Seeing South Africa through the eyes of a tourist is a surefire way to fall (back) in love with the beauty of the country… First Impressions is all about capturing that essence – the first thoughts, emotions and impressions of a traveller visiting South Africa for the first time!
Today it’s the turn of Sam Buss – a travel writer on yokomeshi.co.uk. She co-hosts a podcast series with Yoko Meshi called The Wildlife Tourist – which is all about responsible wildlife tourism.
Born and raised in London, United Kingdom, Sam is a Veterinary Nurse. Over the past 4 years her blog has grown to become one of the top UK travel blogs, with a focus on fitting in travel around a full time career.
When did you first visit South Africa?
I first visited South Africa 3 years ago, I flew to Phalaborwa where I spent two weeks volunteering in baboon rehabilitation and exploring the Kruger National Park.
What had you heard about the country before you boarded your flight?
Before visiting so many people told me to ‘be careful’ as South Africa in their eyes was not deemed safe. However, I went regardless as I had dreamed about visiting since I was a small child.
What were you feelings about visiting South Africa before leaving home?
I was nervous, but wonderfully excited. I couldn’t wait to visit parts of a country I had been looking into visiting for so long. I could not wait to see all the beautiful wildlife and meet the wonderful people.
What motivated your first visit to SA?
The Wildlife. As an animal obsessed child, as soon as I heard about the Kruger National Park I was hooked with the idea of going. Obviously I had to wait quite a few years, but I held onto the dream and saved up to make it happen.
How did you feel coming in to land on South African soil?
I remember getting off a tiny plane in Phalaborwa airport, and the airport was so small you literally walked off the plane into the town. My friend and I were so confused! I will always remember the warmth that hit us as we stepped off the plane.
Where did you explore first?
The first place we went to was the Grietje Game Reserve. On our first drive in we saw giraffe and crocodile – for someone who had lived in London her whole life and had only seen these animals in the zoo, I very nearly cried seeing them in the wild.
What were your first impressions – the smell, sound, sights that struck you?
As we were staying in a centre which did baboon rehabilitation so I remember it being noisy! Still to this day remember the smell. A few other people have said it as well, the South African bush has a smell, and it is one that stays with you and brings back incredible memories.
What was an experience you had on your first day
A lot of our first day was spent just settling in, however I remember as we settled down to dinner, one of the people who worked for the centre came saying ‘Have you seen the elephant yet?!’ We excitedly got up to the door and realised they were no more than 20 foot away from where we were, there were around 10 of them grazing on the grass.
What was your trip to South Africa like?
Quite simply – everything I hoped it would be and more. It was the start of a life long addiction with the country.
What was your highlight?
My trip highlight had to be the wildlife. Nothing can beats the feeling of seeing the animals you grew up looking at in books standing in front of you in the wild.
What were your first impressions of the people of the south?
South African people are hilarious, and this is something I still believe now. I have met so many great people on my trips to SA and all of them have a wonderful sense of humour.
What were you feelings about South Africa after your visit?
My constant feelings were ‘When can I go back?!’, going back to being in a very busy city was hard.
Have you returned to visit South Africa – or do you plan to in the future?
I have returned every year since and I am already planning another trip back next year! I am pretty sure it will become an annual thing.
What did you return for?
On my second visit, I went to Port Elizabeth and spent sometime at various reserves in that area, such as Shamwari and the Addo Elephant National Park. On my most recent visit I was invited with a charity called Four Paws to Bethlehem to learn about the cub petting and canned lion hunting industry.
Would you recommend South Africa to your friends and followers?
I do all the time to my friends, family and followers. I am currently trying to convince my parents to make a trip out there as I know they will love it!