When I began to tell others that I was going to South Africa for volunteer work, the typical reaction was, ‘Be careful. It is a very dangerous place’. This led me to have some misgivings about my choice of OE. Yet, now I can safely say these fears were completely unfounded. My journey to South Africa was unforgettable with experiences that will be hard to match.
The journey was organised by International Student Volunteers (ISV), a company that arranges trips, combing a period of volunteer work, followed by an adventure tours for students from all over the world. It offers a variety of choices for both parts of the journey, and for the part of the world. For me, the country, obviously, was South Africa and my area of interest was wildlife conservation. I took part in two weeks of volunteer work, at the Ann Van Dyke Cheetah Centre in Pretoria, followed by two weeks of travelling around South Africa.
This journey interested me as I have always wanted to visit South Africa and because I love working with animals. I also felt it was a good opportunity to assess my career path as I am currently studying a Bachelor of Veterinary Technology.
During my volunteer work I took part, along with a group of other students, from around the world, in feeding and interacting with the Cheetahs and the many other endangered animals that the Ann Van Dyke Centre cares for. These include cheetahs, African wild dogs, vultures and hyenas. The work was not demanding and we got to hang out with the Cheetahs up close. The workers were kind and made you feel right at home. It was amazing to feel calm sitting down next to a potential killer. We assisted in preparing some cubs for Miami and Canberra Zoo and clearing enclosures for new Cheetahs. Overall the experience was surreal. To be able to feed and be so close to so many animals, reinforced my choice of career path and stimulated a special interest for large animals.
Following the volunteer work, my group and the other conservation groups with ISV came together for our South Africa Tour. On tour, we such a full schedule and went to so many places that we only had one free day to do as we pleased. We started at Kruger National Park, then to Port Elizabeth and finally Cape Town, travelling mainly by bus. It was so much fun travelling with all of these new people and seeing/doing so much; kloofing (hiking, caving and cliff-jumping), tubing, safaris, zip-lining, bungy jumping and surfing. It was wonderful.
Throughout the month everything I did was a unique and memorable experience, but there were a few things that stood out. Firstly, having lunch in the enclosure with the two Canberra cubs, that sat and purred while we ate. Another moment would have to be bungy jumping from 216m (the worlds highest bridge bungy). Then lastly, seeing all of the incredible animals; from a cute spider monkey to the massive endangered Black Rhino. I took nearly 2000 photos and I am struggling to decide which ones to select for my album. The sky there everyday was blue and full of sunshine and I’ve made friends I will never forget.
My journey to South Africa has left me far more knowledgeable about the country and its struggles. Africa has got under my skin and I want to return to work with more of our endangered animals.
Thank you ISV and I will return!