Thursday, 15 May 2014

An unforgettable Kruger Park safari

COUNTRY: Southern Africa (Swaziland, Mozambique & South Africa)
PROJECT: Teaching & Care Work
WRITTEN BY: Elise, Laura, Rosie, Lydia and Josh

Yes, we're all still alive, in case you haven't heard from any of us in the last week we've been away. We've been having such an amazing time that it sometimes gets hard to update others on what's happening!

Lidwala Lodge in the Ezulwini Valley, Swaziland will be our home away from home for the next few weeks/months. Lydia arrived on Sunday and Josh, Laura, Rosie and I arrived on Monday. We immediately settled into our room and were greeted with orientations for the rest of Monday and Tuesday, where we learnt about Swazi culture and Kruger National Park. That afternoon we were taken on a guides tour with the other volunteers (which consisted of 2 British girls, a Dutch girl, a Belgian girl and a Norwegian guy).

We had read that skirts were essential for the girls, and as none of us brought any full length ones we had resorted to tying bed sheets around our waists, until our guide told us that we would look like fools and it really wasn't necessary. We think about that time with fond memories! Our guide told us all about Swazi politics and the royal family, and he took us to the museum and the last king's memorial gardens. We were then taken on a walking tour of Lobamba, a small village with plenty of small children running up to take our hands and test our strength by hauling themselves up on our arms. Some also sang songs for us which was extremely cute. Our guide told us that everytime white people came to Lobamba they would say "Here come the 'how are you's!". We met a painter/musician called Lucky who was dedicate to teaching children about the arts, he was really inspiring to meet.

After we left Lobamba our guide cooked us a traditional dinner, and even though we were prepared to eat with our hands it was more difficult that it sounded! The meat he cooked was absolutely delicious, we all agreed it was one of the best meals we had ever eaten (mothers - take note!).

Wednesday morning we left for Kruger National Park with our guides Bob and Wawa. Within of 5 mins of entering the park we were greeted with the sight of a cheetah and 2 cubs - an especially rare sight to see, especially on our first day! It took 2 hours to reach our campsite, Lower Sabie, after entering. That really shows how big Kruger Park is, in comparison to Swaziland!

Most days we left early morning, around 6am, for a drive through the park while the animals were just waking, and we would stop for breakfasts and lunch then head back to the camp and have a drink at the cafe down by the river before dinnertime. Every time we stopped to see an animal we rushed to take photos, so by the end everyone was sick of it and ready to move on. We saw plenty of animals - elephants, hippos, crocodiles, rhinos, impalas (sometimes while mating - that was interesting to watch!), leopards, baboons, antelopes, wildebeest, zebras, giraffes, warthogs (or as we liked to call them - Pumbaa's, unfortunately no Timon's), lions, wild dogs, hyaena's, buffaloes, wild cats, many many types of birds and many more I can't remember right now! One night we went for a sunset drive, and just as the sun was going down we stopped a pride of lion mothers and cubs feeding on a dead hippo. We literally were stopped for 40 mins taking photos, even though it was dark! About 10 mins later we spotted the male lion walking past, who diligently stopped and sat down next to the truck for photos.

On Saturday and Sunday mornings, the group split in half to go on a morning walk where we had to get up at 5.15am! It was an experience though, much better than sitting in a vehicle all day long. I walked on Sunday morning with Rosie, Lydia and one of the British girls Alice, and we saw warthogs, wildebeest and zebras.

We left on Sunday, and we all know it was an absolutely amazing and unforgettable experience. Bob and Wawa were excellent guides who could spot animals as dots in the distance, but definitely knew how to have a good laugh when we were all being silly.

Tomorrow (Monday morning) we start our volunteer placements at various schools and projects. Rosie and I are going to Mlindazwe NCP, Josh is going to Bethany NCP, Laura and Ingrid (the Dutch girl) are going to Ezulwini NCP, and Lydia and Mimi (the Belgian girl) are at Ekuzukekeni NCP.

We'll be at our NCP's for 2 weeks, and after that we'll head off to Mozambique.

So for now this is about all we have to say, we'll try keep in contact and update you with what's happening along the way!

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