Ever since I was young I always had a lot of curiosity in the continent of Africa. I fell in love with the land after what I read and saw in movies, and I hoped one day I would be able to take a trip there to experience it in real life. When that opportunity came my through ISV I had to jump on it. I signed up to go on a 28 day volunteer/adventure trip to South Africa, Swaziland, and Mozambique. It was 2 weeks of volunteer animal conservation on De Wildt Cheetah Centre and then 2 weeks of fun traveling through the 3 countries. It was a tough decision choosing what country you wanted to travel too and what type of project you wanted to be on, but once I landed in South Africa, I knew I made the right decision. Now let me share with you my story....
For my first 2 weeks of the trip I stayed in a house right outside of the Cheetah Centre with 9 other student volunteers. It was an amazing house we lived in, it was surrounded by beautiful flowers and vegetation with a great big hill behind the house where baboons would run by on. The people that were in charge of the house welcome us in with open arms and we had lots and lots of food cooked for us. Through the first 2 weeks, all 10 of us volunteers became a pretty tight group that formed nto some amazing friendships and memories that I will never forget. From staying up late in the night just having great conversations, playing board games that way too intense, or doing some great volunteer work, my time with these other 9 people changed my life.
The volunteer work that was done during my time here was time well spent. This Cheetah Centre was huge and it needed people like us to get the work done that they didn't have time to get to. Doing fire breaks, feeding cheetahs, and cleaning animals enclosures were just part of the volunteer work done over the 2 weeks. Probably the best part of the volunteering was meeting the Cheetah Centre staff. They really took us all in and got to know us on a personal level, and best of all was they were all genuinely great people that wanted the best for you in life. That helped me have a better outlook on my life.
The last 2 weeks of my trip was the adventure tour. Through these 2 weeks we made multiple stops through northern south Africa and one stop in Swaziland and Mozambique. This was the super fun part of the trip where we met up with the other ISV volunteer groups at that time and formed a giant group of 36 student volunteers and travled on a big coach bus. Each place we stayed at had great living accomodations. We got to choose who we wanted to stay with and each cottage/house usually held between 4-7 people.
The destinations we traveled to were beautiful, but my three favoirite places and activities on this adevtnure tour were the cliff diving in Blyde River Canyon, caving in Swaziland, and swimming with WILD dolphins in Ponto de Ouro, Mozambique. The cliff diving showed me views of a lifetime that were so beautiful and maginificent. The cool part about it all was that that there were 4 separate cliff jumps to do and we had to hike to get to each one of them which it a fun challenge. Hiking and jumping off cliffs in the middle of the wildnerness with other wildlife around is a surreal feeling. Caving in Swaziland was an adrenanline pumping event that was scary yet conquerable. The goal of the caving was to see an underwater river that flows that through the cave and it was super kool to see. two fun facts about the cave is that it is 1 of only 2 granite caves found in the world, and also they have discovered a spider like type animal that is a new species but is yet to be named. My final favorite activity was swimming with the wild dolphins. Groups of 10 would go out into the Indian Ocean, about 400 yards, jump into the water with our guide and snorkel up close with wild dolphin. It was something I will never forget.
That right there is my trip in just a a few words because there will never be enough words to describe the impact this trip had on me. Sure all of that was fun stuff, but the thing I will cherish most from this trip is the amazing friends I made and that great life conversations I had with them.
I'm not writing this to convince you to go on an ISV trip, I'm just here to share my story. You know if this kind of trip is right for you or not. But if you do decide to go, be open to everything that comes your way and just invest in the opportunity you embarked on.