My journey to South Africa began in London. After being dropped off at the airport I suddenly found myself alone, facing a rather long day of traveling ahead. Unfortunately the stars were not in my favor as I found myself faced with my first delayed flight, and a connection that I would have to rush to make. None of us made the connection to Johannesburg and I was suddenly faced with a night and day in Paris, with no euros and a ‘just in case’ European adaptor in my suitcase not my hand luggage. Undeterred I was able to contact where I was meant to be, let them know I would be late, and headed out into Paris while I waited for my new flight.
After a long, and rather hot day climbing the Eiffel Tower, I made it back to the airport and onto my destination. I was picked up from the airport in Bloemfontein and despite my tiredness drunk in all of my surroundings on my way to Cheetah Experience.
Those first few days passed in a blur, there was so much to learn from how to safely handle the animals to the correct procedures for preparing food and cleaning enclosures. I was also shadowing tours that were given daily to members of the public, to raise awareness of the work Cheetah Experience did and to raise awareness of canned lion hunting. Canned lion hunting, unfortunately, occurs all over Africa. There has been a lot of action to stop things like this happening since I came back, after the death of Cecil the lion and even though this was a tragic loss at least some good has come out of the awareness raised.
When I arrived there were volunteers from all over the globe, some from various parts of America, Australia, Europe and of course South Africa. It felt a little strange sharing a house with 12 people I had never met before, but it soon felt like home and I learnt a lot about many different cultures. Each week I was there people left and new people arrived, it was really sad saying goodbye to the friends I had made but there were always new people to welcome and new experiences to be made.
After my first week I felt confident enough to take a tour by myself, I was very nervous as I dislike talking in front of groups of people but this made me even more determined to get across the messages about conservation that I had learnt during my time at Cheetah Experience. The first tour was nerve wracking, but I managed it and was thanked by everyone that had taken part. After that each one was easier and before I knew it three weeks had passed and it was time to leave. I really didn’t want to leave, I had made some great friends human and animal alike and cant thank the Principles Go Abroad Fund enough for helping this become a reality.