Thanks for the checking out the blog for this Global Leadership Adventures program!
This blog is for the South Africa split session starting July 12, 2023, which includes both the 14-day and the 21-day student group.
Here are a few things you can expect:
- We typically receive 2-3 blog posts per week here at GLA Headquarters from our program staff and students, so please don’t be alarmed if you don’t see a blog post daily – that’s totally normal.
- Blog updates sent on weekends may not be posted until Monday.
- Due to many factors, including but not limited to internet accessibility, photos may not always be available to post onto the blog. Sometimes onsite program staff are only able to send text back to Headquarters, where our team updates the blog.
Thank you for your patience and understanding, and we hope you enjoy following along on these unforgettable adventures.
Cell Phone Policy: The GLA cell phone policy is currently in place this summer to help foster meaningful connections between students. This means your student’s phone will be collected every day and returned to them after activities are completed to have with them through the night. Actual tech times and regularity will vary greatly by program location and time zones. During designated ‘tech time’, your student may use their phones as they wish. Please note that your student may not always choose to use this time to get a hold of their parents. If you are not hearing directly from your student each day, you can assume that no news is good news! We strongly recommend you follow the blog to follow your students’ experience without talking to them every day. If you are a parent and would like to get in touch with your student directly, you can call us at +1-619-758-3031 and we can set up a formal time for you to connect with your student.
For frequently asked questions about the blogs, please visit our Program Blog FAQ page.
-The Global Leadership Adventures HQ Team
BLOG POST FOR JULY 12
We were excited to welcome all the students to South Africa today! We are enjoying the cold weather in Johannesburg. We are staying in a beautiful hotel just for tonight and we are excited to head out to Zingela Game reserve tomorrow. We played some games to get to know everyone’s names and we are anxiously waiting the arrival of our last 3 students whose flights have been delayed.
Stay tuned for more exciting updates!
BLOG POST FOR JULY 14
Sawubona from South Africa,
We are now in Zingela. We arrived yesterday after a bumpy bus drive. We settled in our tents and we got to know each other! We woke up to a frosty morning but once the sun came out everything warmed up! Half of us kayaked down Tugela river while the other half went in search of giraffes. In the afternoon we switched activities. Both groups were able to identify the giraffes they encountered – a few groups may even get the chance to name one. When we got back to camp, we were excited to find Olga and Kai waiting for us! We played some games before a delicious dinner and then we headed off scorpion hunting and wild boar feeding. We are excited for tomorrow.
Stay tuned for more updates!
BLOG POST FOR JULY 15
Written by Zoe, Lucy D and Spencer
Today we met up at the main camp and had a delicious breakfast, there was eggs and tomatoes and multitudes of cereals and toast. Once everyone had finished breakfast our counselors gathered us and split us up once again into group 1 and group 2. Group one had to come up with blueprints on building a raft that could support the travel of 8 people. After much deliberation they were able to successfully construct a vessel to float across the Zingela river and carry back fire wood. While they were doing this group 2 went on a nature hike. Our lovely guide Cait led the group to an amazing cliffs where we took plenty of pictures. Then we hiked up to Hippo Hill to track some animals. We found several giraffe on our way and paused to admire them. As the group traveled up the mountain they heard baboons howling and found kudu climbing along the mountains edge. Then we all gathered back to camp around 1:00 pm for lunch. There were tasty burgers, fries, and salad. We are eating very well here.
After lunch the groups switched activities. Both groups found plenty of obstacles along the day and were able to conquer all of them. We then had a very interesting discussion around the fire talking about the different ways to make money on different types of game reserves and how that effected the carbon footprint. All groups (there were 4) shared a lot of good insight. Dinner was ready at 7:00 and once again it was fantastic! Dessert was just as great. Now both groups are going to help with night activities. Group 1 will be feeding the wild pigs all of the past food scraps, and group 2 will be finding scorpions and examining the fluorescent capabilities with a UV light. Like most nights here in Zingela, we end with around the fire with our phones before we head to our tents for the night. Tonight is our last night in Zingela reserve and it will surely be missed.
Stay tuned for more updates!
BLOG POST FOR JULY 17
Written by Nick, Kaveh, and Henry
Today was very eventful for the GLA squad. There were several groups that did various activities. One of which was predator monitoring. This group saw a variety of animals including lions, elephants, giraffes, zebra, and much more. To find the predators, a telemetry system was used. The carnivores are fitted with a collar that was received through a radio and a metal antenna. The closer the animal, the louder the beep from the receiver. Even though this is effective, it’s not a guaranteed animal sighting. Cheetahs and male lions were able to escape our view by hiding in the tall grass.
For another group today was mostly uneventful due to the elephants we were supposed to see to be hiding because they were relocating. Regardless it was fun to be driving around the safari and spotting various different types of animals, including impala, kudu, zebras, and hippos!
Another group had an exciting day! We started the day in the Land Rover and were tasked to be monitoring and identifying predators. We came across lions, impalas, nyalas, black rhinos, antelope, kudos, and even elephants in the distance. It was a great experience to be able to be extremely close to the animals and observed them eating and socializing. The reservationists utilized collars to help track each animal and this way we were able to see a variety of predators. Following the animal sightings, we made our way to a river where we had a picnic with the whole group. Finally, we returned to camp and made friends in our new service groups, got souvenirs, and got ready for dinner and evening activities.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 18
Written by Lucy and Kyle
Everyone in my group had a 7:00 AM wake up call to get ready for breakfast at 7:30AM. Breakfast consisted of oatmeal, bread and fruit. By 8:45AM group was all loaded up into the truck to start their day elephant monitoring. By the time we had found the elephants it had been an hour since we left and they were supper far in the distance surrounded by trees. Despite this we tried to identify one that was visible. Unfortunately we were unable to make much of the images. We later gave up since the elephants showed no sign of coming any closer. Instead we tried to look for some cheetahs since there had been a sighting near by, again we were unable to find anything. We headed back to the tents for some lunch where we had about an hour till lunch at 12:30pm. For lunch we had grilled sandwiches with no meat, only veggies and cheese. After lunch we had some more free time until 2:45pm where we met to rate Rhino art made by kids at local schools. Rating these we extremely hard as only one person from each age would go on a trip in Nambiti so we were technically ruining some kids dreams of seeing Rhinos which we all felt bad about. After that we had some more chill out time (which is when I am writing the blog now at 5:30pm). In one hour we will had dinner, not sure what it is yet but it smells like some sort of barbeque. After dinner we will have a night safari where we all hope to have some better luck with animals.
After a 7am wake-up my group had breakfast and headed out for the first activity of the day. Our first activity was road maintenance to clear bushes and branches from the side of roads to help the reservation keep the roads safe. However on our way to the maintenance location we spotted an elephant but it was a bit hard to see and looked a lot like a rock. We also spotted giraffes, impalas, waterbucks, and more! We attempted to clear 50 meters of bush and after around 2 hours we headed back to camp. After some chill time of card games, naps, and showers, we had lunch in which we made grilled cheese sandwiches with chutney sauce alongside oranges and fruit. For our afternoon activity we planned a skit about our day/what we learned. In the skit we performed a scene where there are some tourists on a game drive and they traverse bumpy roads, greet animals, crash into a tree, and end with a turn of events.
Lucy and Kyle
BLOG POST FOR JULY 19
Written by Kai, Charlie, Emilio, Haylee
After a breakfast of porridge, toast, eggs and more, my group began our day with a predator monitoring session at 745. Right away we saw 2 female lions and 1 male lion, none of which had tracking collars on. After driving around using a radar-which can get signals up to 9 km away-we discovered 2 more female lions which were collared. Then, while searching for one of the 3 cheetahs on the reserve, we discovered a large heard of elephants. After searching a bit more for the cheetahs, we headed back to camp for lunch. Today’s afternoon activity for my group was planning an anti-rhino poaching lesson for the students in the communities around camp. These will be taught to the students later this week.
When we finished our traditional South African Porridge my group got on the safari vehicle and set off to do our Elephant ID. We departed at 8:45. It was a slow start at first only spotting Kudu and impala. After a little bit we noticed another vehicle parked right next to a pond. When we investigated further, there was two hippos getting some early morning sun. After we moved on we sotted a female lion walking away from its feast of a dead wildebeest. When we were done taking pictures our driver got radio message that there were elephants spotted from a lookout. Making our way we met on the lookout with another group. There were 9 visible from the herd of 26. We made our way down and got closer. We couldn’t ID them since they were pretty far away. We could make out that one was a male because of the sharp and big head. Making our way out of the reserve, we spotted a bush pig which our guide has apparently never seen which was cool. It’s also a nocturnal animal so it was pretty rare. Right after that we made our way back to camp.
After a traditional breakfast of South African style Porridge, Toast, and Eggs, my group disembarked on our bush walk safari of the day. We woke up and prepared bright and early at 6:00 and got onto the rover that would take us to our designated drop off spot. After we got out, we walked down the grassy embankment to this quaint creekside quary and learned about several different plants and their medicinal and spiritual uses. Students were also instructed as to which plants could be eaten as well as which ones were poisonous. We also spotted telltale signs of recent Rhino activity in the area and the previous feeding sites of predatory animals such as Lions and Hyenas. After returning from our trek, we boarded the vehicle and witnessed a sleeping pride of female lions. We identified about 3 or 4 of them. We finished the day with a windy ride back to our home base at Nambiti Reserve, filled with beautiful scenery of the South African bush plains.
The day began with a chilled, but much warmer, morning than what we’ve been accustomed to here in Nambiti. We had porridge pap for breakfast and had free time in camp for an hour until it was time to depart for road maintenance out on the reserve. However, our service was delayed due to one of the land rovers breaking down which required the assistance of our guide along with some others. During this hiatus we filled our time with song and gossip from back home. We also had a beautiful view of the surrounding landscape accompanied by a lone white rhino basking in the sunshine on the hillside.
With the car fixed and our spirits brightened we went on to the overgrown area of the road. Our guide handed out tools and we got to work, which lasted for about an hour. Our progress was hard earned and noticeable compared to the rest of the road. We were working against acacia trees so their natural spikes posed as a big challenge but we were all satisfied with the work that we had completed. Most of us had the scratches and pricks as a reminder of our workload but nonetheless we returned to camp with an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment. On our way back we saw wildebeest rolling in the dirt which we learned was to get the parasites out of its fur. We also observed a rock hyrax which is a rodent that resembles a small groundhog but is actually very closely related to an elephant of all things.
We then had some pasta for lunch which was followed by free time in camp. People played games, read books, and got rest. After our rest time we headed back out for our bush walk. We learned how to recognize the dung of Zebra, Elephant, Impala, Rhino, and Porcupine. After about 1.8 kilometers of walking we came across four, fully grown, male, Cape buffalo. They are called Daggaboys by the guides since they aren’t with a full heard by choice. Afterwards we found the car and headed back home for some dinner and a skit before bed. We were also treated to a very rousing presentation by a Zulu man named Richard (which isn’t his real name but it’s what he came up with for foreigners since they couldn’t pronounce his Zulu name) who covered his views on Rhino poaching and why he created his Rhino art project that the local children participate in. Not to mention our delicious dessert of Malvo putting. All in all, it was an amazing day.
Kai, Charlie, Emilio, Haylee
BLOG POST FOR JULY 21
Written by Jordon and Wesley S.
The last two days we spent them in the local community.
Our first day started with a very frigid morning as it is currently the coldest day of our trip so far. We were able to sleep in a bit before heading to breakfast which was scrambled eggs with bacon and toast. After breakfast we headed to the local school where the winners of the rhino art were announced and handed their prizes. We then proceeded to spend 3 hours there dancing, playing games, and sharing laughs and beautiful memories. They showed us their cultural music and dance moves providing us all a place of comfort and welcoming. After saying a very difficult goodbye to all the kids we came back to the Nambiti campsite for a much needed hot meal for lunch after a morning filled with excitement and activity. Lunch today was incredible as it was butternut squash soup with traditional Vetkoek and two other assorted breads perfect to comfort all the campers during this dreary and cold afternoon. We then had an hour of down time before doing a team building exercise which helped with communication, ways to strategize, and teamwork.
After the activity we watched a TED talk where Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie spoke about stereotypes and the definition of a “single story”. We then went on another 30 minute break before Richard spoke about the culture of the Zulu people. After a conversation with Richard we headed to dinner where we had spaghetti and ground beef with a side of sweet and sour sauce. Some of you may be wondering “hmmm that’s an interesting combination” but trust me they very much complement one another. After dinner we had our breakout sessions where we played ice breakers and had a fun time with our small group. We then had a dance party in the main tent where we played all our favorite types of music. And now we are off to bed after a day of music, dance, laughter, learning opportunities, and some amazing memories we continue our days with GLA.
On the second day we woke up at an average time around 7:30 when the weather was still cold but had settled down from yesterday. We ate some scrambled eggs with toast. We then headed to a local school to give out prizes for the drawings. After that we went to a school for younger children where we played with them on the playground. Then we headed to a nice local shop with food which had chickens and cute little cats. We headed down the road where we found this nice homey place with handmade hats and a good cuisine lunch which had mashed potatoes beans porridge and sweet potatoes slices. We headed across the street where we played soccer match with a local team and the score ended up being 3-4. After that we headed back, had our break time then had a good mac and cheese with onion and mushroom dinner which would be tasty for all eaters. We finished it with watching a movie and headed off to bed with a fast fulfilled day.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 23
Written by Kylie, Finlay, Ela
Today my group was assigned the task of elephant IDs. Early on the drive we saw two baby hippos. Throughout the drive this morning we saw multiple nyala, which was exciting because they are usually more elusive than other antelope species. Our field guide, John, found a wildebeest skull, and stopped the vehicle to let us all take turns holding it. Later on we were having trouble locating elephants, so we drove to high up vantage points to see if we could spot any. We couldn’t spot any from either of the points, but we did see a tower of 8 giraffes. John took us on new paths and roads that we had not yet been on trying to find an elephant. Ultimately, we did not see any living ones, but John took us to see a 3-4 month old elephant carcass. This afternoon, Cait took my group to learn about tracking and signing. On the walk we saw tracks of a springbok, red hartebeest, and giraffe, and Cait also taught us about multiple other animals in our area. For the walk back to camp, we took turns leading the group by following animals paths made in the tall grasses.
Compared to other days today was quite warm. After a tasty breakfast our group departed on predator ID kits. While looking for the lions and cheetahs we passed several wildebeests, zebra, and nylala. We eventually found a sub adult male lion poking his head out in a grassy field. After that we went looking for the other pride. We couldn’t find any other predators but we saw an elephant which was pretty cool. Our driver Toro was amazing because he was not afraid to step on the gas during bumpy parts of the road, which made the ride even more exciting. After lunch we went on a anti poaching walk where we learned several tactics the rangers use to patrol the fields. One of them, Stone, was apparently a legend among other patrol groups so it was pretty cool walking with him as he taught us tips.
My group’s task today was reserve maintenance. We took a short drive to the first stop where we cleared up some branches and acacia trees that were falling into the road and making driving difficult.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 24
Written by Spencer
Today, in Group Numero Two, the adventurous leaders of GLA waded further in the waters of exploration. As the day began, the young pioneers woke up and were greeted with a mouth-watering breakfast of french toast and bacon. This energizing meal fueled the students through the day’s first activity: Game Drive. On the Game Drive, Group Two was given the opportunity to drive around the Nambiti Game Reserve and try and spot any wildlife they could find. The future leaders saw several unique species of animals such as wildebeest, kudu, and impala. The highlight of the expedition was getting close contact with a group of two elephants as they crossed the road behind the game viewer. After the enchanting experience with the gentle elephant giants, Group Two embarked on an unfortunately unsuccessful search for one of the most elusive of South Africa’s predatory cats: the cheetah. While no cheetahs were found, the search was a fun challenge for the group as they navigated the rugged terrain that the savannah offered. Returning to camp, the explorers found a delicious lunch of venison sausages made from kudu. After a period of free time, Group Two embarked once again, alongside their comrades from Group One. The task this time was to use the tracking collars called telemetry. In the activity, a reserve worker hid a collar in the wild bush, and the students were tasked with using the telemetry equipment to locate and uncover the collar. After a long trek, the combined efforts of the two groups were able to discover the location of the collar. The victorious groups returned to the base camp, and were tasked with cleaning and packing up their tents and common areas, as this would be the last day on the Nambiti Game Reserve. As a fourteen day student, this was not just my last day at Nambiti, but also my last on this trip.
When I first applied for this trip to South Africa, I had no idea that it would change my life and perception of the world as much as I now see it has. Through this journey, I have been introduced to people, wildlife, scenery, and cultures that never would have gotten the chance to experience if not for this trip. From observing the giraffes at Zingela Game Reserve, to seeing mighty lions at Nambiti, to playing soccer (football) with a local team in the community, the GLA South Africa trip has been a never ending joy to be a part of. I have come into contact with so many incredible individuals from across the world, and done so many unique activities unavailable at home in the United States. Coming from a small town in Pennsylvania, I had never seen a wild rhino or giraffe or elephant or lion, and had never truly understood how incredibly special they are. Now after seeing these incredible creatures firsthand in a real, authentic, and wild environment, I have a much greater understanding of how amazing they are, and why it is essential to preserve them. Furthermore, I was also introduced to new people, culture, and ideas on this trip. Getting a firsthand look into the Zulu community and culture was a fascinating and exciting look into a world foreign to me. Visiting the Zulu schools and playing with the children was a highlight of the trip, and seeing the joy on all the kids’ faces was an incredible feeling.
The past fourteen days have been a truly life-changing adventure. Every element has been a surprise, and every obstacle was a fun and interesting challenge to overcome. I am so incredibly thankful that I am in such a position that I am able to have these experiences, and the lessons, sights, and people that I was introduced to on this trip will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Sala Kahle (Goodbye),
Tomorrow the student will say goodbye as the 21 day students head off to Bonamanzi and St. Lucia in search of new adventures
BLOG POST FOR JULY 26
Written by Loren
Hello! Today we woke up to some delicious pancakes for breakfast, they were amazing. We are all still getting used to the new, smaller group, and missing our friends from the last two weeks. My group went on the boat tour. It started out nice and peaceful, and we were taught about snare traps for hippos as well as nets the poachers use to catch fish. We actually found a huge snare on the river bank tied around a tree that was there to poach hippos. We also found a net that was placed from one river bank to the other. After going around for a while, looking for more traps to take down, the motor stopped working cause the net was caught in it. We tried for a while to fix it, but did not have much luck, so we called others at the reserve for some help. While waiting, we had a little poisonous frog hop into the boat, which was cool to see up close. The motor eventually worked and we made it back. Once at the reserve we had time to chill out until lunch. We had some pasta, pineapple, and banana bread. After lunch, we began our second activity of the day, which was a bush walk to find snare traps. We found 4!!! Some people had a hard time not getting stabbed by thorns, but it was still very enjoyable, and awesome to see into what the jobs and obstacles people have to face on a daily basis. When we got back, we just hung out and talked until dinner, I’m looking forward to tonight’s food and night activity!
BLOG POST FOR JULY 28
Written by Ellie and Ady
Today we had a packed breakfast of pbj sandwiches and fruit. We went whale watching on boat and got splashed by the waves. We saw lots and lots of humpback whales. Once we came back to the hotel, we walked to a laundromat and then got smoothies. After free time, we had grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch and then left for a beach cleanup. At the beach, we collected a bunch of trash and then went to the shops nearby to get some bracelets and necklaces. We saw lots of monkeys there! After that we went back to the hotel changed our sandy clothes and left to the town, which was very fun. We went to shops picked up some fruits and snacks. Then had dinner and had some mentor group activities.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 30
Written by Aidan
As we approach our last days in South Africa, we want to enjoy every last bit of the time we have left. Today I will recount how my group helped clear out a part of the crocodile center and went shopping at the markets in St. Lucia.
The day started with my group going to the crocodile center where we helped clear some paths between enclosures. We used a myriad of tools including saws, machetes, bushwhackers, and rakes to cut down vine trees and clear overgrown grass. All our work culminated to my group cutting down and clearing a monumentally large tree. After that our group pilled back in the van to go back to base. After lunch our whole group went to the boardwalk to shop, we browsed around to see beautiful paintings, masterfully carved statues, and ornate masks. I know I personally bought more than I should have but it was rather fun to haggle with the locals.
We then walked along the boardwalk and beach to see if we could find any sharks or other wildlife. When we finished walking down boardwalk we drove to the local market where we could buy pineapples, bowls, and other locally made items. As of writing this Wesley holds the record for buying pineapples at 15 which I find hard to beat. As of now we have returned for dinner and our nightly activities. As a personal note I cannot wait to see what tomorrow holds.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 31
Written by Loren
This morning, we woke up around 8:00 for breakfast at 8:30; it was eggs and some toast. We then separated into our groups to fit into the game viewers, and drove towards a safari. We saw amazing animals including Buffalo, warthog, zebra, and even more in the other groups. Although it is the twenty first day that we have the privilege to see these wild animals in their natural, free-range environment, it seems impossible to get used to. To watch them interact with one another, with us, to eat, drink water, and go through their everyday life, its incomprehensible how truly lucky we are to get this opportunity. The safari ended at the beach, we all walked onto it, to see the amazing ocean. The water was too rough to snorkel, but we all easily managed to make the most of it, some of us swimming, tanning, me personally, I went on a run. How crazy is that? I casually ran on the beach of South Africa.
We ate lunch in an area just off the beach, it was a barbeque, as well as our last lunch together. After enjoying the amazing food, we got back on our game viewers and headed back towards our hotel. We were presented with the option to either go into town, or chill out at the hotel, Most chose to head into town. We walked around the local markets, stores, and Main Street. It may not be the beach, but it is still so important to see the culture, and a gift to interact with the locals.
We then headed back to the hotel to do an activity. This activity was by far, the most memorable, and touching one. We sat in a room side by side, while listening to a summary of our whole trip, the same itinerary I read before this trip, that filled me with nerves and excitement, now is touching me with emotion and meaning. In the middle of all of us, lied a stick, a leaf, and a rock. The stick stood for something that will stick with you, the leaf standing for something you’d like to leave behind, and the rock, standing for something that rocked. We went around saying our personal answers. Mine: Something that will stick with me is the realization that I can be away from my family and live my life, without feeling absent in their lives. My leaf was the nose bleeds (caused by the dry climate), not getting another one would be nice. My rock, was seeing the children at the school, being able to connect with them. This activity was emotional, and I think it meant a lot to everyone, just like this trip has.
After this, we took a survey for GLA. One question was, “what is your One Meaningful Goal?” This question means a lot to me, because every time I have answered this, I felt like I was putting a temporary answer, not my true one. This time I put my real one, “I aim to get to know myself better, and become more confident and secure in myself, in order to gain the courage to truly live my future.” It is simple, but completely true. After the survey, we had an amazing dinner, and will do one more activity tonight. This group of people made an impact on me, and each other, the experiences we gained, whether it’s the activities, or connections we made, or even being away from home, will stick with every one of us forever.