One More Sleep

This is my last night in New Zealand, tomorrow we leave early for the trip to Auckland then I’ll be on the plane and starting my journey. I am so excited but the nerves are definitely starting to build. I have the general worries that I forgot to pack something, despite checking everything off of my check list.

Then there’s the worries that I’ll forget something in my rush to get out the door tomorrow morning, or what if my checklist didn’t actually cover everything I’ll be needing? So many silly little worries mixed with the excitement are making it hard to sleep, and I’m bad at getting up early as it is..

I just have to trust that I have the important things, and anything else can be bought at the airport stores or markets once I arrive in South Africa (Or at the stop over in Hong Kong)

I know the real nerves will kick in once I’m at the airport and getting on the plane, till then I just have these worrying thoughts and last minute double checkings.

But that doesn’t mean I am not 100% excited and pumped up for this amazing journey, people keep telling me it’s a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ but I hope not. I hope to do more travelling just like this trip later in life. And I definitely plan to go to Europe, (though I may have to wait until I’ve finished paying this trip off.)

My family has been so supportive of me as I prepare for this trip, and I hope I can repay them all with awesome souvenirs when I get back, ūüôā

Then there’s the small issue of home-sickness, but with such a packed itinerary, I think I’ll be too busy or too tired to even begin to miss home, and then I’ll be back before I even know it.

3 Weeks

With final exams in full swing my trip took a back seat to my studies. But with three exams down and a some time before my last one I found myself with some free time and found myself staring at the calendar.

The days seem to speed by and my departure date is getting closer. It’s hard to contain myself because there is still so much to do before I leave!

A few more things on my packing list to get, a couple more official type documents to print out, and some small details to sort out.

But with each tick off my checklist, my excitement grows.

A friendly email appeared in my inbox and I was finally introduced to my programme leader, Tasch.

She seems really nice and is very experienced with the ISV programme as well as having her own personal experience volunteering overseas. I can’t wait to meet her!

I also now know the entire list of my fellow volunteers who will be in my programme with me, and a few of us will be flying out of NZ together! It will be nice to meet them before heading out to South Africa.

But the one thing I am most excited about is the adventure tour in the last two weeks while in South Africa. Because my application for the OAP is officially through and paid off so I will be participating in some amazing activities! I never knew that there was so much more to South Africa than the safari tours.

South Africa is home to the tallest bridge bungy in the world, 216m! I am definitely keen for that and will be first in line. But I know nerves will hit as it’s a lot taller than the 50m bungy I did in Taupo, NZ.

There is a zip-line tour in Tsitsikamma where you can get a fast paced view of the national flora and fauna, and travel between platforms high above the Kruis river.

There is also the rich culture, amazing food and spectacular beaches. All of which I am thoroughly looking forward to.

Waterberg Biosphere Biodiversity Survey Project

Today I received an email confirming the project that I am to be working on in South Africa.  I, along with 16 others will be travelling to Masebe to monitor and survey the wildlife in order to help protect them and ensure that ecological balances are maintained.

The project includes tasks such as bird point counts, game transect drives and habitat assessments. As well as teaching the local community about environmental conservation.

All the work stuff makes it seem not as fun as it really is. Basically, I get to go on a safari drive each day to ensure all fauna and flora are safe and protected. While collecting data about the areas, I’ll be surrounded by giraffe, zebra, antelope, and hundreds of different species of birds.

It is so exciting to think that in two months I will be immersed in the heart of the South African bushlands, surrounded by amazing creatures, and having the time of my life all while doing some good for the environment and local communities.

Part of this project requires us volunteers to be able to track animals on foot and be able to accurately collect field data. All which will be taught to us back at our huts at the Telekishi Community Centre where we will be staying.

The Waterberg Biosphere Reserve is home to 129 species of mammals, 350 species of birds and over 2000 plant species with a number of threatened or endangered butterflies, fish and reptile species, making it an extremely important conservation area.

As well as the project summary, I also received a travel manual with all the information I need to know about anything.

New Zealand is eleven hours ahead of South Africa, and I know my  mother will constantly worry so ringing home may be a little awkward given the time difference, but there are plenty of opportunities to visit internet cafes so I will be able to email home, post facebook updates and keep up with this blog.

Getting to Africa is my one small concern, the last time I took a plane was a family holiday to Australia when I was nine. It’s not that I’m scared of planes, it’s more that I’m scared of big¬†airports that I could get lost in. I’ll have to make sure to meet up with the other volunteers early so we can at least get lost together!

Money in South Africa is quite different to the New Zealand dollar, but thankfully they follow the same rules

In NZ one dollar is 100 cents
In SA one Rand is 100 cents

easy enough. And the exchange rate shows that $1NZD = $8.88ZAR

I had planned to rely on my credit card for the trip but¬†shopping in the¬†local markets requires cash, and there will be chances to withdraw money from an ATM, though I just know that I’ll get confused and end up drawing out way too much or too little.

The one thing I am most looking forward to is the Adventure Tour during the last two weeks. The activities included are things like ziplining through a forest and over a river, a hike to the top of a waterfall, a full game drive, and an elephant encounter!

I am also considering signing up for the Optional Activities Package if it’s not too late, it ifits in five more awesome activities which are a cape town hike, surfing lessons, township tour, sunset game drive and kloofing through Blyde River canyon. ¬†I’ve always wanted to go cliff jumping so that last one is a must!

If I don’t sign up for the OAP then I will have some free time to go shopping or take part in any other activities that I choose, but the OAP is too good to miss out on.

Get Educated

International Student Volunteers was thoughtful enough to send me a ‘Resource Manual’ in an email with a variety of facts and different pieces of information about South Africa. It made me realise that I probably should study up on the country and culture a bit more in order to fully experience everything.

To quote ISV “Your appreciation of where you are, what you see and experience will depend on what you know”

The Resource Manual included a map of South Africa and a few geography facts, as well as some information on the climate, geology, environment and biodiversity.

It’s amazing to know that South Africa represents 1% of the earths total land surface and holds 10% of the worlds bird, fish and plant species as well as 6% of the worlds mammals and reptile species!

In total, there are about 243 mammal species in the region and 17 are threatened, it is heartbreaking when any species is endangered, but I am happy to know that I will be making a positive difference.

The manual also included the cultural and social history of the country, which was interesting in it’s own right.

The population is at almost 50 million, which makes New Zealand and it’s population of 4 million seem so much smaller.

South Africa also has 11 languages and I am really excited to hearing them, I love language and I think it’s really fascinating to hear foreign languages, and to be honest, I am really looking forward to hearing someone speak Xhosa, which has click consonants.

The land, animals, plants and people are all so diverse and this is represented really well in their food, I can’t wait to try the “rainbow cuisine” which is named so because it has a variety of multi-cultural sources and stages. But it looks great!

To the people reading this blog for travel advice, this may look like it only helps people who are travelling to South Africa, but the main point is that learning about the place you are visiting is so important. You need to know about the environment, the people, the cultures, food, religions, customs, history, Everything is helpful.

By learning the customs you can prevent yourself from insulting anyone unintentionally, you won’t be an ignorant tourist but rather someone who can appreciate what is before them, plus you get to show off and be a smart-ass in front of your friends.

Almost There

I’ve managed to cross a few more things off my to do list.

First off all my passport FINALLY arrived in the mail, just in time for me to send a copy of it to International Student Volunteers (the programme I am volunteering with). Not entirely sure why they needed a copy but I managed to get it in on time.

Not to mention the fact that I need a passport in order to travel and I was starting to get really worried that it wouldn’t arrive in time.

Next I handed in a form at the doctors that they would look over and then recommend the vaccinations I need. Really hoping I won’t be needing many because I really hate needles.

Oh well, a jab in the arm is a small price to pay for my health.

Although I can’t really say it’s a small price. Have you seen the cost of vaccinations lately? Pretty pricey.

Lastly I made a few more faceboook posts promoting my donation page:

https://www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/WildlifeReserve

The final payment deadline is looming and I’m almost there! Just a few more donations and I might make it.

I am really looking forward to leaving for South Africa and it makes it even better that I am going there for a good cause. I really believe that the work I will be doing will make a difference and have ¬†positive effect, not to mention it will be so much fun and an amazing experience. I can’t wait to leave and then I’ll actually have something exciting to write about on the next blog post.

Getting Sorted

After my excitement of being accepted died down, I realised that I had a few problems to face.

One being that I didn’t have a passport.

The last time I left the country was when I flew to Australia for a holiday, and that was over 10 years ago. So picking up a passport application was at the top of my to-do list.

Next was money. Program fees and flights aren’t cheap. The quick solution to that was to set up a separate bank account and transfer some of my wages into it every week and with some tight budgeting, I should make it. But I also created an online fundraising page so that my friends and family could help out. After all, it is a charity!

https://www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/WildlifeReserve

Luckily, the ISV program sorted out my flights for me, and I would be flying with the other volunteers, plus travel insurance was included!¬†Most volunteer organisation will offer this kind of service and it’s best to take it as they give the lowest prices and you know you won’t get lost or stuck. It’s one less thing to worry about.

Then there was my health. Unfortunately, South Africa isn’t exactly disease free. So a quick check up with my GP to make sure I’m up to date with all my vaccinations was in order. (I was assured by ISV that we would be in malaria free zones)

Lastly, what would I pack? I need to travel light, but four weeks of various activities would call for a bit of luggage. Once again, ISV got my back by providing a rough list of everything I would need to take, and they also promised to send a more specific one closer to the date as I don’t yet know exactly what activities I will be participating in.

Now I had my to-do list, time to get busy.

 

Accepted!

accepted

I had heard the volunteers giving passionate speeches about the joys of volunteering overseas. The excitement, the adventure, and thrill of it all was enough to peak my attention.

So, out of curiosity, I decided to look into it further and even filled out an application. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would actually be accepted. It was a sign. I was going to do this.

After sending in a deposit for the programme fees did it hit me. I just agreed to travel all the way to South Africa on my own. I had never been travelled that far before, let alone going there by myself. This was huge for me. But I was excited, I was ready for it.

I’ve always been a bit of an adrenaline-junky. Bungy jumping, white water rafting, spelunking, I’ve¬†done it all. I’m always looking for a way to escape my ‘comfort zone’ and live life on the edge. Or in some cases, jump of the edge with an exhilarated scream and swing madly on the rope that is all that’s keeping you from falling into the rushing waters below.

So a trip to South Africa where I will be up close and personal with lions, cheetahs, rhinos, elephants and more? Hell Yeah.

isv africa

Not only is this an amazing experience and adventure for me, but going to South Africa will be serving a purpose.

International Student Volunteers (ISV) are dedicated to helping those that need it. And my time in South Africa will not be wasted. We will be building schools and playgrounds to underprivileged children, and monitoring and protecting endangered wildlife. As a natural born philanthropist and animal lover, I was all for it.

South Africa, here I come.

 

 

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