Our Africa Volunteer Adventure Blog

Exciting Updates from the Rhino Guardian Project

Leopard Conservation

The Team at the Rhino Guardian Project are currently testing their new Reconyx Inferred trail-cams out on the reserve and this picture is what they’ve all been waiting for!!!!

They were very excited to capture this amazing male leopard on their very first attempt!!! This is the beginning of a leopard research program being set up specially for private reserves.

The aim is to assess the local leopard population and also assist in making identification kits of the resident leopards.

 

Once they have documented the local leopard population, a select few will be fitted with satellite collars so they can start tracking them for research. 

This data will be collected and shared in collaboration with the Leopard Conservation Project NPO who will supply the materials and methods needed for collecting this data.

The Difference That Can Be Made From Wildlife Monitoring

We cannot reveal all the information for obvious reasons, but here is a summary of an incident which occurred in February 2016.

Please note that the following account was experienced by a team member of the Rhino Guardian Project. Volunteers aren't involved in anti-poaching practices which put them in dangerous situations.

On the 6th of February one of the Rhino Guardian team members (Jason) was out on the dawn patrol-drive. While out in the field Jason positioned himself on one of the many observation points where he then spotted something suspicious: two unidentified men, dressed in dark coloured clothing, moving through the reserve.

The area where the men were spotted is considered a high-risk-zone for poachers, so he had to act. He swiftly moved to a safe position and reported the incident to the reserve. Confirmation was made that the individuals were in fact trespassing.

Together with a local response team the Rhino Guardian team launched into action to pursue these trespassers. They immediately realised that these were no ordinary individuals or meat-poachers… These men knew how to move through the landscape and evade… Expertly!

The team was right on their heels for the entire day, but unfortunately (due to abnormal circumstances) their air support arrived just minutes too late and they managed to escape.

Even though the trespassers escaped, they did manage to collect valuable information from the incident and we aren’t giving up just quite yet. They confirmed that this was in fact a failed attempt to poach rhino on the reserve.

After all the hard work, it was frustrating to not be able to catch the poachers (well… not yet!!), but the team chose to stay positive and appreciate the fact that once again they did manage to stop a poaching event. This incident proves the value of the Rhino Guardian project and poaching deterrents, it proves that every little bit of effort and support can make a massive difference in combatting poaching and saving Africa’s wildlife.

The team would like to take the opportunity to thank everybody who assisted in this pursuit (they know who they are!). It was truly inspirational to see everyone’s passion and commitment. Furthermore, they would also like to thank all the volunteers and other individuals supporting their cause, without you we would not be able to do the work we do, we would not be able to make the difference we do!

Stay Safe to all the rangers out there and Love Your Wild Life.

Ask us more info on the Rhino Guardian Project and what you can do to help with their research and dreams and efforts for bringing poaching to an end.

 

Don't forget to read past volunteer Ellie's blog about her experience volunteering with the team. 

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Soweto Social Project - Erika's Experience

I arrived at the orphanage on a Saturday, and work kicked in straight away! Weekends are pretty busy here as the GoGos (Zulu for Nanny) aren't here on the weekends, so that means the children rely on us volunteers. Now if there's any starting advice I can give it would be, relax and take a deep breath! Don't arrive and try learn all the children's names instantly, take a step back and have some fun! There is plenty of time for that. 


There are 90 children at the orphanage, but only the nursery required our help during my stay. In the nursery there are 30 children, all under the age of 5. So there was a beautiful array of ages, from tiny infants, to troublesome twos, all the way to the, know-it-all fours! 



Now there is always something to do in the afternoon with the children, you don't have to just sit and play with them in the nursery and struggle to keep them entertained. Our group of volunteers, were kind hearted and devoted girls, who were lovely to spend time with!


So at the orphanage there is a wonderful library, where we borrowed some toys for them to play with, we tried out puzzles and building blocks so that we could help with their development skills.


It was wonderful to see the little faces light up as they spotted the toys! They came in running at full speed and screaming their little lungs out, not knowing which to grab first!


We also provided them with colouring-in books and pencils on some afternoons, this may not sound like much or the most exciting way to spend an afternoon, but trust me, when it came to this time of day the children would fight over who got to be picked first! Obviously we picked the children sitting nice and patiently.. If any of them were! 

 

One of the most memorable moments of my time here, is one that brought me to tears. One afternoon it started to rain (now in Africa in the summer, raining is kind of what we call "spitting" in NZ) and we opened the French doors in the nursery and allowed the children to feel the rain. Now this was the first time they had ever felt rain, there were high pitched squeals of joy, laughter, tears and all of their tongues were hanging out trying to catch the little droplets that fell from the sky. 


If you're given the option to add on the Kruger National Park/Panorama Tour, I would say go for it! There is no down side, you get to see and learn more about South Africa and experience some pretty amazing views, such as Blyde river canyon! The largest living canyon in the world and take some incredible photos, living on the edge.. literally on the edge in my case! It is definitely worth adding on, it could be a once in a life time opportunity?!


My time spent at the orphanage is pretty indescribable. I don't really know what to say, there were tears shed caused by sadness and by joy, laughter made, irreplaceable bonds made, a lot of hand clapping to "when you're happy and you know it!" It's just one of those things you need to experience for yourself. 

 

My only regret about my time in Africa is that I didnít make my trip longer, but I'm happy I did it the way I did as if I had changed a single date I may not have met some of the amazing people I now know and love. And it just gives me more reason to come back!


Being at the orphanage you learn a lot about the children and Soweto, but along the way you discover who you are more than anything. 

Just take the risk and go to Africa!

- Erika Kruidenier, Wellington, NZ

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How can you describe something there are no words for? - Ellie's time at the Rhino & Elephant Guardian Project

'Rhinos are like unicorns only with a lot more sass' so why aren't we doing more to keep them from becoming extinct?

Well, some people are, and I've met them! The Rhino & Elephant Guardian Project has the most caring pair running it. Not only do they put their heart and souls into monitoring and tracking their rhinos everyday (no matter how long it takes), they make sure their volunteers, who make the whole protection of these rhino possible, enjoy every moment of their time here. So much so, majority of them extend their stays!


So what's a typical day in the bush like, I hear you ask? Well, an early start to the day means we have plenty of time in the bush to find our sassy unicorns in their 16000 hectare reserve.


We take tracking equipment with us and, sometimes with more difficulty, find our rhinos. We log where they are, how they look, any behaviour characteristics and then just enjoy their company (however far away they may be seen), after all, who knows how long we will be able to see rhino outside of a zoo?


While performing our guardian duties, we are lucky to see stunning scenery, landscapes that stretch for miles with nothing but greenery, all sorts of free roaming animals and, if we're lucky, maybe we spot one of the big 5 (of which, the reserve houses all 5), or one of the small 5, or one of the secret seven.

The possibilities are endless! They've also had sightings of a pangolin just before I got here. I didn't even know what that was! That's the other thing about this place. The learning experience.


You don't realise how much you learn until your back home telling everyone. The guys share all their knowledge with you, not only about rhinos and conservation, but everything and anything you want to know. Their animal, nature and wildlife facts seem to be endless and it's wonderful!


After drive, you have camp to enjoy. There's a pool, hammocks to relax in, a living area with safari books (to learn even more, if you wish).


I'm not going to lie and say all day, every day is a chill day, there's plenty to do to contribute to camp and, rightly so, we all pitched in to keep camp clean and tidy. There's plenty of opportunities too.


The guys will take any ideas you have that will add to/improve camp. While I was there, one of the guys made a wooden swing chair- so cool! And a vegetable garden had been created just before I got there. It was so great using the home grown veg from there in the meals we cooked together.


During my stay we slept in huts called 'rondawels'. I loved it! I think I'd imagined something extremely basic but, lucky for me, we were quite spoilt!


Showers with hot water, comfy beds, fans - I think I'd have been quite happy living there forever! The food was just yum too! We made most of it together. I'm not the best of cooks, so that was brilliant for me :) and we had braais too (like a bbq but soooooo much better!) 


I've done nothing more, so far, than describe to you exactly what we did on this project. There's no exaggeration here, I've not been handed a bribe to do this. I'm just writing from the heart.


And that really is what has been affected by this project, my heart. I love this project, I love the bush life, I love the beauty I was surrounded by and, most of all, I love these rhinos. 

I'm not going to finish by writing here about how close they are to extinction, about statistics, poaching or how much people can do to help. You'll know all this already.

 

But if you're looking for the time of your life while giving back to an endangered specie, this is the place for you.  If I can answer any questions for you on this experience, I'd be happy to help! You can comment below and myself or someone from Africa Volunteer Adventures can give you more information. 


- Ellie, England. 

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Courts and Kate take on South Africa

Let's set the scene...

Its around June 2014 and I received a call from one of my closest friends Courtney.

Now Courts and I have been friends since High school.


We have been there for each other through the crazy teenage years, New Years parties, heartbreak and plenty of road trips.  Nothing however could really prepare me for what she was going to suggest during this phone call.

 

Courtney proceeds to explain that there is nobody she thinks would want to do this with her apart from me.

 

(In my head I'm thinking yes! Lets go skydiving)....

 

She continues to say she has found this amazing thing on the internet and that we should do it. (Now im getting concerned as I know not everything on the internet is legit.) 

Then she drops the A bomb... AFRICA! 

It takes me a few seconds to realise she is proposing that we go to Africa. This is a bit further than the 1.5 hour drive to the Coromandel. 

 

Courts explains that there are volunteer working holidays that you can participate in and she has found one working with lions, in South Africa.  Courts is so excited about this and gives me all the details so I can see more myself. She thinks September 2015 would be a good time to go.

 

I google and research over the next couple of days and get excited at the prospect of going on a massive trip. I have my heart set on going with Courts and decide to ring Mum.

 

I started to tell Mum all  about our plans and that we are going to go to Africa.

 

I do not claim to be a mind reader, I can however imagine what is going through my mothers heads..... LIONS! AFRICA! EBOLA! SCAM!

 

Mum decides to do her own investigating, as parents do.

 

Mum ends up joining the bandwagon and I let Courtney know that we are going to South Africa September 2015!

Departures, searches and robots

The next 36 hours consisted of: 

 

  • 3 flights
  • 7 hours sleep
  • 3 countries
  • 5 movies
  • 2 special security searches 
  • Numerous toilet stops
  • And 2 friends finally making it to South Africa

 

Arriving in SA and I was expecting to have to have bags x-rayed and questions asked etc. Nope! Quite the opposite. Got our bags and walked straight through. Looking at each other wondering if we have done something wrong. 

 


The team that have arranged this trip picked us up and we were leaving the car park when I see a sign above the barrier arm that reads: "Please wait for robots." 

 

All I can imagine in my head is a small robot coming out on wheels and lifting up the barrier arm. The guys driving the van proceeded to explain that robots were in fact traffic lights.   MIND BLOWN! 

 

I am unsure if it was due to being tired but the conversation lasted for around 15 minutes about why it is a robot vs. why it is a traffic light. Could not stop laughing!

Orientation - Soweto & Pretoria

Scrambled eggs and pancakes for breakfast= Kate in heaven.


First full day in South Africa and we went on a tour to Soweto. I am glad I was not driving.


They have a taxi system of vans where you can stand on the side of the road and point where you want to go. The taxi will then stop and collect you. But these taxis stop with no warning, sometimes in the middle of the lane, middle of the round about, basically anywhere they want. And you can tell by the taxis that they don't mind as their panel work of the car is probably not allowed to drive in NZ.

Soweto has around the same population as New Zealand (according to our driver) however is quite opposite. Some areas in which they called middle class looked run down and not suitable for living but then we arrived at another area. The roads were dirt and houses made of corogated iron. Certainly made me grateful for where I come from.

 

 

Even though the population of Soweto lives in these conditions they are happy with what they have. They are all smiling and going about their lives. Kids are running around or returning from school looking very respectful in their uniforms. (There is no school in Soweto so they have to travel 30 mins by foot to neighbouring area).


Our driver was from Soweto explained that everyone knows everybody and you become like a giant family, passing down skills and traditions.

 

We travelled up the Orlando towers and had a 360 view of Soweto and Johannesburg (travelling up the tours in a elevator the cage on the outside). 

 

The next day we went to Pretoria and visited Nelson Mandelas house, the Union buildings and a few other historical landmarks in the area. 

What an afternoon it was, tugging at my heart seeing the way other people live.

 

It is definitely an eye opener to a different part of the world. 

Johannesburg is an interesting city with tall fences and barbed wire around all the properties, a number of different cultures and some strange road signs. I think one of the top reasons to live here would be for the McDonald's delivery! Yes that is a real thing! 

 

The last night in the hostel we had an evening of playing the drums and learning African songs. Lifted the mood amongst us before we had an African Braai (BBQ). 

 

- Kate, Napier, NZ.

 

Kate has written a blog series about her and Courtney's Africa Volunteer Adventure on their 2 weeks at the Save the Lions Project. Read the rest of her blog here

Rachella's time at the South Africa Dream Horse Safari

When I first got to the South Africa Dream Horse Safari, I was super nervous. Such a new situation with so many new people!

So many questions and thoughts ran through my head. I did not quite know what to expect...

What were were the stables like? I hope the family is nice! I wonder what the other people staying there were like.  What parts of the world were they from?  


When I finally arrived, I realized there was nothing to be nervous about! The family was so nice!  The people I met were so amazing and kind! And I just know that I made lifelong friends. 


The bungalows were super cool and in the middle of the bush surrounded by wildlife.  There was even a watering hole by our outdoor kitchen where wild big game like zebras, giraffes, warthogs, hyenas, and buffalo. 

Everyday was a surprise, you never knew what you would see at the watering hole at all hours of the day and even at night!  

Most mornings were spent at the stables, which was a short 5-minute drive from base camp.  The stables were beautiful!  Wildlife was everywhere at the stables.  


Not only were there tons of horses, cats, and dogs, but there were warthogs, wild birds, and depending on the season, there were even dung beetles.  Right before I left I got to see a dung beetle in action, which was much more interesting then I ever thought it would be.  

There were always plenty of activities to do at the stables. Some days we would work the horses in the arena and practice honing our dressage skills.  


Other days we would take the horses out on the trails that are right across the street in the bush.  On our out rides we had seen zebras, impala, giraffes, and kudu.  They do not scare easily on the horses so the animals were in very close range, which was amazing to see! 

On Wednesdays we would spend the day having jumping lessons.  Jumping was my favourite activity, and I think it is the horses’ favourite too.  They all get very excited to jump, and the more you do it the more you improve and get to jump higher!  


The owner, Traci, is very good at helping you improve your skill as a rider.  She truly cares about advancing your skills and gives you the necessary tools to do it yourself. 

 After we were done at the stables, most days we would go on game drives, where we would be driven around the bush in an open jeep to see all the animals on the reserve.  It was always an exciting experience, because you never knew what you would see.


Sometimes we would go on drives at night with a big flashlight, and sometimes we would go in the morning and watch the sun rise. 



On Thursdays, we would go on excursions that the group would mutually decide on.  The adventures I went on included, Kruger park tour (which we also did with other volunteers from orientation), Moholoholo Animal Rehabilitation centre, the three waterfalls, and the picnic spot. 

We even got to go on private reserve and saw white lions! Staying at this project was an amazing experience. 

I would recommend this trip to anyone who has a love for horses or just animals in general. It was an amazing life experience I will never forget and will treasure it for all my years to come.

- Rachella, California, USA.

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Ellen's Month at Save the Lions

So I've just spent the last month at the Save the Lions Project. What can I say. It was the experience of a lifetime... 

...From the crazy Scottish cheetha champ Alan, to watching the world cup final win on a big screen with the staff, the whole experience was indescribable.

I feel like I left my family behind when I had to go. All the staff were amazing and welcoming. 

The other volunteers (vollies) I worked with were the most amazing group of people. They were from all over the world - American, Brits, a young girl from Scotland and a girl from Norway (who ended up being my holiday wifey). You won't meet better people. I now have so many contacts around the world whom are all keen to meet up again at the project in October. 

 

Cheetah days were by far the most exhilarating and exciting - even though getting to cut the legs off a cow was heaps of fun and then seeing the big lions eat it -  experiencing a cheetah eat a chicken right in front of me was the highlight.

 

 

Let's not forget the reason we are all there - the cubs. Blues, Reggae, Hiphop, Jazz, Indie and Aslan were so much fun. So many cuddles and so many scratches (African tattoos). 

 

We were lucky enough to go on walks with the bigger lions. One of the walks has really stuck with me. There was a thunder storm happening at the time but the lions were not phased, they played and ran around like little kids getting into trouble. 

 

During Ranger Duty I loved pulling the titanic move on the back of the buckey (truck) and making up random songs and dances to the cubs routine and rangers duties.

 


"It's truly something you have to experience yourself to understand the entirety of it. So what are you waiting for?? Sign up! I can guarantee, you will not be sorry." 

I'm going back this year in a few months as I already miss it - and I've only been home for a few days!! Save the Lions for life


- Ellen, Wellington, NZ. 

Welgevonden Big 5 - Hard to pronounce - Easy to love!

by Pip Myram, Assistant Volunteer Co-ordinator at Welgevonden Game Reserve. 

Some volunteers and myself (R) taking a coffee break
Some volunteers and myself (R) taking a coffee break


Having been a volunteer myself in South Africacan remember what I wanted out of my time while volunteeringI expected to meet new people, experience new things, learn something new every day and get stuck in with all aspects of staying in a camp. 



             

At Welgevonden Research, you can expect exactly these things, and every day brings something new and exciting. The key to this is the flexibility that is factored into the routine of the day-to-day running of the project, as well as the variety of activities. 



What makes this project unique is that it is run directly under the management panel of the reserve, and so volunteers are actively involved in their daily tasks, and this is how we ensure that the volunteers joining Welgevonden Research actually help to make a difference. 



The project focusses on research which is dictated by methods and actions to conserve the environment and all the resources within the reserve, with the ultimate goal of achieving the outcomes required by the reserve



Combine this with the breath-taking landscapes, abundance of animals, including the Big 5, and unique ecology you’re sure to have quite an adventure!! 


Volunteers are great for many reasons, but primarily they dedicate their time to contribute to conservation for no remuneration: simply put, the extra pairs of hands are essential to get the tasks done! 



Secondly the benefit of becoming “conservation ambassadors” means they return to their home countries with an insight and new-found knowledge to educate others and raise awareness about the problems faced in the industry. This is essentially promoting the importance of conservation.

  


On the flip side, volunteers equally reap the benefits by participating in projects like Welgevonden Research by gaining all important practical field skills by participating in ecological research and conservation tasks. 

 

Volunteering can also enhance life skills: coming to a new country with no-one you know puts you out of your comfort zone and as cliché as it sounds, volunteers often learn something about themselves! 


I personally have found that volunteering can improve your employability: devoting your time to a cause other than your own is a valuable quality a person can have and is well worth exploiting. 

 

 

Both volunteering, and for me to now assist co-ordinating the project, is simply brilliant. Volunteers are always willing to get stuck in with all tasks and aspects of camp life as well as out in the field, all to experience something new.


always feel like I am one of them, joining in with the fun they’re having! You never stop learning in the bush and volunteers at Welgevonden Research ensure this with their interest and curious questions. 



    

The enthusiasm for nature that the bush brings out in volunteers is incredible: we have already had a volunteer return to the project and many more are desperate to come back!

 

It is a real feeling of accomplishment to be able to take volunteers out to explore conservation and nature in the stunning landscapes of Welgevonden Game Reserve. Read More about this project...

Yes girls can do anything at Welgevonden
Yes girls can do anything at Welgevonden

To find out how you can volunteer at Welgevonden Reserve - just complete our form below. 

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Elle's Save the Lions Project Adventure!

8 hours to go… 5 hours to go… 2 hours to go. The longest plane ride I have ever taken, counting down the minutes until I finally arrive in Johannesburg from Wellington, New Zealand. After a 3 hour flight to Sydney and a 15 hour flight to Johannesburg I could hardly contain my excitement when I finally stepped off the plane onto South African soil. Tip: If you can afford to splash out for business class, do it. You will appreciate the sleeping room. 

Driving through the beautiful city by night to get to the ‘Awesome Travel’ hostel in Rosebank was just the beginning of a trip of a lifetime. After spending three days in Johannesburg, touring the sights (including Nelson Mandela House) and exploring the city with the other volunteers, we packed up and parted ways to our different projects. Myself and two others were off to the Save the Lions Project, a one and a half hours drive from Johannesburg and miles away from the big city!

I can’t speak for the other African volunteer projects but my stay with the Save the Lions Project was incredible. I only wish I had opted to stay longer than the two week minimum, it flies by very quickly! When you arrive you are shown to your rooms, gorgeous thatched roofed cottages and are given a tour of the vast area. All the staff are wonderful and you become one great big family by the time you have to leave. 

Ok, ok but the lions you’re thinking. Tell me about the lions!! Trust me now; you will definitely not be disappointed. On day one that you arrive, you get to interact with cubs and visit all the bigger lions, the tigers, hyena and other African cats on your tour.

Tip: Make sure you pack extra SD cards for your camera and maybe even a camera you don’t mind being chewed a little!

On a usual day we were split into three groups; Cubs, Rangers or Day Off.

‘Cubs’ was definitely my favourite; you have the task of looking after the lion cubs, juvenile lions (they’re called the ‘Devils’) and the tiger cubs.

Making meals, feeding and general play time is had throughout the day. You also get to help the staff with tour groups, keeping the lion cubs in check (and the tourists) making sure they’re playing nicely and not being too rough.


‘Rangers’ entailed doing whatever the rangers where doing on that particular day. That could include, but is not limited to; collecting cabbage for the emus, collecting a dead-something for the lions, tigers etc., or going into town for other supplies.


‘Day Off’ group is pretty self-explanatory (pool lounging was popular).  After a “hard” day playing with miniature lions, we are fed dinner and then volunteers generally congregated at the bar for a few drinks. Not only was the bar a social spot is also had a heater and the best WiFi reception. Heater? What? You’re in Africa! Yes, well although the winters in Africa are beautiful during the day; blue skies and not a single drop of rain for 2 weeks, after the sun went down it was like an Otago winter. Lots of vollies took their duvets to the bar and cuddled up while we had a drink. Tip: If you’re coming in winter, bring warm PJ’s and a hot water bottle!

Turns out I’m writing a novel rather than a blog post! Unfortunately there’s just so much adventure and experience I can’t fit into this entry. From zip-lining over a canyon and visiting Kruger National Park to bottle feeding lion cubs and walking with big lions in the South African bush. You will see all manner of animal, especially if you opt to do the 4 day Kruger trip (do it!) and every manner of beautiful landscape. Every experience in South Africa has a special place in my heart that I will never forget. 


Blog by: Elle - Wellington, NZ

Tip: Pack a bag, Get on a plane, Experience life and go to South Africa!

Blood Lions Up-Roar

Playing on Emotions

In recent months the social media frenzy on canned hunting has really ramped up. A few animal activists in South Africa started a group to help "save the lions" and mostly they play on internet viewer ignorance and use emotional images and propaganda to raise money for the cause. Not sure how much of the funds raised goes as wages and salaries and how much actually helps "save the lions".

 

I'm totally against Canned Hunting myself and actually - I don't much like hunting either. I love all animals and I'm the one hoping in those nature programs the penguin doesn't get eaten by the seal, or the zebra by the lion!


I hate seeing a dead animal on the tv or internet - let alone a cat on the side of the road - I even don't agree with fishing!!

 

But to say all lion breeding facilities breed lions for canned hunting is just ridiculous. Ok - I agree - like all breeding - there are dodgy breeders, and those that plain and simple "don't give a shit" about the animals, but there are also passionate and caring breeders in South Africa. 

 

To say all lion breeders are supporting canned hunting is like saying all pitbull breeders are breeding the dogs for fighting. 


















I totally agree that those breeding lions for canned hunting should be stopped. For absolute sure! But is attacking every breeding facility the way to go?

Even worse that it's done on the modern day bullying replacement, known as social media.


Most online "activists" have not been to the facilities they are attacking, and blindly share propaganda as fast as it's supplied by the Facebook groups and twitter accounts feeding their insatiable emotional appetite.

 

Yes - a lion photo with a slogan does tug at the heart strings - and we all hate the thought of them being shot - look at Cecil as a prime example of how the general public and keyboard warriors are against the killing of such a majestic animal - me too!


But these days with most photo apps, anyone can add text to a photo of a lion and proclaim he's been shot by a canned hunter.  Much like airbrushing of fashion photos and then the media proclaiming the model is too thin - she must have anorexia. No one is safe from the critical nature of those sitting behind their computer screen with not much else to do. 

 

But what about the breeders who actually are breeding for the right reasons - the ones who also love animals and have a passion to see them survive the human race! Survive TB. These breeders are also being lumped into the same pile as the dodgy breeders - because a keyboard warrior has had an email from someones sister, saying she thinks they are involved in canned hunting, because she was there last April and now where is the lion she loved so much?


Did she check the tree?

The breeders breed for safari parks, zoos, private reserves and other breeders. Responsible and ethical breeders are using a microchip scanning system to track lions throughout their lives to prevent hunting.


Some lions are bred for use in movies - there's one being made right now about canned hunting no less!

 

So if a breeder breeds a lion to be in a movie about canned hunting - does that make the breeder of that lion associated with canned hunting? The question is as ridiculous as some of the accusations being bandied about by groups online who although have the plight of the lion at heart are somewhat misguided by emotion. 

 

Some breeders are attacked for taking the cubs from the mothers at a young age. So let me ask them this....

Do you drink milk? Take milk in your coffee? Have milk on your cereal, cream on your porridge? Whipped cream on your pavlova?

Do you know how the cows get milk? The calves are taken away on the day they are born and the mother (cow) is milked every day for the rest of the season.

 

Don't even get me started on the shredding of male chicks (those cute little fluffy chickens which will never lay eggs).

 

Sometimes in farming and or breeding,  things happen that don't happen in nature. The reason the cubs are raised by hand is because these lions will be less stressed being handled in later life. No zoo or safari park will take a lion that has not been hand reared - because it's ultimately less stressful for the animal. Long term.

 

Some breeders also use the lions for research and conservation - which means vet procedures at times, again, having been handled by humans as it grew up makes the stress of the occasional darting less impactful. This is how healthy Big Cat DNA is being preserved.

 

It's hard to find a TB Free lion in the wild - I say the wild - I mean Kruger Park. No where in South Africa can a lion be released in the wild. Even if Kruger wanted more lions (it doesn't), then the released lion from the breeder would contract TB from eating the Buffalo which have TB. Good breeders work hard to breed TB free lions and try and establish why the lion contracts TB from eating buffalo - yet the hyena doesn't. This sort of research is what will save the lions. 

 

Even if I did agree with canned hunting - breeding lions for canned hunting is still better than them being poached.

A far more pressing issue in South Africa is one I wish would tug at the same emotional heart strings as the lions do. Because lets face it the lions are not about to become extinct. Rhino's on the other hand - ARE.





































Over 890 rhinos have been poached in South Africa in 2015 alone (as I type), and 1215 were officially poached in 2014. These defenceless peaceful animals are shot on private property reserves and safari parks, illegally, often with military rifles, and their horn hacked off with a machete, often leaving behind a baby at foot to stress, (or worse they kill the calf to shut it up).


The poachers do it for a small amount - because they are poor they do it. The ones paying the actual poachers are organised crime and they earn upward from $65,000 per kg of rhino horn. So you can see the appeal. A poacher may be from a local township, perhaps uneducated, and offered $50 to kill a rhino. That's 500 Rand and a lot of money to him.


As long as there is a market in Asia for Rhino horn then this will not stop unless locals are educated. The government of South Africa can not afford to house it's own people so it has no spare money to protect wildlife in Kruger National Park so it's become the private reserve owners task to protect the Rhino. The future of the rhino depends on private reserves breeding the rhino successfully - and then protecting them from poachers.


The Facebook groups and online supporters for animals need to put their money and keyboard voice behind the rhinos - against the poachers. It's black and white unlike the Lion argument. Poachers all kill. 


Rhinos could be extinct before the keyboard warriors' children are 15 years old. 


if you'd like to put your hand up to actually hands on help then we have a couple of volunteer projects dedicated to protecting rhinos from poachers and you can help out. 

- Keyboard Warriors - please go ahead and share this blog. 

How does Volunteering with us help the Rhinos in South Africa?

As many are already aware, there is a serious rhino poaching crisis in South Africa. However, not many people realise just how bad the situation is. 

 

1kg of rhino horn is valued at $65,000 and the average adult carries between 7-8kg of horn, it's easy to understand why poachers will now take risks that they previously would not.

 

Africa Volunteer Adventures' mission is to create awareness, and to work with projects who track privately owned rhinos and discourage poachers from entering the reserves. The more activity on the reserve, the better. Every day that the volunteers venture out into the field, it adds valuable hours to the lives of the rhinos. 

 

 

During 2014, in South Africa alone a staggering 1,215 rhinos were killed by poachers, that’s one every eight hours.


















Reference: https://www.savetherhino.org/rhino_info/poaching_statistics



Sadly there is currently no real solution for saving Africa's rhino but combining poaching deterrents like we are trying to do is the best way forward and it is all thanks to continued volunteer involvement.

 

It is the fact that rhino on the reserve would have been gone long ago if it was not for the volunteers with Africa Volunteer Adventures. 

 

If we can combine these three deterrents: 7 day monitoring, dehorning and the inception of an anti-poaching team we can change minds and secure the future habitat for rhino on the reserve. 

 

We believe that it absolutely can be achieved through volunteering!! 

 

This poaching crisis is quickly going beyond individual efforts to save a a species. What we need now is the commitment of everyone working with rhino to thoroughly understand what is involved so we can make a real difference in this fight against poaching. 

 

If you are interested to join the fight against Rhino poaching then check out our Rhino & Elephant Anti-Poaching and Big 5 Welgevonden Projects


One of the best times of my life

South Africa 2015 – Welgevonden Game Reserve by Claire Ellis

What a trip. Looking back on it now I can truly say I had one of the best times of my life at Welgevonden in the winter of 2015.

 

The breath taking scenery, magnificent animals and fantastic people all are my highlights of the trip.

 

I thought I’d take you through the two weeks I spent at Welgevonden in July of 2015. But I’ll simply it by categorising the trip into five key points:

  1. People
  2. Flexibility
  3. Conservation
  4. Research
  5. Environment. 

People


I have met some incredible people during my trip.

 

First off, Vicki from International Working Holidays and the hard working people at Awesome Travel. They all work so hard so the volunteers can have the best time. I felt very supported and could trust the people who were running the behind the scenes.

 

Next, Sil and Jorinde, the two ladies who joined me on my journey. You really do make some lifelong friends volunteering with people from all over the world. And finally Pip and the staff at Welgevonden. What made my trip so special is that I felt like one of the team.


We were given a lot of access to the runnings of the reserve which was enjoyable because it made the trip feel like we were actually achieving something rather than just doing monotonous work which wouldn’t benefit the reserve. 

Flexibility


A key aspect of our time at Welgevonden was to be flexible. Every day was different and the nature of conservation work concerns animals, who don’t run on our schedules.

 

This means changes to the days, very quickly and suddenly. I have two prominent cases of this being true. Firstly was our first day on the reserve. We in the middle of our orientation, just an hour or two of arriving when Pip (our co-ordinator) gets a call saying there is a Rhino capture. We quickly get ready to go and we are off. Another case I had was getting a call in the morning, after we had planned to go into town for game auction, saying there was to be a cheetah capture. Our whole day changed in an instant. 

Conservation


The reserve itself is all about conservation; preserving the nature environment and the animals that live on it. This means we got to see the Big 5 and other typical animals of Africa in their nature environment.

 

Zoos are forever ruined for me since I have been able to see how beautiful and happy animals are when they are living they way they should. Elephants are my favourite animal and seeing them in their natural environment strengthened my love for them. Welgevonden Reserve itself is actually not the best place for many of the animals we saw to live in. The nutrient defiant grasses make it hard for many Impala and Kudo to get the right nutrients.

 

So a part of our job as volunteers was to put out lick blocks. Lick blocks are mineral rich blocks of sugar. We put them out all over the reserve so that animals can get some more goodness that they aren’t obtaining from their nature food. This was a great way to see what conservation really is about and to see most of Welgevonden.

 

Research

 

The lick blocks and the Plains project are just two examples of research projects the reserve is conducting. Several lick block sites have camera traps and specific data collected so that the managers of the reserve can see who is actually eating the lick blocks and if they worth it.

 

The Plains project is all about developing the grass so that in the future lick blocks and other interventions are not necessary.


I plan on studying environmental science at University and this trip was just what I needed to get inspired. If you, like me, want to make a difference in to the environment then Welgevonden is the project to go to as it gets the volunteers involved in the research they are conducting.

Environment

Located in the Waterburg, Welgevonden is huge; over 36,500 hectares of several different landscapes. From your classic African savannah to rocky mountains, the reserve is breath-takingly beautiful.

 

I could not stop taking pictures. Environmental sustainability is important to the park as well, with water conservation and not wasting anything being key parts of life at camp. This is truly what drew me to Welgevonden. I wanted to go and experience what it is like to work with animals, I didn’t want to just be a guest, I wanted to get my hands dirty and that’s exactly what I got.


From handling elephant poo for the camera traps, monitoring the breathing of a darted cheetah, counting the animals for the game transects and feeding the buffalo, I got to experience so much more than I expected and I cannot wait to do back!

It is hard to put into words why you should go to Welgevonden so hopefully this article is enough!

To find out more check out the Welgevonden Big 5 project here.

Welgevonden has a facebook page which is filled with pictures and info from the volunteers who are currently at the reserve. If you are interested in going to Welgevonden, then like and check out their Facebook page:   I think that is the best advertisement there is! 

Video from Claire on Welgevonden



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I got close & extremely attached to these magnificent creatures

One minute I was looking through Africa trips on a website and the next thing I know I’m getting vaccinations and booking flights!

 

I feel like I didn’t even need to do much, the team at IWH were so helpful and they had pretty much everything planned from airport pickups, the drop off and everything in between. I had exactly three months until it was leaving day, they absolutely flew by and before I knew it I was waving goodbye to my extremely anxious parents at Auckland airport. 

 

I couldn’t believe it was really happening- it didn’t hit me until I was in the car driving to the hostel after 36 hours of flying and airports. Rueben, the driver, was getting an absolute earful of all my questions as my fatigue turned into excitement. Johannesburg is by far the biggest city I have ever been in, I couldn’t see where it ended! And coming from Rotorua with almost 70 thousand people it was a massive shock that the wider Johannesburg area has more than 10 million.

 

The orientation was intimidating at first, I was the last person there and most people had come with their friends or partners - I was riding solo. And to make it even scarier I was the only Kiwi there too, but the girls and guys made me feel so welcome and were super inclusive.

 

The trip to Soweto was when we all really bonded, thanks to a near death experience involving going up the side of a tower in a cage elevator to get a view from the top. Turns out we didn’t die but it sure felt like it at the time! The rest of orientation involved getting to know each other and the wonderful country that we would call home for the next 4 weeks.  

On the last day we were all dispersing to our different projects, I immediately became friends with a quiet girl, Nele, who was to become my roommate for the next month- turns out she’s not so quiet and we got along famously. The drive was approximately 2 hours, but with all the anticipation it felt like minutes.

 

Pulling up to the Save the Lions Project we all took notice of the “Stay in your vehicles, you may encounter free roaming lions” sign, we were finally there!

 

Couple more metres up the long and ridiculously bouncy driveway we spotted a group of giraffes just cruising along. After being introduced to most of the staff and got a look around the lodge it was time to meet the babies!

 

I had seen the odd lion cub on occasion and had a bit of a cuddle but these guys (and girls) were particularly gorgeous! Tiny little sleepy faces, massive ears and feet, all lying on top of one another even though it was midday African heat.

 

We were warned that they were likely to be cranky, but I would be cranky too if I was taking a nap and someone came and wanted a cuddle, so we let them be and went to visit what Haran kept referring to as the “Puppies”. I kept telling him that they’re not puppies, but in retrospect they were more like cheeky puppies than the Devils they’re commonly known as.

 

These 4-6 month old critters were the best part to my African adventure! Within 5 minutes of being in the Devils enclosure I was up to my elbows in red dirt with a baby lion climbing over me and another two more trying to get in on the fun. Surprisingly, it felt so natural to be covered in little kings and queens of the jungle; I was immediately comfortable with them and them with me. 

The day to day activities went like this; we were split into two groups, Rangers and Cubs, Rangers went out on the back of the pickup trucks with the real Rangers for general maintenance of the park.

 

We would go down the road to fetch vegetables for the Zebra, Ostriches, Warthogs etc. or we would go to the chicken farms to relieve them of the deceased chickens for our little devils, walking lions (also known as gremlins), Cheetahs, Caracals, Hyenas, you name it.

 

That job was particularly disgusting, but it can’t have been all bad because one day we found a live chicken in the dead chicken pile!

 

Long story short- Nele and I named her Gemma and she immediately became an important member of our Africa family.

 

We had to do the odd trip to fetch a cow or horse for the big lions, which was Max’s favourite thing to do because he had popped his shoulder and wasn’t good for much after that, it made him feel important. So add a bit of cleaning, sunburn and a bunch of banter and that pretty much sums up the Ranger days.

 

Cub duty days involved a lot of sitting. Since lions are in the cat family, they like to sleep…a lot. Which was fine for me - I’d get all up in that. Using one lion as a pillow, one for a foot rest and maybe another one or two just for company. A lot of naps were taken on these days. But when they were awake - no one was safe! Teeth and claws and stalking and jumping, if you were fine with getting scratches, bruises, and ruining your clothes it was a bunch of fun!

The day would always end with a dip in the pool. Soothing the sunburn, cooling down and a really fast way to get all the dirt off of you before trying your luck in the shower. Then there was dinnertime and of course a few drinks and games at the bar before calling it a night, (some nights ending up bigger than anticipated and ending up getting back in the pool or trying to climb the rock wall).

 

However; we did get some days off just to hang out by the pool and go on game drives around the park. Every now and again we went on a walk with the walking lions. These ones haven’t sexually matured yet but they’re pretty much full grown!

 

Hard to imagine I know, but we were actually walking freely next to big lions while they run around, jumping on each other, climbing trees, typical lion things. They misbehave a little though and the walkers have to bribe them with frozen baby chickens. 

About a week in to our stay at the Save the Lions Project a handful of us met up with our friends from orientation and ventured off on our Kruger and Panorama tour. We arrived at the bush camp, which is exactly what you would assume it is… a camp in the middle of the bush.

 

Totally awesome and definitely recommended- as long as you remember to take your malaria tablets, which I didn’t. Needless to say I was paranoid about mossies most of the night, but there were mosquito nets so I didn't need to worry!

 

First day was Panorama, and oh my goodness the photos do not do justice!

 

Absolutely beautiful scenery, did not even feel like Africa. January was in the middle of rainy season so the bush was as green as you would see in New Zealand. Waterfalls, cliffs, mountains, rivers, and a cheeky baboon, the whole day was incredible from start to finish.

 

The next day was a full day safari at Kruger National Park. We got to see all sorts of wild animals, just chilling in their natural environment.

We got to experience almost the whole Big Five! No sign of the Leopard, but that was replaced by a Hippo doing the “flicking poo everywhere with its tail” thing that they do, a couple of Buffalo doing a bit of a pose for us for photos and an Elephant giving itself a bath while we were parked less than 10 metres away.

 

It was absolutely surreal how up-close and personal (whilst at a safe distance!) we were to these wild animals. 

Getting back to the babies, we only had 3 weeks left with those gorgeous little creatures and we still had to fit in the Monkey and Elephant sanctuary, shopping at the markets and a whole bunch of other optional day activities.

 

Nele and I decided to visit the monkeys and elephants, we didn’t want too much time away from the lions.


So for half the day we were walking elephants by their trunk, getting fed a sandwich by a Capuchin-(well, he was trying), getting trunk kisses, feeding an old Bull and getting my hair done by a Spidermonkey.

 

Just when I thought the day couldn’t get any better we ended up at a reptile park and petting zoo. Of course we had to pay an extra R70 (roughly $7.50) and the man let us hold everything!


So we got a cuddle with a Burmese python, baby Croc, Racoon, Meerkat, and several Lizards as well as checking out a bunch of other cool animals. 

Our time at the Save the Lions Project was beginning to wrap up, we had already said goodbye to so many of our new friends and the time to farewell the animals was coming up.

 

Our last day involved holding back some tears as we made our way around the cubs saying our last goodbyes. I had spent the morning at the little cubs hut, four weeks ago they had started off as grumpy little critters but as they got use to me I became extremely fond of them; especially my little boy Len.

 

Only minutes before I was leaving he came over and curled up in my lap and fell asleep- because it wasn’t hard enough to leave as it was!

 

I spent the rest of my time at the project trying to pull myself away from the Devils, it had been such an amazing experience getting close and extremely attached to one of natures most beautiful and majestic creatures. I will never forget the time spent at the Save the Lions Project and the bonds I made with the African lions, and of course the friends I made during my time there. It was a very hard time getting into the van and saying my final goodbye. 

 

A few of us weren’t flying out until the next day/night so we had one more night to spend at the hostel where we spent orientation and one last chance to have some fun with our friends. 5 weeks in South Africa had gone by so fast at yet I had experienced more than a lot of people would in a lifetime.

 

I was definitely not ready to leave this beautiful country but my flight and 39 hours of travelling was calling me. I’ll be sure to return to South Africa and hopefully have a chance to see one of my beautiful cubs one more time. 

 

For anybody thinking of doing a similar thing, or actually heading to the Save the Lions Project, I would absolutely recommend it!

 

The only advice that I have is just get super involved, this trip was a once in a lifetime experience for me, it wouldn’t have been the same if I didn’t get down in the mud with the lions, get all scratched up, fight over a chicken with a Cheetah, wrap a Python around my neck and take the time to get to know a bunch of really interesting and really fantastic people who made my trip as amazing as it was.

 

~ Georgia R - Rotorua NZ

 

 

Read how you can get involved in this project like Georgia did

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New Zealand is beautiful but it's LIONLESS!


Blue skies, green grass, fresh air, and open spaces; 

New Zealand is beautiful but it's LION-LESS!!

 

I could write you a book on our time at Ingwe but I’m not the best writer, so I’ll do everyone a favour and shorten things up. 

On our arrival into Africa nerves began to kick in. Thankfully we had 3 days in Johannesburg to get use to the climate, meet the other volunteers, and get over the jet lag. It was great to be able to see some sights and be well looked after for the orientation period.


But then there was Ingwe…  A place where people have the opportunity to deal and work with animals that most people can only dream about. Lions, Caracals, Serval, Coati bear, pet Labrador, oh and did I mention Lions! Honestly it was love at first sight. In fact I thought to myself… sorry mum but I may never leave Africa, I will stay and become a lion girl and be part of the Ingwe family. 


I know in blogs you are meant to talk about all the highlights of the trip but I think you can probably gather that the whole month was one big highlight of my life. There’s bottle feeding lion cubs every morning, reading a book in the sun with the caracals or Zak the Serval, play times when the animals are out and come to steal everything that you leave lying around so it’s a good way of learning to pick up after yourself!

 

All the extra activities on offer; like sky diving (yes I did it, and yes I screamed), croc farm, zip lining, Kruger national park, cheetah and elephant interaction, horse riding and more. Not only are the animals a big time highlight but so are the people you meet. I learnt a few things while at Ingwe; Eastern Europeans cant have a meal without ketchup, they find the kiwi accent hard to understand at times (BAZAAR!), and even though we are from different parts of the world we all shared the same love and passion for animals.


Unfortunately there was a down side… For some silly reason certain people like to share their opinion on lions in captivity, without being a lion guru and without knowing all the facts. Yes these lions are kept in enclosures. Enclosures that are cleaned daily, have toys, shelter, and fresh water.

They are not kept in there 24/7 on their own. They have play times, and volunteers are constantly in there making a fuss of them. No they don’t come inside when it rains because they are lions… they have shelters that they choose not to use because they love the rain!

No, their enclosures are not enormous fields so they can run a marathon… because they are lazy! Watch any documentary about lions in the wild, the only time they run is when they hunt, the rest of their day consists of sleeping and playing for the young ones.

These animals have been brought in for a reason… they have been rescued.

If Ingwe had the money all their animals would have massive areas to laze about but at this stage money doesn’t grow on trees and it is something that is a long term goal that I would happily contribute to when I win lotto! But these animals are happy and are truly loved and fortunately when they are in these programs volunteers like myself get to fall in love and learn about these amazing animals.

The only other down side is leaving. Over a month you settle into your new home, make great mates that feel like family and have incredible bonds with the animals… and then all of a sudden you have to come to terms with the dreaded word ‘Goodbye’. 


First Zak the Serval; he wasn’t that tame but he had an attitude that I fell in love with so he got a mince ball rather then a cuddle.

Logan and Leila the caracals; well I wanted to give them cuddles but they had decided that climbing on the roof was just far to much fun!

The six white lion cubs and the big beautiful Aslan all got big cuddles and kisses and I’m sure they were sick of the ‘selfie photos’.

The almighty Mickey the Coati bear; she got to climb all over me and bite my ear for the last time, but snuck in a wee ‘I love you really’ kiss too.


Then the babies… two that I was overly attached to (yes you're allowed favourites!) Cubby and Shiloh. Shiloh had only been there about two weeks but in that time I fell in love with his human like ways; like needing to suck on your finger and be cradled like a baby to have the best sleep. But on goodbye day he decided he’d had enough of the cuddles and wanted to be a big lion and snobbed me… slight disappointment.

And then my all time fav Cubby. The big baby. He had an attitude to burn. Thought he was in the wild and acted like it too sometimes… he was like a teenage boy… acted tough but really he loved all the hugs and kisses. Not to mention the people. Well I like to say I’m tough but it was like saying goodbye to family.

But because they all live in Europe and that is our next destination we will sure to be dropping in to see them all so they haven’t quite got rid of us yet!
It was all hard and I hated every minute of it but I suddenly realised that its not that horrible dreaded word of ‘goodbye’ its simply see you soon Ingwe (yes you will have to put up with us again!)

 

 

 


A few thanks are in order. Vicki from International Working Holidays NZ.


I booked this volunteer program though her and she couldn’t have been more helpful.!


The team at Awesome travel in Johannesburg. Especially Natasha, Harry, Reuben and Nele (hope I spelt this right!) you guys were amazing. You provided us with a great stay in Johannesburg and an amazing experience at Kruger! Yadie the legend behind Ingwe.


You provide your volunteers with a great place to stay and provide us all with so many opportunities. I have no doubt in my mind that this project will continue to grow and be bigger and better in the years to come. You’re an all time animal lover who lets nothing or no one stop you from achieving what you set out to achieve.



And last but not least. Kayleen (Ray Ray Donny Jr) and Delport. Two awesome young people who are Yadies right hand men. You looked after us all so well and I truly appreciate the people you both are. You both have a passion for animals and incredible people skills.  Stay cool kids and see you fellas soon! 


Megan W from Christchurch


To Read More About this project head on over to our website page. 

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Why you just Need to Do the Kruger Tour!

After 10 hours of driving we had arrived at our stay for the next three days. We had the sweetest little rooms all ready for us.

I was paired up with girl from Germany to bunk with. The rooms had straw roofs and looked just like tree houses. Opening the door to our room I was thrilled to see a mosquito net over each of our beds. We had an outdoor shower which looked out into the bush. That night I had a tiny frog rudely join me in there.


The following day our guide took us around a local area where we shopped around the town and had some lunch.


For the girls who were brave enough we signed up to do the big swing. A 70 meter drop into a gorge backwards and then into a giant swing. My legs shook and knees buckled as we were told to lean back.  I somehow managed to get on the lap of the girl I jumped with during our fall.


Once it was over I had a massive grin and my day was made!


From there we were taken to Blyde River Canyon. Even on a rainy day it was stunning. I had never been to a canyon before and I couldn't peel my eyes away from the view.


Our last stop before heading back was to Lizbin Falls. By then the rain was pouring so we all ran out to snap a few pictures before running back to the van.


Looking back at my pictures I regret not staying to take in the landscape for longer. 

That night as we curled up in bed in our little tree houses there was rain and lightening thundering down. I could hear trees cracking in the distance. I had never experienced anything like it before. It was incredible and a little frightening.


We were up at 4am the next morning. I could hear a wild lion roaring in the distance. I was buzzing with excitement and could barely finish my breakfast. Wrapping up in blankets we piled onto the safari trucks and headed to Kruger National Park.


One word "HUGE". This word flew through my mind as we drove through Kruger National park.

We were fortunate enough to see the last female white Rhino left in Kruger. The next week she was taken with the others to a secret location to avoid being poached. Unfortunately she had an infected bullet wound on her side. But that was soon fixed. 

Suddenly our guide changed directions and darted off in another. I looked up to see more vehicles had gathered up ahead. Looking over the long grass my eyes meet a wild lionesses eyes. She was stunning. My smile grew as I spotted two cubs around 3 months old playing next to her.  


Following the road we were greeted by cheeky monkeys. Some had babies attached to their backs. I had to take a double glance to make sure it was actually a baby I saw as they were so small. Some of the monkeys started mooning the trucks and we all had a laugh.


A bit further up we spotted a cluster of vultures gathered around an eland carcass. They were much bigger than I had imagined. Their wing span was already enough to surprise me. One of them flew off and I saw her in the distance and land on a tree top. Her massive nest wasn't hard to notice and then a tiny head popped up to take the food from her.


We then stopped at a water hole. Everyone started snapping pictures and I was confused as to what they were capturing. Suddenly I noticed what I thought was a rock until it had little ears that started to shake. Hippos! Unfortunately as they don't have sweat glands none of them rose above the water or came out during the day. 


Our final stop was sudden. We were in the middle of the road. I started peering around try

ing to spot what was around. Suddenly a herd of Elephants began to cross the road in front of us. We all began taking photos. They were so beautiful and so huge. We were told all about their Ivory tusks and how things work among their herds.  

I had my eyes peeled all day to spot a leopard. After 13 hours of searching I had no luck. We all had heavy eyes as we left. I had a fantastic day and I would highly recommend this to anyone who is offered it! Seeing the animals at my project was one thing but seeing the animals in the wild was incredible!

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My time helping the orphans

Hello, my name is Celine I was in South Africa from November 2013 till April 2014 to do volunteer work.

Celine with the children at Amazing Grace

I was volunteering in three different projects, in two children homes and a wildlife project.

My first project was the Amazing Grace Children Home in Malelane. Malelane is a little town next to the Kruger National Park. But you find some shops, supermarkets and ATMs there. The children stay full-time in the center, they have a place to sleep, they get food and most of them can go to school. Most of the children are between 8 and 18 years.

 

The first week I needed time to get used to the life there. But when you start to know the kids, you start to love the place and you don' t want to leave anymore. The property has different buildings, one for the girls, one for the boys, the kitchen, the common room, the volunteer house and the office. There is enough space to play and they have a playing field for basketball. I played with the children, I helped them with their homework and I tried to teach some English words to those children who didn't speak this language.

 

On Friday evenings I borrowed a movie for them or we just sat together to talk. It was difficult for me that some children could not speak English, so it was not easy to communicate with them. I stayed in the volunteer house with another volunteer. There we could cook our own meals and we had a bathroom of our own. I had a great time at Amazing Grace and enjoyed being with the children.

 

After that I travelled back to Johannesburg and I did another two months of volunteer work in the Othandweni Children's Home in Soweto. I was excited again and also happy to meet of Othandweni. We had a big kitchen and living room and I had my own bed room. We worked together in the nursery. The children there are 0 to 4 years old. In the morning we started at 7am, we brushed the tooth and we bathed the children, we changed the nappies and dressed them.

 

After that they had breakfast and then we played with them or we went outside to the playground. At 12am it was time for lunch and we helped to feed the little ones. After the lunch we went back to our volunteer house to have lunch while most of the children went to sleep. In the afternoon we went again to the nursery, we played with them and feed them again.

 

We also accompanied the sisters to the hospital if a child had to go there or helped with other things where they needed assistance. Once a week we went on the bus to the mall to buy our food for the week. Most of the time we stayed in the home but as Johannesburg is not that far we had the possibility to make some trips there. I also had a very nice time at this home, people were really kind and friendly and I loved the work with the little ones. I gained a lot of experience which will be helpful for my future.

 

- Celine G, November 2013 

 
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Hearing the lions roar at sunset brought goosebumps to my skin

Entering the Wildlife Centre in Rooiberg South Africa I took in the red soil, the yellow grass and the black trees. It was exactly how I had pictured it!

Amber and Asian at Buntle Ba Project with Africa Volunteer Adventures

We were greeted by other volunteers and one of the partners of Ingwe. I was with a group of 11 girls from all around the world. I had traveled the furthest as it had taken me 32 hours to arrive in Johannesburg.


All the volunteers spoke English. Some more fluent than others. It was funny hearing them pronounce words they weren't familiar with. One girl asked if she could see the "picture-graphs" on my camera.


Some also weren't familiar with New Zealand and asked how long the drive was from New Zealand to Australia.


After introductions we set out to see the lions. Seeing the 4 week old white lion cubs brought tears to my eyes and it was so surreal. Watching them play and stumble around the yard was incredible. Stroking a lion for the first time seemed like something I had been dreaming of in the time leading up to my trip.


The larger lions were stunning. Their paws were already larger than my hand at only 7 months old. It took a while to adjust to roaming around with lions and having them lay across the table that you're sitting at. They soon became more comfortable around us that we could play and interact closely with them.

Giving them belly rubs was incredible.


Within the first week my camera and phone memory was full from photos.

 

Amber and a lion at Buntle Ba Project with Africa Volunteer Adventures
feeding time at Buntle Ba Project with Africa Volunteer Adventures

Feeding the larger lions was difficult at the start and sometimes daunting as they were already so strong and not even a year old. But once I had established their personalities feeding became more relaxed and even more enjoyable.

 

One night we watched the sun set as we sat on a hill that overlooked the dam. Hearing the lions roar brought goose bumps to my skin. Each morning I would wake up more excited than the day prior. It was hard to say goodbye to the girls who had signed up for only 2 weeks as we had become such good friends. But with their departure came the arrival of more excited volunteers from around the world.

 

One of the days I was here I was Lucky enough to help some workers to dart some Wilder beast, Buffalo and Eland. They were moving them to another area so they could start breeding. We had a vet with us to ensured the animals were okay an injected them with vitamins, antibiotics and also sprayed them to get rid of any ticks they might have. Getting so close to a Buffalo was incredible.

 

I was able to pat one of them which was unbelievable as they are such a massive animal. Seeing how much care was taken when moving each animal was really heart warming as I knew they were in safe hands.

 

There were definitely days that I grew homesick. But looking out my window to see lions playing and just over the fence having wart hog, buffalo, stable and many more animals so close made it easier to deal with. 

It's easy to say that this has been the greatest time of my life and I will definitely be returning. 

Feeding time at Buntle Ba Project with Africa Volunteer Adventures
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The view was like a smack in the face!

Review of Buntle Ba Volunteer Project - July 2014

The minute I started driving from the main road to the farm, I knew that this was going to be a different experience. You drive through a 2500 hectare game farm where you can spot anything from a little bunny, warthog, and monkeys to sable antelopes, zebra or giraffes.

 

Right there, in the middle of the massive farm, I was taken to the accommodation house for my stay! The warm welcome we got from the staff & other students made me feel like I was at home straight away and walking in to my bedroom seeing the view I was going to have for the next two weeks was like a smack in the face! It was awesome!!

 

Swimming pool, lapa, buffaloes eating about 50 meters from my window and last but not least - the cubs were right outside!!!
Little Nikita was running around having her playtime, which they all have at different hours throughout the day, while the caracals were running around hunting the birds on the lapa roof.

 

 

Incredible first impression? CHECK!

 

The days went by and we eventually got used to getting up at half past 6 to feed the little cubs, cleaning enclosures, keeping the bigger cubs active while they had their playtime, feeding them, feeding caracals, get some lion cuddles once in a while. That's what we came here for, right?

 

We had a lot of free time in between the feedings and playtimes; you can do whatever you want to! Jump in the pool, watch TV, go into the enclosures for some extra cuddles, 5 o'clock is Savannah time so you can have a drink or two.

 

Yadie, the lovely co-owner, organizes all kinds of different outings for her volunteers, like rhino spotting in Marakele National Park, Zip-Lining, bushwalks to the top of a hill where you can watch the beautiful African sunset, a trip to the dam where you can go fishing and canoeing or just relax etc.

The lions all here because they, for all kinds of different reasons would, not are able to survive otherwise.

 

The love and attention that the staff provides for their animals is remarkable. To really understand what this place is all about, you have to come see it with your own eyes!

 

My favourite memories from my two weeks - just to mention some;

  • When I jumped in the pool to get a ball that sank down to the bottom while I had the three biggest cubs circling around the swimming pool!
  • After lunch nap with the baby cubs!
  • Skydiving over Rooiberg!
  • Punchday!
  • Waking up to the smell of Nikitafarts! - The dam!

The tears came from sadness when I had to leave this place, I ended up having the time of my life and I am definitely coming back to volunteer and visit my friends.

 

Love,
Petra Thomsen... x



Petra's amazing time July 2014 as a volunteer in South Africa
Petra's amazing time July 2014 as a volunteer in South Africa

My only regret was that I didn't stay longer

I just under estimated the winter nights

Lisa Africa Volunteer Adventures

If I am going to write a few sentences about my Africa Volunteer Adventure - the Save the Lions Project, I first want to say that every second, every day I enjoyed.

 

A beautiful area and beautiful people from all over the world! I had never traveled alone before, and I was pretty scared to go to the other side of the planet. There was absolutely no reason to be scared at all, thanks to the team in South Africa and at home.

 

When I arrived Tambo Airport, they were there and took care of me.  I met the other volunteers and got to know a lot about South-Africa’s history before we went to our projects. The next few weeks were incredible at the project. Even though we worked 7 to 8 hours a day we were absolutely in love with the things we did - including the «dirty work».

 

It was warm and perfect at daytime, but really cold at night. I had never thought that the African winter night was so cold lol.

So, if you are travelling in June (winter in South Africa), I would recommend a good sleeping bag and some warm clothes for the evening.

 

Also, it is good to know that the accommodation that we lived in were nice and clean, they have clean water and the food is suitable for all.

And, they do not only have lions there! During one stay, you will see many of the animals Africa has to offer.

 

I look back at the pictures I took all the time. I grew so much and the project gave me so much. Missing all the people and, of course, all the lions. I want to cuddle the lion cubs, play with the devils, walk with the walking lions, just sitting there and adoring the big beauties and waking up every day to the lion’s roar.

 

Really, I'm trying to be critical, but I liked this program so much. The only negative thing was that I did not take the African winter seriously. Bad clothing for nighttime was my fault – and, my afterwards regrets that I should have stayed there longer!

 

- Lisa H

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As many are already aware, there is a serious rhino poaching crisis in South Africa. However, not many people realise just how bad the situation is. 

After 10 hours of driving we had arrived at our stay for the next three days. We had the sweetest little rooms all ready for us.


I was paired up with girl from Germany to bunk with. The rooms had straw roofs and looked just like tree houses. Opening the door to our room I was thrilled to see a mosquito net over each of our beds. We had an outdoor shower which looked out into the bush. That night I had a tiny frog rudely join me in there.

Hello, my name is Celine I was in South Africa from November 2013 till April 2014 to do volunteer work.



I was volunteering in three different projects, in two children homes and a wildlife project.

Entering the Wildlife Centre in Rooiberg South Africa I took in the red soil, the yellow grass and the black trees. It was exactly how I had pictured it! We were greeted by other volunteers and one of the partners of Ingwe. I was with a group of 11 girls from all around the world. I had traveled the furthest as it had taken me 32 hours to arrive in Johannesburg.