I have always been interested in rhinos. Five years ago, I travelled to Kenya and saw the last three northern white rhinos left in the world, and it sparked my passion to aid in rhino conservation.
I began looking up ways to help via volunteer work in Africa, which is how I came across African Conservation Experience (ACE). After speaking with the ACE team regarding the different rhino volunteer options, I decided the Golola Rhino Orphanage and Rehabilitation Centre was the right fit for me. The ACE team were so helpful in making sure I chose the right volunteer project that suited my needs and offered a lot of details on what to expect while volunteering at the project.
I spent three weeks at the Rhino Orphanage and completely fell in love with these creatures. They are so interesting, and cute. We called them chubby unicorns, and we have the privilege of sharing our planet with them. Spending time at the Golola Rhino Orphanage has really inspired me to continue working with rhinos!
There were so many highlights during my stay!
I was able to witness two wild rhinos (mom and baby) in the surrounding reserve being darted as the baby, Impi, needed to have his leg brace checked. It was very interesting to watch! For context, Impi was attacked by lions before coming to the orphanage, which caused injuries to his back leg, resulting in him needing a brace to walk normally again. The whole process really intrigued me from a nursing perspective. Another highlight for me was monitoring the orphans that were released into the surrounding reserve. We were able to track and locate the rhinos in the reserve, where they are free to roam, and it was so wonderful to see these rhinos in their natural habitat. Monitoring is so important because it ensures their safety and that no poaching has taken place. I even got to see a black rhino walk right past the window of my bedroom. Although there is a fence between the centre and the wild rhinos in the surrounding reserve, it is really close to the centre, which made it feel like I was living amongst the rhinos!
The team at Golola are amazing! They made me feel so welcome and really went out of their way to make it an enjoyable experience for me. They are also so knowledgeable regarding conservation and are very passionate about what they do. Although one has to cook one’s own food, the staff were kind enough to cook me some South African dishes to try and because I am a vegan, they made sure the meals were something I could enjoy. I also learned so much from the team at Golola regarding rhinos, other African wildlife and even different plant species - knowledge I would have never gained if it wasn’t for their expert input.
The surrounding area where Golola is located is just beautiful. One can sit there all day and take in the scenery, especially at sunset. I also saw lots of other wildlife, including giraffe, warthog, zebra and even a rarely seen brown hyena and a bush baby on a night drive.
If you love rhinos, Golola is the place for you. Not only will you help take care of them at the orphanage but you will also aid in monitoring the free rhinos in the surrounding reserve, which all forms part of the conservation effort to protect them.
This experience was life-changing and may have changed the course of what I want to do. I definitely want to return to Africa and work with rhinos again!