Not another day at the office
Not another day at the office
I came to South Africa with an open mind and an adventurous spirit, without much of a clue about what was in store when it came to the lifestyle, the people and most importantly the animal encounters. Safe to say it took a mere 24 hours until I was hook, line and sinker.
Picture this… Your alarm goes off at 5.30am on a Monday morning. Usually the start of the week begins with a moan of some sort, an unwillingness to leave your bed and most likely a convenient head ache to escape from a gruelling day of work ahead. You eventually pull yourself out of bed and slowly make your way to the kitchen where the view outside your window is the neighbours back fence. The drive to work is bumper-to-bumper traffic as usual and the voices of those radio presenters talking nonsense in the background seems to be especially annoying this morning. As soon as you sit at your desk the countdown to lunch starts and then after lunch the countdown til home time. You finally hop in the car after another day of procrastinating on some sort of social media outlet and the most exciting thought that fills your mind is ‘hmmm… what to make for dinner tonight’. The drive home in peak hour traffic seems to take hours and when you eventually arrive home the rest of the evening is spent on the couch before you prepare to do it all again tomorrow.
Skip to GVI Karongwe base… Your alarm goes off at 5.30am on a Monday morning. You get up and walk to the kitchen where the window looks out onto your backyard. This backyard isn’t simply grass with a few trees scattered, it’s completely unfenced and open for an entire game reserves worth of visitors. You jump in the back of an open bakkie and feel the fresh breeze run over your face. The only sound you can hear is the rumble of the engine and birds calling in the distance. First stop of the day – a large herd of impala. Its rutting season so you are lucky enough to be able to sit and observe a short burst of horn on horn contact as two males establish who deserves a certain females affections. The sun then starts to rise in the East and casts a brilliant orange over the sky, dappled with a slight shade of pink. Next stop – walking with a cheetah. Here you jump off the bakkie and track a cheetah on foot. She’s seems to be on the move, possibly hunting, but when you finally locate her for the first time an overwhelming sense of joy falls upon you and you stand in awe at this incredible creature. Back on the bakkie and onto stop three – you’ve spotted a few white rhino off in the bush and scramble for your binos. Their sheer size has your mouth dropped and you feel blessed to be in the presence of a precious and threatened species. A few hours has passed and its time to head back to base for lunch. The day is far from over and another action packed afternoon on drive awaits you. Lunch banter involves excited stories about sightings from the morning. The other car was lucky enough to spot a few honey badgers taking on one of the lion cubs! What are the chances! Remaining time before afternoon drive is spent catching up on some zzz’s, reading or perhaps a midday activity planned by one of your interns – the choice is yours. It’s 3pm and time to jump right back on the bakkie. You are in store for anything from witnessing a lion kill, to seeing elephants rolling around in a dam, to watching a giraffe awkwardly make its way down to the water to drink, to seeing a hippo trod around out of the water or even spotting one of the illustrious leopards on the property relaxing in a tree. The possibilities are endless and never predictable. The sun starts to set over the Drakensberg Mountains and you stop for a moment to take in your surrounding. The only thought that crosses your mind is well, nothing. You exhale a deep breath and feel an awesome sense of peace. This is exactly where you want to be, no deadlines, no stress, just you and the South African outback. Night falls as you drive home and the spotlight reveals an intruiging new mix of species. It is now that you discover the bush has not only the iconic big 5 to offer but also thriving nocturnal wildlife from caracals, to servals, to civets and pangolins. You arrive back at base to a delicious hot meal and its not long until the thrill of the day has your eyes feeling incredibly heavy. Crawling into bed for an early night is a smart choice as tomorrow brings a new day and life doesn’t slow down. As you lay there and reflect on your first day at GVI base you wonder why it took you so long to be exactly where you were. You’re home.
I’m currently halfway through the long-term internship and have not missed home for a minute, not even one! You really have to be here to experience the life changing effect the South African bush has on you, no one can describe the feeling. I could not have chosen a better place to write the next chapter of my life and tomorrow will be waking up with the same enthusiasm as I did on day one and everyday since then.
So however long you’re planning your stay for, double it, hell, even triple it! Because I promise once you’re here you won’t want to leave!
Below is a shot from an incredible sighting of one of our nocturnal beauties that has captured my heart – the serval.
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