Many of our projects remain open over the holiday season, including our Photography and Conservation Project in South Africa. Anja Wendling is one of the many volunteers who celebrated Christmas and rang in the New Year whlie making a difference by volunteering in Africa. You can read this blog and others by Anja in her native German on her personal blog – this particular entry, from 28 December, 2014 has been translated into English.
Herds of elephants, throwing themselves into the water. Lion families who "dress up" for the Christmas holidays. And an exciting group dynamic...
After a sore back after about 25 drives over absolutely bumpy roads in not very padded or cushioned cars, last Sunday back into shape I was after a visit to the spa at the Ghost Mountain Inn in about 30 minutes away in Mkuze, which acts as a real miracle. Off we start in the third week on the Ulwazi Lodge.
The 24 December is here not particularly celebrated. It’s like any ordinary day. The Sundowner evening featured special headgear by our guides and a Christmas quiz (this time my team lost). Just the two Germans, Katrina and I are set on holiday and miss our family and friends in particular. If at least the internet would work for a short time to allow contact with home ...
The actual Christmas Day here is 25 December. After a Morning Drive at 35°C and a braai - now a grilled pork (on New Year's Eve it will be antelope) - we start with the mess. Each of us has brought a gift, which have been placed under the Christmas tree. Each volunteer picks a gift – and if you do not like it, you exchange it easy for another one that is already open by another team member.
The most coveted gift, which eventually finds its ultimate owner in the last lap, is a bottle of gin. I get peppermint chocolate - a dream to have cooled they melt in your mouth! Thank You!
Then starts the pool party and finally sitting up late at night together, chatting, marveling at the stars and the lightning in the sky, the rain and the cooling we’ve longed for comes. Thank you to the team of African Impact (in particular, it was Sarah who has bent over backwards to organize everything) to make us this day so and celebrate together.
The second Christmas we celebrate is with the elephants and lions. Not only that, this week seems to be all about the elephant - almost every day we see herds of elephants, the close march past us - the lion family, we meet on Friday afternoon (Boxing Day), and they draw us completely under their spell. It was not until the end of our viewing that I see not only the two lionesses, but the six boys and a yet unnoticed Skhondla, the dominant male, who was placed in the bushes. As they get up, their way leads DIRECTLY to our car, max 1 m away. Some of the lions look at me so directly that I gasp. None of us speaks. We simply listen to and only to the clicking of cameras – one hardly dares to pull the trigger.
I have now visited Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, and am for the second time in South Africa - but this is something I have not yet experienced.
The two lionesses are mother and daughter. Each of them has three cubs, nine or ten months old. Each lioness takes care of every boy. Drink together, play together, cuddle together, relax together. Skhondla came at the time of another reserve where he founded this small family.
We are a very diverse group of volunteers for the holidays here. Even after three weeks, I find it still difficult to distinguish between these different slangs (Australians for me are the worst slang) always I have to switch to listen carefully.
It's just so nice to be able to experience this with all other volunteers and the entire team here.
About the Author
Anja Wendling is from Germany and loves to travel – mostly she loves experiencing new landscapes and cultures while gathering new stories from the back of her bike! You can read about her adventures with African Impact or her wider adventures on the whole on her personal site and through Twitter.