Thursday, 19 September 2013

Let's start with a safari shall we? GapBreak Southern Africa Combo

COUNTRY: Southern Africa (Swaziland, Mozambique & South Africa)
PROJECT: Teaching & Care Work
WRITTEN BY: Monique Bedwell

The day of leaving Australia was full of nerves, excitement and a few tears but still smiling faces. Reuniting with the group after the training camp in June settled the feelings that we were all leaving. The flight started off well and then rapidly declined as we soon realised that sitting on a plane for 14 hours would not go quickly.

We arrived in Johannesburg and headed straight to our hotel that was literally a mini Las Vegas. Once we sat down to eat dinner jet lag hit us all like a tonne of bricks and it was time for bed soon after.

The next morning most people were up in the early hours of the morning because Our bodies still thought it was 4 in the afternoon. We headed back to the airport and caught a bus to our very small plane and 45minutes later we landed in Manzini, Swaziland! We were greeted by Menzi and Nobilé who transported us to our home away from home. Upon arriving in Lidwala we met the previous group of volunteers, who have quickly become good friends.

We were very fortunate that we arrived on the last day of one of Swazilands main festivals, the Reed Dance. This festival involves thousands of maidens dressing in traditional costumes and walking long distances to cut reeds for the Queen Mother and then dancing in front of the King so he can pick a new wife. All of the maidens wore bright and vibrant colours, singing and dancing in groups, it was a remarkable sight to have been able to see. We wanted culture and here it was on our first day. We couldn't have asked for anything better!
The next day consisted of our Lobamba village tour. We began at the museum where we gained a bit of background and understanding of the culture, in more depth.

Finally, we were off to KRUGAR NATIONAL PARK!!! Everyone buzzing, temperatures rising, we were ready to see the African wildlife!
Our group was joined by three more volunteers, Madi, Kirstin and Aimee; another Aussie and two Dutch girls. Our Krugar trip was also joined by two Norwegian volunteers working on a project in Mozambique; Patrik and Orietta.

The trip to Krugar was even better with our drivers Thulani and Bob giving us some interesting commentary along the way. Within diving into the park we had already seen three of the big 5: a few Rhino, Elephants and Buffalo.

The big 5 for those of you that don't know are:

1. Lion
2. Rhino
3. Leopard
4. Elephant
5. Buffalo

Within a day Tarun was already ready to watch a lion eat an impala due to them being absolutely everywhere! The site seeing whilst driving through the park was just as remarkable as the animals themselves. By the time we returned to camp after driving for 12 hours in the hot vans everyone was ready for bed! Alice made a camp fire which was a nice touch to the end of a long day. The night sky was beautiful, the amount of stars that were out took a lot of people by surprise.

The following days consisted of driving for long hours spotting wild life. The Animals we were lucky enough to see include: Impalas, Baboons, Lions, Cheetahs, Leopards, Hippos, Buffalos, Monkeys, Koodos, Giraffes, Jackals, Hyenas, Rhinos, Elephants, Snakes, Crocodiles, multiple birds, Lizards, Mongoose, Antelopes, Porcupines and Warthogs.

One of the most remarkable sights was when we spotted a pride of 16 Lions just walking along the bank of the river. Later that afternoon on our sunset drive we saw 3 male lions basking in the afternoon sun just to add to the already spectacular day. The sunset drive was exciting, spotting glowing eyes in the darkness with spot lights in the open top safari trucks.

Another exciting event we were able to take part in was the morning walk, unfortunately it meant being up and ready by 5.15am. Well worth it though! The group was split into three groups on separate days. Although we were on separate days we all managed to see some awesome sights such as being within 50m of a herd of Elephants!

On Saturday it was Orietta's birthday so we all had a few drinks by the fire as a group for our last night together before departing the following day.
After safely arriving back at Lidwala we all relaxed for the afternoon just enjoying not being in the super hot non-air conditioned vans. Tomorrow is our first day of our volunteer placement and to say we're excited is a bit of an understatement!

I think it's fair to say that so far this trip has been everything we hoped for and much much more. Can't wait to see what the future holds for us all!

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