Volunteers really help the centre that I went to in South Africa and, truly, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. It can be very hard work, but it is very rewarding and an amazing experience. Also South Africa is an amazing country and those staying out there for a longer period should make the best of what the country has to offer. There all sorts of amazing places you can visit or activities you can try, such as visiting Kruger National Park.
An average day would start off by waking up at 6:30am and commencing work at 7am. We would do two hours of work before breakfast at 9am. This work would include cleaning enclosures or food preparation for all the animals (chopping up the food and feeding). Work would continue at 10am to midday and also from 2:00 to 4:00pm. This work could include bug catching (for the bushbaby), weeding, cleaning food, cleaning crates, unloading food trucks, harvesting (chopping grass with machetes), monitoring and afternoon food preparation.
At midday, we would go on the 'baboon walk', where we would take the baby baboons down to the river to sit and play with them. We would have one hour for lunch and once a week we could go to town to buy whatever food and drink we would like for that week. Before dinner, participants liked to spend time in the baboon and vervet monkey enclosures (sit with the animals), relax and shower before dinner at 6:00pm.
During our free time, volunteers would often spend time in 'the hide', a place to relax and have fun with each other. As a tradition, on Friday evenings volunteers have the chance to go out for dinner to take a break from the centre and have a fun night and on Saturday nights we would have an authentic South African meal made on a Braai (South African BBQ).
As both my first time travelling alone abroad and my first time travelling outside of Europe, I was slightly apprehensive about the journey there. However, ultimately it was stress free and reasonably simple. I was also slightly anxious about travelling to a country with an entirely different culture, unsure if I would manage to settle in.
However, everyone there was very welcoming and we had a lot of fun together. Since leaving the project, I have kept in touch with other volunteers. When you join the volunteering team at Riverside Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, its like joining a whole new family.
Home in England, I'm in college Monday to Friday, and working weekends. Going to South Africa and experiencing a new culture and a hands on experience with baby baboons and vervet monkeys, especially when you see the importance of your hard work, was truly special.
On multiple occasions, such as when I was sat in an enclosure with five monkeys down my top, or on a walk with four baboons clinging on to me, I was struck by a moment of disbelief to where I was, doing what I was, and a feeling of how fortunate I was to have this opportunity. The weather, the people, the food; it was all an unforgettable experience and something that I was enjoying so much, despite it all being so different to my home comforts.