Why did you choose this program?
After doing a substantial amount of research online and a lot of questions to various organizations, I knew Wildlife Act was the best fit for me.
It's an opportunity to not only go see South Africa, but you also get to work with a great organization and help them with their conservation efforts. It's the best of both worlds: you get to see the animals but also be part of their conservation, learning from people on the ground.
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
Wildlife Act assisted with answering all questions, and they provide transport to the reserves once at the Richards Bay airport.
They also provide the name of a few guest houses in Richards Bay if you arrive early. It's up to you to organize getting to Richards Bay from wherever home is. Not to mention, they also supply all of your food for the time you are there; it is up to you to cook and to supply any snacks or drinks you may want.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Be prepared for varying weather. Also, remember South Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere, so your season at home may be very different than where you are going.
Bring warm & wind/rainproof clothing. It's Africa, but it's still cold at 4am on the back of a truck with the wind, and depending on the season, it does rain and you have no cover.
Also bring sunscreen, it is Africa :)
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
Depending on which reserve you are at, you will go out for 2-3 sessions a day, with the possibility of 1 day for data entry (all the info you collect).
The morning sessions start normally well before the sun is up as everyone is bundled up on the back of the truck (with the very important cooler containing hot water, coffee/tea and rusks for your later break). You return to camp in the late morning to eat or relax until your next session. Normally you will go out again in the late afternoon, returning a little after the sun has set. You will get to experience the amazing sun rises, the beautiful sunsets, and the giant sky full of stars.
While out, you will be tracking various animals, depending on the priority for the wildlife monitor. You will be using telemetry equipment, along with a handheld GPS, and a triangulation app to find your animals, stopping to make notes and take a data point for anything important that you come across.
You will have dinner with your group once you're done for the day (maybe even a braai), before getting ready to head out the next morning.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
My biggest fear for this trip was traveling half way across the world alone, to Africa. A lot of planning and a lot of questions to Wildlife Act helped relieve some of the stress, but my desire to go was more than my fear of the unknown.
Now that I have traveled to South Africa alone twice, I know what to expect and have no issues with this travel; I'd go back right now if I could!
What are the groups like?
You will be placed with a max of 4 other international volunteers, and you will have 2 awesome wildlife monitors (they alternate sessions, but they do get days off so you may have 1 with you most of the time). These people quickly become your bush family, and likely lifelong friends, as you experience this adventure together.