Kate on Conservation

Shamwari Diaries: Prologue

Shamwari series: Shamwari diaries part 1

The start of an adventure…

Let’s begin by setting the scene. It’s July 2008; six months have passed since the death of Heath Ledger shocked movie fans; not least Media Studies students like myself. Boris Johnson has recently taken the position of Mayor of London — we’re just four months shy of a public announcement introducing us Brits to the new and novel concept of ‘Boris bikes‘ — and at this point, we haven’t yet felt the effects of the double-dip recession that’s about to hit in the last quarter of the year.


In the world of Kate on Conservation, I’ve just completed my A-Levels, taking my final English Language double exam on my 18th birthday (of all days!) just a month beforehand. I’ve proudly found myself the recipient of my college’s Special Award for Outstanding Achievement (see a fresh-faced young me above, delighted with my first ever trophy), and quite unbelievably, I’ve bagged a Gifted and Talented scholarship for my chosen University to study (deep-breath) English Language and Communication with Journalism and Media Cultures with a Year’s Study in Australia” — a place I’ve deferred for a year while I pursue the biggest adventure of my life! A long-held dream to travel to South Africa and volunteer for three months through my favourite wildlife charity, Born Free Foundation.

I’ve been working part-time in retail alongside my studies, selling my art work, and having the odd paid-article published here and there, saving for the last three years to get together the money needed for the trip. A little extra help from my family as an 18th birthday gift has taken me over the line and I’m excitedly getting ready to realise my dream.

Final thoughts and well wishes

I’ve mentioned before on my entry to the Wildlife Blogger of the Year Awards that I received some solid advice about encountering lions from a book of messages my brother gave me before I embarked on my travels (you can return to that post here, if you missed it).

I wasn’t kidding. An amazing present to be treasured, I was given a book of messages from all my family and friends to take with me on my trip, should I feel homesick . It was my first time in another country, away from everyone I knew, after all. And it’s safe to say, excitement and nerves took it in turns to plague me in the days leading up to my flight.

I’d hoped I wouldn’t need this helpful advice, but I read it a few times, just in case…

If you’d like to read these handy tips yourself, click on the images to enlarge


The travel part of travelling…

I always find the travel part of travelling a challenging experience. My self of 10 years ago wasn’t quite worldly enough to have felt that way though, which is somewhat of a relief, as this is, inevitably, where my journals begin.

So take a front row seat, as we get ready to fly…

South Africa plane

Tuesday 22nd July, 2008

A few minor hiccups as I’m both nervously and excitedly anticipating my first plane journey alone. By 11am, I still haven’t collected my currency; after realising the travel agent I’ve ordered it through no longer has a local branch in my town. Damnit.

A slightly emotional goodbye was said to my nan, but only excitement with my brother and his girlfriend. Get to the airport about 5pm and have a quick bite to eat before check-in at 6. Turns out my luggage is 2 kilos over and it costs a crazy £64 to check it in! No time to dwell though, as I ventured through departures alone, leaving my parents at the terminal. A bittersweet moment.

Departures was exciting at least, with lots of shops, and reaching my gate was easy. Boarded at 8.30pm and took off at 9.05pm — the journey begins!

Wednesday 23rd July, 2008

Absolutely shattered, as sleep on the plane totally escapes me. Cape town airport was pretty straightforward to navigate through as my next step is a flight to Port Elizabeth.

Used a porter to help me get my luggage through to the domestic terminal at Cape Town, the guide books suggest a tip of around 5 Rand per case carried, but as I’d only just collected my currency, I had no change and gave the guy a 100 Rand note. I guess that’s a lucky day for him?

Flight to Port Elizabeth (P.E.) was delayed by half an hour and the plane was tiny! Was an amazing flight — South Africa is beautiful from the air! Took photos!

view from the plane over south africa

Arrived at a tiny airport — very easy! My driver gave me a lot of info on the history of the place during our hour and half drive. We saw baboons, vervet monkeys and LOTS of cattle on the way to Madolas Lodge, where I will be staying for the next 13 weeks.

The lodge is nice but the shower’s a tad mouldy.

Madolas lodge mouldy shower
My lovely shower for the foreseeable future

I met the guy who will be taking care of our student group, he towers over me and looks perfectly built for a life outdoors surrounded by dangerous animals! The other student volunteers seem great. I instantly hit it off with my room mate, and one of the others gave me some S.A chocolate — Cadbury’s Top Deck. I’ve instantly made a new friend (with the volunteer and the chocolate!). Early start tomorrow with my first ever game drive!…

Follow my adventures next week to find out the realities of early morning game drives and life on a game reserve! Like this post? Find out why I’m revisiting this time here.


EXCITING NEWS! This first post of my Shamwari Series will feature in a brand new book, The Wildlife Blog Collection: a compilation of 70 amazing stories celebrating some of the most memorable, entrancing and exciting wildlife moments as told by top nature writers from across the globe. Order your copy here

kate on conservation wildlife blog logo

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: