Since I follow bilingual education at school, I had to do an internship abroad to improve my english. This gave me the opportunity to go to South Africa.
Someone at school had been to South Africa with Khaya before, and he recommended it to me. I went to South Africa along with 2 friends.
The Cheetah Rehabilitation Program looked like a great program and seemed to be a great opportunity.
We gathered some information, and when we received this, it confirmed our idea about the project. We had to go there and work with these wonderful animals.
We had also heard about South Africa being a great country to visit before, and I, personally, had always wanted to go there at least once in my life. This also played a part in my decision to go to South Africa.
Then we booked our stay at Khaya, without any problems, and our flights. At this point, we couldn't wait to leave anymore. We were very excited.
On normal mornings, we woke up at 7:00 in the morning. We had breakfast and then gathered with all the volunteers to give fresh water to the cats (servals and caracals in this case).
After giving the fresh water, we did some small chores, for example, taking a fence out of the hyena enclosure or cleaning the enclosures. Then we had lunch. After lunch, we did some work again such as building a horse paddock, taking alien plant species out of the ground, and repairing fences.
Then, everyday, in the afternoon, we had to feed the cats (the servals and caracals every day and the cheetahs depending on how much food they already got in the days before).
Feeding the cats was a different experience every day, from sky-high serval jumps in order to catch the meat, to fights between cats for the best piece of flesh (never too harmful though, fortunately).
In order to be able to feed the cats, we had to cut up the meat sometimes (not for the weak-stomached), I was able to deal with this though and learned the best way of cutting the meat. We also had some time during the day to sit down and play with the cats (most of the time after giving them fresh water in the morning).
It feels strange at the beginning to be that close to a wild animal, but you'll get used and you'll realize how unique the experience really is. Not many people can say they've played with a cheetah that way. This was what our basic daily routine looked like. On some other days though, we had cheetah walks.
When we went for a cheetah walk, we had to get up at around 5.00 to be able to leave at 6.00. Cheetah walks are a great experience, you walk behind the cheetahs on a fair distance. When the cheetah then sees a prey, he or she will stalk it and then chase it. Sometimes they miss, then we'd keep on walking until they catch something.
These walks can take as long as 5-6 hours (our longest was 5 hours, with some rests included). I personally didn't mind the long hours, it always contained some sort of excitement (either the walking around knowing the cheetah can start running at anytime, or the chase itself).
These were the basic things we had to do, chores can vary, since there's always something else to do. In the evening, before and after dinner, there was time to relax and have a chat with the other volunteers. We went to bed around 9.30 in the evening, or earlier if we had to get up early.