Worldwide conservation work: Europe - Africa - Asia.
My story is going to be a long one.. I want to give as much as an insightful look in to what your money could contribute to, instead of just being like "help me I'm poor..". So I do hope you have the patience to read it all & I'm most grateful for those that do.
My passions are animals, the natural world & photographing the worlds beauty. Back in September 2015 my dream came true in that I had the privilege to work amongst some of the worlds most beautiful (although temperamental) animals at Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand. I currently have a small scar on my forearm from a Gibbon who scratched me, then proceeded to piss on me.. But that scar is my most treasured possession. I was surrounded by an abundance of elephants, primates, bears, birds & domesticated animals such as dogs, all with their own unique wonderful personalities - I was in my element. Most animals, especially the elephants, had been rescued from either the elephant tourist trekking industry, begging on busy streets of crowded cities or logging. It's deeply saddening & emotionally torturous what elephants have to go through in order for people to ride them. They are put through a process called the Phajaan (English translate is "breaking the spirit"), where they are essentially tortured when they are only babies. Ripped from their mothers & witnessing their murder at a young age, they are raised to live a life of constant fear, pain & submissiveness. All for the pleasure of tourists who want a photo sat on an elephants back.
The physical damage endured by these animals is an image that will forever be imprinted in my mind. Spines are completely misshapen, causing excruciating pain later in old age. All of the animals had their stories from where they had come from, but my heart glistened with the knowledge they were in safe hands & were surrounded by people who loved them.
I currently work as a waitress, as I have been doing for the past four years. I work long shifts, sometimes even two jobs in order to save to fund my travels & be completely independent financially but it's hard work & physically draining. I love exercise & I find fitting time to go to the gym & to go climbing extremely difficult when working two jobs/shifts. I'm desperate to leave the hospitality industry, even more so recently after being referred to as "just a waitress". It's a terrible industry & I hate that waiting staff are so looked down upon. I'm sure many people on this site share this problem & my heart really does go out to you.
The main purpose of this trip is to gain more experience in wildlife conservation in hope that one day I can make a career out of it, as well as taking the time to learn more about some of our planets most critically endangered species & how it came to be this way. I dream of waking up in the morning & feeling excited for work! That I'll get watch as animals are released into the wild or wake up with an elephant just round the corner from my house & sounds of Gibbons singing. What I came to discover through doing conservation work is that there are so many job opportunities in conservation that might not always require studying/a degree.. Which is good because I don't have that. I'd love to gain a bit more experience in conservation to widen my knowledge of a wider variety of animals & sea life & actually feel like I'm making a contribution to the world that desperately needs our help. The world is incredibly overpopulated & as a result has wiped out over 50% of species & has put a tremendous amount of strain on our oceans. One thing I noticed nearly everywhere in Asia was the amount of litter thrown into the ocean & it turned my stomach to think what that was doing to our sea life. The more I tell people about it, the more I wish I'd actually taken photos of that, rather than just the pretty landscapes everyone likes to see.. The reality of it doesn't exist until you're there, up to your neck in crisp packets, empty Coca-Cola bottles & plastic bags..
So while in the Gili Islands, Indonesia, I got speaking to a few Marine Biologists & I loved listening to all the work & studies they'd done. I ranted at them how much seeing the sea like that had upset me & I felt so much more at ease when they said it too.. I was beginning to think no one cared. It was them who suggested, if I wanted to understand more about the effect we're having on our oceans, to do a marine conservation project. So I researched some, only to find a really good one in the Philippines which I set my heart on!
So now, the trip itself...
What I've planned to do as of April 2017 is treat myself to two months exploring Iceland/Europe. I've gathered a few friends to buy a second hand car together in Estonia & drive down through Europe for two months, camping along the way (with the exception of a few luxury nights in hostels to shower & feel more human!). After Europe I'd love to head down to Africa for a few weeks to do a small Kilimanjaro trek, visit friends & volunteer at the David Sheldrick Trust's Nursery for baby Elephants who have been orphaned (90% of orphans are due to poaching - where their mothers have been killed for their Ivory). The David Sheldrick Trust are a really wonderful conservation project & people should definitely check out their work!
Then the plan is to head over to Asia where I will begin in Nepal, explore a bit there as it has always been somewhere I've longed to visit. With the animals being so well camouflaged, the likelihood I'd get to see wild Snow Leopard is somewhat slim.. But with some more research into where the best place would be to see them, I'd love to be able to see one in their natural habitat.
Then after Nepal fly to Bhutan, which is the worlds greenest country!! For the Kings birthday recently, instead of throwing a huge festival of celebrations, the country united in planting trees together.. I just loved this.. After Bhutan my plan is to fly to Thailand & make my way to Koh Tao to begin my advanced diving course. The purpose of me doing the diving course is to gain experience in diving before heading to the Philippines to do a one month marine conservation project. Although they are able to teach you to dive at this project, I'd feel a lot more comfortable having learnt prior to the project as it is just a technical sport with a lot of potential for disaster. Conservation includes beach clean ups, reef restoration & researching the effects of over-fishing, pollution & rising sea levels. Also while in Thailand back in 2015 I visited Koh Lanta & volunteered at Koh Lanta Animal Shelter for a day walking the dogs which was incredible! It was so amazing to see that someone had recognised the problem of stray domesticated animals such as dogs & cats. Animals there are rehomed all over the world which I find extremely admirable! Volunteering here is extremely cheap & I figured I'd try it for a fortnight/month. Also Koh Lanta was definitely one of my favourite destinations & I was lucky enough to see some Wild Dusty Langurs on Lanta!
After the conservation project in the Philippines the dream is to head to Borneo to do some conservation work with Orangutans & visit several sanctuaries which are home to some of the world's most endangered species, such as Orangutans, Sumatran Rhinos & various other types of Primates, who's habitats are threatened by the Palm Oil trade. I've double checked that all the sanctuaries are legitimate sanctuaries & not just labelled "sanctuary" when in fact they can be some of the cruelest places for an animal to live in. After Borneo I'd like to head over to Sri Lanka as it is home to some of the most incredible wildlife in the world, not to mention sea life. Sri Lanka is one of the very few places in the world where people have the opportunity to dive with Blue Whales.
Finally, my last stop is going to be Australia. I visited Australia Dec 2015 - January 2016 & I fell in love. I'm looking into applying for my working visa & returning there for as long as possible.
The money in which I'm asking for is money to cover the cost of total cost of my flights & an advanced PADI diving course situated in Koh Tao, Thailand. A rough estimate of the flights was £1600, but that has potential to change if/when I decide to book them & the diving course is nearly £400. This donation would mean that I wouldn't have to get a second job in the few months leading up to when I'd be due to leave, which gives me time to maintain my exercise & also the time to work on my photography! Obviously I will cover the cost of all other expenses such as accommodation, conservation projects & spending money. I just need that little bit of help for my flights!
Naturally if there is anyone out there who shares all these interests or would like to meet up at any stage, please don't hesitate to message me for a chat! I love chatting to new people :-) Anyone who shares a love of preserving our planets creatures is already a friend of mine!
I do hope you've enjoyed reading & I've maybe made you aware of something you weren't before, like the elephant trekking.
Thank you :-)