Written as a featured travel story for Planeterra Foundation, part of G Adventures
“What time will we have lunch?” I asked our guide, Amos. The answer should have been obvious.
“Lunch will be at lunch time,” he replied. Of course. This is Africa; I submitted to it wholeheartedly and had the time of my life.
Traveling to Africa had always been on my wish list and the GAP tour offered just what I was looking for – adventure, culture, and a whole lot of the unknown. That it was steeped with environmental awareness and social responsibility was a complete bonus, and something I could feel great about.
From my first day when I was greeted with a big slimy kiss from Lola the giraffe at the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi to waking with the sound of the Indian Ocean in my grass hut on my last day, Africa delivered hit after hit.
Prior to my trip I had been so excited about the safari days to come. Little did I know, it was the people I met along the way that would be my favourite part. No doubt, the wildlife was spectacular – the lions made my heart pound as they strutted by our van, but the smiles and warmth of the locals were even more captivating. Cheers of “Jambo, karibu!” (Hello, you are welcome!) greeted us everywhere we went.
We were fortunate to visit two projects supported by the Planeterra Foundation along during our 4 day mountain trek through the Usambara Mountains. As we hiked along Yassin, our local guide, would shine with pride and enthusiasm as he shared with us the conservation projects his community had been committed to.
He told us of their efforts to preserve the soil and replant trees that had been excessively harvested on the very mountains we were walking through. The project also aimed to educate the villagers about the importance of sustainable land use, balancing conservation and economy. We saw first hand how successful this was when we visited a primary school where the students learned not only to plant a tree nursery, but also were able to buy school supplies from the proceeds. The projects were inter-connected, everyone learning, embracing and succeeding.
Having a slight addiction to pottery, I was thrilled to visit the Women’s Pottery Initiative, another Planeterra supported project. While it was the women who created the beautiful pieces, the men and children were hard at work too, the men were building a new indoor kiln, allowing the community to create and sell pottery year round. The children greeted us with giggles, waves and plenty of ‘high fives’. They carefully wrapped our purchases and collected the money for their mothers. It was a great success for me too – I bought 6 fabulous pieces!
It was wonderful to see how the locals not only embraced these projects, but did so with such pride and hope. From the children singing for us at the school, telling us how they will be pilots and doctors when they grow up, to the women who would shine as we admired their work, it was clear that these projects meant so much to them.
Africa blew my mind and stole my heart. I can’t wait to go back. Thank you GAP!