in a campaign that saw five other students join Manser on a once in a lifetime educational adventure in the “Matrics in Antarctica Project” (see for more details) in which CapeNature is a proud collaborator.

The students were able to discover and explore one of South Africa’s most unique biodiversity reserves at first hand, guided by a CapeNature official and facilitators from the University of the Western Cape, Stellenbosch University, Windermere High School and Zirildapark Primary School. The learners did some outdoor research while hiking up Potberg Mountain and swimming in the pristine Indian Ocean before indulging in a spot of stargazing at night.

The De Hoop Nature Reserve educational adventure was made possible through a collective partnership between Riaan Manser, CapeNature Wesgro and The De Hoop Collection.

Here's what the learners had to say about their unforgettable experience at De Hoop Nature Reserve in their own words.

Hannah Chetty

Thank you Matrics in Antartica team for dreaming big, and stirring up excitement and hope in all the entrants, during the most difficult and uncertain year. When I heard about this competition at the beginning of November, I was so amazed about this initiative. I wasn’t certain if I had what it takes to be in the top 100 considering the fact that they are thousands of matric learners entering, when I found out that made it to the top 10, this gave me a great boost to never stop dreaming. Even during a pandemic your dreams still can come true. I felt more confident about myself and to strive to achieve bigger and better opportunities. Thank you for acknowledging my environmental work and fight against wild life poaching.

When I found out that I didn’t make it to the top 5, I was disappointed. Going to Antarctica would have really reinforced my keen interest in environmental awareness. I was very excited for the 5 that got chosen to go, what a life changing opportunity. I am sure it was an awesome experience. I was elated to hear that I had the opportunity to go to De Hoop Nature reserve. It was a very pleasant surprise. De Hoop Nature Reserve was an awe inspiring experience. I was truly fascinated with the beauty of De Hoop a hidden gem in South Africa. For a moment there, I felt like a true explorer discovering new sites. My visit to the picturesque sea, was a highlight for me. I live in a coastal city, with very high urban pollution. Seeing the distinct difference in the environment, the ocean and the quality of air we were are breathing. This most definitely was a tangible experience of a fresh and clean environment. Holding a star fish in the palm of my hand was pure exhilaration.

Learning about the different flora and fauna in De Hoop was very informative, from the Chandelier plant to the Fynbos, Oyster birds and Sea Urchins. For an inquiring mind like mine, I truly appreciated being at De Hoop Nature reserve. However for me the most important part of any trip, tour or exploration is meeting amazing people. I am truly thankful for special friendships formed. Our chaperones Mr Fadli Wagiet, Delecia Davids, Dr Martin Hendriks, Mr & Mrs Van Blommestein, Abraham, David Stephens and Abdul where such an outstanding team of leaders. Teaching us the importance of team work through various activities. Networking, communication and building relationship is the foundation of achieving great things. This was what we learnt. I am especially thankful to the leaders for the extra care and kindness in everthing that was done. For always making sure we are safe, healthy and very well fed. I was very appreciative of Mr Fadli, Delecia, Vasti and Vanessa for being so helpful and understanding when I missed my flight. Going the extra mile to make me feel welcome and apart of the team.

The long awaited moment of meeting Mr Riaan Manser didn’t disappoint. Listening to his life story and his very daring expeditions was most uplifting and motivating. A spirit of an overcomer and a brave heart is what comes to mind. Thank you to the Matrics in Antarctica team for believing in the younger generation. Thank you for choosing me to apart of this beautiful experience.

Lucy van der Meulen

When my father told me about the Matrics In Antarctica competition I thought he was joking. He came into my room while I was studying for my final chemistry exam and said “do you want to go to Antarctica?”, obviously he already knew the answer. The competition seemed

too good to be true, not only did it draw on my passion for nature and my commitment to saving the environment, but it was also an opportunity to walk in my grandfather’s footsteps on the icy continent.

The selection process was an extremely long wait and it definitely tested my patience as I check all the MIA social media pages every single day to find out if the next selection had been made. Having been selected into the top 10, I could almost not believe it. I thought about it so much that I had almost convinced myself that I should start packing my bags. When they announced the top 5, I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t defeated. However, I was excited about the trip to De Hoop Nature Reserve and the opportunity to still form part of the MIA community. I have learned the importance of trying again after a failure and so I knew that I should make the most out of this incredible opportunity.

Flying down to Cape Town, I was a bundle of mixed emotions. I was nervous about meeting new people, but mostly excited for the adventure that I was about to embark on. The stay at Signal Hill Lodge was comfortable and the staff were very friendly and welcoming. De Hoop Nature Reserve exceeded all my expectations. Learning about the surrounding fynbos and the countless types of ericas and proteas reiterated why saving the environment is so important and the success stories of the Bontebok and Cape griffon showed that efforts to conserve the environment do not go to waste. Reaching the top of Potberg Mountain after a long day’s hike made me believe that I can do more than I think I can and that I can do anything that I set my mind to. Learning about the critters in the rock pools, the middens and the Khoi people who used to live in the area showed that if you take care of the environment and live sustainably, it can last forever. I loved Delecia’s talk as I got to contemplate where and how to move forward with my goals going into the future and I would have loved to have done more than one of these sessions. I loved rolling down the dunes and swimming in the crystal clear waters as well as learning about the never ending starry sky.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to have met such a knowledgeable, inspiring and supportive group of facilitators. Each had their own story to tell and played an important role in the overall success of the trip. Not only did I learn about nature and environment, but I learned about life. To Mr Wagiet, Dr Hendricks, Mr and Mrs Blommestein, Delecia and Abraham, Mr Stephens and Abdul, I cannot thank you enough. Thank you for sharing your time and knowledge with us. You made Kliphuis feel like home. From cooking together to playing cards and telling stories, every moment was special. Meeting Mr Riaan Manser made it clear as to why I took part in this competition in the first place. I love nature, I love people and I love adventure. I would have loved to spend more time with Riaan and listen to more of his incredible stories and I hope to get another opportunity in the near future.

Thank you to the entire team who worked so hard to put this trip together. To Vanessa, Vasti, Riaan and everyone else who worked behind the scenes, thank you. I am so grateful for the MIA community and I would love to form part of this group and stay involved as MIA continues in the future.

Jama Paliso

I’m from Hamburg in the Eastern Cape but I did my matric at Simon’s Town School in the Western Cape. I was fortunate enough to be in the top 10 for the Matrics In Antarctica competition but I unfortunately couldn’t make it to the top 5. But we got a lovely surprise from Riaan and the team. Those who filled the spots from 6 to 10 were to have their own separate trip to De Hoop Nature Reserve. I was very excited to hear that news.

My expectations before I went to De Hoop weren’t that different from the expectations of a regular person. I just expected to just learn about nature, get to know the others and to also do something new. Those expectations were met and I also received much more than that. One night during the trip Mr Wagiet showed us a documentary about the challenges that matrics in South Africa were facing 15 years ago. Watching this documentary was very touching to all of us. It made us aware of how much the situation hasn’t changed in over 15 years. I also learnt that the lesson behind watching the documentary was to make sure that as budding leaders in our communities, we are aware of the problems that exist in the community and we have to think of and implement ways to solve them.

At De Hoop I also made lifelong friends which I’m grateful to have met. This has been a very life changing trip and it is exactly what everyone needed after such a stressful year. Being at De Hoop was very calming. It felt nice to be disconnected from your everyday life for a moment. I think it would do a lot of good if Matrics In Antarctica would form a partnership with De Hoop and/or CapeNature. It would be positively impactful on a lot of young people’s lives. I am very grateful to Matrics In Antarctica for this wonderful opportunity.

Abdullah Seedat

I first heard about this trip while browsing on Google and it immediately grabbed my attention, so by being a naturally curious person I immediately clicked on it. After seeing it was endorsed by Mr Riaan Manser all doubts I had were gone and I immediately entered praying that I would somehow how be selected out of the many who entered. When I finally made the top 10 I was beyond ecstatic knowing I had come so far surely only to achieve and so naturally I felt quite beaten when In didn’t make the top 5 but fortunately a silver lining to this was that the 5 who did not make It would still get the opportunity to meet the team on a once in a lifetime opportunity at the De Hoop nature reserve and so I was excited once again.

Everything was new to me. From being on a plane for the first time to stepping foot in the Western Cape and so I couldn’t help but feeling slightly nervous but more so was my spirit of adventure which quickly overcame any doubts I had in my mind. When we first arrived in Cape Town we were graciously welcomed by our Chaperone Mr Fadli Wagiet who immediately made us feel welcome and at ease especially with his playful jokes and teasing. We then headed off to the reserve were CapeNature had provided for us very spacious and comfortable accommodation.

The next day brought about a hike up the Potberg mountain where we had the great honour to be guided by Dr Martin Hendriks who brought to our attention the differences in the fauna and flora that we could never have imagined. We even got the pleasure of seeing the magnificent Protea that we call our national flower. The hike spanned the entire day giving us plenty of time to bond with our fellow matrics as we all explored this diverse plant kingdom together.

Saturday was probably the highlight of the trip for me as my eyes fell open coastline that looked as if I was staring at some famed artists work. The turquoise waters teaming with life was a moment to remember. I was so in love with the coast that I decided to wander away from the group for some time just taking in the untouched beauty of the ocean that lay ahead of me. That night we learnt the importance of being specific on your goals and to constantly ask questions regarding them so as to find a solution from Delicia who was a delight to talk to while later on the importance of helping one another was reinforced by Mr Davids. Gazing at the fascinating night sky was truly a sight to behold as I had never seen that many stars in my life, it was such that I wouldn’t have minded sleeping outside if just to gaze at the sky. We finished the day with a hearty supper to which I must extend my thanks to Mrs Blommie and Mr Blommie who kept us well fed throughout as well as all the others and if I must say we were almost too well looked after as there was an abundance of everything as the team really went out of their way to make our stay comfortable.

Meeting the famous Adventurer Mr Manser was the moment I most looked forward too as I would never have imagined getting to meet him in person one day. Truly inspiring getting to see him in person and listen to him give us advice that we can apply to our lives. My only regret is that our time with him was so limited and we didn’t get to personally connect with him and so I hope that another opportunity will present itself in future to which I would eagerly take. I have definitely come out of this a better person in the sense of my environmental consciousness as well as my sense of direction in life. I loved how it didn’t feel like a school group but rather a family as we bonded together. I must thank my fellow matrics as well, Lucy, Hannah Slindo and Jama, I consider all of you friends for life.

From the bottom of my heart I thank the entire team Vanessa, Mr Wagiet, Mr Hendriks, Mr and Mrs Blommie, Mr Davids and our driver Abdul for making this all possible. Thank you to Mr Manser for inspiring as and thank you all for showing us young people that dreams can come true and we all can achieve great things if we put our mind to it.

Silindokhule Nquma (submitted her contribution in the form of a poem)



Sorrowing up in the sky, I'm free.

I then look over the sea,

It's body stretches as far as the eye can see,

It's blue waters sparkle under the sun;

The waves crashing into the rocks.


The trees sway back and forth,

Dancing to the sweet melodies of birdsongs,

The summer breeze whispers the secrets of the forest,

The aroma of the leaves and earth fill the air,

The colorful leaves – green and fair;

It's vibrant colors giving life to the forest.


It's days like these I treasure,

The aesthetic afterglow of the sun paint the sky,

As it leisurely sinks below the horizon,

Darkness creeps in, enveloping the sky.


Accompany me, my friend, into the forest,

There's plenty to feast your eyes on;

We'll walk, leaves crunching under our feet,

We'll talk, never missing a beat,

We'll drink and feast under the moonlight,

And watch the stars dancing in the night.

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