During this experience I have learnt a great deal about life. I live in Europe, and coming to Africa was a welcome wake-up call for me. It is such a different way of life in Africa and it has been amazing to experience this different world on a whole other level. I have always loved travelling and visiting different places, but actually being able to work with the wildlife and the people that live here has been eye-opening.
I also get homesick, especially when I am out of my comfort zone and I experienced this in the first two days of my trip. Everything was different to what I was used to and it took me time to settle down. My family and the team at the project were so supportive and within a day I felt at home and started to have the best time of my life! That feeling of loneliness passed, I made friends with the other volunteers and we were having fun together, and although I was still outside of my comfort zone it was in a good way and set me up for the most incredible experience I have ever had.
One of the most special moments I had whilst volunteering at Care for Wild was spending a morning with the junior ranger programme. The programme was set up for the children in the local community so they could learn about taking care of their environment. We gave them a presentation on recycling and drinking water and then we went down to the river and litter picked. It was amazing to see these little kids who were nervous at first but who really came out of their shell when we were picking up litter. Everyone was so happy and we even played a game of soccer afterwards which they were really excited about. They would sing all together and it was beautiful and natural and something I really hadn’t expected.
Another incredible experience I had at Care for Wild was the arrival of a new rhino calf. We were busy preparing the feed for the baby rhinos that were already there and all of a sudden the team came running in and said there was a calf on the way. It took me a second to comprehend what that meant. The calf was being flown in from Kruger park so we had to get an ICU unit ready to put him in, but we were also getting through our routine jobs and making sure we were busy until the new baby arrived. There was a buzz in the camp and everyone was waiting for the call to say the new calf had arrived.
After a small wait you could hear the helicopter propellers whirring in the distance and it landed. At first, we needed to stay back because we didn’t know what would happen, but then the team gave us the sign that we could come closer. As there were only a couple of volunteers we got to be really involved and were sucked into the process. I was in charge of monitoring the breathing and every minute I had to let the team know how many breaths the calf had taken to make sure that it was ok. We got to witness lots of tests being done to make sure the calf was stable all the while monitoring the baby.
This little calf was so small (2 months old), and 2 nights before it was brought into Care for Wild its mother had been poached. The calf had spent the last two nights alone and even survived a predator attack! Seeing this tiny creature, seeing how helpless it was, making little moaning sounds, it broke my heart to see how this could happen. It was one of the saddest things I’ve ever experienced but it was also a very special experience because his life was in our hands and we had to do everything we could to make sure he survived.
My experience at Moholoholo was incredibly special and it is impossible to name but one experience as there were so many great things that happened. Being able to work hands-on with wildlife and being involved in mental enrichment acitivities. The project is trying to help animals but knowing at the same time this meant some animals could not be released so they just try to give them as good a life as possible. I was surprised to learn that many animals cannot be reintroduced to the wild, for example, big cats would become too dangerous to humans if they were released, but animals like antelope could hopefully be released again. I think it’s important for people to understand that in some cases animals can’t be released, not because they don’t want to, but because once they are in a rehab facility it is already too late. The people made my stay at Moholoholo very special, I had amazing time with the staff and the other volunteers that were there. We went on sunset game drives, and bush walks, and even the little things like playing games at night together made it really special.
ACE were amazing! I reached out to ACE and the same day I received an email back asking to schedule a call, which I did. They asked what I was interested in doing and I was open about looking for a project that included research, rehabilitation, and community work which helped them guide me towards a project that would meet my interests. They went over the projects with me in detail and sent me more information after the call so I could make an informed decision. We even arranged another call so that I could go over any questions I had before booking. They gave me a lot of help because, for me, it was important to be with other volunteers and they were able to keep me up to date on the number of volunteers that would be at each project and if anything changed they would let me know so that I would be able to make changes to my experience at short notice if I needed to. It took me a while to make my decision and they were really understanding and supportive throughout the whole booking process until I was ready to secure my trip. By the time I booked I felt certain I could go and that these projects were the right ones for me. The entire booking process, from my first phone call, all the way up to finishing my experience was amazing and I would book with ACE again without a second thought.