My South Africa Experience

I departed from JFK airport heading towards South Africa. I’ll save you the boring talk of my seventeen hour flight, and get right into when I first landed. That fresh, new feeling. The feeling of knowing the boring, exhausting flight is over and you have so much to look forward to. The itinerary was to start in Cape town and follow the coast until we made it to Durban, with of course, a detour to Lesotho. The first night was spent in District 6, Cape Town, meeting the people I’m about to spend the next two months with, hoping I get along with everyone. The area was dangerous, and the hostile we stayed in…let’s just say wasn’t 5 stars. Yet for some reason I wasn’t bothered by the weird accommodations, I was too caught up with the view of table mountain from our window and all the people I wanted to get to know. In Cape Town, we hiked table mountain, went to Robben Island, visited Cape Point national park and made our way to boulder beach to see the penguins go about their day.  

After an eventful three nights, we drove to Hermanus. We just spent two nights in this beautiful town but that’s all the time we needed to find the most unforgettable spot there. In the same moment appreciating all its beauty, we see a whale spouting out of the water from the distance. So natural, and so real. We hit Mussel Bay after that, where we got picked up to go to our first volunteer sight. It’s crazy how perfectly I can remember that day, just the car ride in general. You know when you just meet certain people and their not in your life for long but they change you? change the way you see life, the way you view relationships, just everything. Little did I know the people I met there would do that to me. We were located in a town called Oudtshoorn. This area was such a dangerous township to the point that the center we lived in was guarded up with high walls and locks. Yet this experience was life changing. Our daily tasks were to prepare the food for the children, then to play with them and give them love. Everyday there were over thirty children. As amazing as this was, it was also heartbreaking. Many of these children’s parents don’t care for them. The man running the organization, Theodore, was basically responsible for teaching the children proper manners. Having this experience now apart of my life has really showed me to be grateful for my childhood and my life now, and to always give back whenever I can.

But wait there’s more. After the two weeks there, we backpacked for another two weeks hitting Knysna, Titisukamma, Jeffreys Bay, and Port Elizabeth, before heading off to yet another spot to volunteer. To think that I couldn’t top working with the children I got the opportunity to work on a game reserve for two weeks. We spent our days at Shamwari Game Reserve in a safari car driving around seeing the animals be free. We had tasks that involved using machetes to chop down alien trees and bushes, and watching and recording the behavior of the wild life. One of the days we got to go to the born free sanctuary. This was an intense situation and to this day changes the way I look at wildlife. This was an area of the reserve where they put big cats that can never be returned back into the wild. The stories behind these big cats were heartbreaking. Most of the cats came from abusive circus situations. We also got to meet the anti-poaching unit, these are the men and women that live out in the bushes protecting the rhinos and elephants from being poached. After seeing all of this with my own eyes it has made me realize that this is people’s fault. These animals look more beautiful from the distance, and that’s how it should stay.

To keep the adventure going we hit lesotho. This is another country so the second we crossed the border the wonderful “no service” icon made its way to the top of my phone. For five days I was off the grid. Which honestly was so nice, I wasn’t really bothered by it much at all. Here we just did a lot of hiking and horseback riding. On the last night there we did a donkey pub crawl, basically you hop on a donkey and ride it from bar to bar and get drunk. To this day it was one of my favorite experiences. Everything about those couple hours was just genuinely fun for everyone.  

The last few weeks were spent just enjoying ourselves, skydiving, bungee jumping, shark cage diving, zip lining and sand boarding. Just doing things I never thought I would actually do. I got a lot out of this trip and I plan on further expanding on these amazing experiences. As mark Twain once said “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sail. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

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