There is always a reason you are drawn to something, but that reason isn’t always obvious. For me, Africa was no exception. Ever since I was small, I have always loved anything and everything about animals, from Sunday night documentaries on BBC One, to visiting any wildlife park I was passing; my parents must have been so fed up! Africa has always been top of the list for me. I feel it represents one of the last expanses of wilderness with a freedom that few places have, there really is no other place like it! Exactly 12 months ago, I was making plans to travel for an extended period of time, mainly around central Asia. I’m fortunate to be self-employed, working as a Horsemanship Trainer & Coach, Model and Fitness Instructor back in the UK (the variation keeps life interesting for sure!), so I have the flexibility that not many do. Asia looked appealing, but my heart had always been set on Africa, and by October, nothing had been planned. Like much in life, time can run away with you. That’s when I made the decision to contact African Impact about their Big 5 Conservation & Research project, and now here I am, writing this from Dumela Lodge in South Africa! I have always aspired to make a difference in the world, which is why I chose to volunteer with African Impact, with their hands on way of doing just that, and getting you involved from the start; from data research and game drives, to learning more in-depth about the conservation and environmental factors that are needed. I am half way through my stay here at Dumela, and to say it has been an eye-opener would be an understatement. I have met some fantastic people, volunteers and staff alike, experienced wild lions meters from the car, camped out unprotected in the middle of a Big 5 reserve with the sounds of Leopard, Lion and Hyena all around, and sat watching a 70 strong herd of Elephants interact and play on a dry riverbed; an unforgettable sight. I feel we are at a tipping point with conservation which is why I chose to do this now. Many species are in rapid decline due to human error, and this could well be the last chance we get to see and help them in the wild. It is still not too late, but the only way that will change, is if we do.
The work African Impact does is invaluable to conservation efforts, conserving through field and physical work, and equally importantly through educating, creating an environment in which everyone can take something away. I never wanted to experience Africa from the back of a 5* game viewer, I wanted it raw and to get stuck in and see Africa as it is.
I still have much to see, but I can safely say I have done just that.