Africa Adventures: Grace Reflects on Her Wild Summer

Cue the violins, as my time in Africa has officially come to an end. Each intern presented their final projects (I shared a reading of my Cape Town blog, which you can find here), a final feast was devoured, celebrations were had, and tears were shed as we hugged each other goodbye.

Before I go into a rather deep reflection about my whole experience on this wild continent, let’s keep things a little more shallow. The last two days did not lack adventure, as I was able to go shark cage diving on Friday and horseback riding through a reserve on Saturday.

We went diving in Mossel Bay with the company White Shark Africa. I intelligently took a seasickness pill during check-in, as I didn’t want my experience to be ruined by nausea. We rode the boat out to Seal Island, were some VERY smelly sea dogs looked like they were having a grand ole time wailing about. The boatmen then pushed the cage into the water, and I started having serious second thoughts about getting into that water. I knew it would be cold, but my biggest fear was the entrance into that cage. I sat down, looking out on the water, and gave myself a little self-talk about not being such a chicken.

The pep talk worked, as I volunteered to go first. I convinced my friend Claire to go with me, and our friends Caleb and Holly decided to tag along. We quickly put on the wet suits over our bathing suits. Wet suits are seriously not comfortable at all. They did help with the freezing H20, though, so I can’t complain too much.

The boatmen were throwing dead fish parts in the water, and the main guy had a dead tuna head attached to a rope he kept tossing into the ocean. I entered the top of the cage following Claire. I became extremely claustrophobic when I realized how small of a space the cage really provides, and I feared losing my toes and fingers to a great white shark mouth.

We waited and waited. The water was super murky, so I wasn’t really sure what we were supposed to be seeing. Then we heard the guide yell “TO YOUR RIGHT! GO DOWN!” This signaled us to go down to see the shark. Next thing I knew, a BIG A$$ shark was scraping the cage with its fin right in front of me!! We all emerged from the water hollering with excitement. My adrenaline was at an all time high. We then saw maybe five or so more sharks right in front of the cage that held us. It was insane.

When our time was up, we made our way to the top of the boat to watch the other groups in the cage. Each group was made up by 6 people. The view from above was almost as cool as the one from the cage. These sharks were seriously large and seriously terrifying. They were ruthless going after that tuna head, and I was shook the captain was able to keep his cool in fighting off such massive creatures from the boat.

Once our time was up, our group made our way back to the shark place headquarters to watch a video of the experience. We then ate a delicious lunch at La Peron, down near the docks. I got chicken tenders. 9.5/10.

The next day, we got up pretty early for a horseback safari at Botlierskop. The game reserve was incredibly boujee. 10/10, provides Mount Camdeboo some rightful competition. I was assigned to a horse named Bandit, a pretty brown-haired boy. When we entered the reserve, we saw a wildebeest right next to us!! I thought it was another horse, but nope. Just a wild animal!

We then got up close to the cutest baby giraffe, and I couldn’t contain my excitement. I wanted to go up and pet it, but I continued on the trail. We came across zebra, impala, and more wildebeests. The trail took us through a river, up a mountain, and back down to the stables. We took the 2 hour route, which I believe was the perfect amount of time to ride. Bandit did a great job, and I kept petting his beautiful mane and offering words of encouragement to affirm his amazing work. I was sad to say goodbye, but the soreness of my legs let me know it was time to go. We shopped for some souvenirs at the shop before departing from our final activity with Africa Media.

I will never forget these experiences.

And I’m so grateful to have this blog to remind me of them in more detail than my brain could probably retain!

Thanks to Africa Media for an outstanding month and all the wonderful times. I made friends from all over the world. With people of such different backgrounds, it was definitely difficult to put up with certain conflicting personalities at times, but by the end of our journey, I can happily say we all ended up with the strongest of ties like that of a family. I will miss every other intern and all their beautiful souls, but I expect we shall stay in touch, as a WhatsApp group and Snap group have already been established.

Africa, you have taught me so much. I got to write two articles on travel and environment. I interviewed Carol Morris, owner of Barrydale Hand Weavers, and Iain Buchanan, owner of Mount Camdeboo Game Reserve. I got to reestablish this blog and make into a work I am proud to share. I journaled a good amount and meditated on what it means to travel and immerse oneself into other cultures.

I definitely plan on returning to South Africa one day, and I am so excited to adventure to other parts of the continent, as well.

For now, however, thank you for this first experience. I couldn’t be more grateful for the month I just had. In returning to the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride. Pride in myself for embarking on this journey alone. Pride in myself for surviving the journey, and coming home with the many stories I now have.

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