September 1st marked for us a year of being on our honeymoon as well as our arrival on our world tour’s last continent: Africa.
Volunteering in Zimbabwe
This world tour has irrevocably made us evolve and change. This is especially true regarding animal welfare and environmental issues. This is the reason why we wanted to incorporate a volunteer program in wildlife conservation. We decided to combine this wish with our dream of discovering the African wildlife.
Our two weeks in Zimbabwe might have been the most incredible experience of the trip. Every morning we felt like waking up in the Lion King movie. We discovered, for the first time, hundreds of animals: from the big elephants to the smallest birds and insects including lions, zebras, giraffes or hyenas. In addition, we stayed in an idyllic place in the middle of the reserve and shared our time with incredible people. Our guide taught us something new every minute while challenging our opinions. Moreover, the volunteer team got along very well, we played a lot of games on our free time and went dancing together on the weekend. These good vibes were exacerbated by the fact that we were joined by our friend Florence from France. Indeed, she is super sociable and funny. We believe she does not regret joining us for this adventure!
The Nakavango Conservation Program’s staff are managing a private game reserve and taking part in the national conservation effort to protect the black rhinoceros (there are about ten of them in the reserve). Black rhinos are smaller in size than white rhinos and are also distinguished by their hook-shaped lips. It is a critically endangered species. A few years ago, the cause was hunting but nowadays it is the loss of their habitat mostly. Another cause is the poaching for their horns, which are sold at exorbitant prices in Asia..
During our time there we loved our tasks: observing and recording information about the animals, maintaining roads or gardening. We were working with the zebras a few meters from us, coming across giraffes while going to work and watching absolutely beautiful sunsets. We also got to learn about the surrounding communities, notably by helping in a school.
On Thursdays, we camped in the middle of the reserve. After a great evening around the campfire and a last glance at the African sky milky way, we went to sleep to the sound of the animals dangerously close to the tents. The days after, we were happy to go back to the comfort of the volunteer living space!
Again, as often during this world tour, we were very lucky and were among the first to see a three-week-old rhino baby. We also had the chance to stumble upon lions feasting on a freshly caught prey by the side of the road. Moreover, we were able to go back the next day to see the hyenas fighting over the carcass with the vultures. We enjoyed being able to take our time and get familiar with the geography and fauna of the reserve.
The program was high on adrenaline. One example is when we were tracking elephants by foot and the roles got reversed. We knew they were getting too close when our guide loaded his gun to make them flee.
The most intense experience, however, was the transfer of one of our black rhinos going to another reserve. Again, we were lucky as it is a very rare operation. Indeed, to help this endangered species, humans give a little help to nature by bringing closer the rhinos whom have the best chance of mating. We are honoured to have been deemed trustworthy to witness an operation of this magnitude involving a helicopter, a tractor, a truck, five jeeps, a veterinary team and a lot of stress and uncertainty. It was also very difficult emotionally, we could feel the animal’s distress and we also witnessed the dehorning. Rhinoceros horns grow back and keeping those small lower the value of the rhinoceros in the poachers’ eyes as well as ensuring more safety during the transport. All this was done by the people who care the most about the welfare of this species, the world specialist was even there. We will soon publish a more detailed blog post about this extraordinary experience. Volunteering while travelling seems perfect for us and we hope to do it again!
As a result of volunteering, we spent a last weekend in the Victoria Falls town which is a few miles from the reserve. It was the opportunity to go back to see the majestic falls, the largest water curtain in the world, by night this time. This is possible once a month for the full moon and there we could see lunar rainbows (“moonbows!”), a unique phenomenon!
Travel from Zimbabwe to Kenya
For the second part of September we are on a group trip. It has only been a few days as we are writing this newsletter. We scheduled it in advance as it is very difficult to access the Internet.
We boarded for many miles: 21 days to go from Victoria Falls to Nairobi. We are going through Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya. On the way we visit villages, discover history and culture but above all we are looking forward to observe more animals in different landscapes.
We are currently writing from a fixed camp on the banks of the Luangwa River in Zambia. This is “glamping” (glamorous camping) because we have beds in the tent and a bathroom in the back. But it is truly the adventure, there are no barriers around the camp so we can come face to face with a hippopotamus or an elephant when we are walking around. So that guards escort us when we walk around after dark! It’s also extreme conditions for Clémentine as we are finding a lot of big spiders where we sleep. Everything is open on the outside and yesterday a toad hidden behind the toilet paper surprised us. A hell of a laugh, unlike spiders who are only creating cries of despair!
We are not fully convinced by our tour and we don’t think it is adapted to the way we want to travel. Also, we have met many independent travellers on the way. With the proper preparation (having an itinerary and some accommodation booked in advance) it seems doable to travel on your own in the South and East of Africa. Next time we will go with a van!
What’s next ?
Again we are not sure when you will receive this newsletter but we should still be on our way to Kenya, probably via Zanzibar. October will be busy, after two days in Nairobi, we fly to Cairo for ten days in Egypt.
On October 19th we will arrive at Paris-Charles de Gaulle after nearly 14 months of wandering around the world. We are very eager to be reunited with our families and friends but also very sad to finish this amazing honeymoon.
We are worried about returning in winter and hope we won’t be too depressed.
If you want to help us, here are the questions we fear and would be thankful not to hear:
- “Are you going back to your job? “
We resigned before we left and have decided to leave behind London, Boris Johnson and the Brexit. It is impossible to look for a new job while we are unreachable wandering around Africa. Nevertheless, our CVs are up-to-date and when we find new jobs you will know for sure. Even if we play it cool, we are more stressed than you about this!
- “Where are you going to live? “
Where we will find work! We intend to recover some of our wardrobe (because our five pairs of socks are not looking good) but we will be forced to live for our luggage for at least a few more weeks. We are counting on the generosity of our family who should be looking forward to seeing us squat after such a long separation. However, we hope (surely as much as they do) to settle somewhere fast!
- “When will you be having children? “