The idea of joining a volunteering program came to me after I decided that I needed to spend some time (even if it was a small period of a few weeks) devoting myself to something that I really cared about.
I wanted to spend some time doing things and giving attention to things that I truly loved. I wanted to see the world from a different perspective and also learn a bit more out of it. Because life is sometimes so full of concerns and we can have a very limited perspective, I really felt that something was missing and that I needed to add a little more truth to it. So, I chose to volunteer at the Tiger and Lion Park in South Africa. I could not have chosen better. The experience of volunteering in South Africa was amazing and accomplished all that I was looking for.
From day one, we were already learning and starting our routine schedule. This included meat and bottles preparation, feeding, cleaning enclosures, project activities, animal quality time, helping with the visitors, and having a lot of fun.
Helping take care of the animals with the schedule was already great and amazing, but what I didn’t expect was the magic I discovered behind the daily basic activities. Things like going to sleep listening to the roaring lions, waking up to the sound of the peacock (even though it was not exactly welcomed every morning), meeting giraffes on our way to work, being in touch with nature, spending quality time with the amazing animals, learning about each animal´s needs and behavior, the indescribable feeling of bottle feeding them, watching them grow or get better, dedicating our time and efforts on their behalf, and meeting people from all around the world… are things never to be forgotten.
The whole atmosphere leads you to the understanding that you are in a special place, living a special moment and surrounded by special people who are all there for the same reason you are. Everybody turns into a big group, working together as a team and helping each other. It´s just a matter of days before you start to care a lot about everyone, and some of them may also become friends for life. Staying around the main cabin and hanging out with the whole group, having a barbecue, and getting to know each other was always a great way to relax and enjoy everybody’s company.
Besides the volunteering program itself, there were also amazing trips and tours on our days off. These included visits to monkey and elephant sanctuaries, hiking, going to the beach, shopping at Jeffrey´s Bay, and a lot of other options. I think that no matter how long I stayed there, it would never have been enough and I will always want to go back.
Volunteering is about being dedicated and up for whatever it takes in order to help a cause you believe in, without expecting to get anything in return. But it turns out that the experience is magic, and something you get to take with you for the rest of your life.