My Expedition in South Africa was one of the best months of my life.
For my expedition, I spent 3 weeks in the Thanda game reserve, and then a week at Sodwana Bay UNESCO World Heritage site where I learnt to scuba dive, and discovered the wonders of the world below the surface of the ocean.
During my expedition, I worked in a close team of 11 student researchers, and had 2 field guides. For time time in the field, there were normally 8-9 students and the two guides (with the other 2/3 students using the day to do data input and species identification). The whole experience was so tailored, and the feelings of accomplishment at the contribution that we made was worth every moment. For weeks 2 and 3, the research was basically all collected by us students and we were allowed to get on with out own data collection and arrange the daily task allocations between us. During this time we were studying the habitat of the reserve to see what impact the elephants have been having on the site, depending on how long they had been using the areas for. One of my favourite tasks was the mourning bird count surveys were we did point count collection, stood silently in a circle atop some beautiful hills, listening to the sounds of the birds, watching the sun rise - it was well worth the early mornings.
During the day, the commute to the habitat sites would provide the true safari experience where you drive around seeing all sorts of spectacular wildlife. From elephants to giraffe, and from zebra to hyena, we came up close and personal with some species which I thought I would never get the chance to see.
We also spent the evenings on game drives, where we would complete short transects to look for any game we could see (and anything else that we thought was interesting!), and on other nights we would go for bush walks where we would just enjoy a walk around the savanna without the burden of data collection. This was where I had some of my best encounters - and probably some of the most dangerous!
I remember one evening, walking through some fairly tall grass, looking around me and then all of a sudden walking into the person in front (boomf!). It took me a while to realise that we'd all stopped, and the guide was telling us to turn around and walk back. We'd accidentally walked within 8ft of a pair of cheetah! Luckily these cheetahs were great hunters, and were more than full enough from the evening before to take interest in 6 gangly students - i'm not sure we would have tasted very nice anyway!
On another occasion, we were lucky enough (or unlucky enough, you decide) to come across a very large bull elephant, all but about 10ft away, wanting to come down our path! The best our guide could do was talk to it calmly and try and usher it away - that's what I call surreal!
I can't pick a favourite part of this expedition.
The people were amazing.
The country was beautiful.
The animals were spectacular.
The experience was first-class.
The diving was a whole new passion I hadn't yet discovered.
Everything was absolutely exactly what I would want from the experience, and so, so much more!
I'd honestly say that if you're looking for a way to spend a month this summer, then this is the thing to do.