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Joel's Experience: South Africa Big 5 Conservation

By Gap 360

Last updated: 5th March 2014

Here at Gap 360, we love seeing your travel dreams come true. Last year Joel won a competition on Facebook that'd send him to South Africa for our South Africa Big 5 Conservation programme! Check out how he got on with this daily diary...

Day 1

Hiya everyone! On day 1 we arrived in Port Elizabeth, where I met two girls who had been on same flight as me - and we were dropped off at the lodge (we saw Zebra and Springbok on the way in!). Unfortunately some other travellers were leaving as their time was up - but we had a brew with the girls and one lad and they who gave us a brief as to what to expect. Next up was the evening meal, which was the perfect opportunity to meet all of the people at the reserve - everyone seemed friendly, and after watching a couple of films we headed off for an early night! (Got be up for 7.30!)

Day 2

Early on the second morning I volunteered to wash one of the game vehicles, it was looking pretty grubby! After this I went to visit the white lion cub and spent an hour with her (she's so cute it's amazing)!  We then had breakfast and went off to visit a local village to deliver some food which we served for them. These families live in tin huts it was such an eye opener but - the kids loved us being there and were full of joy and just wanted to play with us and climb all over us. It was such fun but quite sad to see the conditions they live in! We then travelled back to have our lunch. After lunch the activity was game count - this involved us going into the reserve and searching for certain species, ours were blue wilderbeast - on this journey we encountered the giraffes close up and personal - so close we could practically touch them! We saw more elephants, a young male lion peaking his head out the grass, a jackal, and a snake (which was an adder) - it was amazing to see the diversity of animals - once night came we all sat around a bonfire as a group - such a fun way to end the day! Over the next few days, we had more game drives and really started to tick the Big 5 off our list!

Days 5-6

We were heading out to Mossel bay for the weekend with the intention of shark diving and sky diving , where we stayed in a cool hostel right on the beach; it had an amazing view! It was a little way from Port Elizabeth and it was raining the whole way, but we saw some fantastic scenery along the way. We were just hoping that it was going stop by the next day came! There was 8 of us that went - we visited the local bar and had a few drinks (it was such a laugh), then walked along the beach to the pavilion restaurant. We had a late night splash in the sea then headed back to the hostel.

Day 7

Today we headed to go shark cage diving, we had breakfast in the hostel restaurant and then headed out into town, and had a brief on the dive. We went out to Seal Island and only had to wait five minutes before the first shark arrived! There were three others to follow! We got into our wetsuits and got into the cage. Scary, but an amazing experience! We then headed back to the lodge and went onto the beach! Amazing golden sands and clear sea! Myself and Vicky headed back a bit earlier than the others had an amazing milkshake at the restaurant and then whilst waiting for the others went have a look in the craft market five minute drive into town

Day 8

We went to the Elephant sanctuary - had an hour walk down to the river where we had lunch - views from high up were breathtaking! Then we walked back, got another chance to ride the elephants and then we fed them! Amazing animals - trust me when I say that you could never get tired of seeing them up close!

Day 9

Cub sat with Jen - and then chilled by the swimming pool; had a little swim great laughs!

Night drive - Within the first minute of heading into the reserve we spotted the male bull elephant! Amazing! Then we went on to see the hippo, zebra and wilderbeest  The skies were amazing and the stars were so bright - we saw Venus shining in the distance. African sky is breathtaking and being out in the open in the reserve, with no noise other than the animals was incredible! 

Day 10

We had a game walk through the reserve -  and went on fence patrol. Whilst we were doing our jobs we walked past giraffes and zebras - it seemed even more amazing being without a Jeep! Once we got back in the van we saw a pack of lions, incredible!

Day 11

The rain hammered down in morning (which is pretty rare in South Africa) so we watched a film, had breakfast and went to the school where we played and danced with the children. We spent the afternoon out in reserve to clear old fences and as we returned I got to hold and hug the youngest lion cub. It was the most amazing thing that I've ever seen - having a lion cub rest and sleep in my arms. That memory will always last with me - I fell a little in love!

Day 12

We started off trying to round up a springbok that had escaped and joined a herd of sheep (this was very eventful, and actually hilarous!). We then spent the rest of the day in the reserve, which was fantastic. We all love it out there!

The final weekend was always going be emotional. We've all formed some great friendships (we are all going meet up again next year!) so we were all really sad to leave! When we got to Port Elizabeth we had the chance to visit the Boardwalk though, where we all sat around and had an amazing ice cream! Fudge and mint chocolate! Then we headed to the blue water cafe for some lunch and an amazing milkshake (it was basically food heaven!).

For dinner we went to Cubanas; it was delicious! I had a chicken mixed grill - and after we headed to Barney's for a few drinks and live music. At the end of the night we had a big group hug/dance, was a little emotional - it's amazing that after just two weeks you form these friendships that make you so sad about leaving everybody behind!

Sunday we went for a stroll along the beach to the cafe for breakfast and during this stroll looking out to the ocean we saw two whales -what a sight! It was amazing! I had a traditional English for my breakfast and another milkshake - we then headed to the market which was full of local crafts woodwork bracelets and paintings was a good opportunity to get some presents and souvenirs.


Joel obviously had an amazing time in South Africa. Fancy experiencing a bit of what Joel had? Check out the South Africa Big 5 Conservation programme!

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