The second half of my African adventure consisted of a trip called ‘South Africa Experience’ which I booked through tour operator and gap year specialists ‘Real Gap.’ This consisted of one week volunteering on a game reserve and one week on the famous ‘Garden Route’, a trip that follows the Southern Coast from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town. I have to admit, this wasn’t something I was looking forward to, I was under the impression that Ukutula had given me all a game reserve had to offer and the work described did not sound like my cup of tea. I considered changing my plans but instead settled on heading down from Jo’Burg to Port Elizabeth anyway, it was only a week and not worth the effort of changing flights etc. So I rocked up, not in the best spirits, emphasised by my plane being delayed for an hour, herded into a sweaty transfer bus and not being allowed out for 20 mins+ despite being sat in front of our plane. Little did I know I would spend the next month becoming lifelong friends with other passengers who were crammed into that bus.
Kwantu game reserve was an hour drive from Port Elizabeth airport and it was dusk by the time we arrived. Our accommodation was named ‘Mafusa Lodge’ and consisted off a girls dorm and a guys dorm, which we quickly realised was full of bats and god knows what else. As we watched our guide swatting bats with pillows we all howled with laughter and I knew things weren’t going to be so bad. Well our first week was an eventful one, I made the best group of friends and we spent our evenings playing games such as hide and seek in the dark. We went on plenty of game drives, bush clearing, fence patrol and had more laughs than I can remember. The food was okay, rice and veggies almost every night. The weather was unpredictable, hurricanes and heat waves. We visited the Elephant Sanctuary where we met some lovely girls (Majumba and Marula), we fed the kids at the local school and even went on a hike- that was a really hot day. We saw our fair share of African wildlife, whether it was Faith the Meerkat at the dinner table, a near death experience with a puff adder, or monkeys scrambling through our bedroom dorm at 6am. This was the ‘real Africa’ I had been looking for, the experience i’d wanted to come away with, despite it not being the most luxurious. The end of the week came in the wink of an eye and I knew my time here wasn’t over, I just wasn’t ready to leave, I was only just getting started. Being the irrational person that I am, I made my mind up in a matter of moments, made a few phone calls, spent a large portion of my emergency money and it was settled. I wasn’t staying in Kwantu for one tiny week but five and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.