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Phinda Wildlife Research Project: 28 November - 12 December 2023*
We found this project absolutely amazing. We chose it for the range of activities and conservation work but it exceeded all expectations. We have done things we never expected to do in our lifetime!
This project has a great breadth of conservation knowledge rather than just focussing on a specific animal. There were lots of different experiences, from tracking and bush-walking to game driving.
Liam: It was really authentic - an authentic experience.
One of the highlights of the project was definitely being able to see the elephants. They’re one of our favourite animals and it was fascinating to watch them in their natural habitat, seeing the intricacies of them feeding and bonding with each other. It was great that we also did this without causing stress to them – they can walk off when they want to (and they do!) and we leave them be. Just having that bit of time with them was really nice, and very special.
Emily: It’s not like you’re viewing them, you’re existing alongside them.
The elephants were often alongside different animals, and it was lovely to see them interacting with one another. There was also a male eating a thorn bush in front of us – watching him strip the thorns with his trunk was really, really interesting. It was something we had never seen before, even though we have studied them! We’ve also read about it, but it was incredible to see it in person and it’s an experience we will cherish forever.
Emily: It was like National Geographic coming to life.
So many times we would see something happen and we would think: ‘this is like a painting’, ‘this is something I’ve read about’ or ‘this is like a picture you see in a magazine’ – but it was happening every day! Multiple times! The feeling is simply indescribable as you exist alongside the animals in such a beautiful way. You have to pinch yourself to remind yourself it’s real. We just felt like the luckiest people in the whole world.
Another highlight of ours was having the opportunity to be on the ground, feet on the ground, tracking the animals and the routes they would take in their everyday, normal life, with them perhaps not having any knowledge of us. We came across rhinos feeding and interacting with their environment, and being there physically, just across from them with no barriers, no other people, was incredible. They would do their thing and move off, and we’d perhaps never see them again… and that made it so incredible, knowing they were free.
Liam: There is no way to describe how tense, but also how at peace, you feel. You’re just there with nature.
The camp was in a beautiful setting with picturesque views all the way around. Our room was nice and secluded and the people on site were amazing, so caring and so friendly. It was lovely to see how excited they were as well; it really was a nice atmosphere.
Overall, it’s definitely given us a new perspective. Yes, we got excited about the animals, but also at the smaller things – noticing a bit of grass that was pushed down, wondering what had caused that… the different insects, why are there more in one place than the other… and what’s this new plant I’ve never seen before? Our interest for the smaller things in the world grew. We weren’t just interested in the big elephants but also the insects living in their footprints. We also had no interest in birds before we came here, but suddenly we wanted to know why they were interacting with each other in a certain way. The knowledge that was shared with us was incredible and it made everything more understandable, relatable, and engaging. The expertise delivered to us gave us an appreciation for the whole natural journey.
It was wonderful.