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GAP YEAR | VOLUNTEER ABROAD | WORK EXPERIENCE OVERSEAS

 

Volunteers' Stories

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TIM SUTTON
British

Wildlife Conservation Course in a Bush Camp in the Eastern Cape, South Africa
         

Hi everyone!
To be honest I have no idea when I last emailed anybody.. So where to start from might be difficult.

Starting will be difficult anyway as I am doing so much there is little time to think about what day it is let alone what we've been doing. The days are just packed. Speaking of days I've just been informed it's Thursday - I thought it was Tuesday.. nevermind..

What's been going on? Well there's been game drives, a weekend away to Bathurst which was spent wandering across the road, in increasingly wavering paths, between two old pubs, as well as horse riding on the beach. There's been time spent in camp (Esingeni) and a weekend in Alicedale (I doubt you'll find it on a map - it's the closest town to camp)..I lost a shoe (just the one though - quite an achievement) and a toenail, on different days.

I've played a round of golf in Bushman Sands, which is also a Game Reserve, which was so difficult we didn't finish because we ran out of balls: the Bushmans river has a few extra pebbles... Bongani took us to his local bar in the Township in Alicedale which was an experience - we will probably go again I'm sure.

The social life around Alicedale is surprisingly good for a small town - there are two other, much larger, student groups based in town which certainly keeps us entertained.

On the wildlife front I've seen African Wild Dogs in the wild.. very endangered and very very cool to see. We nearly hit a hippo in the kombi coming back from Shamwari Game Reserve. Seeing all the stuff we've seen before over and over and it doesn't get boring.. We were charged by an angry individual called Aslan at born free (I have a good video of that!) I'm positive there's a lot I've missed but at the moment it's all a complete blur of experiences! Maybe that's the cheap beer.. Either way - off to the bar next door!
All my love to everyone, Tim.

At the end of his placement Tim sent us some more feedback:

What experience do you feel you gained?

I learnt a great deal about African Wildlife and conservation, moreso than other student groups in the same area who are only working on the game reserves. Living in Alicadale (or near enough) is a good place to learn about African people as well as there is a large mixed community of Afrikaans, coloured and Xhosa people in a relatively small town.

What was the best thing about your placement?

 The practical field work is obviously the most exciting thing we do but that is very sporadic and we never really know when we'll be doing any. The best things are the little things - seeing the Wild dogs outside their den just after sunset was one of the highlights so far, as was working with the lion cubs for a day.

Would you recommend this placement to anyone else?

 Yes - but only if they really wanted to learn about the wildlife reather than just work with it.

What type of person do you think this placement would suit?

Absolutely MUST be able to get along with anyone, even if they might not like them. The groups are very small and living in camp can get very claustrophobic. Luckily anyone who does this placement should be of the same mindset if they are willing to learn and sit an exam at the end - at least that is how it has seemed for this group.

Was their anything that you weren’t told before you went away that you think future volunteers should know?

Midwinter nights are VERY VERY cold. Colder than you think they will be.

Can you describe a typical day?

Not really - every day really is different. Sorry!

This is a very good placement for anyone serious about LEARNING rather than working with the wildlife. People should know that there is much less hands on work than with other volunteer placements, it all depends on what you want to get out of the thing - I've found that practical volunteers know a lot less about what they're doing than our group does.

Overall a good placement - sometimes the camp life is a little closed-off from the outside world but if you are able to get to Alicedale in the evenings there are the other student groups to meet and interact with. I have had a lot of fun and really enjoyed myself, but worked very hard at the same time.

Tim

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