Africa pushed me out of my comfort zone. I went out there as the quiet, anxious one and then I ended up going shark cage diving in Plettenberg one weekend, getting tattoos with some of the group another week and trying new things like paddle boarding and hiking. Speaking of, the Wednesday hikes were definitely one of my highlights. I am not a hiker, I don’t climb and I don’t have the best coordination (proven when I fell on my face during one of the walks!). But the view at the top was amazing- in made the struggle up the cliff face, and my fearing death(!), all worth it. South Africa is a beautiful country; the coastline as well as the game reserves. And watching an African sunset is something that should be on anyone’s bucket list.
The volunteering itself wasn’t always easy work but it was so rewarding- we knew that we were working towards improving these animals' home. It felt good to help out the staff and work as a group with the other volunteers; proving that teamwork would get the best job done. Once, we managed to chop down 14 trees in the space of a couple hours, and another occasion had us all digging out concrete blocks, holding fence posts, and then lifting parts out of the way as a team. At the end of the day it just felt like we had achieved something, and I could say I had done tasks I never thought I would do.
Every single day, every game drive, every campfire or evening sat together watching films and every weekend, just surpassed my expectations. The breath-taking animals on this reserve stole my heart and I honestly could have watched them all day. But as much as I loved the animals, I have to say that the best part of the whole trip would be all of the incredible people that I met during my time out there. I went to South Africa with my best friend, and I came back having made a few more. Before arriving, I didn’t think that I would get so close to the people that I would meet, but when the time came to saying goodbyes, it was one of the worst things to have to do. You get to meet so many different people, from all over the world, and you go from strangers to roommates, to friends, almost instantly. These people become your family; they make you cry with laughter, talk with you like you’ve known each other forever, they are there for you when you’re down and they pick you right back up again (sometimes literally). You get to learn new things, like how New Zealanders call flip flops ‘jandals’, and you get to know some of their language and culture. In just 4 weeks I got to discover more about the world and other people’s lives. I have come back with many memories and inside jokes that no one else except the family will understand, but I know I am very lucky to have these and to have met these people.
So, if anyone has ever considered doing something like this; they want to do some good even in just a small part of the world, and want to challenge themselves, then I would 100% recommend and encourage this project. My experience gave me a confidence that I didn’t think I would ever have, and it led me to some amazing people. Thanks to Oyster, for providing me with a stress-free travel opportunity, I have some lifelong memories and friendships, and now I have more of the world to explore , for the sake of reunions!
I would happily do it all again.