This past January, I had the incredible opportunity volunteer working at the African Wildlife Ranch in Oudtshoorn, South Africa. While in South Africa, I had the time of my life meeting wonderful people and experiencing all that the Ranch and South Africa has to offer.
The Ranch is a zoological facility located on the outskirts of the small town of Oudtshoorn. Their volunteer program connects individuals with all kinds of wildlife, and is a crucial aspect to the functioning of their facility. Volunteers work Monday-Friday at the Ranch. The mornings often consisted of cleaning animal enclosures and feeding the various animals around the Ranch. After lunch, we would make and provide enrichment for many of the animals.
What makes the volunteer program so important is the fact that we have the time to provide the animals with all kinds of enrichment. Animal enrichment encourages natural and species-specific behavior for animals living in a zoological enviroment. It enhances their lifestyle and keeps the animals moving, thinking and exploring.
During my stay, I had the privilege to interact with animals such as cheetahs, snakes, servals, lemurs, bat-eared foxes, caracals and many more. The staff was incredible and I learned so much from them. The entire atmosphere of the Ranch is very comfortable, inviting and laid-back.
The other volunteers during my stay were the best group of volunteers I could have asked for. We got along very well and had so much fun together. Even though we are from different parts of the globe, we are still staying in contact! In addition to working at the Ranch and socializing in the evenings, each weekend we went on excursions led by wonderful hosts! I went shark-cage diving, bungee jumping, zip-lining, on an elephant walk, and more! All in all, it was the best thing I have done in my entire life, and I would go back in a heartbeat. The animals, group of volunteers, amazing staff and incredibly fun weekend excursions made my time in South Africa an unforgettable experience.