Travelling solo is liberating for your heart and soul.. ‘May your choices reflect your hopes not your fears’ – Nelson Mandela
Next stop – Kenya – if you would like to see more adventures please follow my page
2018 Sunday 8th April I headed out for Heathrow airport for my overnight flight to Johannasburg with a connecting flight there to Hoedspruit . My trip this time was as a volunteer with the World Veterinary Service going to the Siyafunda Makalali project which is at Kruger. I decided to go there for 2 weeks then fly onto Cape Town for a week’s sight seeing.
The project starts on Mondays, where I was picked up at Hoadspruit airport for the drive to Siyafunda. As it is a long drive to shops, they always pick up volunteers at the same time as stocking up on supplies for the week. After induction and throughout the week in between drives, there is a series of presentations on the work of Siyafunda or how to approach dangerous animals on foot, possibly a Zulu lesson , and recording data collected and research reports. Each person is assigned their duties daily. There is wi-fi access in the main building but of course is limited due to the time you spend outdoors, but it is great that you can keep in touch with family at home.
The first drive of the week is on Tuesday with a very early start for a game counting program to determine the populations of general game, then in the afternoon a monitoring drive to locate one of the key species of interest, lion, elephant, leopards or hyena. Each drive was 4 hours long.
Some of the beautiful animals seen over the time are below
Waterhole monitoring to determine species utilisation of the area
In the afternoons we set off for a drive to the breeding boma to monitor the buffalo, Livingstone Eland and Nyala
On Wednesday morning I went out with one of the rangers to look for white rhino, we found 3 after 3 hours driving and 2 hours walking in the bush. They were not happy with us for disturbing them so had to retreat fast and hide behind trees, which tests the “fight or flight” theory! I had no chores to do so got a much needed nap.
In the evening we went out for a 3 hour drive to track elephants using telemetry
Each day is different, and includes habitat work clearing exotic plants, erosion control or bush clearing. On Thursday we helped to move and clear trees pushed over by elephants, then went out on a hyena monitoring drive in the evening. We went to bed around 9pm each night after tiring but rewarding days, ready for the early morning start.
It is very hard work and long days on these projects but also some good laughs. We have to remember that we are living in an area inhabited by wild animals and even our accommodation is open to them. One evening we had just gotten back from our drive and an elephant was in the garden eating the Marula fruit from the tree, the interns tried to chase it off but it went to the pool and threw water at them then broke the tree then wandered of but stayed nearby, so had to wait for dinner around the campfire on alert, so funny
There is an elephant research programme amongst others and the volunteers all take part in putting the data collected into the computer and updating research, and also take turns in cooking and house keeping for everyone
Buffalo are the most aggressive of the big 5.. but the ones here are very happy as they are in a boma.. a fenced in area approx 1000 hectares within the game reserve. This is keep them safe from predators whilst they increase numbers.. there is one called Patsy who has been ousted by the herd., she roams around on her own. She was hand reared by a guide until 6 months with a Dalmatian which saved her life.
In the evenings when there is not a monitoring drive out everyone gathers around the camp fire and on Saturday evening for a typical South African Braai (BBQ) or to the local pub.
Sunday is the free day off work , so we went on a trip to Drakensburg Mountains and Blyde River Canyon, then for a meal in the evening.
Monday is the day new volunteers come in and have to be collected from the airport and the only time you can go shopping although it is quite a drive, you need to stock up on anything you need to last the next week.
It was a fantastic experience and I met some lovely people, but had booked to fly on to Cape Town for a week, so was delivered back to Johannesburg airport for my flight onwards. The flight was delayed for 2 hours but you get used to being on “African time” I had pre-booked a hotel as there are often delays in flights and did not want to be looking for somewhere to stay in the dark. I took a taxi from the airport to the hotel, and as it was dark went to check out the rooftop bar and the wi-fi connection. When I woke up the next morning I saw the fantastic view of Table Mountain from my hotel room. There are several mountains.. Devils Peak and 12 apostles etc. But table mountain is the famous one.
Tuesday I wandered down to the Victoria and Albert waterfront, it’s a marina with lots of shops, food markets and restaurants, very nice. Saw sea lions on the deck. Then walked down long Street in the city .. a very long Street with Table Mountain always on the horizon. I found a supermarket so bought some food for dinner as on a limited budget. The forecast is rain due in next couple of days so decided to wait for sunshine to go up Table Mountain, but it will be welcomed as there is a water shortage so it is limited everywhere. There is also a public transport strike So no bus,although the sight- seeing bus still goes so used that.
It was nice to be able to skype home as the wi-fi was much better in the hotel, but had been told it was best for a woman not to go out on her own after dark so spent the evenings in the hotel bar.
The next morning I walked down to the Victoria and Alfred waterfront to book my bus tickets for the next few days. Got a deal for 4 days instead.. so decided to hop on the bus for a tour around the mountain and beaches and it turned out be sunny.
Friday Decided to go up to Table mountain in the cable car. which was fun. Table mountain sits in a cloud much of the time.. visibility was very low… it was like being on the moon.. But at least I made it up there. There is a postbox up there so sent postcards home.
Saturday It is a beautiful sunny day and I can see the top of the mountain at last. Today’s trip is to Cape Point and the penguins at Boulders beach.
Sunday Time to pack up ready to check out of the hotel and go for a last wander down to the waterfront. My flight is back to Johannesburg then the overnight flight back to the UK, arriving on Tuesday morning.
2016 LION CONSERVATION IN VICTORIA FALLS, ZIMBABWE AND ZAMBIA
My first destination on a volunteer conservation project was to Zimbabwe in October 2016 with African Impact. At the site they do a wonderful job working with the lions so that they can continue producing some young before releasing them into a protected wild park to live their lives as they should be allowed . Poaching is still rife in some areas so this ensures the continuation of the species and the contributions paid by the volunteers pays not just for accommodation, but helps give local people a very important job to do as the areas are usually quite poor and it is not easy to grow food. The young lions remain wild although will tolerate people for awhile but as soon as they are taken to the release site they are left to live a normal life.
My journey started at Heathrow Airport with a flight to Johannesburg with a waiting time there, then another flight to Victoria Falls. where volunteers stay in a lodge and was lucky enough to have a room to myself. I took a mosquito net which is very necessary if you do not want to get bitten in the night. They have Wi-Fi which is great to keep in touch with family at home, and a pool in the lodge garden so that volunteers can relax at the end of the day.
The first morning we had to attend an induction meeting explaining our duties as although we are volunteers, we are there to work, so every day has an early start, not only with the lions, but in clearing overgrown habitat, creating enrichment for the lions, visiting a township to see how they live and grow food in a difficult environment, and visiting an elderly peoples home and the local Chinotimbe pre-school where we all had the opportunity to teach. I took a Chase’n’Tug dog training tool with me which the resident dog is enjoying.
There were 4 young lions who will later be released into the protected site when they have learnt all the adult things they need to survive.
Victoria Falls is one of the most beautiful sights, the first picture shows the rainbow and the third one is looking down into the canyon
The lions enjoying the natural habitat and climbing trees
A fierce looking rhino found on one of our trips out, apes at Victoria Falls with their babies and a giraffe having a wander, some of the amazing sights seen on trips out.
At the Chinotimbe pre-school
Beautiful skies in Africa
Stunning scenery with elephants
My next volunteer visit will be to South Africa in April 2018, so please come back to see it