The Contiki Storytellers Challenge

I’ve been lucky enough in my life to travel to some amazing destinations and experience the beauty that the world has to offer, from snow-capped mountains and sandy deserts, to tropical rainforests and modern cities. The world is an incredible place and, while I might be easily pleased, there really is so much to see in one life time that can take your breath away.

It upsets me to see when people treat our planet with no respect and, because of this, things are gradually being ruined. Rainforests are being chopped down, lots of animal species are facing extinction and the world is just becoming a dirtier and greyer place.

I remember the one time I littered when I was a teenager – yes, I really have only ever littered once in my life – what can I say, I’m an angel 😉 Out with some friends, this was my moment to be “cool” in the way teenagers think it is cool to be. I took the wrapper from my McDonald’s straw and very slowly and slyly let it fall to the ground next to me. I stared at the wrapper as we walked away, feeling so bad at what I had done. And none of my friends even noticed – so much for being cool!

Since then I have learnt that dropping litter isn’t the slightest bit cool, and now anyone who does so around me, whether by accident or on purpose, gets a stern telling off! I’m not saying I’m a complete angel but I try to do as much good as I can from little things such as recycling and turning off lights when I leave a room, to volunteer work. Most of the volunteer work that I have done has been with animals as they are a huge passion of mine and something that needs to be protected in this world.

Living with lions in South Africa

Big cats are my favourite animals in the world and so volunteering with them at a lion park in South Africa is without a doubt the most incredible thing I have ever done. I got the chance to look after some little lion cubs, bottle feeding, bathing and playing with them, as well as feeding the older lions, tigers and cheetahs that had either been raised by hand or had been saved from poachers. You can read more about my time living with lions here.

Volunteering at London Zoo

After working with animals in South Africa, I came home and decided that it was something I wanted to carry on, so I got myself a permanent volunteer position at London Zoo. While some people don’t like the idea of animals being caged up in zoos, London Zoo has some great enclosures for its animals and the projects that the zoo takes part in are all for the conservation of animals. I absolutely love my job here, whether it’s keeping an eye on the butterflies in the butterfly enclosure, making sure no one feeds the cheeky squirrel monkeys or teaching visitors about the animals. I would do it every day if I could!

The dogs of India

On a trip to India last year, it shocked me to see that a place filled with such beautiful landscapes could be so dirty. Rubbish littered the streets and piled up in corners, and we spotted animals on top of the mountains of rubbish digging around for scraps of food.

Apart from the cows of course, most of India’s animals weren’t treated well and Varanasi especially had a huge number of stray and unwell dogs. For someone who loves animals so much, this was extremely hard for me to see. We met a couple from Canada who had recently set up Dogs of the Ganges, a not-for-profit organisation to help care for India’s street dogs and to teach the local community how to do the same. We spent a day with them wandering around the city keeping an eye out for stray dogs and feeding them. We found a litter of puppies that a young boy was taking care of, buying milk out of his own money to feed them, and it was refreshing to see someone so young, who didn’t have very much of his own, taking care of others.

Costa Rica and the Contiki Challenge

I’ve never been to Costa Rica but I can imagine how green and full of wildlife the rainforests are and how idyllic the sandy beaches and clear seas would be. But below the water’s surface, one of the oldest creatures on the planet is now one of the most endangered. The sea turtle is facing extinction thanks to pollution and human poaching and, though you may not realise it, humans would also be affected if sea turtles were to become extinct. The sea grass beds that sea turtles graze on is a breeding area for other sea species. Without these, the whole marine ecosystem would be affected, working its way up the chain to us.

Visiting a sea turtle sanctuary in Zanzibar

Visiting a sea turtle sanctuary in Zanzibar

Contiki sent 12 storytellers to Costa Rica where, as well as having some adventures of their own, they visited the Sea Turtle Conservancy and created this inspirational video to raise awareness.

It costs $5,000 to sponsor a turtle and when this video reaches 250,000 views Contiki will sponsor one of these gorgeous little fellows, enabling the Sea Turtle Conservancy to track and research it, and in turn providing us with the information we need to save them from extinction.

I visited a sea turtle sanctuary myself when I was in Zanzibar where injured turtles were looked after or raised from abandoned eggs found on the beach. They had a huge area and lagoon to live in and would be released back into the wild once big enough or well enough. Sea turtles are beautiful creatures and seem to have no fear of humans, swimming right by you in the wild and happily being fed by you.

Baby sea turtles at the sanctuary in Zanzibar

Baby sea turtles at the sanctuary in Zanzibar

To help protect these wonderful creatures, do your part by simply sharing this page or the video, which will all lead to sea turtles being saved.

As storytellers we have the powerful ability to inspire change.

In the meantime, thank you to Kasha of Lines of Escape for nominating me for the Contiki Challenge – she clearly knows how much I love my animals!  I’m also nominating three other great bloggers who I know are passionate about volunteering and the environment, to take part in the challenge themselves – Bemused Backpacker, Global Help Swap and I Should Tend To My Sunburn.

13 thoughts on “The Contiki Storytellers Challenge

  1. worldjourneysdiscover says:

    Nice, thoughtful post. Costa Rica really looks GORGEOUS doesn’t it? I’m the same with rubbish. I can’t drop litter just anywhere, WHen travelling if I can’t throw stuff out I will load the backpack and take it back to the rubbish bin at my hotel/hostel! lol. thanks for sharing!

    • Ayla says:

      It really does look gorgeous. Might have to take a trip there myself to see these sea turtles! Yes, same – it’s really not that much effort to keep hold of something for a little while extra until you find a bin. Would make the world a whole lot better if everyone did this 🙂

  2. kashacapetown says:

    Ah, I love this, Ayla! I immediately thought of you when I was asked to make my nominations – and I was spot on. I love reading about your passion for conservation and animal welfare, and you’re giving me some inspiration for volunteering opportunities on my future travels xxx

    • Ayla says:

      Thanks for thinking of me! I loved writing this post, although it really did make me want to go back to South Africa to see the lions again! Not only are you helping others with volunteer work but it really changed me as a person too. Made me a lot more appreciative of life and what I have 🙂

    • Ayla says:

      Thanks Sophie! Animals are a huge passion of mine and I love working with them and trying to protect them for the future. I hope this might inspire others to go out and do the same 🙂

    • Ayla says:

      Oh trust me, I fully tried to bring pretty much all of them home! The puppy in India Alex probably could have been swayed on but the lion cubs were a definite no! 😦

    • Ayla says:

      Ahh thanks Shikha 🙂 Like I said, I’m not an angel but I do try! Animals are my downfall though – I’d do anything for them!

  3. Callie says:

    Costa Rica, Costa Rica, Costa Rica!! I lived there for six years and it is the most beautiful country on the entire planet I love it so much! It has so much to offer in so many ways. “Pura vida” really is a real thing and I just highly recommend Costa Rica haha

  4. Lauren Pears says:

    Wow, thanks for doing your part to help our environment and animals! I’m hoping to do lots of volunteer projects with animals over the next few years too so thank you for giving me some ideas!

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