A South African Adventure - World Challenge
This summer, I have been incredibly blessed to have been given the opportunity to visit South Africa to visit one of my school’s (by the day I’m a High School Teacher) partner schools. The trip was led by World Challenge and it had 3 distinct sections to the trip: cultural project, trek, and safari. In between leading the trip and managing our pupils, I did try to get my camera out to capture the essence of our trip and below you’ll find my photo journey split across the 3 phases. I was not there on ‘holiday’ and opportunity for taking pictures was only sporadic as I had many more important things to be dealing with, but it was amazing being able to capture the South African landscape, animals, and most importantly the absolutely wonderful South African people. Hope you love looking through the pics as much as I did taking them.
First Phase: Visit Grace Christian School, Siyabuswa
After a grueling couple of days of travel (from Manchester to London via coach, 12 hour flight with South African Airlines to Johannesburg then a relatively long coach journey to Siyabuswa), we finally got to our hosts in Siyabuswa. Although World Challenge as a tour company specialise in finding projects for young people to engage in, the school we visited was due to a link we had already established through a Christian charity, World Share, that connects Christian communities across the globe. I could write copious amounts of words full of superlatives about the incredible learners and staff at Grace Christian School, but ultimately it would not do justice to them. The warmth and love that was showed to us all was unbelievable and we really felt like part of the family. The most special thing for me personally was watching young British and South African pupils engaging with each other, learning about each other’s cultural background, building strong friendships and fundamentally learning we really are all the same at the human level. As you will hopefully see in the pictures, there was such joy in the pupils at Grace and they were full of hope and optimism for their future. Such a powerful experience for us all!
Second Phase: Visit Kruger National Park
Growing up, the top of my ‘bucket list’, without a shadow of a doubt, was to go on safari in Africa. I’ve always been a huge fan of natural history programs, particularly the BBC ones (I grew up watching Wildlife on One!), and to be able to go to see the animals I grew up loving in their own, wild habitat is super special. To watch pupils do so, was even more amazing! The excitement when we saw any of the ‘Big Five’ was palpable. Kruger is a vast park and we only touched part of it, but never the less it was special to be there. One day, I’d love to go back with my own family, with a long lens, and go on the hunt for some amazing pictures (and to see cheetah and hyenas - the ones we missed!). The pictures below are not worthy of a National Geographic prize by any stretch - the light was whatever it was, the images were all taken from safari vehicles, and I didn’t have the best equipment as we were travelling, but they do give you a sense of what we saw whilst there.
Third Phase: Drakensberg Mountains - Giants Cup Trail
World Challenge trips often have a phase that is a trek, designed to help pupils develop a range of skills including team work, physical determination, and food planning and cooking among many others. Our trek started (and finished) at Khotso Lodge (more about that later) which was close to the The Giant’s Cup Trail. One our first day, the Khotso Lodge team dropped us off at the start of The Giant’s Cup Trail with our rucksacks filled with enough food, clothes and equipment to last us 3 days. The trek was just on the right side of challenging for us all, pupils and staff, and it was thoroughly enjoyable. Each day we traveled between 8 and 13 kilometers but over quite challenging terrain and LOTS of walking up and down steep inclines. Add that we were carrying heavy rucksacks, it really was a challenge. I was, though, incredibly impressed with the resilience of our pupils whilst on trek - as a team we continually encouraged and supported each other when things got tough. It’s really a special experience to be trekking in such a beautiful landscape, seemingly well away from other human beings. We really did feel isolated and away from the Big World. There were many incredible moments whilst on trek, but for me looking up at the beautiful Africa sky was amazing. The stars really did dance for us. At the end of the trek, Steve, the incredibly charismatic and interesting owner of Khotso, picked us up and arranged for us to have a braai (South African BBQ) to help fill our empty stomachs. It was THE best food! We also slept in their lodges for the night which were just so lovely and comfortable: a perfect way to finish off the trek. The morning after, the team prepared breakfast to set us up for our mammoth travel back to the UK. Huge thanks to Steve, his family and the team for their hospitality and warmth.
I can’t begin to express how amazing the trip was and how much the pupils seemed to grow and develop whilst there. It really was a trip of a lifetime.
I’m an Oldham Wedding and Family photographer capturing natural moments across Manchester and the wider North West region.