My name is Hiral and I am truly passionate about wildlife, conservation, travel and communicating to people the need to save animals and the beautiful environment we have. Combined with my zest for travel and adventure, I thrive to make a positive impact on the world, its natural environment and its people. I utilise my skills in research, photography, blogging, action-plan and outdoor resourcefulness to positively impact, create awareness and educate the world about sustainable development and conservation. I have a master’s degree in ecology, environment and conservation and throughout my degree I have realised the need for more people to understand the scientific research that is accomplished around the world to discover and better understand wildlife and conservation. The patterns and trends that we as scientists find, are absolutely incredible and I personally have made it one of my missions to gather information from around the world and share it with people. My aim is to go to different conservation organisations around the world to understand what they do in their local communities and talk about their conservation success stories so the world can see the difference people are making. My travel goals are aligned with my passion to create environmental awareness and sustainable solutions.
I’ve been wanting to travel the world since I was 4. I know most people might question this and say, ‘who really knows what they want at age 4’, but if Johnny Cash knew he wanted to sing on the radio at 4 years old, then why not me!
Growing up I was always that kid that never sat still and went exploring in the garden, around the house, in the playground and very easily made friends. So, it only seemed fitting for my parents to give me a sticker world atlas for my 4th birthday. I was so excited about the book that I couldn’t wait to sticker my way through it. With a little help from my dear mother, I started exploring the book, placing the sticker flags through every continent. From that moment, I knew I wanted to travel the world and see every bit of it from the seven wonders to the mountains and animals that weren’t labelled in the book.
Being born and raised in Africa it was always great to travel to amazing places, see amazing wildlife and have one of the seven wonders in my ‘backyard’ (The Victoria Falls). I believe that, in itself is where my inspiration of travel, wildlife and adventure came from. My first adventure on an aeroplane came when I was flying to India from Zimbabwe for my mom’s brother’s wedding. As a 90’s kid in Africa you honestly didn’t really travel overseas much unless you had the money for it, so at age 7 I was overjoyed to travel with my mom and sister. That two-month holiday taught me so much about traveling, learning different cultures and the joy of exploration. Back then, women traveling alone was not common at all. I can still remember helping my mom (who got air sick, a lot) and my 5-year-old sister with heavy bags and normal airport procedures. Experiences like that make you mentally strong and really make you believe you can do anything you want.
The biggest change for me came in 2001 when I was 10. A future in Zimbabwe was starting to look a little bit bleak and my parents decided we should emigrate to India. My parents were both born there and so it only seemed fitting for them to want to move there. I was a bit sad to leave say goodbye to all my friends but excited for a new adventure at the same time. Living in India was drastically different to Zim. School was from 11am to 5pm and there were no such thing as extra curricula activities. Everyone was so ingrained with getting the perfect report card and being at the top of their class that they went for extra classes in the morning, and studied after school. I was always involved in sports or other activities in my school in Zim so this was different. Nevertheless, I quickly adapted to the system and everything else including the wet monsoons and hot summers as well as the language and culture.
Unfortunately, after 2 years in India my dad wasn’t getting any luck with a job, so we decided to move again! This time to South Africa where my dad’s brother had been living. Yet again I had to say goodbye to friends and family and venture back to Africa. Everyone knows that changing schools, cities or countries when you’re young can be challenging at times because you have to go through the whole process of making friends and adjusting to a new place again. I made friends, learnt a new language and continued to adapt to yet another cultural dynamic. I was happy to be in a stable environment in high school and then University. However, my itching desire to travel and explore continued to stir inside me, which is why I wanted to study geography and biology. I’m a person that enjoys different things and growing up I always felt a little different, so deciding on a career path was a challenge. What I knew for sure was that I wanted to be out in the world exploring. From wanting to be a climatologist and storm chaser to a geophysicist and ecologist, I wanted to learn about everything.
I am pleased to say that my desire to work with and to save wildlife came from my study choice in ecology, environment and conservation and combined with my passion for travel, I now call myself an environmental scientist and conservationist. I always loved reptiles so I did my Masters in snake evolution and ecology. I absolutely love what I do because I get to work with animals first hand and it touches my soul in a way nothing else can. I have made it my mission to combine my passions and travel for conservation and do something to save the world. Maybe watching Captain Planet and the Magical School Bus as a kid always stuck in the back of my head.
So, while I was studying I didn’t travel overseas at all (despite the itching desire), but my first break came in 2016 when I got a scholarship to travel to China for a Herpetology conference. That was my first solo trip and I knew there was no stopping me from there onward. Two months after the China trip I went to Mozambique on a diving trip with complete strangers, and then back again with friends a few months later. The traveling did not stop after that even if it was locally in South Africa. But one of my biggest trips was traveling solo to Peru in March 2017 to work as a research assistant on a frog project. I spent two months there and that trip combined everything I want to do in life! Working with animals, exploring the wilderness, traveling and making incredible friends and learning so much. That is what I envision the rest of my life as. My personal goal is to visit all 7 continents by the time I’m 30 and with 4 years still to go, I believe I can do it! This is my dream and I make my dreams come true! I am always in search for new opportunities and adventures and I hope to see many more incredible places!
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