Having landed in Jo’burgh, I was met by Natalie, who was warm, informative and very welcoming. I had volunteered before, so it was not a totally new experience. I was driven from Richards Bay airport to Phinda, by a charming driver, we chatted all the way. This helped me get over my nervousness.
My timing was not the best, as ”day-1” was met with torrential rain and floods. The roads were quite muddy and threatened to hold the vehicle hostage.
I was based up in the North of Phinda for the first week. The accommodation was adequate without being fancy. The volunteers and the monitors did the cooking and the cleaning.
Drinking water had to be boiled and stored (so someone needs to take charge). Shashkia, the student lived with us, the monitors lived in a separate house. Everyone was very friendly and helpful and the atmosphere was one of informality.
Tip: please do buy whatever you need, (other than the basics) from Richards Bay.
Water, can be hit and miss, so wipes are essential. Good quality toilet paper is recommended. So are luxuries like chocolate, biscuits, cheese, pesto ( my personal favourite), wine and anything else you cannot do without. If you are not sure, I would suggest buying it. 3G, comes and goes but is best near the back door. There are mosquito nets provided, please do use them.
A very good raincoat and jacket is definitely recommended. So is a wide brimmed hat.
After the first week, I moved to the Sutton camp, down south; I loved this camp. It has great views and a lovely spacious covered veranda. Charli, one of the monitors lives in the cottage next to door and is in ‘charge’.
Tip: Please keep the doors and windows closed at dusk, to prevent insects getting in. Insect repellant is a must, so is the insect bite cream. Please also do bring a power pack to charge phones etc.
Last but not least, the wildlife experience, which is why we come to this beautiful country, it took my breath away. The cheetah were a mere 6 feet away from us and seemed unconcerned by human presence. The lions [and they are huge!!!!] were the same, thankfully not that close. We saw both white and black rhino, elephants, leopards, giraffe, zebra, you name it, we saw it. No two days are the same. If you are into Wildlife photography, this is the place to be.
The monitors Charli and Richard, have extensive knowledge and are very helpful; they did their best to accommodate us. They are also excellent cooks; the stir fry’ and muffins come highly recommended. 🙂
When at Phinda, consider yourself part of the team. Be flexible, all jobs are to be tackled; irrespective of whether it’s cooking, cleaning or helping in the field. It truly is a privilege to be here, something we should not forget.
For me, it was the ‘team effort’ that really cemented the experience and made it so much more than a just a safari. I felt, I was contributing in some small way, to the work that is being done at Phinda; I had a sense of ‘belonging’, even if it was for only 3 weeks.