Wednesday, 07 December 2016 13:33

Delphine Peraudeau - Volunteer November 2016

Delphine Volunteer Review

I stayed at Daktari during 3 weeks from end October to mid November 2016. This was not my first holiday volunteering but Daktari provided me with a unique opportunity to both bring some of my experience to children and to be surrounded by nature and animals.

 

Each Monday 8 children aged 12-13 year old came from local villages to spend the week with us. Our days were organised around giving lessons to the children (mostly linked to the environment) and taking care of the animals (meerkats, mongoose, eagles, wild dogs etc.). The programme of lessons is very well prepared and detailed but Daktari is always keen for volunteers to bring their own experience and personality, and improve it if necessary. Depending on the number of volunteers present, we usually led with another volunteer a couple of lessons a day (which we chose the day before) and attended the other lessons in order to bring one on one support to the children. We also had more relaxed talks with the children on topics such as respect, substance abuse and safe sex and played board games. Overall the days were quite busy but you have some breaks to relax. There was no obligation to attend all the activities but most volunteers wanted to help and spend as much time as possible with the children. A volunteer coordinator attended most of the lessons and helped with the organisation and translation in case the children struggle to understand in English.

 

Daktari is situated in the middle of a game reserve which makes it a unique location too. You are surrounded by the bush and the sound of animals. This is a place where you feel very quickly at home and relaxed. The accommodation (chalets) was comfortable and to my surprise, we had hot water everyday! The food was very good too (and I'm French) and you don't have to drop bad habits like smoking (there is a nice quiet area for smokers) and drinking (for a cheap price too). There was a really nice atmosphere among the volunteers who came from everywhere.

 

Every Saturday we had the opportunity to go to the nearest town for shopping. I also spent an amazing week end in the Kruger Park with Greg, our guide, and 3 other volunteers. Visiting the park in a small group and accompanied by somebody like Greg who has a great deal of knowledge and passion about the animals is something you'll experience nowhere else. Greg also offers other types of day or week end excursions for Daktari.

 

In short, I had an unique and amazing experience at Daktari and guess what... I'm already planning to go back there for a longer period...

Saturday, 05 November 2016 09:23

Shana van Dyck - Volunteer September 2016

Such an amazing project with the loveliest people!

I have had the most amazing month at Daktari! Daktari is such a great project, what they do is amazing! I've always wanted to go and volunteer in Africa but I wasn't sure if I wanted to find a project with animals or with people and this was just such a good combination, I immediately knew this was it!

 

My first week, the group of kids we got were amazing! They were a little shy in the beginning because this is such a new experience for them. For most, it was the first time they went away from home for that long. But very quickly the kids opened up to us. They were so enthusiastic to learn! You can tell they're not used to having people actually ask them questions and pay attention to them in class.

 

In the beginning of the week we take a survey with each kid with questions about animals, the environment, safe sex, respect... all the topics we teach about in the week. On Friday we take the survey again and we can see how much they improved. A girl there my first week went from 2/16 to 14/16! All the kids improve and grow so much! Not only pure knowledge, but also their English, their confidence...   

      Shana van Dyck

The animal part was amazing as well! My first night I hardly slept because of all the noises; owls, ostrich, dogs, donkey, squirrels... But I got used to it so quick and now it's weird to be back home and to hear cars and plains at night! Every day you do stabling twice a day; preparing food, cleaning out the cages, giving clean water... There was also an orphaned baby nyala we had to take care of while I was there which was such an amazing experience! It's also good to know that all the animals at Daktari are there for a reason! That was something we really tried to teach the kids as well; protecting the animals doesn't mean putting them into cages if they can live in the wild!

 

On Friday afternoon and in the weekends you have free time and there are lots of trips and excursions to take! Me and another volunteer Beccy, went to the Blyde River Canyon with Gregg. Not very cheap but definitely cheaper than a tour with a company, and Gregg knows so much about the area, the animals, the history! We also went and did a homestay in the Oaks village to really get immersed in the culture! I was also very lucky and joined the students of the week (each week the volunteers choose a student of the week; someone who improved the most and has shown the most interest. They win a free game drive) for their game drive to Kruger! We saw so many animals and all the Big 5 except for a leopard!

 

Last but not least, the people there, staff and long-terms and Michele and Ian are so wonderful! They have been so sweet! I would highly recommend this project, you'll have the time of your life!

Our family of 4 has returned from our volunteer time at Daktari... and we miss you and all the animals!

We still laugh about finding blind Eeyore outside of the camp, miss Thor your monkey stealing our food and Boy, the bird taking a liking to Alex (15) and attacking him nonstop from behind....

Our goal  of exposing our French-American teenage sons (17, 15) to the "real" South African bush with its children and animals, was exceeded on all levels: it allowed a complete disconnect with our fast-paced school and work lives. In fact, one week was too short, one month would have been even better!
The community feeling at Daktari, the insights learned from caring for wild or injured animals are powerful. The opportunity to teach local children and then accompany them to the "back stage" of a Safari Lodge (hotel)" showed us how lucky we were not to only see one side, the "touristy South Africa".  Accompanying your Outreach Manager to the local schools and exchanging with the Young Eco-Club members who proudly showed the trees they had proactively planted at their school, confirms that your concept "Education drives Environmental protection!" works. 

We all returned, vocal proponents of this type of humanitarian vacation! What we gave in terms of our time and energy to teach teenagers in English, was returned 1000 times to us with the insights we gained from the local staff, the Children, the animals and the staff.
Saturday, 17 September 2016 11:54

Sophie Butler - Volunteer in August 2016

A few friends had travelled abroad and it looked like a lot of fun, and I was always incredibly jealous seeing their pictures when they got back! As it was my first time travelling solo, I decided that a volunteering project would be the best way to get out there, whilst not being completely alone.

 

I had looked at a lot of programs on many different websites. In the end, I chose the project at Daktari Bush School in South Africa as it involved teaching local children whilst also looking after animals - I was sure it would keep me busy! As a primary school teacher, I love working with children and thought that this would be a brilliant opportunity to not only make a difference for these children, but improve my own teaching in a situation completely different to the one I am used to in England.

Sophie with Boy the Bird

I was a little nervous when I first arrived as this was my first time travelling solo, but I soon realised I had no reason to be! Ian was there at the airport to greet myself and another volunteer, and he immediately made us feel welcome. He even stopped the car a few times on the way back to show us the giraffes and other animals! Arriving at Daktari, the warm welcome continued and it seemed like Ian and Michele had created a proper little Daktari family. After settling in, we were invited to join the other volunteers on an overnight safari, organised by Greg, which was such a fantastic experience and allowed me to bond with the other volunteers before the children arrived, and get a real taste of Africa.

At the start of both weeks, the children were so shy and quiet, but it was fantastic to see them growing in confidence and knowledge as the week progressed. By the time Thursday rolled around, we were all toasting marshmallows on the bonfire, with the children teaching us different songs, chants and dances.
Sophie with DAKTARI kids
Sophie teaching a class
The teaching programme at Daktari covered so many areas in such a short space of time, but it managed to do it in a way that kept the children engaged and motivated. As volunteers, we were encouraged to improve the lessons, so we worked on the existing knowledge hunt lesson to create a challenging scavenger hunt. The children got incredibly competitive running around the camp looking for the clues, and it was great to see them helping the other children in their team.

I was also given the opportunity to visit a local crèche as part of Daktari’s outreach programme and teach a lesson to the 3-4 year olds. It was a real eye opener, and such a contrast from my school back in England.

I think the thing that makes Daktari unique is the combination of working with children and animals. I was drawn to this project as very few others give this opportunity. As a volunteer, you have a real impact on the children by teaching them about job opportunities, tourism, their environment, how to look after the animals and social issues such as substance abuse. After a long week of teaching, you then have the chance to cuddle up to the meerkats at the camp, go on a Big 5 safari in the nearby Kruger park or go bungee jumping off of Blyde river canyon. It was just such a fantastic project!

All in all, I have had such a fantastic experience at Daktari, and my only regret was that it didn’t last longer! It’s incredible what Ian and Michele have achieved at Daktari in 10 years, and it’s clear the impact it has on the children, animals, local communities, and the volunteers who visit. I cannot recommend it enough, and I hope very much to visit again in the not too distant future!

 

Saturday, 17 September 2016 03:34

John Stanton - Volunteer in May-June 2016

My summer at DAKTARI primarily consisted of teaching local children and working with orphaned African wildlife. Working with local children proved to be the largest interaction while working at DAKTARI as students would come for five days a week and we would work with them from 7 A.M. to 8 P.M. each day. We would teach the students different subjects related to the environment and eco-tourism with some lessons touching on making South Africa a better place, safe sex, respect, and substance abuse.

 

The schedule for working with the children was very similar to that of an educational summer camp, and also involved the children and volunteers with the care taking of  animals kept within enclosures around DAKTARI's camp. Taking care of the animals consisted of cleaning their enclosures and feeding and watering them every day. 

 

John with the kids

At times, volunteers created projects to enhance the animal enclosures and would work on those projects when students were not at DAKTARI. 

 

There were also opportunities for volunteers to go on excursions during the weekends, where every Saturday volunteers could go into town or go on other excursions such as hot air balloon tours, trips to Kruger National Park and to different wildlife centers around Hoedspruit.

 

I had a wonderful time and would recommend looking into DAKTARI as a possible volunteering opportunity. Be prepared to work, as it can be a demanding and tiring job at times. While I worked at DAKTARI some issues arose between volunteers and managerial staff where views did not align at times, and jokes could be off-color, but the long term volunteers were great to discuss these issues with. DAKTARI gave me a wonderful, life changing experience and really opened my eyes to the world outside of the United States. I could have never predicted what the experience was like and the African bush was truly breath-taking.

 

I greatly enjoyed working with the local children, they were very fun to teach and to play games around the camp with. I enjoyed working with all of the other volunteers and I am so glad that I met all of the long term volunteers, all of which are wonderful people and great company around a dinner table. I hope DAKTARI continues to touch the lives of the locals and to make a difference in how the environment is perceived in Africa.  

 

 

I had just retired and decided to travel to South Africa to begin my new life of "giving back." When my husband and I (both in our early sixties) arrived at Daktari our first activity was after dinner -- the baby dassies needed their evening bottles. I fed the furry little creature, then she crawled onto my neck and went to sleep. Believe me -- it was more relaxing than any spa treatment I have ever experienced. So began our wonderful 2 week adventure at Daktari. We feed and cuddled the dassies every morning and evening, met the cheetah, held brand new baby mice, petted the jackal and laughed with Eeyore the donkey. We also worked hard stabling and feeding the animals. That was the animal orphanage part of Daktari. The Bush School part was just as rewarding. Who knew my husband could command such attention in the classroom - the kids really listened to him. We had the opportunity to talk about politeness, respect, the environment and the economic and humanitarian importance of protecting the animals in South Africa. I loved every minute. Everything was wonderful -- from my first email inquiry until the day we left. We plan to go back. Animals and kids in the African bush. What could be better than that?
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