Monday, 16 February 2015

The Final Week in Mozambique!

COUNTRY: Mozambique
PROJECT: Marine Conservation & Care Work
WRITTEN BY: Katy Holden

It’s hard to believe that five weeks have flown by already. We only have one week left here in Tofo before heading home, and I’m not sure that I’m ready to leave the white sand beaches just yet.

The past ten days have been such amazing fun. The five of us opted to take a tour in which we visited Swaziland and Kruger National Park in northern South Africa. After a twelve hour drive starting at 4am, we were very happy to arrive in Swaziland on Saturday evening. Despite being so close to Mozambique, it’s a very different country. We arrived to rain, and fog sitting over the tops of the mountains surrounding the beautiful and lush Ezulwini Valley where we stayed.

The three days we had there were packed full of activities. We hiked our way up mountains and rode horses through the Milwane Game Park where we got to get up close and personal with the residents. Even an encounter with a hippo on the river the day before wasn’t enough stop our white water rafting and abseiling trip. On our final afternoon, we were taken on a cultural tour to the Lombomba village to taste local beer and meet the world’s most enthusiastic children. Our time in Swaziland was topped off with a huge braai, which is the South African term for a barbeque. This was a welcome sight after a month of fish in Tofo!

The drive to Kruger from Swaziland was shorter, and we were greeted on arrival at the gate by one of the park’s bigger residents: a white rhino. Kruger has some of the densest populations of animals in the world, and therefore the best game viewing on safari. This wasn’t hard to believe, as before we reached our camp, we’d also seen elephants and water buffalo, meaning we could already tick off three of the big five! We were quickly able to add lions to this list, as well as black rhinos, hyenas, warthogs, giraffes, zebra, jackals, and a host of beautiful birdlife.

Our canvas safari tents were enough to keep out the African thunderstorms at night, and these were also beautiful to watch. It makes you feel very small to watch the intense lightning and feel the thunder shake the ground, even from a great distance away. Even a four am wakeup wasn’t enough to dampen our enthusiasm when Sunday rolled around, as we were taken on a walking safari with armed guards to see some smaller game and to investigate the environment around us. I never thought I’d be standing beneath a tree with the body of an impala in its branches, knowing that a leopard had eaten there the night before.

Our return to Tofo meant an overnight stop in Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, followed by another four am start to catch our bus. We’d been warned thoroughly about the ambiguities of African public transports, and these were confirmed by the many, seemingly random, times that the driver stopped the bus. After eight hours, we arrived back to the beautiful beach and ocean breeze – and jumped straight in the water!

We’ve since returned to our volunteer work. We’ve finished the marine part of our combo programme, and are now focussing on the social work aspect. This means visiting a local kindergarten, Escolina Nassanana, and helping out in any way possible. We’ve done a little construction, a little painting, and a lot of playing with gorgeous children who love to laugh while they lay in our laps and pretend they don’t want to be tickled. We’ve also been taking part in swimming lessons. For a community living so close to the sea, many children are afraid of the water and it’s therefore very important that they learn how to swim. It’s extremely rewarding to see the kids slowing warming to the idea of being in the pool.

It’s sad to know that in a week, the smiling faces and bright sun of Tofo will be a memory instead of my daily reality, but we’re all looking forward to fresh milk and steaks back home!

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