Johannesburg, South Africa
I arrived on a Monday and started the volunteering South Africa project that day. We were preparing vegetables for the elephants. Later that evening we spent time with the young lioness Sheeba and with the cheetah Bailie.
The schedule is pretty consistent. Meal breaks are during the same time each day although the tasks between are varied. The morning usually starts off with cleaning the stables of the horses before breakfast. Then one day we’re going on elephant walks and filling in roads, the other we’re cleaning camps and walking with Sheeba. There is plenty of work to do at the Wildlife Sanctuary! The food served during meal breaks is awesome and keeps you fueled until the next meal. About once a week there was a braai (sort of like a South African barbecue) where some of the staff come and cook food over the fire with volunteers.
An entire entry could be written about the hospitality in South Africa. The people I met were amazing. I will never forget the volunteer coordinator or the two “volunteer handlers” as we jokingly called them (they were really the animal handlers). They shared their home, their laughter, and their friendship.
At this project you will get up close and personal with most of the African mega-fauna. These are beautiful, enchanting animals. I remember blowing into the mother elephant’s trunk so that she would remember me – they say that an elephant will never forget your scent.
I remember being in awe of the might of the grown lions as they growled over haunches of meat.
I remember being absolutely enchanted Bailie gave me cheetah kisses the day I left the project. That was one of my final memories from the project and is one of the fondest memories I’ll have my whole life.
While riding in the range rover the first day I remember thinking, “I can’t believe I’m in Africa!” That thought would often pop into my head during the project with a feeling of excitement and wonder. This project is a wonderful experience. I wouldn’t have traded anything for it (except for the chance to go again for longer!). I cherish every memory I have from The Wildlife Sanctuary.