We were driving in the back of a truck bed, six of us stuffed under blankets and sweatshirts, bundled up with our beanies and gloves, wind whipping our hair as we drove the winding mountain side watching the African sun set behind the snow capped mountains. “Is this a dream?” was all I could think.
The past week that I’ve been living in South Africa has felt like just that: a dream. Whether we’re chumming the water to attract a great white shark to the side of the boat, or squeezing through 27 cm inside a dark cave on our bellies, or witnessing breaching whales from our survey sights, every moment has been a surreal experience that I don’t want to end. The internship days alone make the whole trip worthwhile; however the weekends make up some of the most memorable moments of my African adventure. In just one weekend, we’ve had a night on the town, a beautiful day on the beach, a hike to the lighthouse, a walk through the craft village, a morning of sliding and climbing through a cave, and an afternoon petting tiger cubs and grown cheetahs at a cat park. We are planning a trip to Cape Town and to Durban toward the end of the month, hoping to do some shark dives, a cage dive, and see some natural shark predations.
Never have I become such close friends with a group of individuals so quickly. The bonding experiences are never ending and our common interests in marine life, not to mention long hours together often in close quarters, make the interns become fast friends. We have all stepped out of our comfort zones together, making our connections to each other that much stronger.
Our field specialists have been extremely supportive on a daily basis, encouraging us to try new things and get our hands dirty. They have taught us some of the important details about field work through lectures, training, and hands-on experience. They have also offered an opportunity to those of us interested to get SCUBA certified so that we can participate in the dives during weekend trips at the end of the month.
With only three weeks left of the internship, I can’t help already hoping that this experience would never end. In Mossel Bay, you never know what might happen next, from a car breaking down and a four hour chum trip in a non-stop downpour, to spotting your first great white shark and being eye to eye with a playful tiger cub. You keep thinking to yourself, “am I really doing this?” It’s the pictures at the end of the day that help you realize it really isn’t a dream and these experiences will remain with you for the rest of your life. I could not recommend a better internship to someone who desired to pursue a career in marine field work.