Masai Mara, Kenya
Last October 2011, I spent two weeks volunteering in Kenya in the Masai Mara Big Cat, Wildlife Research & Conservation Project. What can I say about the project? … It was amazing!!
The program allowed me to immerse myself in both environmental and cultural aspects of the area. I also had the chance to do some safaris in Africa. Being so close to nature and people, I realized how people have to live on a day to day basis, in a sometimes harsh environment.
The program had many different tasks. We could be out, looking for cheetahs for the cheetah project, whilst also checking on the lions and the elephants. Twice a day we would count the number of animals from each species in the surrounding grass and bush land.
We also had the chance to work with the locals where we gave lessons to the soon-to-be safari guides. We tried to pass some information on the cultural habits of our compatriots – the volunteers who were there at that time were English, Scottish, German and me (being Dutch) – and we gave them a lessons on customer relationships.
I was very touched when we gave a presentation on the food web and water cycle to pupils of the ground school. There must have been 60 of them, from 6 to 16 years old. Seeing them made me realize how fortunate kids in Europe and the Northern Americas are. Here, most kids have to walk to school for miles, some of them do not even have shoes and one never knows if you might encounter wild animals, as they roam freely outside the reserve!
The meals, the other volunteers, and the staff were outstanding. When I went to bed in the evening I really was beamed back to the 50′s (1950′s that is) when I first went camping with my parents. This is one of the things that made this volunteer project so endearing for me. The living conditions were very basic, but one gets used to it – however it is important to note that going to the toilet after lights are out may result in a chance meeting of a wild animal!
I really would like to recommend this project to elderly people too. I myself was a young 57 at the time. People of this generation have so much knowledge and experience that they can share and would gain so much from the GoEco Masai Mara volunteer program.
So I make an appeal to the elderly: one is never too old to help in these kind of projects! When coming back I really felt as if something inside of me had been reborn, having had the opportunity to really accomplish something extraordinary!