Hartebeespoort, South Africa
My name is Jens; I am 21 years old and from Germany. I volunteered at the Wildlife Sanctuary near to Johannesburg, for a period two weeks. It the first big journey I had taken on my own and besides volunteering in South Africa, I had also planned a three week trip through South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana afterwards (I can only recommend this combination). I always wanted to visit the southern part of Africa and get close to animals on a deeper level than what is possible as a normal “Kruger Tourist.” I looked for an animal sanctuary near Johannesburg and found this wonderful place!
How should I begin telling my story? Well, I couldn’t really picture where I was going to stay for the next 16 days, so I was pretty excited and curious. The first two pictures I took where from a gorgeous area in the sanctuary and a stunning sunset, which was not a bad way to start!
The following days where full of once in a lifetime experiences, great people and unique animals. I worked (or played?) with lion cubs, fed a lot of different animals, walked with lions and elephants. All those activities and my time were spent with the other volunteers and the two most cheerful guys (and guides) I’ve ever met.
It is important to keep in mind that wherever you get the chance to spend time with such animals, a part of your daily tasks is to ensure that their living arrangements are as good as possible. That includes things like preparing horse meat (you don’t have to) and, of course, cleaning their enclosures. The thing is that you get fully used to it and it’s always followed by great other experiences.
A day at the Sanctuary could be like this:
– Getting the horses out of the stables in the morning & cleaning their stables plus the elephant stables
– Walking with the elephants, two of the lions or a group of cubs through the savanna
– Preparing food for the animals, feeding them, and getting the bones out of the enclosures!
– A game drive through the sanctuary watching for zebras, giraffes and wildebeests
All of this is accompanied by good meals, the pleasure of working with the people from the sanctuary and unexpected activities because not everything goes as planned – This Is Africa, TIA!
It is a once in a lifetime experience and it’s crazy how close you get to the other volunteers by sharing these moments with them. I wouldn’t have thought that this trip would surpass my expectations but in fact that’s what happened. Maybe “just” for the reason that whenever there’s a bit of time left you could play around with the cubs and see how they react to your actions or just watch some of the other animals to learn something about their behavior.
In addition, the variety of incidents (even just during my two weeks!) turns every stay into something very special and individual, so you will have very personal experiences. For me, it was an insane nighttime safari searching for some lost animals, catching two wildebeest to move them to a different reserve, witnessing the birth of a handful of cow calves and setting a controlled fire (called block burning) on my last day to revive the dried up nature.
In the end nearly every one of the volunteers said they wanted to come back as soon as possible, and as soon as you’re there by yourself you know why – that’s for sure!
Get involved and begin the journey of your lifetime! Click here for more details about the The Wildlife Sanctuary in South Africa!