Following our trip to the Transkei , Werner Conradie, Luke kemp and I departed for the biennial Herpetological Association of Africa (HAA) conference in Hluhluwe, Kwazulu Natal. We spent the night of the 22nd of January in my cousins beach house in Umhlanga and the next day we departed for Hluhluwe after a quick stop at Ushaka International Airport, to pick up Professor Bill Branch (World-renowned African herpetologist) and Ninda Baptiste (Angolan herpetologist).
We arrived in Hluhluwe on the afternoon of the 23rd and booked into our accommodation at Bonamanzi Game Reserve where Luke and I camped for the duration of the conference. The conference started the next day and ran until the 27th of January. The first and last days of the conference were half days and the three days’ in-between were all full conference days. A full conference day ran as follows: three hours of presentations in the morning, lunch, three hours of presentations in the afternoon and lastly supper. All gaps were spent herping (the act of looking for reptiles and frogs) and most nights were spent road cruising (looking for frogs and reptiles on the road).
HAA Conference 2017 group photo. Photo taken by Shivan Parusnath.
Even though we were no longer expected to collect specimens, as we did in Transkei, we took every opportunity to seek out the amazing herpetological diversity that northern Kwazulu Natal had to offer. Highlights of the trip included the keynote presentations by world-renowned herpetologists, the bush-braai and the HAA auction. The conference ended at midday on the 27th of January, and the rest of our time in Bonamanzi was spent herping with new friends made over the course of the conference. We departed early the next day, Luke caught a lift back to Johannesburg and I caught a bus to Grahamstown.
What I got out of the conference?
Although I had met several of the great herpetologists prior to the conference, the experience was directly responsible for me meeting Prof Branch, Professor Bauer, Dr Tolley, Dr Maritz, Prof Wuster, Prof Minter and Prof Du Preez for the first time, to name a few. The conference also succeeded in strengthening prior-made relationships. In addition to meeting some of the best herpetologists in the world, I also had an opportunity to meet aspiring herpetologists and similar-aged reptile enthusiasts. All in all, the knowledge and experience gained during the conference coupled with the networks created, will be integral to my future as an aspiring herpetologist.
Some of the cooler animals seen in Hluhluwe
A) Spotted shovel nose frog (Hemisus guttatus), B) Eastern tiger snake (Telescopus semiannulatus), C) Eastern natal green snake (Philothamnus natalensis natalensis), D) Water lily frog (Hyperolius pusillus), E) Brown-backed tree frog (Leptopelis mossambicus), E) Marbled tree snake (Dipsadoboa aulica), G) Flap-necked chameleon (Chamaleo dilepis). Photos taken by Chad Keates.
Two videos created by Luke and I which cover the conference for our Youtube channel ‘Snakes and their mates’.