You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough. - Mae West
Arriving in Africa was quite a shock to the system—I never thought I’d actually get an opportunity to visit the continent, and here I was, about to take part in a one-month animal conservation programme called Imire.
I still remember everything about the first day. It was nighttime when some other volunteers and I arrived and made our way to our accommodation about an hour from Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. 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 now observed multiple times during my stay, giraffes are curious animals who look at you with deep dark eyes as if they are wondering what kind of creature you are. When we made it to the lodge, we all went to bed immediately, exhausted after such a long trip: Dublin — Dubai (7 hours), then Dubai — Harare (7 hours) plus another 2-hour drive.
Our incredibly rewarding routine of hard work
The next morning, we began our routine of waking up at 6 am to be ready by 6:30 am to start conservation work with the animals. We got to work with a vast variety of African wildlife such as giraffes, elephants, rhinos, warthogs, zebras, crocodiles, monkeys, lions and multiple African deer species. First up, we spent some time to bond with them, teach them new tricks and walk them back to the lodge. Walking with them, touching them and being so close to them in general truly is a life-changing experience, and it made me realise that there’s so much more adventure and excitement to life than what I was used to.
After our first encounter with the animals in the morning, we usually ate breakfast. The meals that were prepared for us by the locals were a combination of huge amounts of carbs and a bit of protein which provided us with plenty of energy for the physical work we were doing.
After breakfast, we’d be usually doing some kind of physical work 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.