“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Lao Tzu
Part 2 – Poppy’s story
“Admittedly, I was incredibly nervous when I flew out to Namibia. For starters, I had never travelled alone and then, when I arrived there, I had the added stress of having to introduce myself and the bubbling anxiety of having to talk to people. I expected this. I expected the nerves and the worry because this country is completely unlike my own. The first night I stayed at the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary, I wrote in my journal that “it is like one big party, only in the middle of nowhere, and with lions.” I confess, I did arrive on the night of a fundraising event, so there was a big burning African braai (a BBQ), but it only proved to show me what an awesome and carefree time could be had at this animal sanctuary.
I know that when I was on my way to the country, I thought about coming home with a new knowledge on the culture of the place and the way people live out there. But there are far more valuable things I discovered that I never expected when I was planning my trip. And it is these things that make this place so unbelievably special.
But I hadn’t anticipated the wonderness of baboons, who are the centre focus of the wildlife sanctuary. Although there are plenty more animals, it is with these cheeky little fellas that you get to spend the most time with. The baboons are gorgeous. They love you to play with them like you are a kid again – hanging them upside down by their legs and swinging them side to side and climbing up the trees with them to sit at the top and dangle your legs carelessly. You have to let go and just be with them. And when there are orphaned baby baboons, they are terribly afraid of the dark and so often, volunteers are asked to sleep with them in their beds for the night. This is a very unique and exceptional experience. They appear flighty and somewhat unpredictable but if you can handle the bugs, you can handle anything! As soon as you turn the lights off, they are down under your duvet, nestling in the warmth of your bed and curling themselves around your legs or your torso, hugging you to sleep. It is true that you don’t get as much sleep on these nights but what are a few less hours when you have the cutest baby baboon to stare at all night?
You get so incredibly attached to all of the animals at the wildlife sanctuary. You witness new ones coming in because they have been hurt or trapped and you watch the skilled vets on the farm operate efficiently on them to bring them back to safety and to life. You experience the kind of smile you get when you watch a cheetah get released back into the wild and you learn of the happiness a newborn baby meerkat can bring when you are able to give it a name. You get just as attached, if not more so, to the people you are sharing your experience with. You come to realise that there are so many different people in this world and it makes you see how big it is when sometimes it can seem so small. And vice versa.
The focus on the volunteers at the sanctuary is beautiful. The staff are forever thankful for the work that they do. They hold fundraising parties, celebratory occasion parties (such as Halloween or birthdays) and every weekend, they organise an activity. These activities can be anything. When I was there, we spent hours carving and stripping wood to roast marshmallows, fishing in the tranquil pools of the country’s rivers, hiding and dodging in between makeshift obstacles to avoid firing paintballs, hunting for African treasure and rowing with all our might across hidden away lakes in the depths of the Namibian countryside. Every single activity was so much fun. They also hold movie nights and Sundown nights where you walk to the best possible place to witness the sunset. There is an opportunity to visit Windhoek and spend your lunch time in the coolest restaurant I have ever been in.
If I had to say one thing to wrap up my time at the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary, it would be that it taught me how to fly again. You get healed from whatever things you may be going through, or have gone through, when you go there and it provides a place – a sanctuary – where you can learn to live and learn to laugh again. My best and happiest memories are from this country and from this farm. You make friends for life and you make friends that are real and raw – animals and people!
So if you ever feel an overwhelming desire to run away from the place you are in now, know that this little sanctuary in the heart of Namibia will offer you everything you will ever need.
And then some…….”