Project: Volunteering – Species Conservation in South Africa and Protection of Namibia's Desert Elephants
Location: Zululand/South Africa und Damaraland/Namibia
Duration: July until September 2017 – 8 weeks
Support from NATUCATE-Team: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Arrival: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Project partner: ★ ★ ★ ★ ✫
Accommodation: ★ ★ ★ ✫ ☆
1) Could you give us a short overview of your activities/tasks in the project?
The tasks in South Africa were mainly to track the animals that are equipped with a transmitter via scanning and to see whether they are okay or whether they have any injuries. The wild dogs had the highest priority in both projects, but we were also able to spot and watch elephants, lions, giraffes, rhinos, antelopes, cheetahs, and a leopard. Also the camera traps had to be regularly controlled for the battery status and occasionally exchanged; the volunteers then checked and evaluated the pictures in the office. Every second day the wild dogs that were raised in their enclosures had to be fed with antelopes.
During the first week in Namibia our main task was to – shortly said – build a well from bricks, cement, sand, and water. In the second week we camped freely and thus were at a different location every day to which we drove with jeeps. During the drive we had enough time to spot and watch elephants.
2) What were your biggest challenges during the project?
The work in South Africa wasn’t exhausting at all, except maybe for standing up at 3.00 o’clock and getting out at half past three. Building the well in Namibia was, however, quite exhausting; in particular working physically in great heat, drinking a lot (about 4-5 liters a day which seemed impossible to me at first but was quite easy after all), and preparing the cement. The really heavy bricks were carried by the strong men. :-)
3) Was there anything that you liked most? Or anything that left you with a negative impression?
In the end, it filled me with pride when we were finished with building the well after a week and stood in line to pass on the last brick to finish our work. That’s a great feeling especially when humans and elephants can now get to their water separately so that the elephants let the water of the humans be and thus won’t get hunted. It was really exhausting, but I did my best and am really proud of my work. Elephants are still the most wonderful animals to me and need to be protected.
4) Did you have certain expectations before you started the project? If yes, did the project meet your expectations, disappoint or maybe even exceed them?
I imagined the work in South Africa to be way more exhausting and sometimes wished I could have worked a bit more actively. All in all, my expectations were met. In Namibia I reached my personal boundaries. On the one side, the building of the well, on the other side because there was no water to wash yourself for days, no toilets, no shower and only a little mat to sleep on in your sleeping bag, in some instances without a tent in the open air. You get to know yourself differently, you improvise and finally return home with lots of wonderful, funny, new, and great experiences – and with the wish to repeat this one day (for me this has been the first time like this).
5) Did you do anything during your free time that you can recommend to following participants?
I did a flight with a Chessna 210 across the Namibian desert and a boat trip to the seal colonies, accompanied by dolphins.
6) Which tips/recommendations would you give to other participants who would like to do this project? (e.g. tips that would have helped you before your journey)
Just read very closely what the particular project offers and what your tasks would be and consider if this is the right project for you.
7) Can you guess how many additional expenses you had? – We can give this information to following participants
You only need money for possible snacks, beer, wine, or some small souvenirs during the projects themselves. In your free time – in between several projects – you might need some more depending on your personal requirements. This includes money for hotels, food, fun, and adventure.
8) Here is some space for further questions/suggestions/ideas/reports or stories:
I want to thank Natucate for the excellent help before and during the projects. Especially Daniel and Chrissie gave me advice and looked after me with phone calls, SMS, and e-mails. Since this has been my first journey on my own and also for almost two months, it was very easing for me that I was constantly asked and received tips or e.g. when my flight was cancelled I immediately got told how to carry on. That whole journey – with 6 flights in total – pickup service and often being asked how I felt, if everything was alright, if I have any questions…
I can highly recommend Natucate. Thank you again for everything.