kanchFirst off, let me start by saying South Africa is such a beautiful country. My first two weeks volunteering here has been so memorable. It is like a ‘workcation’ for me. I cannot tell you how awestruck I felt the first time I cage dived and saw great whites face-to-face. Everytime someone yells ‘shaaaark’, so much excitement floods in, I forget how cold it is at sea. I have a newfound respect for these majestic animals. Seeing them in their natural habitat invokes a very zen feeling. You feel one with nature and learn to appreciate and respect it.

By the way, the sea scape is stunning here! Two weeks and I already have a zillion postcard-worthy pictures to show. A particular favourite moment of mine was when we went for a casual dinner at Hermanus. I got down from the car and staring right back at me was this vast ocean flanked by mountains. The sky was tinged purplish-pink from the sunset, and at the same time the moon peaked. It was so surreal, I just stood there trying to imprint the view in my brain. My camera couldn’t even capture half its beauty. There are a lot of live-in-the-moment things here you just have to recall as a wonderful memory.

Going out to sea is always a thrill, as you never know what can happen or what you might see. Fishing for sharks can test your patience, but it is so rewarding when you find a shark down your line. On a particular day, we each caught and tagged a different species of shark. How cool was that ?! I definitely learnt a great deal more about them than I did by watching documentaries. Up till then, I never even heard of some of those benthic sharks. They are so beautiful. The hands-on exposure is something you have to experience for yourself.

I also had the opportunity to go on an excursion with my fellow research mates, maneuvered through seemingly impossible-to-get-through cave spaces and bungee jumped! Check.

Most importantly, the people here are lovely and I quickly settled in. The crew are a wonderful bunch. We have become sort of a family now. By the way Mitch’s braai is the bomb! Second serving is an absolute must I tell you. We also went beer and chocolate & wine pairing that day. Fancy as heck! “When in South Africa, drink wine”.

Looking forward to the remaining two weeks I have here. I know I would go home with a heavy heart.

This experience is something I would cherish for a lifetime. Extremely grateful to get to do this. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience, meeting new people, fostering bonds, learning and trying new things and sharing the same passion for the ocean.

So, thank you Mary, Imke, Mitch, Lalo, the rest of the crew and my fellow volunteer buddies for making this a priceless experience for me.

Kanchana Sreedharan