It was much colder than I expected! The team did warn us before we went out, but I thought, “how cold can Africa really be?” Turns out, quite cold! There were lots of early mornings when you'll need to layer up, but it does heat up during the day, especially if you're running around after animals. Just make sure you have layers you can put on/take off.
The first thing to note is that we were kept very busy pretty much every day! Most days we had a procedure, either in the morning or afternoon, with lectures (don't worry, they were some of the most engaging lectures I've sat in!), or a game drive for the other half of the day.
As indicated in the itinerary, a couple of excursions are planned. In my case, this included trips to Born Free, a big cat rescue center, Bayworld for lectures and marine mammal dissections, and into the local town, Paterson, to meet the children.
There is time most evenings to chill out and catch some necessary sleep for the early starts!
I didn't really have a “fear” before I arrived in South Africa. My problem became clear the first day we had a procedure. I quickly realized that the vet work out there is very different to that in the UK.
The nature of the work with wild animals means that you have to work incredibly efficiently, which I found quite difficult at first. You're put with a team of people you've known for, probably, less than 24 hours, given drugs and doses you aren't familiar with, and these need to go into an animal you've probably never learnt about!
Between that first procedure and my last, where I was in charge of the whole thing, I had lectures on the drugs, plenty of practice, lots of opportunities to ask questions, and I got to know the girls in my team really well. You learn quickly, and the Vets Go Wild team are very supportive and patient.
Be prepared for your life to change, not only when you are out in the bush, but when you return home. You'll suddenly have your eyes opened! I've always admired the African wildlife, but seeing the beautiful animals with your own eyes, touching them (albeit when they're unconscious), being in that amazing position where you can help them thrive... It really is magical!
It isn't all so rosy out there, though. One of the hardest lectures I had to sit through was about rhino poaching. I thought I had a quite good grasp of the situation out there, but I really had no idea. It's so much more barbaric and unfair than I could ever know. You will leave South Africa with a responsibility to protect those special animals as best as you can.
Be prepared to leave a little bit of your heart in the bush.