JOURNEY OF A LIFETIME: Bob Irwin at the Letaba Elephant Hall. Pictured here with Kevin Moore.
JOURNEY OF A LIFETIME: Bob Irwin at the Letaba Elephant Hall. Pictured here with Kevin Moore.

Bob Irwin's journey of a lifetime to amazing South Africa

SINCE we last spoke to conservationists Bob Irwin he received an invitation from the University of the Sunshine Coast to be a guest of USC International.

It was the journey of a lifetime for him and he wrote this delightful account of the experience.

He wrote this delightful account of the experience.

"In March, I was given the chance to experience the wilds of South Africa at one of their many international projects.

"I was surprised to hear these projects were on offer to students for that real world experience.

"Back in my day, education involved sitting in a classroom and that was it.

"The international study program encompassed a number of unique wildlife conservation projects that have taken high precedence within their organisation.

"One was giving a facelift to the Letaba Elephant Hall, a much-loved elephant education centre in the heart of Kruger National Park.

"Visiting Africa was a dream I've had for as long as I can remember; a chance to encounter some of the world's most threatened species at close range.

Wildlife in abundance

"Within the first hour in the Kruger National Park I was in awe to have already encountered majestic African elephants and their calves crossing the road just metres from the car, hippos lazing in the water, a hyena scurrying into the bush.

"The arid landscapes of the park reminded me of parts of Far North Queensland. Although the vegetation seemed familiar, the kind of wildlife that inhabited it couldn't be more different.

Child Safety Lock

"Enter at your own risk is the policy within the park.

"The click of the child-safety-lock mechanism in the car became a bit of a laugh on our daily drives into the park.

"Kevin Todd, Associate director of USC International and my guide knew that if a black mamba or a spitting cobra slithered across the dirt road, curiosity would get the better of me and I'd be out of the car in a flash.

"When I see something of interest back home I immediately get out of the car for a closer inspection. But within the park, you heed those rules. The abundance of predators across that landscape kept me unfamiliarly inside the vehicle at all times.

"When I observed a juvenile Nile crocodile basking on the bank one day that I was reasonably tempted - but then I remembered the night before eye-balling a leopard at close range and observing three hyenas wandering out of someone's driveway before common sense quickly prevailed.

"Kevin was the perfect host and I'll forever be grateful for the time he took to show me his favourite parts of the park.

Letaba Elephant Hall Exhibition opening

"After seven years in the making with over 40 USC design students contributing to the project directly in the field, the day finally came to re-open the Letaba Elephant Hall.

"I was blown away as I stepped inside the doors, not only to see the immaculate displays of giant tuskers and their mammoth preserved ivory tusks, but to learn how important this facility was as an educational stronghold within the park.

"The attendance of senior South Africa National Parks staff, USC vice-chancellor and president Greg Hill, representatives from the Australian High Commission and other important stakeholders like the many volunteer honorary rangers was testament to how significant this project was on so many levels.

"But what impressed me most of all was to see a local Sunshine Coast facility prepared to collaborate with an organisation in a foreign country to further the cause of conservation globally.

A Day in the life

"The most eye-opening part of the trip was the chance to meet the dedicated individuals behind Kruger National Park.

"I was invited behind the scenes to visit the orphaned rhino enclosures housing the latest victims of poaching.

"The high security location and briefing we received was proof of just how serious they take the protection of their most endangered and sought-after species.

"I was later invited into anti-poaching HQ. This floored me as I looked upon a GIS map of the entire park showing every bit of activity happening across its vastness on a big screen.

"The park is divided into grid-like sections for around-the-clock observation by military-trained rangers and anti-poaching patrols.

"On any one section there could be up to 80 rangers allocated. This was on the illegal wildlife trade which today sits second to drug trafficking.

Thank you

"Eight days in Africa wasn't enough to see it all but what I did see will never leave me.

"I encourage anyone who has been dreaming of observing the wildlife of other worlds to take the opportunity.

"You never know when it might be your last prospect of seeing a black rhino or an African elephant in this current climate of poaching and habitat loss. 

"I can't thank the staff from USC International enough for giving me such an insight into the wonderful work they do overseas.

"I am so impressed to know that a Queensland-born educational facility has its sights set on many more international projects right around the globe with a focus on conservation through some exciting education. What a time in our world to be a student and to have the world at your feet.

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