I followed Care for Wild on Facebook for quite some time before deciding that I was going to go and volunteer with them, so I already had an idea that this would be a suitable project for me and something I would enjoy and find interesting.
When you make an enquiry through the Care for Wild website, this is passed on to African Conservation Experience who then set to work, initially contacting you to match you up with the correct project and ensure that the project you are interested in is suitable for you. From day one, ACE were fantastic, they were really helpful, they provide all the information you require for the trip (make sure you take notice of the kit list). One really useful thing they do is to put you in touch with other volunteers who are travelling over on the same day, this gives you chance to reach out and make some connections with other volunteers.
I arrived particularly early at OR Tambo but Natalie and Martin from ACE soon found me and looked after me. Once everyone arrived we spent some time with Martin who explained the project and the reasons this type of conservation is needed and how your volunteering helps. All the travel between the airport and Care for Wild is arranged by ACE and connected smoothly, your place on the Citybug to Nelspruit is prearranged and staff from Care for Wild pick you up from Nelspruit so you don’t have to worry about organising your own travel.
Arriving at Care for Wild mid-afternoon allows you time to get settled in and meet the other volunteers before having dinner and doing an informal induction. Accommodation is basic but comfortable; the food is always fabulous there is plenty of it. One thing that worried me beforehand was whether there would be other people of a similar age to me being an older volunteer but I really needn’t have worried at all, the volunteers were from all over the world, from varied backgrounds and age ranges and everyone was really lovely.
All the staff are extremely knowledgeable and professional, nothing was too much trouble. You will work hard so don’t go with the belief that you will get to pet rhinos all day because you won’t but if you work hard and want to learn this is an amazingly rewarding experience. Meeting the baby rhinos on our first full day is something I will remember for the rest of my life, who knew that baby rhinos make such endearingly sweet noises!
You get the opportunity to be involved in everything going on at Care for Wild. There are lots of presentations and everyone is really generous with their knowledge and experience. Petronel is such an inspiring lady but very approachable with an amazingly kind outlook on the world.
I can’t recommend a trip to Care for Wild enough. I found all the representatives from both Care for Wild and ACE really helpful, professional and friendly. I can’t wait for the opportunity to go back.