Rino Eliassen: elephants in the sunset

Volunteer diary: Mark Atkinson discovers his African dream

Mark spent two weeks volunteering at Khulula Wild Care learning all about animal care and rehabilitation for the resident rhinos, read his traveller diary here!

I have always cared passionately about conservation and the environment. I remember some years ago watching the ‘Elephant Diaries’ on TV and thinking that’s for me! I had always wanted to go to South Africa, so I did my research and booked my trip to Khulula Wild Care.

At Khulula it’s hands-on caring for and learning about the animals at the centre. Some are returned to good health for release back into the wild whereas others become permanent residents.

Before I arrived at the centre I had decided that no matter what happened I was going to get the most I could from my time in Africa. I wasn’t disappointed!

From the start, the sights and sounds of the African bush struck a cord in me. The centre is situated on high ground and has stunning views all around. The sense of peace and space was thrilling.

In my two weeks at the centre, I was given Bobby to look after. Bobby is a young white rhino, who was six months old and weighed about half a tonne. The time I spent with this amazing animal will always be very special in my life.

Each day he was given five feeds of powdered milk, water, and vitamins with each feed being 8 litres. The first was at 6.30 am and the last was at 9.30 pm. I will always remember how he would be waiting to be fed as he would know when his feeds were due. He always enjoyed the company and attention and would communicate with gentle whines and chirping sounds. At these times it was easy to forget that this ‘baby’ was half a tonne of muscle and pure strength who could be irritated and bad-tempered.

There was a group of giraffes who were regular visitors in the morning at the centre. It is hard to imagine a more surreal moment, in the early hours with the morning mist and soft light, these graceful and elegant animals would visit us. The thrill and beauty of such an encounter is an amazing experience, to see these animals in their natural environment was a privilege.

I was at Khulula for two weeks and I wish I could have stayed longer. However, in the time I was there, I was thrilled by all I saw and did. I count myself lucky to have had such an experience and have many good and happy memories.

My time with Bobby has had such an impact on me that words can never do justice. I have promised myself that one day I will return to Khulula to catch up with the friends I made and to see how the centre has progressed.

By Mark Atkinson, 50, Career Break at Khulula Wild Care.