I wanted to begin my Travel Diary series with South Africa, the first country of my biggest adventure to date. I had decided a year prior that I wanted to travel the world by myself, experiencing five different countries and their cultures. I had created a bucket list of about 50 things I want to do or achieve during my life. Included, were the words “go on a safari” and “work with orphans in Africa”. I managed to tick of both in the first week.
I booked my trip through Gap 360 and was in South Africa for two weeks. I landed in Kruger Mpumalanga Airport on the evening of the 20th June and got driven to the game reserve which was about an hour and a half from the airport. As we were driving up to the lodge, we were stopped suddenly to let an elephant cross our path – my first sighting of an African animal in the wild. At the reserve, I greeted the rest of the group, the people who I would call my friends in only 14 days. The following day, we went on our first safari through the African plains, managing to see zebras, giraffes, crocodiles, monkeys, impalas and a large family of elephants who crossed the road only a metre or two behind our truck.
A couple of days later we visited a local orphanage and school where children from small toddlers to late teens with either little or no families are taught and looked after. There was one small open plan building with pictures on the walls and only a few toys for the children to play with. There was one block of toilets, a climbing frame, an open kitchen where the meals are cooked in a large iron pot, and a room with a few computers inside. However, these children don’t see themselves as “poorer” or “more unfortunate” compared to others, they see what they have and appreciate everything.
In the following days we went 4×4 driving through the plains (where I actually took the time to use the indicators despite there being no other vehicles for miles), visited the stunning Sudwala Caves and the beautiful Jane Goodall Chimp Sanctuary which looks after and cares for homeless and sick chimpanzees. On the final day, we visited the amazing Kruger National Park. We were up at 4:30am and we were able to spend the whole day at the park, animal-spotting and taking even more photos. We managed to find leopards, female lions, wildebeests, hippos and rhinos. It was such a phenomenal experience, and I will definitely be bringing my family with me next time!
- The programme in South Africa I used: Volunteer Safari Adventure with Gap 360
- The game reserve and company: Kwa Madwala Game Reserve
- Kruger National Park: Kruger National Park website
- Sudwala Caves: Sudwala Caves website
- Other things to do in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga: Top Things To Do in Nelspruit
Places mentioned which accept donations:
- The Jane Goodall Institute and Chimp Sanctuary: Jane Goodall Institute website