Alumni Spotlight: Noëlle Hamoen


Noëlle is a twenty year old Dutch traveler and photographer. She loves sunflowers, animals and culture.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program because I wanted to grow as a photographer in wildlife photography. African Impact was an organization who could give me not only a great place to stay, but also the help I needed. Being in touch with them made me realize that there would also be critiques at least twice a week, something I was looking forward to. Also the fact that we would be on many drives, having assignment and still be in a fun environment made me very happy.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

I almost organized everything myself, since I am not a student. I was in touch with people from within African Impact who helped me find a good tourbus to take to Hoedspruit from Johannesburg. They also advised me which hotel to take, because I would arrive very late by plane. They also helped with my Visa, since it would be my first time getting one. Other then that, I got everything ready, booked everything and made sure African Impact knew exactly when and where I was arriving.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Check your phone bill! I came home and it was...high. I thought it wouldn't be so much, but sadly, I was very wrong. Other advice is, have fun! Sometimes things can go a bit wrong or you can get lost at the airport. Just stay calm and remember everything is going to be okey. Just find a information point or walk to someone that looks like you can trust them and just ask.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

You have some moments during the day where you can take a break, but other than that, you are always busy! Either on drives, editing your photos, doing assignments at the lodge, community work or you go on a small town trip on Friday. The drives last up to four hours and are always so much fun. Community work is also so much fun, since you help farmers or you will read with children at a local school.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I have been traveling since I was a very small child, so going back to South-Africa wasn't that big of a deal for me. When I arrived at the airpot, the only thing that gave me the creeps was walking through a dark area at the airport to my hotel, but that was it. I've been living abroad for over a year, so you get used to it.

What's your favorite memory of this trip?

I will tell you one of my favourite adventures that happened.

We were in a local reserve on a night drive when we decided we would photograph the stars. After our guides checked the area, we were allowed to get out of the car. We were sitting on the road with all our camera's as we all practiced on our star photography. At some point, our coordinator asked if we wanted to have a group picture. Of course we did!

As we were aligned and standing still something suddenly crossed the road. I remember thinking: "That is a big impala... That is a very muscular impala..." And suddenly it clicked and at that moment our guide said: "Hyena!" I was unbelievable happy, because I wanted to see hyenas so badly!

Some of our group got a bit scared and wanted to get back in the car, but our guide told us to stay calm, as the hyena was just curious. At some point, the hyena went behind us and, as we turned around, she was standing six meters away from us, while running away and hiding in the bush to look at us.

Being this close to such an amazing animal was unbelievable amazing and I was so happy.