American volunteer Jeff Praul did an incredible tour of three separate African Impact projects during his first trip abroad. From cheetah cubs in South Africa to the dolphins of the Indian Ocean, Jeff recounts his time with African Impact at our Dolphin Research and Marine Conservation Project in Zanzibar for their newsletter The Menai Monthly. Ahhh Zanzibar. Before I left, my friend told me that Zanzibar is her dream destination to visit. Well, all you have to do is spend five minutes on this island to find out why she feels this way. What a wonderful place! But before I talk about Zanzibar, let me start with the beginning of my journey. Previous to this trip, I had never been outside of North America. So to get the full experience of another continent I decided to do three different projects with African Impact. I am a big animal lover so all three projects focused on animals. My first project, working in a cheetah rehabilitation center, was great. The staff was awesome and being able to be a part of a project aimed towards releasing cheetahs back into the wild made it a good first choice. Playing and relaxing with cheetahs and servals for a few hours each day was a nice little bonus as well.
Although I enjoyed the cheetah project a lot, I find it much more fascinating seeing animals in their natural habitats. That is why my next project was in Thanda, doing research on the Big 5 in a private wildlife reserve. It was amazing to see wild lions, elephants, rhinos, and more just a few yards away from me at times. I decided that I'm going to be bringing 11 cows with me when I return to marry one of the local staff members, although she's worth much more than that! My first two projects were definitely great picks. And then came Zanzibar. As I took the flight from Dar es Salaam to Stone Town I was looking out of the windows and could see the clear blue waters. I was excited already. As you enter Grand Bungalows, which is where I lived, the first thing I noticed and I'm sure all other volunteers did as well is that we are living on a beach. Not too many people I know get this luxury. The next day I departed for Kizimkazi, where I'd be working, and I found out I'd be working on the beach. Even less people get the luxury of working on a beach. And when I sleep at night, instead of being in my room, I chose to sleep outside, right on the beach chair.
It is such a humbling experience to see how different the lifestyle is here compared to anywhere else I've ever been in my life. Fishing equals life here. Everywhere you look you can find some sort of fishing boat, fishing net, fishing cage, fisherman, flying fish, you name it. It seems like everything here has to do with fishing. And I've learned that you can put fish in just about any type of dish. If you spend just one hour observing the communities you can easily figure out that everybody helps everybody and everybody knows everybody. The people within the communities care for one another and seem very supportive of each other. Whether it's calling one another on the phones to tell them where dolphins are, bringing fish or supplies to another island where fisherman are camping out, or starting up a local football team (soccer for my fellow Americans) so the kids can be a part of a family. This is a close-knit island and I find that to be awesome.
What I find most interesting about Zanzibar is the laid back lifestyle. I have plenty of time to relax and work on my patience here. I've learned that “ready to go” really means talking for ten or so more minutes before you are actually ready to go. But just because they are laid back here doesn't mean they are lazy. If you go to Kizimkazi you'll see the women hour after hour sitting outside beating coconut layering for rope and other supplies. In my opinion, it sounds like a very long ping-pong match. And the men here are always out on their boats fishing or out trying to sell their fish to make some money. The people here do what they have to do, but in such a laid back way. This lifestyle fascinates me. Africa is a great place for anyone to visit if they want to grow as an individual. I will be taking so much with me back to the states from all of my projects. But if you want to see an amazing group of local people, beaches, dolphins, and sunrises, then Zanzibar is the place to be. Would you like to visit Zanzibar? Luckily we have two projects for you to choose from on the beautiful island - this marine conservation project and a teaching and community project! Volunteering in paradise has never been better!