Teacher Emily Whiting has set off on a year-long global trek, having been inspired to travel after watching wildlife programmes as a child. Miss Whiting was a huge fan of Big Cat Diary that focused on the daily struggles of lions, cheetahs and leopards. Now she has begun her journey in Africa, flying to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, before spending time at Lake Naivasha and the Masai Mara game reserve.
She will then join an overland truck with up to 20 others. The vehicle carries cooking and camping equipment and passengers are able to join and disembark en route, crossing the continent.
Miss Whiting said: ‘When I was little I used to watch Big Cat Diary every single week and it was just this little fantasy world that I loved. I love animals, nature and the whole concept of being in the wilderness. For me Africa is the ultimate. I am most looking forward to the Serengeti and Tanzania. That was where Big Cat Diary was filmed so it is my Mecca. I have already seen the big five; lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros. What is great about wildlife is that every encounter is different, you don’t know what to expect.
I have been charged by a hippo, rhino and elephant because I got too close. Generally it is when you are walking because they are more threatened by humans on foot as they see you as a predator in a way that they don't tend to if you are in a vehicle. I have sat about two metres away from a wild cheetah. It was in a big reserve, but my friend, who worked there, had been tracking this one for many months. He habituated her to his presence. She was 100 per cent wild but let him get close because she recognised him and didn’t think he was a threat.’
Another highlight of the trip will be when Miss Whiting will walk with lion cubs that are being trained to hunt at Antelope Park in Zimbabwe. They will eventually be introduced back into the wild as a conservation initiative. After travelling thousands of miles through eight countries, she will arrive at her final African destination of Capetown.
From there she will spend a month touring south East Asia for its culture and wildlife before heading to Australia for four or five months, then to New Zealand and spending Christmas 2012 in the Cook Islands. She is writing a blog about her adventures so friends and family can keep up with her progress.
Although Miss Whiting will be spending some time with a travelling companion she will undertake most of the journey alone: ‘When you travel with other people you have to compromise on what you want to do and it can stop you from going out and meeting new people. By going on your own you can have better experiences and you have to socialise. I don’t know what I will do after this trip as other opportunities can crop up but, ultimately, I want to move to South Africa, that has always been my dream.
She has worked here for the past 18 months and has left with fond memories of Brooke Weston: ‘I have loved the interaction with the students, that has been the best thing about teaching here. One of the really special things was that as soon as I told them I was leaving I had quite a few come up to say “thank you, I will miss you”. It means a lot more than they understand. I have loved working with the science department, they have also been fantastic. I will miss them all, along with my home comforts, family and chocolate!'