I wanted to go to Africa to work with wildlife to fulfil a lifelong dream of mine. ACE was so helpful in advising me as to where I should go. I ended up spending four weeks at Chipangali Wildlife Orphanage in Zimbabwe and then two weeks after at Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary in South Africa.
Chipangali was an amazing place to spend four weeks. The type of work there always varies. It depends on which animals are there at the time and what needs to be done. The work days are divided into different groups: carnivores, nursery, primates, antelope and the Diana Centre. You never know what each day will bring. You might spend the day painting enclosures, or chopping up raw meat to feed to the carnivores.
I study digital media and photography in school, so halfway through my time at Chipangali, another girl and I began to work on their media, such as taking good quality photos and videos for them, as well as managing their social media and planning updates for their website. Kevin and Nicky, who run Chipangali, are very open to new ideas, and if you have any special skills that you believe could benefit the orphanage, they will listen.
I met many amazing volunteers at Chipangali whom I am still in touch with. Chipangali was really good about letting you and the other volunteers have time to relax after work. There is a game room, which has board games, a movie screen for movie nights, and a pool table upstairs.
The animals at Chipangali are amazing. Each day, we got a certain amount of animal time, where you can walk around and spend time with any of the animals. The more time you spend at Chipangali, the easier it is to form bonds with the animals.
After Chipangali I flew back to Johannesburg, where I spent the night in a hotel and the next day met the ACE team and other volunteers going to Care for Wild. ACE organised all of my travel arrangements and hotel in between the two projects which was very helpful. Both the hotel and the shuttle from the airport were very safe.
Care for Wild was a very different experience from Chipangali. Taking care of rhinos is a very different process and the operation at Care for Wild is much larger. The work there is much more physically intense and exhausting, but all the more rewarding because in return throughout the day you get to bottle feed the orphaned rhinos, give them pellets and drive into the reserve to lay out food for the bigger rhinos. Care for Wild is the world’s largest rhino sanctuary and the work I did there felt like it was making a big impact in helping rhino conservation, even if the work was as basic as scooping rhino poop and washing night pens. All the baby rhinos that are at Care for Wild, are there because something bad happened to them. The livelihood and well being of the rhinos is so important, it is nice to know that each day you are contributing to making their lives better. I felt as though each day of work at Care for Wild, was even more rewarding than the previous.
Care for Wild is located on a large, beautiful reserve with lots of wildlife. One of the things I loved most, was when I was shovelling rhino poop and I look up to see giraffes walking right by us. Giraffes are one of my favourite animals and to see them closely on a daily basis and not in an enclosure was quite miraculous.
One of the things I was most impressed and satisfied with my volunteer experience was how the Care for Wild staff put aside so much time to educate us on the rhinos and the other animals we were working with or seeing. They showed us presentations and documentaries that were very informative and they frequently drove us out into the reserve in safari vehicles to look for animals and teach us more along the way. I did not realise how much I had learned until I got home and was able to explain everything they had taught me to my friends and family. I really appreciate that the Care for Wild staff went out of their way to teach us so much. It is very important to be informed about certain matters, especially the poaching crisis, because anyone can help spread awareness about it and educate others.
My time at Chipangali and Care for Wild really opened my eyes to the world of conservation and made me realise that it is something I want to pursue. My experience went beyond what I expected and left me with many stories and adventures to tell. I highly recommend that anyone thinking about going to Africa to volunteer, does so with ACE, as they make sure your experience is what you want it to be.
If you are interested in joining Chipangali Wildlife Orphanage or the Care for Wild Africa, simply fill out a quick application form and we’ll be in touch soon to get the ball rolling on your African wildlife experience!