My husband and I recently returned from a most rewarding 2 weeks in South Africa, volunteering at both Care For Wild Rhino Sanctuary and Phinda Wildlife Research Project. ACE coordinated this for us as well as implementing all of the connecting travel arrangements. They were a pleasure to deal with, beginning with Ellie in the main office in the UK. She and I had several phone conversations before finalizing which projects my husband and I would participate in, as I wanted to make sure our (mature) ages would not be an issue. I also wanted an experience that would include both hands on physical labor caring for orphaned rhinos as well as research orientated activities with other species.
The paperwork which we received prior to our departure was well detailed, and included a kit list, rendezvous information, and contact phone numbers. Martin was on time at the airport to initially meet us, giving everyone an extensive briefing as to what to expect from the Care For Wild experience. During our two week stay all of the connecting modes of transportation were taken care of in a timely fashion, even ensuring we didn’t miss any time at Phinda after a much delayed plane departure to Richards Bay due to mechanical problems. Natalie was also on time with a friendly smile when we arrived back at TAMBO to transfer to Phinda.
The staff at both projects were enthusiastic and passionate about their love for wildlife, as well as eager to share their knowledge with all of the volunteers. Although we have been to South Africa several times before we never really understood the convoluted issues surrounding rhinos. At Care For Wild we learned the heartbreaking histories of many of the animals that have found a home there. The volunteers were all friendly and eager to learn and participate.
At Care For Wild our mornings started very early with the majority of us making milk for the baby rhinos that was bottle fed to them, cleaning out the bomas and night pens, and tending to the other animals in their enclosures. Never have we done so much work in the early morning without a cup of coffee! And that in itself demonstrates our enthusiasm!
At Phinda we enjoyed going out with Richard, an ecological monitor, and a dedicated volunteer Louise, to observe the various priority species. We were amazed at how many cheetahs were visible not far from the road going through the preserve. We were also fortunate to participate in a cheetah de-collaring.
In conclusion, for anyone who feels frustrated and concerned about the endangered wildlife and vanishing habitats on the African continent we would definitely recommend a call to ACE to find project(s) which will be rewarding and expand your knowledge and perceptions.