If you know me personally, you will know that I get goals in my head and I don’t give up until I achieve them… which was the case when I decided I was going to go to South Africa. I worked extra hard alongside uni, and managed to save enough to go with an organisation called VESA. If you have been, or are going, you will probably relate to me listening and singing Africa by Toto most days leading up to my trip for about two or so months. I could write a novel on my trip, but instead I will share my most memorable moments and experiences.
If you have a fear of spiders like me… AHH!
I was the type that google searched “African spiders” and “how often do you see big spiders in Africa?” By the time I got into my first bunk-bed in St Lucia I was feeling great because I hadn’t seen any spiders…. But as I pulled back my sheets there was my first spider encounter. Now, it wasn’t big, it was tiny even for my low standards, but I knew from this point I was going to be in for a treat. Literally everywhere I sat, and everywhere I looked I was searching for spiders. One night someone discovered a huge one where we would eat our meals… huge body, long legs, just crawling on the roof in its web. Even writing this makes me tense up.. There were many others, and I dread to think of the other ones I didn’t see but were right by me. There was one under a table we were eating at, and someone realised after. It was literally less than 30cm away from us… and it was HUGE. It seems silly to make such a big deal over spiders but I am petrified of them. so, I am just being honest and saying that yes, there are spiders. But you won’t get eaten or killed by one. Phew. Touch wood.
The people are beautiful.
I will always remember the amazing people and communities I met in South Africa. From the locals I met where we stayed, to the children at a village church living in poverty; I remember them all. It was heart-breaking seeing the children; they were all clothed because the program I was with works with the community regularly, but they were lucky to get one meal a day. I was holding a baby who was maybe a year old and she was absolutely beautiful. She had a lovely dress on, but as I cuddled her I noticed she had no diaper on. It’s the little things like this that emphasised to me that just because someone is dressed well or looks “ok” doesn’t mean they aren’t living in poverty, or need help. One thing that stood out to me was how happy everyone is. These people are poor, they are lucky if they are fed, they don’t know what tomorrow holds, many have AIDS or HIV, yet they are SO HAPPY. Their smiles are contagious; I have never appreciated what I have in life as much as when I was in South Africa.
A little can help a lot.
We did a week of volunteer work while we were there. It included helping to build a crèche, painting a newly built house for a family, conservation work with crocodiles and cheetahs, and reading and playing with kids at a village church. Every one of these activities was rewarding in its own way, and it was amazing to see how doing something so small can mean so much and go a long way. A highlight for me was definitely painting the house and seeing how happy the boys were, and also giving all of the children Christmas presents. An interesting thing I volunteered to do was see what gender a crocodile was… I mean it’s not every day you get offered to do that so why not? It involved me sticking my finger inside a crocodile… and… yeah… it was a girl. Can I add that to my list of skills…?
You HAVE to go on a safari.
If you’re going to Africa you need to go on a safari; it would almost be rude not to. You get to see animals in their wild habitat that you really do not get to experience anywhere else in the world. Zebras, elephants, lions, birds, giraffes, hippos… the list goes on. Not only the animals are amazing, but your safari driver is probably going to make the experience ten times better. Maybe we were lucky, but every single driver I had cracked jokes, knew the best times to see what animals, and didn’t get annoyed at us all going “WOWWWWWW” every time we saw something.
Watch out for hippos….seriously.
I am not kidding. There are signs warning you to watch out for hippos; take this seriously. We were staying in St Lucia, which is near an estuary. Hippos roam the streets at night, and they are dangerous. It felt very weird walking back cautiously from dinner to where we stayed, looking out for hippos. There was one night where we didn’t realise the time and walked back when it was dark… I honestly thought I might die.
It is super cheap.
The drinks are cheap, the food is cheap, the souvenirs are cheap. Everything is cheap. When going to the markets I encourage you to remember that the money you are giving is probably the only income, possibly for the whole day, for a family. Yes, it is nice to get a cheap deal, but maybe giving a bit extra that is nothing to you could be an extra meal to them.
Whale shark searching is scary.
I am a bit scared of the ocean, especially out deep. Yeah, it was great seeing a whale shark up and close but I found the whole experience traumatic. You are in a blow-up boat kinda thing, and you go out into the sea against waves that were massive at times, and you are sitting on the side bouncing about and holding onto a rope. I am going to be honest, I cried, much to everyone’s amusement I felt like I was going to go flying off the boat. By the time we got to a whale shark I was so traumatised that I just wanted to get back to the shore. Everyone else seemed to have a better time with that (except the people who were throwing up over the side) so… maybe I am not the best person to give advice on such an activity.
The beaches in Mozambique are amazing.
I would recommend taking time to relax on the beach, do some surfing, and take in your beautiful surroundings.
Go to Africa.
Add it to your bucket list. It will make you think about life in a completely different way, give you the chance to help those less fortunate, offer amazing experiences you won’t get anywhere else, get a great tan, and you can get an awesome selfie with an elephant in the wild. DO IT.