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uShaka Open Air Day

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The school bus arrived and fourteen learners between grades R and Grade 4 accompanied by their teachers and care-givers made their way to the uShaka Sea World Education Centre. Having learned about animals during the year, it was time to visit uShaka Sea World for some up close marine experiences.

Who did they want to visit first? One could have guessed the answer as almost unanimously and without hesitation they replied in union – “the dolphins”, with one young learner expressing a particular wish to meet Gambit.

Before they were introduced to the dolphins they wanted to know what the dolphins ate and had a lot of fun feeling the sardines, squid and gelatine from the dolphins’ breakfast cooler boxes. Feeling comfortable and a bit braver they were all offered the opportunity to touch one of the dolphins. For some the whole experience was a bit too overwhelming but for others it was a dream come true and, abandoning the idea of keeping their uniforms dry, they waded into the water alongside the dolphins.

Gambit, beautifully and very gently kept especially still whilst the little hands explored his body. For some of the children a brief touch was enough whilst others could have spent all day. “I am bathing a dolphin” squealed young Nakita Govender as she explored Gambit’s dorsal fin, rostrum, stomach and head trying to get a sense of how big he was. Gambit then “sang” to the children as they said goodbye. One has to be very brave to touch an animal that you cannot see and its strength, size and shape hard to imagine.

After the enormous dolphins it was time to downsize and meet three baby turtles who could fit into the palm of the children’s hands. Never before had any of the children felt a live turtle and will no doubt never forget that a turtle who lives in the sea has flippers.

When it came to meeting the reptiles from Dangerous Creatures the learners were a whole lot braver than their teachers and caregivers. “I know it’s a lizard because I know a lizard” said Karabo Tsotetsi as she felt the bearded dragon from head to tail. As they became more relaxed and braver they were introduced to the smallish Ball Python and the very large Burmese Python. Young Mohammad knew all about snakes as he had touched snakes before but perhaps not one as big or as heavy as the Burmese Python.

Finally it was time to meet the seals who greeted them with loud barks much to their amusement. One by one they were introduced to seals Jabulani and Hobie and encouraged to explore gently explore the seals whiskers, fur and flippers. As most of the learners’ first words when touching the seal were “why is he wet” they were assisted in putting their hands into the seal pool to help make the marine mammal connection.

All too quickly the morning came to an end and it was time to head back to the Education Centre where their bus was waiting to take them back to school. As they left uShaka Sea World, staff stood in awe of the teachers, caregivers and parents of these young learners who show limitless kindness and dedication in guiding these children towards independent adulthood. .