I live in a small rural town in Limpopo where I work as a journalist at the local newspaper. My first visit to the Cape was filled with natural wonders: penguins and whales, the iconic Cape Point and inspiring wildlife photography. It was a Heritage Weekend to remember. By Lucky Mahlatsi Rapitsi

Thanks to the Wild Shots Outreach programme, I have been trained in photography and am now passionate about photographing nature. As part of the outreach programme, I recently had the opportunity to travel to Cape Town to attend the Wild Shots Wildlife Photography Conference, along with eight students, aged 16–17, from Madizi Government High School, and their teacher. This was our very first time on a plane and everything was a new experience.

Wild Shots Outreach-Cape-Lucky Mahlatsi Rapitsi-1-min
We spent the Saturday at Wild Shots being wowed and amazed by the stunning pictures and great stories shared by acclaimed wildlife photographers – including National Geographic’s Brian Skerry, all the way from America.

Wild Shots Outreach-Cape-Lucky Mahlatsi Rapitsi-2-min

At Wild Shots 2017 with Wild deputy editor Magriet Kruger (front left) and editor Romi Boom (far right). Pictures by Lucky Mahlatsi Rapitsi

On Sunday, Heritage Day, SANParks and Wilderness Safaris made it possible for us to explore the beautiful Cape Peninsula. We were accompanied by one of the Wild Shots speakers, Lets Kamogelo, a photo guide from Botswana and a great inspiration for the young students.

As heritage celebrations were in full swing all over the country, the Madizi High School students surprised me in traditional clothing to celebrate this special day. Tourists loved seeing them in traditional clothing from Limpopo and we had lots of requests for photos.

So much to see!

We were mesmerised by a Hout Bay boat trip and the sighting of whales. This experience was more than I could ever imagine – just magnificent. Our second stop was Simon’s Town for a visit to Boulders Beach with its many birds that can’t fly… Penguins! We learnt how important these creatures are; just like our rhinos in Limpopo, African penguins are threatened with extinction.

Wild Shots Outreach-Cape-Lucky Mahlatsi Rapitsi-3-min

In 1956, when the first complete census was conducted on the African penguin, there were approximately 150,000 breeding pairs. Now there are only 23,000 breeding pairs left in the world. These numbers indicate a loss of more than 80% of breeding pairs in just over 60 years.

Wild Shots Outreach-Cape-Lucky Mahlatsi Rapitsi-5-min

Wild Shots Outreach-Cape-Lucky Mahlatsi Rapitsi-4-min
Our guide then took us to Cape Point. What a marvellous place to visit. One can only dream of building a house here. It was a great opportunity to learn more about the importance of the lighthouse and the beauty of this iconic site at the Cape of Good Hope. We also went to the beach and refreshed our souls with the sea water. The feeling of being at the beach for the first time was one of the highlights of my life. Cape Point is a heavenly place full of hidden treasures.

Wild Shots Outreach-Cape-Lucky Mahlatsi Rapitsi-6-min

I never thought I would ever visit the sea in my life – a special feeling in my heart and mind. Here I was: a young guy from Limpopo being at the sea and Cape Point. We filled bottles with sea water to take back home to remember our amazing trip to Cape Town’s many natural wonders.

Thank you, Wild Shots Outreach, Wilderness Safaris and SANParks for the experience of a lifetime.