My Awe Moment: Volunteering in South Africa


Lionesses from the southern pride at the waterhole


To follow up last week’s blog on awe moments, I wanted to share some of my awe moments (and struggles) from my recent trip to South Africa.

This was my second trip to South Africa, the first being in 2014. My husband and I fell in love with the country, the people and the animals and knew that we wanted to go back. This trip was a little bit different as instead of doing a traditional safari, we spent 2 weeks volunteering with Wildlife ACT, an organization committed to animal conservation in the KwaZulu-Natal province. I was extremely anxious before we left on our trip. The last few times I have flown I have experienced minor panic attacks. I was worried about flying and was wondering what we had gotten ourselves into with volunteering. Work provided a welcome break from my own thoughts as I was able to focus my attention and energy on what was going on in the world of my clients.

My husband and I were placed at Tembe Elephant Park with three other volunteers and two wildlife monitors. It took at little bit to settle in as the accommodations are pretty basic. Now, I would definitely not consider myself a princess, but this was definitely more rustic than I am comfortable with. I had a lot of concerns about the creepy crawlies, but for the most part they weren’t too bad (except for the red roman – google it) and you do start to get used to them after a while.

While it took some time to get comfortable, the incredible animal sightings made everything worth it. It was so special to be able to see so many animals in their natural habitat. We had many opportunities to spend some time just observing the animals in their day to day behaviors. It felt like being given a glimpse into a secret world.

It really felt like the whole two weeks were one big awe moment. Whether it was watching the elephants play at the waterhole, observing the lions trying to keep cool in the shade, being surprised by an elephant on the car path, having vervet monkeys peek through our hut window, taking in the stars and incredible sunrises and sunsets, or climbing the lookout point, there were just so many moments that made me feel truly alive.

My husband and I are already planning another trip back to Africa, but until then I need to have my feet firmly grounded in my life in Saskatoon. I want to shift my focus to finding the awe moments in daily life, but yet hang on to the once in a lifetime moments. Right now it feels like a tricky balance, but I know that will settle with time.





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