Benjamin Westlake


Find Your Footsteps

About Me

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Blog 021 - Year 9 Watersports
11th June 2016

The past week I have been to the South of France with Beaufort Co-operative Academy's Year 9 Students.

Checkout the video below from the trip:

Blog 020 - Skydiving
14th May 2016

Today I had my very first sky dive!
Skydiving is something I have always wanted to do! and when I was given the opportunity I jumped straight at it! (Excuse the pun).
In the van travelling down as the time gets on I can feel myself getting more and more nervous, I love the feeling of adrenaline but this is something different.
Pulling up and meeting with everyone I really dont know how I feel.
Signed my life away and all ready to go!

Outside the hangar is a big board with your name on it and the time of your jump... Trust it to be me who is last on this list.
I think I was waiting around for a good hour or two but it was now time for me to get ready and in the harness. There was just one jump in front of me now, they were all students doing their final jump until they were qualified.
Seeing them come in one by one, this final lad you can see something has gone wrong... The instructors on the ground are looking worried and start shouting at him to lift his legs up...
I dont think that he could hear them, barely missing the cars in the car park he then crash lands feet first into the toilet block, everyone goes running towards him..
At this moment I am thinking great, that could be me in a minute.
We are then told it is our turn to go.
Heading over to the aircraft you can hear sirens in the distance.

I am first in as I am last to jump, one of the other people jumping look extremely nervous, im not feeling that bad.
And we are off, in a tiny little plane, gradually climbing higher and higher.

At 10,500 feet, I am nudged towards the open door.
Standing at the edge of the door and looking out at the vast openness below, I have no other option but to trust who I am strapped to.
There was nothing just the wind on my face and the noise of the air.
I looked out upon that beautiful earth and was surprised to feel complete peace within myself.
In that moment, I owned the world.
I could feel the cool air on my face with the speed of more than 200 mph as if it was welcoming me. However I only remembered the instruction cross arms, knees bend and forgot head back.

All of a sudden I am blind, the wind hit my eyes and my goggles are filled with water. All I can see is a blur.
60 seconds later, the parachute is pulled and I found myself peacefully floating towards the drop zone. He asked me if I wanted some spins on the parachute, I said hell yeah!
He grabbed my hands and put them in the controls, very easy just pull one arm down and you go that way.
The parachute ride down took around 7 minutes and the landing was incredibly soft.
Wow, this experience was nothing like I had imagined. It was one of the best moments of my life which I couldn’t express in words!

Check out Sky Dive London on the link below:

Blog 019 - South Africa Overview
10th March 2016

What an experience!
Unfortunatly i ran out of time to cary on with the blog so i thought i would do an overview experience of my time in South Africa at Glen Afric with Volunteer Southern Africa.

I am currently getting loads of facebook messages from prossible future volunteers for Volunteer Southern Africas project, Living with Big Cats
A few of the main things that i am asked is, "Would you recommend the project?", "is it repitable?" or "Would you go back?", the answer to all of those questions is YES!! 100% would i recommend it. Unfortunatly my time is over and i am absolutly gutted.
It is time to go back to reality but one day i will return.

Blog 018 - Volunteering in Paradise - Day 17 (Extension)
2nd March 2016

Most of the day today we have been working, Starting off in the Elephant house then after breakfast moving too the big cat enclosures, collecting the grass that had been cut, Volunteering at Glen Afric you don’t just always work and interact with the animals.
A lot of the time you are working on the farm, this could be as simple as collecting weeds, collecting animal poo / bones, injecting / removing ticks from the animals, etc the list goes on TIA? (This is Africa)
After a hard days work we venture down to the mud pool, this time was a little let violent than last time, however it was still a lot of fun!

Check back tomorrow!

Blog 017 - Big Cats Interaction!!!
1st March 2016

This morning we had another opportunity to work with the three Lionesses in the training camp, Very similar to what we did with the Tiger cubs and also the Lionesses last time, However these animals each time can have completely different personalities! Today was no exception, one of the Lionesses seamed to have so much energy, however she tired quite quickly. Lions compared to tigers can be very stupid, Lions follow the meat stick always thinking that there is meat on the end but Tigers will only follow it if they can see the food!

After lunch and a bit of work we went on a game drive around the farm, felt like such a tourist at this point, eagle eyes looking for the different animals.
Learnt at this point that Giraffes chew their food and regurgitate it and then chew some more then do the same again 3-4 more times.... Lovely

Check back tomorrow!

Blog 016 - Volunteering in Paradise - Day 15 (Extension)
29th February 2016

Today we awoke very early! 0425 to be precise..

Walked up to the lodge with just the light from the moon and stars to guide us. Our pickup was already in the car park waiting for us. We drove for about 15 minutes and we arrived at a house type building with a balcony overlooking a large field.. In the middle of this field was this morning’s activity...
A Hot Air Balloon.
Although at this time it didn’t look like a balloon, more like a collapsed tent lying on the floor, our captain was already there, he gave us some muffins to please our appetites before we were to set off.
As the sun arose over the surrounding valleys we walked over to the balloon (which now looked like one), we climbed into the basket and we were off!
A couple of test landings so we were aware of what to expect later on in the flight.
We were up in the air for well over an hour, it was so peaceful up there, and it didn’t feel like we were in a moving vehicle. It felt like everything else was moving below our feet.
Unfortunately the balloon ride was coming to an end we were descending.
Yes we may of hit a tree on the way down but it didn’t feel like we had at all!
Once we climbed out of the basket our pilot announced that we were his 500th hour flight, he opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate with all of us!

We were then whisked back to the house type building and were told it was time for breakfast. (We didn’t expect this part!)
The staff must of thought that we hadn’t eaten in a lifetime!

Check back tomorrow!

Blog 015 - Volunteering in Paradise - Day 14
28th February 2016

With it being Sunday today it is our free day, we can do what we want.

Unfortunately today is my final day..... Or is it.

Earlier in the week i managed to change my flights to 9 days later and extend my stay at Glen Afric with Volunteer Southern Africa. I now am scheduled to leave on Tuesday the 8th March 2016.

In the Afternoon a couple of us arranged to go Quad Biking! Only a 15 minute drive from the farm, we had an hours worth of fun on these bikes, driving on a dirt path through what seamed to be the mountains (they were probably hills). Some steep climbs but it was worth it!

Check back tomorrow!

Blog 014 - Volunteering in Paradise - Day 13
27th February 2016

Today we had the opportunity to go onto the Game Call and Feed, this involved us getting into the big truck, Bex and Marco had a massive bag of animal feed, they started to call the animals and surprisingly they all came running. It started off with a few then all seamed to be in a massive stampede!

In the afternoon we went too the shooting range with Glen Africs 'Anti Poaching Team' here we were given a brief talk about the history of weapons, an explanation on how to handle the different guns and then also a safety talk. One thing that I have come away with from this talk is that guns are not actually dangerous it is the people holding them!
After these talks we were allowed to fire the guns, we started off with the rifles. We fired from a range of distances away from the targets, surprisingly the closer you are with the rifle the harder it is to get on target! Then we moved onto the handguns, and then finally the shotgun!

Check back tomorrow!

Blog 013 - Volunteering in Paradise - Day 12
26th February 2016

This morning I went on my second Elephant walk at Glen Afric.
We arrived at the Elephant house, cameras in our hands smiles on our faces at 0650.
The Elephant handlers came out of their accommodation unlocked the chains on the gates for each Elephant. Using their trunks the elephants opened the gates for them selves! Such gentle giants but on the other hand such powerful creatures!
We walked from the Elephant across the bridge then just following behind the elephants, they know where the want to go! as they say an Elephant never forgets!
Arriving at the gate on the edge of the farm the Elephants just stand and wait, they know their routine. Once through the gate the Elephants take a right and go straight for the trees.
It is amazing to think and whiteness these creatures they can just go wherever they want with minimal effort. They just casually walk through the trees where as us humans are struggling to follow their footsteps.

In the afternoon we attended the Children’s Orphanage with Zoi. This children’s orphanage is ran by Milly, she has now 20 children in her care. In south Africa the government only support up to 6 children in care however social services keep bringing more too her.
We got a guide tour by the children, they seamed to be so happy and proud of where they are, all of these children go to school and have a safe home, however this home is currently rented, and being in South Africa the owners could just turn around one day and ask Milly and the children to move out at an instant.

Check back tomorrow!

Blog 012 - Volunteering in Paradise - Day 11
25th February 2016

Excursion Day

Each Thursday is an Excursion Day at Glen Afric for the volunteers. Each week you will go to a different place.
Today we went to Croc City.

We started off the morning as usual in the Elephant house, then after breakfast we got our bags and set off in the mini bus for about a 25 minute drive.
Arriving at Croc City it was an already warm 28'c, the sun was high and bright in the sky, walking through the gift shop we met our guide, he took us too the first area where he got out a Monitor Lizard, a baby crocodile, a baby turtle and a couple of snakes. These animals especially the snakes are not what you think they feel like, the snakes scales are smooth almost like it is just a layer of skin like other mammals, when you would expect them to be flaky and scaly.
He then took us outside to show us the bigger crocodiles and alligators although there were many babies in the enclosure too.

After lunch we go back onto the minibus, the sky went dark and the heavens opened, it was tipping it down! Joseph our driver even had to stop as he could not see!

Check out Croc City if you are ever near Johannesburg:

Check back tomorrow!

Blog 011 - Volunteering in Paradise - Day 10
24th February 2016

Animal Interaction Day!!

Today afterwards cleaning the elephant house as we normally do each morning, as we left quarantine we were unaware of which animal / animals we were to be working with!... we all jumped into the truck,
Richard reversed up to the trailer and off we set, left towards the two male lions, passing them. Passing the two tigers and towards the Tiger cubs, could it be?..
Yes it is the two Tiger cubs, Pi and Jasmine.
Arriving at the training camp we all jumped out, left our stuff in the shade and entered the camp with out cameras and smiles.
The training camp is an area for the big cats to be exorcised, some people may think that it looks like a circus act, however it is far from that!
With animals living in captivity and being unable to be released into the wild they need to be exercised, even if this means encouraging them with meat.
We each had our protection stick, and one by one we lead a Tiger around the training area, jumping on and then down or across boxes to help keep these animals active.

Check back tomorrow!

Blog 010 - Volunteering in Paradise - Day 09
23rd February 2016

One of the most exiting things about this trip working with the animals, but this time.... The Lion Walk, we awoke ready for today, walking out of quarantine, ready with our cameras and most importantly our smiles! Walked over too the three sisters (Lionesses), trailer ready and they were loaded up, jumping one at a time into the trailer.
We all jumped into the back of the truck, drove for about 5-10 minutes and too a stop.
One Lioness comes out the back of the trailer (Video to be uploaded to Instagram in the next couple of weeks), all three would be too dangerous.
Rushing past our legs and she seams just like a gigantic house cat. one at a time you are allowed to walk upto her and give her a stroke, she even allows you to hold her tail whilst walking!!!

We walked about 2-3km with her until we arrived at a rock, she walked around the rock then climbed onto the top, and we are also able to take photos at this point!

I never though that I would ever have the opportunity to walk with such an amazing creature!!

Check back tomorrow!

Blog 009 - Volunteering in Paradise - Day 08
22nd February 2016

Poo Monday…

Every Monday is the day to go into all of the big cat enclosures and clean up the poo and all of the animal bones that the big cats have eaten over the past week..

Starting off in the morning with the elephants as usual cleaning and washing down the floor, elephant food also arrived at this time, one bag at a time into the storage area.

Starting off in the morning with the elephants as usual cleaning and washing down the floor, elephant food also arrived at this time, one bag at a time into the storage area.

After breakfast we started off in the cheetahs, three girls, big four and the tigers enclosures. Two wheelbarrows, one for bones one for poo. Also we had to wash out the water baths for all of these cats, nice time to sit down in the cold water as we are empting it…

After lunch we had to do the poo trailer…. Still haven’t beaten the record that was set. Was covered from head to toe in the animal poo, which luckily is just hay and grass.

Final thing for today was the feed of the animals, not as much meat as usual as we are awaiting a delivery, and the three lionesses get less food as they ‘may’ be taken out on the lion walk tomorrow morning (yet to be confirmed).

Still having an absolutely amazing time here, I would one 100% recommend this project to anyone who is interested!

Thank you for reading, I will be back tomorrow with more details of this trip! :)

Blog 008 - Volunteering in Paradise - Day 06
27th September 2017

Another Animal Interaction Day Ahead

Started off in the morning we are cleaning out the elephants as we have been doing for the past couple of days, Sam comes over too us and tells us to stop as she has a surprise for us… These surprises keep on coming and they are all equally awesome as each other!
We are told to grab a stick from the bucket, this can only mean one thing… Big Cat interaction, we are split into three, we follow Sam to the three Lionesses enclosure, one group and a time enters the enclosure are we can pet one of the lions. Such soft fur and such massive animals! This was yet another awesome surprise!

After breakfast we are off to work, grabbing some wood from the wood store and we have a challenge to make a new area for the guinea pigs, one team cleans up the area and the other has to build some shelter / activities for the animals. Quick break for lunch then back to work, we made a hutch for them others made a tunnel.

For this evening we went to the same place we had our campfire at, projector was setup, pizza to eat and watching deadpool, quiet chilled way to end the day!

Goodbye for now, check back Monday as Sunday is chill day!

Blog 007 - Volunteering in Paradise - Day 05
19th February 2016

Today was one of the best days of my life!

That is a strong statement to make but today I would say has been!
Early start up at 0630 at the elephant enclosure for 0645, Zebras and Donkeys surrounding us, even the friendly one called Jack, such an amazing animal like all of them and so friendly! Two guys whom look after the elephants come over, open the doors with the elephants helping them do so, and off they go.
I have never been this close to an elephant before, and her is such a suited place for them, they have free roam and they can go wherever they wish! Three elephants in total all female, one is mum the other is daughter and the other was adopted by the reserve.
The Elephants lead us far away from their enclosure, even if that means through the trees and bushes they have eaten / walked through.
They are such calm and majestic animals we could even walk beside or in front of them with no problems, so many photos taken on this morning!

We arrive back at quarantine after that amazing experience and the day is only yet to get better!

Bring your cameras and your smiles is the thing you look forward to being told!
Walking through the gates we are told to jump into the back of the truck, attached to this truck are the three lionesses! Exciting times are ahead!
We arrive at the animal training area, leave are bags and water outside and enter the area, the truck reverses up and one lion is allowed out!
Bainet takes her around the course and then one by one we get to take them around, my first time was quite nerve racking knowing that at any moment the lioness could do anything she wanted and i would be helpless.
Bainet takes her around the course and then one by one we get to take them around, my first time was quite nerve racking knowing that at any moment the lioness could do anything she wanted and i would be helpless.
Second time I had less nerves and got her around the full course, as these animals get tired easily we only got to go round twice. But WOW what an experience I will never forget.

We arrive back and are told to keep our cameras on us, Big Cat Feed! Got too the first enclose and meat is thrown over the fence for the Lions, I went for it this time, and helped feed a few of the Big Cats, hands and clothes are now covered in blood, but it was worth it!

I am off now, stay tuned for tomorrow!

Blog 006 - Volunteering in Paradise - Day 04
18th February 2016

Excursion Day!
It is defiantly getting hotter! Today we were supposed to have highs of 36'C and boy did it reach that!

After last night a few of us are feeling a little bit worst for ware... but we must get on with our morning duties, word of advice, don’t drink too much the night before knowing that you have to clean up elephant poo in the morning... it really doesn’t feel good!
After a cooked breakfast which was very much needed we are off for the weeks excursion... A Monkey Sanctuary and the Cable Car..

Monkey Sanctuary : We are told we have to wait in the gift shop / cafe area for about half an hour, we all grab a chair, others grab a coffee, our guide Lewis arrives and gets a couple of photos of our group stood in front of a plastic monkey. We enter through a double gated area, and its just so peaceful and tranquil, tropical trees all around the place and just a wooden planked path too follow. These monkeys are lucky for this home! a lot of the Monkeys in this sanctuary have been rescued and rehomed from people having them as pets to people training them to pick pocket others, why cant those people realise that they are wild animals and should not be kept as pets.
Wondering around the Sanctuary we see loads of the different Monkeys one even grabbed my finger when I was holding my hand towards it! Such a lovely animal and can see that we as humans are very similar too them!

Cable Car : Back in the mini bus for about a 10 minute drive, passing over the dam and looking both to my left and right, such an amazing view, can only imaging at this stage what it would be like from the top! Pulling into the car park looking up and wow that cable car is steep.. Off we go only 6 in a car at once, it starts off slow then it accelerates up we go.
This view of us going up is immense! what a site.
We reach the top and stand on the wall overlooking the scenery waiting for the others. Photos are taken of everyone stood on the wall with a ginormous drop behind us, but what a stunning view!

Sign off time now, Check back in tomorrow!

Blog 005 - Volunteering in Paradise - Day 03
17th February 2016

Morning All,

Same as we did yesterday and will do every day apart from Sundays we cleaned out the elephants.

1000 : Off to work we go, back to the 'British Set' this time with brooms too, last month at Glen Afric there was a gigantic storm with hail the size of golf balls, this storm not only destroyed a lot of windows back at quarantine (where we sleep and chill), but also alot of windows and part of the structures at different sets, luckily for us it is just some of the windows at the set.

Walk into the building and the floor is covered in dirt and glass, speakers go on, bottles go down and off we go!
Finally this floor is clear you can see the tiles and can look back into my memory about when this was on TV, I am stood where it was filmed! Never thought I would experience that.
Walking back with Sam we go to the natural spring, she explains to us that this spring is the cleanest water in South Africa, all of the water for the reserve comes from this spring and ever Woolworths South Africa will start bottling water from here too!
Before coming to the surface in Glen Afric the last time this water saw daylight was in Botswana... thousands of miles away!

1400 : Lunch is over, surprise time... we are told to bring water, cameras and our smiles!
What could this be? We walk to the animal training area, told to go into the 'Safe Zone', five or ten minutes pass and a truck pulls up with a trailer on the back, can here a few animals but not sure what it is..
Lions, they have brought the three girls, Bainet and Richard are stood with their food sticks and a small chunk of meat on the end, one lioness at a time they are encouraged with the food around the enclosure, this will help them with exercise!
Lions go back in and we are left waiting in the hot sun, we move over to the shade and told the wait will be worth it!
Tigers, they have brought the tigers and do the same with them, they came right up to the cage where i was stood, can here there breathing so clear, so loud, such a powerful animal.. WOW!
After the two are out for their fun they go back in and once again we are told to wait..
Roxi the Hyenas is next, her 'laugh' was one of the most amazing things i have ever heard but unfortunately today she doesn’t want to play, she just cautiously wonders around the enclosure, nose to the floor as she can smell the other Big Cats. One of the main thing Glen Afric pride with is if the animal doesn’t want to do something, they are not forced to do so, and today is no different.
She goes back to the trailer and we follow it back to the Lodge and then to the quarantine area.

Evening : Camp Fire Night!
Started off with an amazing meal, Stake and Chicken, even had some seconds... out to the fire pit and made the fire, lovely and warm, kept the fly’s away, chilling by the fire with music from the speakers!

Off now, check in tomorrow!

Blog 004 - Volunteering in Paradise - Day 02
16th February 2016

This jet lag may of hit me but we have to get up and start work..

0730 : Off we walk to the elephant house, bam the smell hits you, looking around on the floor all you can see is massive lumps off poo and hey, grab a shovel and a broom, shovelling up the poo and emptying it into the wheel barrow, washed down the floor now it is nice and clean, knowing full well that it would be back to how it was before in a matter of hours!

0900 : Breakfast time, the sun has already risen high into the sky the heat is rising and it is already 28'C.. today is going to be a long day..

1000 : Off we go to work, grab our gloves and defiantly some water... off we walk for about 5 minutes and to my amazement we see the 'British Set', this film set was in my memory from when I was younger watching a program called 'Wild at Heart' and to think i am here now witnessing it with my own eyes! Gloves go on, speaker is on and off we go.
Grabbing the weeds with two hands, with an almighty tug they come free from the ground, the reason we are weeding is that these weeds are poisons to some of the animals of the conservation, unfortunately in the past couple off weeks these weeds made the horses very sick, one even passed away.

1200 : Long mornings work in the hot sun and we are back for lunch, after some food we are off too the pool! finally some cold water!

1400 : We arrive at the couches and are told to put on some old clothes that we don’t mind being wrecked and to bring our GoPros... Ok what could this be?
Jumping into the truck the thoughts are going through our mind about what is about to happen?
The truck stops, we all get out and follow Bex to this small stream, we are told to fill some bags with mud and to create a dam..
Looking around you can see an area that has already been flooded before, and thinking about the YouTube videos that I have watched, I have an idea about what is going to happen...
Once the dam is made, mud goes flying people go falling and it is now a massive MUD FIGHT, 20 of us volunteers free for all!

16:00 : All of us covered head to toe in mud, baking in the sun so we are caked in a thick layer.. Grab our cameras and we are off.
Chop Chop as the others call it.. meat that is cut into manageable sizes to throw into the Big Cats enclosures...
First the three lionesses, then the cheetahs, tigers, big four lions, hyenas and then more lions.
An amazing site to witness, volunteers whom had threw the meat in are covered in blood, but they have done something that some people could only dream off.. I am tempted for next time even though i am squeamish..

1800 : Dinner and off to the bar with everyone for a beer.

Off now, check in tomorrow! :)

Blog 003 - Arriving in Paradise
15th February 2016

After an 11 hour flight from London Heathrow (LHR) to Johannesburg (JNB), i have finally arrived!
Sun is shining brightly in the sky and i can feel the heat looking out of the window.
Passing into the arrivals area of the airport the heat seams to be rising, standing in a queue that seams to be never ending.
Finally I arrive at the Passport Control desk, stamp in my passport and ready to go!

Bags collected I walk out into arrivals and see the Volunteer Southern Africa (VSA) pull up display, this experience is now seaming like more reality instead of a dream.
I am the first of 6 new volunteers to arrive, I have a couple of hours on my hands.
After a couple of hours wait we are off, in the car and on our way to Glen Afric Country Lodge.

The scenery was amazing it feels like Africa! turning off a road onto a dirt track for which seams like an eternity we arrive at a gate, through we go.
Looking to my right I see an enclosure and too my surprise what do I see? only three lionesses, WOW!

We are met by two of the Team Leaders, Bex and Gav, what a mental pair! they are bonkers but i love it, they seam so at home here.
After signing our lives away and getting some goodies we make our way to our doom rooms, fans spinning on the ceiling but it is defiantly cooler than that of outside.
Quick shower and lunch and we are off too work...

We jump all pile into the back of this old style truck, can feel the heat rising from the metal bench and sides, and smell the petrol from the truck, off we go.
Looking around what can i see, only two Male Lions and OMG Tigers wasn’t expecting that!

Then we arrive, and ohh what is that? but a trailer full of elephant poo....
We are then told we have to get the poo off the trailer in the quickest time possible... the current record was just over 9 minutes.. yeah we didn’t make that time our was more 20 minutes..

Up for dinner and our orientation talk with Bex, watching the sunset over the balcony, WOW what an amazing site, in the horizon all i can see are mountains and the sun setting in the sky, so much orange filling!

Now off to bed... check in tomorrow!

Blog 002 - Upcoming Trip!!!
10th January 2016

South Africa 2016 is all booked and only 5 weeks away!

On the 14th February 2016 i will be traveling out to Johannesburg, South Africa to do some volunteering with Volunteer Southern Africa. I am going to be volunteering on the Living with Big Cats Project. Over the past couple of months i have been increasingly watching youtube videos, I subscribed to two youtube members Jon Watson and Hey Nadine. These two Youtubers have done various projects with Volunteer SA and i thought i would take the jump too!

Back in 2013 I went out on another volunteer project with Original Volunteers to Iringa, Tanzania. In this project myself and many other volunteers were helping local children, many of which had HIV or AIDS. Alot of these children were not able to afford to pay for an education, at a local school after hours we would put on lessons for these children so they could learn basic reading and writing skills.

I am very much looking forward to this volunteer project, and am counting down the days!

Blog 001 - Hello World

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