“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” - Mae West
I still remember the first day, it was nighttime when me and some other volunteers were driving to our accommodation. On the way there, I saw my first wild animal, a Giraffe. It was just standing there, eating and not at all fazed by us. As I’ve observed multiple times during my stay in Africa, Giraffes are very curious animals and look at you with deep dark eyes as if they are wondering what kind of creature you are. We arrived at the lodge and went to bed right away. We all felt pretty tired due to the long flight we took to get here: Dublin - Dubai (7 hours) then Dubai - Harare (7 hours) plus an extra 2 hour drive.
Our incredibly rewarding routine of hard work
After our first encounter with the animals in the morning, we usually had breakfast. The meals that were prepared for us by the locals were a combination of huge amounts of carbs and a common kind of protein which provided us with plenty of energy for the physical work we were doing.
After breakfast, we’d usually be doing some kind of conservation work; things like fixing fences, collecting barbwires or finding traps that poachers had placed to hunt the wild animals.
Imagine doing this kind of work, non stop, in the African heat. It might sound crazy but the sweat running down my spine felt pretty good, almost like a nice warm shower in the cold mornings. Everywhere I went, I took my camera to take breathtaking pictures of the beautiful scenery.
African sights and bucket list activities
What I enjoyed most about my trip were the activities I’d signed up for such as; Crocodile cage diving, bungee jumping and zip lining over the Victoria Falls.
- The crocodile cage diving was astonishing. There was a medium sized crocodile right next to my face when I turned my head and it looked like it was smiling at me, with that typical, somewhat evil, smile. The second crocodile I saw was a huge albino Nile crocodile. It swam right underneath my feet and I kept them up, just in case. I fed them and was surprised at their strong grip. They were jerking the stick I was holding like a dog that’s trying to play tug of war with you.
- Bungee jumping, was one crazy activity I'd recommend to anyone who loves adventure and craziness like I do. On July 23rd 2016, I jumped off the bridge of the Victoria Falls, located in Zambia. I finally got that adrenaline rush I’d been looking for! When I saw how high it was, from where I stood on the ground, I got that sensation of fear burning in my chest and stomach. As I approached the end of the bridge, I started to shake more than ever. The two instructors held my hands up and started to count down 5,4,3,2,1! Then they pushed me and I screamed as loud as I could so that even the locals could here me in the town. At the bottom, the rope jerked me up and as unpleasant as it sounds, I just kept swinging until the experience was over. When I was going to get my video from the kiosk, I was still shaking of adrenaline but at the same time, I’d never felt more fearless in my life. I think that Bungee jumping teaches us to take a risk, don’t think about it too much, hold your head up high, clear your mind and then just go for it! I realized that, if I could do this, then I can battle any challenge. What would life be without actually feeling alive? I would’ve never thought that I would ever do Bungee jumping in my life. Adrenaline activities give us the power to become fearless!
- Zip lining was also a beautiful experience. You had a wonderful scenic view over the Falls. If you don't mind heights then I’m sure you would enjoy this one!
Soaking in the experience of a lifetime
Every Sunday at Imire, all of the volunteers had the day off to do whatever they pleased. On the 7th of August 2016, some other volunteers and I went on a long hike around the park even though it was boiling hot. We all hiked for 3 hours non stop, we saw some snakes and other African wildlife on the way. We then came across a place called “The Hippo Hideout” where people look out for hippos in the river. As we approached the hideout, we looked over the lake and the view was out of this world! The weather was warm, there was a cool breeze and the sun reflected perfectly on the clear blue water which made the scenery inspirational and breathtaking.
Just breathing in that fresh air was the best feeling I’ve had in a long time because all I felt in that special moment was peace. Then, one of the managers came by and we all had a little chat. He described his childhood, what it was like living there, how he’d lay under the stars and watch about twenty shooting stars zoom by every night because the night sky in Africa is crystal clear. He then gave us one inspirational advice: “If you miss one moment, then you’ll never get it back”.
The night of that particular Sunday, I finally saw a shooting star and the night sky looked absolutely out of this world. There were so many things that I saw that I am unable to explain. I just can’t find words to describe how beautiful all those things were to me.
Leaving this place was a bit disappointing because going back to reality and leaving the incredible new worlds you find can be a real bummer, but I guess that's part of it. What I experienced and wrote down is a SNAPSHOT OF LIFE. Traveling, meeting new people, getting out of my comfort zone and encountering new experiences - all of it together is what makes life worth living.
Author - Tiffany Nappi
I am a girl who loves to travel, the unique things in life and spending my time with the people who mean a lot to me. I grew up in America, moved to France, Ireland and then to Lithuania which is perhaps where I got my sense of adventure. However, I also got inspired by one of my best friends, to make travel feel like a way of life and embrace “wanderlust”.