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Volunteering in Israel – Wildlife in the Arava Desert

This summer my sister and I decided we wanted to volunteer with animals outside of Mexico where we’re from. We found GoEco in an internet search and we were immediately drawn to the Desert Wildlife Program in Israel.

We were advised to go to the project with an open mind, no expectations… and sunblock. When we arrived, we took a bus through the most amazing landscapes down to what appeared to us as the middle of nowhere. Rangers picked us up from the bus stop and we met the other volunteers at the house, a simple house next to the safari. We then settled in.

Our first day began as warned at 5:50 am with a pickup truck that would take us to the working area. While working with the staff we quickly noticed that they were kind, comprehensive and funny people (who would later surprise us with trips to Yotvata for ice cream), despite their scruffy appearance. We were instructed on how to prepare food for the animals as well as the safety precautions we should take around the cages. We would feed the animals and clean their cages from approximately 6 am to 9 am, and then work on specific projects for the rest of the day until 2pm.

We always had as many breaks as we needed and there was absolutely no lack of fun. Our chores varied from going to a lettuce factory and getting leaves for the turtles to building fences and working with cement under the sun. Besides an amazing tan and nice strong arms, I learned how capable I am at hard work, stepping out of my comfort zone and realizing that petting animals isn’t always what’s best for them. Just being able to work next to leopards, wolves, foxes, sand cats, porcupines, owls and bats was brought me closer than I could have ever imaged to the desert wildlife.

We got to set a falcon free, watch amazing felines devour calve legs, run around with a playful fox and have deep and fun conversations with the rangers. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had and would recommend volunteering in Israel with wildlife to anyone who doesn’t mind getting dirty and is up for hard work.