I enjoy the release of the Lion King to share with you my experience as a volunteer. By the way, it is because of the movie that I wanted to travel in Africa.
In October 2018, I flew for 2 unforgettable months in Nelson Mandela’s country. The first purpose of this trip was to volunteer in a game reserve with the Big 5 (Lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo and rhino).
Because of the organism Aventure Africaine, I could spend 4 weeks in the game reserve of Shamwari. This game reserve offers a special program : the Shamwari Conservation Experience. All along of this period, I could do a digital detox: no service at the camp and the wifi wasn’t free. This allowed me to focus on the time spent with the other volunteers but also to enjoy each instant of this unique experience.
What’s the job of the volunteers?
We were at the maximum 20 volunteers, and mainly girls. We were in charged of the maintenance of the reserve and its roads. I mean we had to fill up the holes caused by the bad weather. We cut the branches that didn’t allow the jeeps to run. Also, we had to cut and take away all the plants that was imported by the colonist. This one is really noxious for the local flora (their water needs aren’t the same…) and then for its wildlife. These missions were a bit physical and were, most of the time, happening in the morning. Beside that, we were spending hours to study and list the fauna living in the reserve. We would, for example, following an elephant pack. This way we could make sure that all its members were present and in good health. We had some tricks to recognise them (their ears, the size of their tusks…).
Because of these observatory and study times, we could be witness to the daily life of the savanna. The lioness hunts, the huntings lessons of the lioness, the Springboks’jumps, the fight between two elephants or even a game between young cheetahs…
Also, the rangers raised awareness among the fight against poaching. We had do to signal any trap we might find but also participate to night patrols.
Every Friday, we were helping the community of Alicedale. We were teaching English to the kids. A friendly match was organised by the rangers and the association We Shamwari to train the kids. We also could help to build a driving school and so many other things.
I will keep all these memories forever in my heart.
And, some free time ?
Of course, week-ends were free. It gave us the opportunity to visit the surroundings. For my part, I was lucky enough to go with others volunteers and Murray our FreeWalker guide. We went to Jeffrey’s Bay. It is a small seaside resort. We were sleeping at the hostel Island Vibes that I recommend you. We also went to the Valley of Desolation. Only few hours away from the reserve there is Graff Reinet and this amazing valley. It made us feel we were somewhere else. I was lucky enough to go sand surfing and drive a quad close to Port Elizabeth. But before that, on Friday night, all the volunteers were partying at Louis Pub.
A bad side?
ATTENTION !! You have to pay to do it: when I did it it was 500€ per week per person with accommodation and food included. You have to arrive on Monday and stay at least 2 weeks. This side is the bad side of this experience. But, the people you meet, the memories made and everything that you can learn (about the animals but also about yourself) definitely worth it.
An you, have you already volunteer somewhere? What was your experience? 🙂