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Phinda Wildlife Research Project: 28 November - 12 December 2023*
Hello, my name is Maddy and I visited Care for Wild throughout the month of June in 2021. I had previously gone to Care for Wild before in 2018 and promised myself to return, and oh my gosh I am so glad that I did. It’s a life changing experience for a multitude of reasons and I cannot recommend it enough to anyone that I meet who loves nature is thinking of travelling to South Africa. Care for Wild really is great for any age group, when I first went I was 18 and actually found comfort in spending a lot of time with people who were older than I was and I’m still in contact with everyone that I met out there the first time and am still planning on going back to meet my other friends there again in the future. Care for Wild is somewhere that I know I will be travelling to for the rest of my life, as long as I am able to do so.
I also cannot recommend ACE as a company highly enough, they have helped me with so many situations when I was there the most recent time with all the hecticness of the COVID-19 pandemic. They made sure that all of my connections flowed easily and whenever there was an issue, they quickly reassured me and provided me with helpful guidance and went to every effort to ensure that I had the best time that I possibly could whilst I was out there. ACE is more than just a facilitator to help get you out there, they truly care about your experience and happiness at the projects and everything surrounding. When I had trips cancelled due to COVID, the brilliant Martin personally took another guest and myself to do a cultural trip around Johannesburg and helped us to understand the real side of living in South Africa. He’s just an amazing guy who really cares passionately about us travellers and ensures that you have an amazing and educational time.
Back to Care for Wild. You can expect to have a very hard-working approach to wildlife here and it’s one of the most rewarding experiences this way and you really feel like you’re helping to make a difference. Every morning you have the joy of bottle feeding the babies and helping to make their bomas (rhino bedrooms haha). I don’t know many people that can say that they’ve helped to make beds for babies of this kind, but it’s definitely something that I think everyone should do because it’s so rewarding to know that you’re actually helping in the day-to-day lives and progress of these guys. The days are so full and hard-working and whether you’re passionate about rhinos or fitness, or both, then this project is for you. The amount of time that you get to spend in their presence is incredible and something that I will never forget. However, this is not a rhino petting zoo and never should be expected to be so. The staff and the program care deeply for the long-term happiness and safety of the rhinos and this means that there is a hands-off approach when it comes to being near the rhinos because they want them to live, as they should, independently of human interference. They are care for WILD, not a petting zoo.
You can tell deeply how much they care for these animals and the bond that you get with them is something else. Everyone that I know, from the staff to the volunteers, all have a special little friend that they have a soft spot for, and that’s another reason to keep coming back and back again. Not only are you continuing to support these amazing creatures but you get to see them grow and develop. When I went in 2018, baby Blossom absolutely stole my heart, and let me tell you that after two years she was no longer baby anymore! I cannot begin to describe the joy it brought me to see her all grown up and the amount of pride it made me feel for the staff who do such an amazing job all day, every day, to ensure the quality of life for these amazing creatures.
Some of the best bits of my trips have been being able to work so closely with an animal which very few people get to see that up close in the wild and get away to tell the tale! They also care for many other animals at the project as well and I was able to see Giraffe and put up nets to help feed them. I was able to see a rare golden wildebeest out on the intensive protection zone and that was an unbelievably beautiful sight. A bitter-sweet experience that I have had both times I have been has been the arrival of a new rhino calf at the orphanage. The whirlwind of emotions that you feel is a life-changing experience as you are so excited that they have been received at the best place they could possibly be, other than with their mum in the wild, whilst also battling the feelings of sadness and desperation that come with experiencing the effects of the rhino poaching industry first-hand. This is something that is unpleasant but is a real reminder of the sad realities that are facing the species. However, as I mentioned, you know that this is the best place for this animal, given its most unfortunate circumstances.
It’s very difficult to put into words all the amazing things that are in store for any person who chooses to travel out to South Africa because it is the most emotionally and educationally changing experience that a person can go through. If you’re thinking of going then all I can say is go, I can promise that you won’t regret it and will make an impression on you and whoever you bring with you for the rest of your life.