Since I don’t travel full-time, I figured that instead of doing a monthly recap, I would recap each of my trips following the full posts. These recaps will contain highs, lows, logistics, funny anecdotes, pictures, etc. that I likely didn’t include in the full posts.
Without further ado, my South Africa & Swaziland trip!
Countries: 2 – South Africa & Swaziland
Number of Days: 16, including travel
Favorite city: St. Lucia (town, really)
Favorite site: iSimangaliso Wetland Park
Type of trip: Voluntourism
Money Spent: This was an expensive trip. The program costs and group flight costs came to almost $5,000 total. Once there, however, we received great value for our Canadian cash. At the time of our visit, 1 Canadian dollar gave us roughly 10 South African rand. When all was said and done, with the costs of the program, flight, vaccines and medicines, and spending money, I spent roughly $5,500 (this is a higher estimate).
- Going on a 6 hour safari through the iSimangaliso Wetland Park was an eye-opening, awe-inspiring experience. We saw several species of animals, and spent an enjoyable day cruising around the park.
- Meeting cheetahs up close and personal. Cheetahs have long been my all-time favorite animal, so getting to see one was a definite highlight of my trip. Getting to sit beside one and touch one, though… highlight of my life, for sure!
- Visiting the iSangoma. I didn’t reference this in my posts, but we went to the local iSangoma (witch doctor/healer). For our payment, we were able to ask three questions, and receive her vague but eerily accurate answers.
- Stepping foot in the Indian Ocean and spending the day at Cape Vidal. One of my goals is to step foot in every ocean, and my time in the Indian Ocean brought my total to two thus far. The water was warm, the sun was shining, and we had a blast playing in the waves. Cape Vidal is a stunning stretch of beach, and I could definitely have spent more than one day there.
- The horse back ride to Execution Rock in Swaziland. Not only is horse riding one of my favorite activities, but being able to pass close by zebras and wildebeest was amazing. The views from the top of Execution Rock were well worth the hardship and exertion to climb up the mountain.
- Not bringing my Nikon D60. I was under the impression that we would not have a safe place to store valuable items, and so I decided against bringing my DSLR. I was frustrated to learn upon arrival that we were provided secure locks to accompany the cupboards below our beds during our stay in St. Lucia.
- Feeling guilty at the Swaziland markets. I don’t barter well, and I felt particularly guilty trying to barter in Swaziland. Others in my group didn’t have the same struggle, though I definitely was not the only one.
- The nights were a lot chillier than any of us were prepared for. Part of the issue was that the hostel room I was in had a wall which didn’t connect to the ceiling in one area, leaving an open, netted space for the cold, winter air to seep in. It’s nothing like our Canadian winters here, obviously, but none of us were properly prepared.
- There was an optional, additional add-on to the program – you could spend an extra week in Mozambique. At the time of arranging my trip, I balked at the thought of paying even more money (the cost was – to my memory – roughly half of what the program already cost), but saying farewell to the excited handful of people who opted for the add-on was a tough pill to swallow, particularly since we we were saying good bye to Africa the following day. In retrospect, I should have realized how much the extra time and experience would mean to me.
- The showers were in an open-air building, so they are accessible by both animals and insects. After one of Cassidy’s showers, she ended up being chased by a monkey around the hostel grounds clad only in a towel.
- One of the VESA group leaders’ games was to dole out 10 push ups to anyone who used the word ‘mine’. Needless to say, a lot of push ups happened over the course of our two weeks. In the end, I did 20 push ups, roughly 10 minutes apart, after catching myself both times. Sigh.
- Our final night at the hostel in St. Lucia saw a visit from the Zulu village men we had seen at the beginning of our trip. They performed again for us, and then we delighted them with a talent show of our own.
This life-changing trip was worth every single penny. My next visit to South Africa will be based on my own itinerary and not part of a group trip, though I’m definitely glad my first foray into traveling alone was with this amazing group of people, many of whom I’m still connected to. Even so, the experiences we shared and the memories we made will always be with us, regardless!