December Students – Final Update

On our way to feed the cheetahs

The past three weeks were certainly magical. Nothing like we’ve ever experienced before. We shared an amazing journey, and went from total strangers to lifetime friends in the process.

Our first week was spent getting to know each other. We spent some time in the camp, which quickly became our home away from home. Waking up to the sound of lions roaring, meeting a warthog family on our way to the kitchen, and just being surrounded by raw nature, all added to an already incredible experience.

We enjoyed delicious meals courtesy of Karen and Tabs, our fabulous coordinators.

We got to visit the Centre and meet all the amazing animals in it. We never thought we’d be able to get as close to them as we did. We learned about the history of the Centre, as well as what drives the people that work there.

We saw first-hand how the animals are cared for. We prepared their food, and went through the process of feeding them and inspecting their health. We learnt all about the research being conducted to provide the most suitable diet and environment for cheetahs in captivity.

We experienced our first braai (South African barbecue) and the warm atmosphere that surrounds it.

During our second week we went on excursions, and also spent time in the Centre feeding the animals.

We went to Kruger National Park and saw elephants, giraffes, impala, wildebeest, jackals, hundreds of birds, and many other animals.

It was so amazing to watch them out in nature, in their own world.

We even saw a family of baboons resting on the road. To be so close to them, and watch them interact with one another, was truly amazing. It was certainly an unforgettable experience.

We also visited Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre, where we learned about the dangers of poaching, and the reasons behind the declining numbers of animals in the wild. Among the many animals we got to see were rhinos, vultures and honey badgers.

At the end of the week we went on a guided tour of Khamai Reptile Park. There we learnt all about the habitats and diets of the many reptiles, as well as how to identify them.

We got up close and personal with some of the most venomous snakes in South Africa, and learnt what to do if bitten by one of them.

In the evenings and on our days off, we relaxed at camp, played with Noddy (HESC’s resident miniature pincher), and dined on scrumptious traditional South African food. It was a wonderful period filled with much laughter and bonding.

Our third and last week coincided with Christmas, so everything we did was flavoured with the festive spirit. Although we had grown accustomed to the routine at the Centre, it was great to spend time just relaxing at camp.

We went river rafting at Induna Adventure Centre. This was by far one of the most adrenaline – inducing and exciting experiences of our lives. The views were breathtaking, and unlike anything we’d ever seen before.

We spent another day exploring the natural treasures of the area. Echo Caves was an remarkable portrayal of natural beauty; filled with history and cultural depth. Bourke’s Potholes were spectacular, nature at its finest. We hopped along stones, took in the scenery, and bonded even more as we shared this unforgettable experience together.

We took a stroll through the flea market, soaking up its intoxicating smells and sounds, and admiring all the beautiful hand-crafted wares.

On the morning of Christmas eve, we were surprised with a trip to Camp Jabulani. We learnt about the history of the place, and were in complete awe of the elephants. Each one with its own distinct personality.

We learnt so much about their environment, their lives, and what makes these mammoth animals tick. We took a ride around Kapama Reserve … the views were so beautiful we literally had to pinch ourselves to make sure we weren’t dreaming.

We celebrated Christmas in true South African style. Watching the sun sink behind the mountains, and enjoying a braai (South African barbecue) with new, but already dear, friends.

We parted sadly, but not forever. We’re friends for life now, after all, only we know how it feels to touch a cheetah cub, to pick up a caracal, and to have experienced all we have. Visit our Facebook album to see the photos from our visit.

And none of it could have come true if not for our wonderful Karen and Tabs.

Thank you guys! We’ll never forget you! 😉