DAKTARI

DAKTARI Bush School and Wildlife Orphanage

About

The mission of DAKTARI is to educate and inspire local children to value their environment and stimulate community development

Every Monday, eight new students come to DAKTARI’s camp to spend the week building their knowledge of the environment and wildlife. They attend lessons, do activities, and interact with the animals in the wildlife orphanage. DAKTARI also works at the secondary schools to further this education and undertake community development projects.

Our goal is to enable today’s local underprivileged children to eventually be able to secure good employment in nature reserves, thereby improving their future quality of life.

** 100% OF YOUR PAYMENT GOES TO THIS CHARITY **

Founded
2002
Headquarters

Bona Ingwe Farm, Harmony 81
Hoedspruit
1380
South Africa

Reviews

Default avatar
Julie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

It was the first time for me, as a volunteer for a humanitarian organisation and I don't have any regrets. Even if my level in English is bad, I managed to get by during my 15 days. It's also a good way to improve the language because we are with others volunteers from all around the world. Moreover, the staff are very patient and know that we can have some problems speaking English. They are always there to help us and they are all nice.

Michèle and Ian, the two co-founders have created DAKTARI Bush School & Wildlife Orphanage since many years and this project is beautiful. It's a peaceful place where benevolence reigns for kids and animals.

The teaching program is interesting and well developed, every topics covered are current and important. The animals are also very well here.

About the accommodation, everything is fine here and it feels like living in the middle of the bush.

To conclude, do not hesitate, you will not be disappointed. South Africa is a wonderful country!!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
To not hesitate to go and enjoy every moment here because it goes so fast.
Default avatar
Rebecca
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Hi all,
I came to work as a volunteer at DAKTARI for 2 weeks and it was an amazing an experience!!
In this time I had the chance to work in different activities such as giving classes to children and young students to learn about the environment, politeness and animals but also to take care of animals (like feeding and cleaning them) that I had never saw before. As I never teach before and neither took care of animals before all activities were a new learning and I had a great time with that. Volunteers helped each other and if you feel quickly part of a community.

Also, interacting with the staff working in DAKTARI was a fun way to learn more about South African culture. People are extremely nice and happy and fun to be around (music and dancing all the time!). I had the opportunity to also go in an excursion to the National Kruger park and see a bit more of South African landscape and animals diversity. It is amazing and worth going for sure!

This experience was a great way for me to "disconnect" from my usual day to day life and be part of something completely different. I learn so much new things and also had time to reflect about myself. I hope I help to made a difference in the kids and students I taught and as well the animals I took care. I am bringing back to me a lot of souvenirs, good memories and contact of friends made in DAKTARI. I encourage you to try out also :)

What would you improve about this program?
The program is great but there are some improvements that could help:
- some of the structure (amenities could be better)
- the onboarding of the volunteers could be done in more details and more clear so new volunteers could start more active in the beginning. Maybe could be also preparation before coming
- organisation of the activities could be better coordinate
Default avatar
Delphine
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I stayed at Daktari during 3 weeks from end October to mid November 2016. This was not my first holiday volunteering but Daktari provided me with a unique opportunity to both bring some of my experience to children and to be surrounded by nature and animals.

Each Monday 8 children aged 12-13 year old came from local villages to spend the week with us. Our days were organised around giving lessons to the children (mostly linked to the environment) and taking care of the animals (meerkats, mongoose, eagles, wild dogs etc.). The programme of lessons is very well prepared and detailed but Daktari is always keen for volunteers to bring their own experience and personality, and improve it if necessary. Depending on the number of volunteers present, we usually led with another volunteer a couple of lessons a day (which we chose the day before) and attended the other lessons in order to bring one on one support to the children. We also had more relaxed talks with the children on topics such as respect, substance abuse and safe sex and played board games. Overall the days were quite busy but you have some breaks to relax. There was no obligation to attend all the activities but most volunteers wanted to help and spend as much time as possible with the children. A volunteer coordinator attended most of the lessons and helped with the organisation and translation in case the children struggle to understand in English.

Daktari is situated in the middle of a game reserve which makes it a unique location too. You are surrounded by the bush and the sound of animals. This is a place where you feel very quickly at home and relaxed. The accommodation (chalets) was comfortable and to my surprise, we had hot water everyday! The food was very good too (and I'm French) and you don't have to drop bad habits like smoking (there is a nice quiet area for smokers) and drinking (for a cheap price too). There was a really nice atmosphere among the volunteers who came from everywhere.

Every Saturday we had the opportunity to go to the nearest town for shopping. I also spent an amazing week end in the Kruger Park with Greg, our guide, and 3 other volunteers. Visiting the park in a small group and accompanied by somebody like Greg who has a great deal of knowledge and passion about the animals is something you'll experience nowhere else. Greg also offers other types of day or week end excursions for Daktari.

In short, I had an unique and amazing experience at Daktari and guess what... I'm already planning to go back there for a longer period...

Sophie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A few friends had travelled abroad and it looked like a lot of fun, and I was always incredibly jealous seeing their pictures when they got back! As it was my first time travelling solo, I decided that a volunteering project would be the best way to get out there, whilst not being completely alone. I think the thing that makes Daktari unique is the combination of working with children and animals. I was drawn to this project as very few others give this opportunity. As a volunteer, you have a real impact on the children by teaching them about job opportunities, tourism, their environment, how to look after the animals and social issues such as substance abuse. After a long week of teaching, you then have the chance to cuddle up to the meerkats at the camp, go on a Big 5 safari in the nearby Kruger park or go bungee jumping off of Blyde river canyon. It was just such a fantastic project!
At the start of both weeks, the children were so shy and quiet, but it was fantastic to see them growing in confidence and knowledge as the week progressed. By the time Thursday rolled around, we were all toasting marshmallows on the bonfire, with the children teaching us different songs, chants and dances.
The teaching programme at Daktari covered so many areas in such a short space of time, but it managed to do it in a way that kept the children engaged and motivated. As volunteers, we were encouraged to improve the lessons, so we worked on the existing knowledge hunt lesson to create a challenging scavenger hunt. The children got incredibly competitive running around the camp looking for the clues, and it was great to see them helping the other children in their team.
I was also given the opportunity to visit a local crèche as part of Daktari’s outreach programme and teach a lesson to the 3-4 year olds. It was a real eye opener, and such a contrast from my school back in England.
All in all, I have had such a fantastic experience at Daktari, and my only regret was that it didn’t last longer! It’s incredible what Ian and Michele have achieved at Daktari in 10 years, and it’s clear the impact it has on the children, animals, local communities, and the volunteers who visit. I cannot recommend it enough, and I hope very much to visit again in the not too distant future!

What would you improve about this program?
The programme from a volunteer's perspective is absolutely fantastic, and I can't think of any improvements I would make (only put a big banner on your website telling volunteers to make sure they stay for at least three weeks, two was not enough!)
Default avatar
John
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My summer at DAKTARI primarily consisted of teaching local children and working with orphaned African wildlife. Working with local children proved to be the largest interaction while working at DAKTARI as students would come for five days a week and we would work with them from 7 A.M. to 8 P.M. each day. We would teach the students different subjects related to the environment and eco-tourism with some lessons touching on making South Africa a better place, safe sex, respect, and substance abuse. The schedule for working with the children was very similar to that of an educational summer camp, and also involved the children and volunteers with the care taking of animals kept within enclosures around DAKTARI's camp. Taking care of the animals consisted of cleaning their enclosures and feeding and watering them every day. At times, volunteers created projects to enhance the animal enclosures and would work on those projects when students were not at DAKTARI. There were also opportunities for volunteers to go on excursions during the weekends, where every Saturday volunteers could go into town or go on other excursions such as hot air balloon tours, trips to Kruger National Park and to different wildlife centers around Hoedspruit. I had a wonderful time and would recommend looking into DAKTARI as a possible volunteering opportunity. Be prepared to work, as it can be a demanding and tiring job at times. While I worked at DAKTARI some issues arose between volunteers and managerial staff where views did not align at times, and jokes could be off-color, but the long term volunteers were great to discuss these issues with. DAKTARI gave me a wonderful, life changing experience and really opened my eyes to the world outside of the United States. I could have never predicted what the experience was like and the African bush was truly breath-taking. I greatly enjoyed working with the local children, they were very fun to teach and to play games around the camp with. I enjoyed working with all of the other volunteers and I am so glad that I met all of the long term volunteers, all of which are wonderful people and great company around a dinner table. I hope DAKTARI continues to touch the lives of the locals and to make a difference in how the environment is perceived in Africa.

Programs

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Alumni Interviews

Alumni interviews are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Sophie Boulter

Sophie studied Psychology at the University of Birmingham, and is now working full time as a primary school teacher. She loves to explore new countries with friends and family, and has just completed her first solo volunteering experience.
Volunteer Teaching in South Africa

Why did you choose this program?

A few friends had travelled abroad and it looked like a lot of fun, and I was always incredibly jealous seeing their pictures when they got back! As it was my first time traveling solo, I decided that a volunteering project would be the best way to get out there, whilst not being completely alone.

I had looked at a lot of programs on many different websites. In the end, I chose the project at Daktari Bush School in South Africa as it involved teaching local children whilst also looking after animals - I was sure it would keep me busy!

As a primary school teacher, I love working with children and thought that this would be a brilliant opportunity to not only make a difference for these children, but improve my own teaching in a situation completely different to the one I am used to in England.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

After making the initial booking, I was sent a pre-departure checklist of everything that I needed to do prior to arrival. They put me in touch with a service that many of their volunteers use to get the best deals on flights, which saved me a lot of time!

The team at Daktari also organized return transfers to the airport, which was included in the program cost. I also needed to organize travel insurance which covered working with animals, as well as making sure my travel vaccinations were up to date. After asking about free time on weekends, I was sent a list of excursions and (very reasonable) prices that were available and could be arranged upon arrival.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I'd tell them to take every opportunity that arises, especially if it's something that pushes you outside of your comfort zone.

Whilst in South Africa, I was encouraged to completely embrace their culture and say 'yes' to things I never would have dreamed of doing.

Whether that was something small like eating lunch using 'natural knives and forks' (your hands!) and eating termites, or something more outlandish like doing a 68m fall off a canyon edge or taking part in a game of Bokdrol Spoeg (a giraffe poo spitting competition!) - everything creates a memory, and is a brilliant story to tell when you arrive home!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Volunteers arrive on a Saturday, and have the weekend to settle in and take advantage of many excursions offered by Greg, a friend of Daktari. During my first weekend, we stayed overnight at a local game reserve and went on two safari drives and a cheetah walk! It was a fantastic start to the week, and a great way to bond with the other volunteers.

A group of 8 children arrives each Monday from one of the local secondary schools, and they stay at Daktari until noon on Friday. Each day, volunteers and children take the dogs on a bush walk before breakfast, then spend an hour feeding and cleaning out the animals. Teaching then begins at 9am, and include lessons covering topics such as politeness, tourism, poaching and animal knowledge, but also more interactive activities such as a visit to a local game lodge where the children can talk to staff about job opportunities.

In the evening, everyone participates in a social talk on issues such as substance abuse, respect and safe sex, and then the rest of the evening is spent playing games such as Pictionary or dancing around the bonfire. Volunteers will also have free time where they can play with the animals, help with projects like improving the enclosures, or catching up with family and friends back home via the internet.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?

At first, I was a little unsure about traveling solo. In the past I have always travelled with family or friends, and so always had someone to share my experiences with, and who would act almost as a safety blanket.

I was quite nervous when planning a trip where I would spend two weeks with a group of people I had never met before, and had to get to the middle of the South African bush by myself! I soon realized I had no reason to be; Ian was there at the airport to greet myself and another volunteer and he immediately made us feel welcome. He even stopped the car a few times on the way back to show us the giraffes and other animals!

Meeting the other volunteers, the warm welcome continued and it seemed like they had created a proper little family at the project. Everyone there was in the same situation as myself, and I made so many friends, some of which I am planning on meeting up with again later in the year. Now I wouldn't think twice about traveling solo - strangers are just friends you haven't met yet!

In what way has this program had a lasting impact on you?

As a volunteer, you have a real impact on the children by teaching them about job opportunities, tourism, their environment, how to look after the animals and social issues, but they also have a massive impact on you.

I learnt so much from them about African culture, and it has made me much more appreciative of everything I am lucky enough to have. Whilst collecting hay, one of the girls was showing me how balance the bale on my head, and explained that this was how she carried water each day.

I was also given the opportunity to visit a local crèche as part of Daktari’s outreach program and teach a lesson to the 3-4 year olds. It was a real eye opener, and the incredibly simplistic classroom was such a contrast from the colorful displays and learning resources in my school back in England. Teaching lessons without the use of a computer and flashy powerpoint slides has helped me to become a much more reflective teacher, and I hope this will benefit my class back in England.

Staff Interviews

Staff interviews are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Nathalie Roure

Job Title
Fundraising Manager

What position do you hold at DAKTARI and why do you like working there?

I am currently the Fundraising Manager at DAKTARI Bush School & Wildlife Orphanage. I first came to volunteer at DAKTARI 5 years ago! I came for 6 weeks, it was my first volunteering experience and it is hard to find the words to describe the amazing time I had back then. I came back to France and never forgot about my time at DAKTARI. I decided to help and support them from France by participating in a fundraising contest and was one of the winners. This made me really happy to keep supporting DAKTARI from so far.

Thinking about my experience here very regularly, I decided to come back in 2013 for a couple of weeks. As I knew that I was more confident, I wanted to make an even stronger impact in volunteering here by teaching the children and taking care of the orphaned animals. At the end of my stay, The co-founder and I decided I could come back for a long term volunteering (1 year) and take a position with more responsibilities. I came back in March 2014, first as a Volunteer Coordinator and since August 2014, as the Fundraising Manager.

Working at this position is wonderful and teaching me so much as it is very challenging and there is not one day like another. So I am now doing a interesting and challenging job in a dream place, surrounded by wild animals and volunteers from all over the world! What a once in a life time opportunity!

Did you volunteer abroad? If so, where and what inspired you to go?

Apart from volunteering at DAKTARI in 2010, I did one other volunteer program. It was also in South Africa on more of a conservation project. I stayed there for 8 weeks. I have always been taking part of helping association in my country. I took part in associations supporting homeless people, people with HIV and oldery people. Giving some of my time for underprivileged people has always been something important for me.

I feel privileged in my life and want to give some of this privilege to others. Therefore being part of a humanity project has always been something I did for others, but also for me. Its so rewarding to be able to put a smile on someones face and give a bit of time without worrying about the next day.

With this in my heart, I decided to link it with one of my favorite hobby: travels! Therefore I decided to volunteer and give some of my time and heart to people abroad. South Africa was not a specific choice but I wanted to be in touch with animals and children. DAKTARI was the perfect combination.

What does the future hold for DAKTARI - any exciting new programs to share?

There is nothing like a routine at DAKTARI! The project is now soon entering its 10th year anniversary and since the start it has been a non stop evolution. In 2011, DAKTARI started a new project within its main activity called the Outreach Program. The Outreach program is about complementing the work done at DAKTARI. Through it, we are helping and supporting the local community in different ways.

For instance, we go to two different schools each week to keep a link with the children who came to DAKTARI and want to always learn more. We also help locals who are looking for a working placement in their process. But one of our big projects at the moment is "The Recycling Project”. Last year we started a recycling project at the Oaks, a nearby DAKTARI underprivileged village, in order to get the place clean and welcoming.

The objective of DAKTARI is to work closely with the Municipality and, step by step, to make it a Eco Tourist village. We want to make the place welcoming, in order to create jobs and to invite the tourist to discover their heritage and culture. This is a long term project and quiet challenging and exiting.

What is one thing you would tell any future volunteer?

I would definitely say…do not hesitate anymore! Sometimes it might be a big step to actually make the decision but it is not possible to regret it! Volunteering abroad is so rewarding and make people grow up in their world vision and life so much quicker! It is almost impossible to come back and not have learned something about others or about yourself.

The only thing you must ask yourself before you choose a project is why I want to go? What do I want to get out of my experience? Am I ready to try to go over my small fears? If the answers are yes, then your motivation will do the rest!

How do you think volunteer abroad will change over the next 10 years?

I believe that the abroad volunteering industry will grow more and more as it is now something considered as normal in most European countries to take some time off to get this kind of experience. In most cases it is actually even considered as being courageous and able to take initiatives.

However I believe that the industry must be careful to not use this tendency and develop projects just to attract volunteers. It is for me quite important to always make sure of the right impact that the project will have on the society or the environment. It is very good to give people the opportunity to support and help the ones in need but the priority must be given to the impact and benefits of the community.