Field Report from the Wildlife Project in the National Park in South Africa
"Driving Animal Welfare on Game Drives"
The RGV team in Munich
I decided just 3 months before my departure date that I wanted to volunteer in Africa. With the help of the RGV team in Munich, I was very well prepared and felt like everything was taken care of. I received all of the information I needed in time and there was always someone to answer my questions.
My arrival in South Africa
After 13 hours I arrived in Johannesburg and changed into my RGV t-shirt so I could be recognised by the team who were picking me up. In the arrivals hall, I couldn’t find anyone waiting for me. This was my first time travelling alone and I was a little nervous going so far away. I decided to call the team in Germany who were really helpful and told me to look for other RGV t-shirts and I was able to locate an employee of the RGV team in Africa. It was great to have this support just a call away when I was feeling nervous. We then met two other volunteers and were ready to head to the national park. We arrived late and were welcomed around a campfire which was a great experience. The following morning we started with an introduction. We received information about the daily routine, our individual roles and what work would be done during game drives.
Support animal welfare on adventurous game drives
There are two drives in a day. The first one usually starts at 5:30am and ends between 10 and 11am. The second drive leaves at 15:30 and you arrive back to camp at 21:00. The main task during a game drive is to look for animals and this project mainly focuses on the Big 5 (buffalo, rhinos, elephants, lions and leopards) and hyenas. There is a big focus on rhinos because sadly, they’re becoming extinct. We would also look for rare antelope species or special occurrences are dated. When you spot wildlife it is the volunteers job to take pictures. It is important to capture the ears, face and body so that the animal can be identified later on the computer. The location the animal is spotted should also be noted.
Other tasks involve cutting trees so vehicles can pass through, removing non-native plants and even resurfacing roads and pathways. These tasks will be done depending on the weather and will usually be carried out for about one to two hours.
One volunteer will stay at camp and this works on a rota. They will cook food and do work in the office such as evaluate camera traps. Also, you can rest on a day at the camp a bit and sleep a little longer.
On Friday afternoon everybody goes shopping together and meet at a restaurant afterwards. People also use the wifi here to tell friends and family about their latest experiences as the internet connection in the camp is not the best. Sunday is a rest day but you can also plan your own tours if you wish.
I was also lucky to be part of a sleep out . We stayed in a small hut near a waterhole. At night, the chance to see animals is greater. Here every few minutes you look outside with a touch and spot reflective eyes in the darkness which is an exciting experience.
I am looking forward to the next time!
In my four weeks I had some great experiences. No two days in the National park are the same and you won’t get this experience anywhere else. Every game drive is different, sometimes you see an animal on every corner and on other days you only find impalas and wildebeest. I was also allowed to join in some bushwalks, here you walk through the middle of the bush to change the memory cards in camera traps. From an elephant walking right past me to a leopard in the tree or a snake crossing our path, the memories I made in 4 weeks are priceless and will stay with me for a very long time. I never thought that I would come so close to wild animals. The work in the blazing sun can be quite exhausting and you should be physically fit. I would recommend to everyone and I am looking forward to my next trip to Africa.
Report from the National Park project in South Africa, by Aniko S. March 2017