Volunteering in South Africa – Throw caution to the wind and go!

Posted by: Britney

As someone who does extensive research before doing anything; I strongly encourage anyone who might be a tad over cautious, like me, to throw caution to the wind and GO!

The Wildlife Sanctuary project is truly life changing. (I don’t like the term “Once in a lifetime” because I fully intend to repeat this experience!) Never having been out of the country, I had worries and therefore researched EVERYTHING, from the conservation to the hostel in Johannesburg and everything in-between. Everything went off without a hitch. The orientation in Joburg was a blast! I felt very safe at the hostel; the staff was warm and accommodating. There were 13 volunteers the week I started, four went to a different project and nine went to the same as me. We are all still in contact! The connections you make with the people involved is indescribable. I made lifelong friends from all over the globe.

After the first two days we were all very excited to get to our respective projects. Upon arrival, we got settled into our rooms, went on a tour of the grounds with a project leader, and saw our first feeding. (Feedings are every Monday and Friday afternoons for the big predators). Our first Saturday was a little different as we went back into Johannesburg to participate in a rally outside the Cites Cop 17 convention. Sundays are a day off to rest. If the weathers nice most vollies hang out by the pool. Monday is “S*** Monday” were the day revolves around picking up and removing excrement from all animal enclosures and then taking the trailer where it has been stored all week and manually dumping it into a compost heap. It’s not as bad as it sounds!

For the remainder of the week the volunteers are divided into 3 teams for work. We work Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, Thursdays are excursion days. Every team gets the chance to do the same tasks. If one team has branch clean up and animal interaction on Tuesday they switch and the other teams get to later in the week. You also get the opportunity to sign up for special interactions. When I attended it was elephant walks ! Once a week you can wake up early and meet with the elephant handlers and walk with them as they take the elephants on their daily walks!

I can’t thank the project leaders and staff at the conservation enough. They go above and beyond to make sure everyone is safe and happy! For anyone with dietary restrictions they kitchen is awesome, if you let them know what you can’t have ahead of time they will prepare something special for you. After only a short two week stay, I truly feel this place has taken ahold of my heart and I can say with certainty I will return one day!