South Africa - Elephant Care and Research

Impact: 10
Support: 10
Fun: 10
Value: 10
Safety: 10

“I cannot recommend this project highly enough! It was such a great experience and one I will never forget... a dream come true! 2 weeks was definitely not
long enough!

My trip was well organised from start to finish, I never felt as if I was alone, as I knew the PoD team was there if I needed. All the staff at the park are very friendly and helpful.

What was a typical day at the project?
A typical day starts at 7am (winter hours). The first task of the morning was going into the orchard and replacing the old branches that the elephants feed on, with new ones. Throughout the day you work in 2hr blocks, depending on what your schedule is for the day you could be making dung paper or making books with the dung paper, collecting data by observing the elephants' behaviours in the field (I loved this task), making enrichments for the elephants or entering data that was collected onto the computer. The day finished at 5:30pm (winter hours). On the occasional day you would have a sleep-in or an early finish. We were also involved in night/all night observations of the elephants in the Boma.

What did you find most rewarding?
Being so close to the elephants and observing their behaviour. There were a couple of afternoons where they had a crazy half hour at the end of the day, very enjoyable to watch!

What did you find most challenging?
The physical tasks were not too strenuous. What I found most challenging at the beginning was remembering all the elephants and guides names!

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement?
Definitely try and go for as long as you possibly can! I was there for 2 weeks and it definitely wasn't long enough, although I did squeeze as much as I could into the days we had free. You are given 2 t-shirts to work in and also a jacket to borrow in the winter months. You must where these t-shirts during all hours of working, so I would recommend only bringing enough tops for the weekends. Some of the volunteers do go out to the pub/dinner on the weekend too, so perhaps bring a couple of nicer items to wear on these occasions. There is also a washing machine for the volunteers to use. For shoes whilst working, I recommend gum/wellington boots!

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad?
Volunteering abroad gets you out of your comfort zone and opens your eyes to other cultures and surroundings, I learnt so much from the people I spoke with during my time there. I found it a great reward being able to do my bit to help the project I was involved in.

Why did you choose PoD and would you recommend us to others?
Yes! This was my first time volunteering and I wanted to have a safety net incase anything went wrong. PoD were very helpful and organised from start to finish. There was plenty of information provided both on the website and the information booklet. Highly recommend!”

Would you recommend this program?
Yes, I would