Fariche Alleyne - African Bushveld Conservation in South Africa
My volunteer trip with Projects Abroad was an amazing experience and one I will never forget. Each day was different at the Kua Tuli Camp and all of the guides were experienced and knowledgeable. They provided insight on many different topics including the many different species of birds and animals in the area.
When I first arrived at the camp there were about 15-20 volunteers who had already been there for a few weeks - I found this helpful and asked many questions about how things worked around the camp. All of the volunteers including the guides were very nice and laid back. I found my first day at the camp to be much less intimidating than I had imagined. We ate dinner and then sat around the camp fire talking.
My Conservation Placement
My first activity the next morning was to find elephant dung so we could record what we found in the dung in order to ensure they were eating the correct food. I was very nervous about this being my first task because you basically have to search through elephant poo (with gloves on of course!), and I thought I would for sure get sick.
However it was much less gross than I thought - sure there was a smell to it but it was really interesting to find out what the elephants were eating and you got used to the smell after a few minutes. Not to mention we had a blast just trying to find the dung, we walked for about one hour before we found any dung. But on that walk we learnt many new things, such as how to track elephants and saw some really pretty birds that we were able to snap some photos of. I thoroughly enjoyed my first task.
Each day the activities varied, we went on walks to track animals such as impala’s and antelopes. We went to a watering hole to record the animals that arrived, we repaired Baobab trees, we cleaned up debris on the roads and we went on a sleep out to Mama Tui to record the animals that used the watering hole nearby at night.
Mama Tui was my absolute favourite activity. We stayed overnight in a tree house of sorts, ate dinner and took turns watching the watering hole at night. We ate a nice dinner that was prepared for us back at the camp and watched the sun go down. It was so beautiful and peaceful and not to mention we saw hyenas!
On the weekend we made a trip to a little Botswanian town called Piekwhe which was great. We went to a market square with many different shops; this gave us an opportunity to buy some authentic souvenirs and food items to carry back to the camp. I was also able to use the internet in one of the café’s to let family and friends know I was good and enjoying my time.
We stayed overnight in a small hotel with a pool. It was a nice break from the camp life. The volunteers had an opportunity to bond with each other by the pool and hang out. I really enjoyed my time in Piekwhe and getting to know the locals.
All in all, my experience in Botswana, Kua Tuli is one I will cherish for a long time. It was truly the best trip I’ve taken so far. The amount of animals I was able to see in their natural habitat was amazing, such as elephants (a lot!), zebras, hyenas, jackals, ostrich, rhinos, giraffes, impala, kudus, vultures and so much more. Not to mention the conservation work, such as repairing the Baobab trees that can grow up to be 500 years old and more sometimes, cleaning up the roads and the bush from debris and hunting traps and recording important data for researchers.
It felt really good to be contributing in a helpful way and at the same time learning and having fun. I looked at the pictures from time to time and I am still amazed that I was there in the flesh. I would recommend this project to anyone who wants real, hands on conservation experience and would like to learn in the process.
The camp was very accommodating, the staff including the local guides, cook and cleaners were friendly, easy going and really cool people to get to know. I am so happy I took a chance, got over whatever nerves I had at the time and went for it. And if you’re thinking about it - I say go for it, you won’t regret it.