A NORTHSIDE woman who found herself stranded at a locked-down South African wildlife centre has defied the odds to make it home.
Vanessa Goggin found herself self-isolating with hippos and other exotic animals at the Umoya Khulula Wildlife Centre after it was announced that the country was to go into lockdown.
It was initially believed the 27-year-old would not make it home for a very long time. However, the embassy stepped in and organised a seat for her on a repatriation flight.
"I was surprised because I didn’t think we would be getting out of Africa for a very long time,” Vanessa explained.
Vanessa’s family was overjoyed to see her at Cork Airport where they turned out with signs and banners to welcome her home.
She added that it was difficult not to be able to hug her mother Valerie due to social distancing restrictions. The Cork woman revealed she could only greet them from a distance before travelling to a house in Baltimore to self-isolate with her travel companion Megan.
The pair-both from Cork had volunteered together at the wildlife centre where they cared for rescued exotic animals.
“My mum and two sisters were there with a painted sign made with cardboard,” she said. “They came with food and fresh clothes for us and left again. I burst out crying when I saw them. It’s so hard seeing your family and not being able to touch them.” Vanessa is counting down the days until she is reunited with her loved ones.
“When this is madness is over I can’t wait to see my family again,” she said.
The Fairhill woman’s flight home was bitter-sweet for a number of reasons.
“Leaving South Africa was strange. I felt happiness, sadness and every type of feeling you could possibly imagine. It was heartbreaking saying goodbye to the animals knowing that I wouldn’t be able to be there to see the animals released back into the wild. That was probably the hardest part for me."
Vanessa vowed to make it back to South Africa when the time is right.
"I’m definitely more safe here as we don't know how the situation in South Africa is going to change. I'd love to go back when the time is right though”