Arava Desert, Israel
So, my friend and I decided to go to Israel for a month. Is that a good idea? Let me tell you already: YES. At times it was a bit… problematic (being overwhelmed by flies, ostriches trying to eat our car, not dying of heat..), but we survived, and we loved it!
My friend and I went with GoEco on the project called Desert Wildlife Program, and it’s all about working in a wildlife reserve/zoo. But… after we booked our stay we realized it was currently the hottest place on Earth, except for the desert in Africa. Coming from Denmark, which had about 0C/32F at that time, we only had one thought: We were going to melt.
But we went anyway.
We took the plane, took a shared taxi to a hostel in Jerusalem, stayed there for the night and met with two GoEco representatives at the hostel. This was all planned in advance.
The representatives (oh god, that word is way too long!) gave us a short briefing about GoEco and Israel in general. Then one of them, called Yan, showed us around in Jerusalem. We then got a free tour around the city.
I wasn’t prepared for that at all – I had expected a short briefing about our project and then to be kicked out. Oh, and that was a delicious falafel pita I had! GoEco paid for another night’s stay at the hostel.
We woke up, realizing we were still hadn’t melted.
That was a good morning.
In all seriousness, the temperature in Jerusalem in March is quite good – the temperature was around 20C/68F. We were then escorted to the bus station and then to our projects. Yan took us all the way to our project, which was really nice! Getting lost is not one of my favourite things to do.
We were picked up by one of the rangers (the nearest bus stop takes 45 mins to walk to) and driven to our “apartment”. It’s rather small, but quite cozy! We were introduced to the other volunteers – there were 5 others at that time. That was quite a surprise, since we are only supposed to be 4 in total. It appeared that one had lost her passport and the other might be getting a full-time job as a ranger.
Day 3 and 4
Our first work day! We were told the rangers were VERY relaxed about pretty much everything… except the animals. These rangers are buff and hot and care a whole lot about the animals. We could smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, show up in bikini. They didn’t mind. That was awesome!
The work day starts with feeding the animals and cleaning the cages. We would prepare all the stuff, then split into two groups – one goes to the predators, one goes to the herbivores.
This routine would take about 2½ hours. After that, we would cut the salads for the next day, clean the floor/bowls/buckets, pick up trash, help cutting meat, build fences (oh god, that was terrible), dig holes (don’t volunteer for this job. Just. Don’t)… Or clean the souvenir store, parking lot or remove tents.
Oooor safari feeding! This was everybody’s favourite task. You would sit on a trailer with hay and drive through the reserve, throwing hay to all the animals in there. That was great!
On days where we were all close to melting (+31C/+88F), the rangers would come to our rescue and take us home. Thank god!
Weekends and Free Time
So, what did we do when we weren’t working? We would often watch movies or just listen to music. We drank a couple of times, just before the weekends, too. But during one weekend, two friends and I decided to go to Petra. It’s a highly recommended tour and I now understand why. Petra is an ancient city, carved into stone, in Jordan. Our hostel in Jerusalem arranged the tour we went on, which went just as planned.
Another weekend we went to Timna Park, which is like a rocky desert, while the wildlife reserve is more like a savannah. One of the rangers was so kind to drive us there.
What About the Rum?
During our stay, we had to figure out what we would eat during a week and make it ourselves. That often meant pita with hummus and greens in large amounts. But that was perfect. The hummus is amaaazing! I can’t eat hummus here in Denmark anymore. It’s just not good enough.
The system worked great. Everybody could decide when and what to eat. It makes it a bit easier, if you, for example, don’t want to eat breakfast.
And we bought the rum in a liquor store near the food store.
During my stay I came to like the work a lot and the rangers even more but the other volunteers the most. I ended my last day by having a water-fight with one of the rangers. Laughing that much made it so much harder to leave. Damn, that was the end though.
I am definitely volunteering in Israel at the Desert Wildlife Program again. And not just one month. I recommend you go for at least 1½ months.
Get involved and begin the journey of your lifetime! Click here for more details about the Desert Wildlife Program in Israel!