As part of our orientation, we spent a day travelling through
The Transkei region to enjoy ‘cluffing’ (jumping off cliffs into a freezing cold river) before an uncomfortable journey by road and track to Mama Tofu’s traditional Xhosa village.
This was an experience I shall remember for many years to come, as we were greeted with some amazingly loud singing and dancing,
Treated to a traditional meal of lamb stew and butternut squash and we slept on mattresses on the floor of a surprisingly warm and comfortable mud hut.
Throughout the evening we enjoyed lots of dancing with all the local children, as they taught us their dances and we shared the Hokey Cokey and Macarena.
We also had our faces painted to match the patterns they were marked with and the children
African diary Particularly enjoyed seeing themselves on our camera screens.
The following morning we headed to Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve where I spent most of my stay with four other girls in a permanent safari tent,
Built on a wooden platform a couple of metres off the ground to avoid being trampled by wildlife.
We had proper beds and wardrobes – luxury! Unfortunately,
Our position above the ground did not prevent the arrival of wolf spiders- despite warnings, these were still larger than I was willing to share a room with!
While we had to be aware when walking around camp,
African diary particularly at night, there could be rhino or buffalo waiting to charge,
During the day I could look up to see a giraffe gently walk.
Across my path or watch a nyala (a striped antelope) grazing only metres away from my balcony.
Every day was packed with both voluntary work and more adventurous activities.
When I saw the weekly programme I was always surprised there were totally new activities.
Voluntary work ranged from chopping down or ring barking alien vegetation, stabilising soil erosion sites,
Digging holes in dry solid ground and planting posts for a new animal rehabilitation enclosure,
Caring for the semi wild horses, game monitoring of giraffe and zebra and bottle feeding the lion cubs several times a day.
One particularly memorable job was helping return a giraffe,
Which had jumped into a neighbouring farm when spooked.
By a passing helicopter… and yes, we had the job of putting the fence back up.
I always enjoyed the voluntary work as I felt my assistance was appreciated and I was helping the conservation of the area.
I also learnt a lot about conservation techniques and principles.
The second half of each day we were treated to a leisure.
Activity: mountain biking through the reserve, an elephant back safari,
A 35m abseil, canoeing, meeting the tame cheetahs, bush walks and numerous game drives.
These game drives, for me, were one of the highlights.
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