Volunteer Kristen tells us all about her experience volunteering on our Big 5 research project in Kruger!
I was born and raised in Colorado, USA but I’ve long been infected with the insatiable thirst for travel. I spent several years as a science teacher in the Marshall Islands and the past few seasons I worked as a forklift operator in Antarctica, each job leading me to the next new adventure. I am currently a graduate student in northern California where I’m studying the impact of climate change on marine invertebrates.
The opportunity to volunteer arose when I discovered that I had a long winter break and an eager friend with the same love of travel. However, the call to Africa has much deeper roots, from my childhood obsession with elephants to my ongoing passion for wildlife conservation and research. Both of us have wanted to visit this continent all our lives, so once we found African Impact online, it was only a matter of choosing location and project.
Why should you volunteer with African Impact?
I can’t encourage anyone enough to volunteer with this wonderful organization.
You’ll be greeted at Dumela Lodge by the resident fruit bats, whose adorable little faces will banish any pre-existing phobias. The research projects, data collection and impressive network of collaborators will inspire you and give meaning and purpose to your efforts. Machete work to remove invasive shrubs and brush will be a brutal reminder that you don’t actually have upper body strength, but it will be satisfying nonetheless. Perhaps you’re curious about the obscure bird call you heard last night? Or maybe you have an inquiry regarding the navigational abilities of dung beetles? Don’t worry, your questions will be answered and more! The extremely knowledgeable guides and enthusiastic staff will imbue you with fascinating facts about the wildlife and culture.
But nothing will prepare you for the enchanting experience of a game drive. A deceptively tranquil pond erupts as several hippos emerge from the depths. The sight of the long pointed horn of a rhino feels as special as seeing a unicorn. The mystery pervades as herds of twenty massive elephants surround you in one minute, and disappear into the brush the next. You’ll peer into the dark, straining to see the flash of a predator’s eye. The ground teems with unfamiliar insects, and exotic birds will charm you as they flit by. Everyone will hold their breath in the captivating presence of a leopard. Perhaps you’ll be treated to the thrilling sight of rare African wild dogs. The iconic view of zebras and giraffes mingling near a water hole will be so picture-perfect, you’ll briefly think you’re watching Nat Geo, until the ever-changing aromas and inimitable sounds of the savannah invade your senses and remind you where you are.
This I will say – two weeks was not enough. It was a mere glimpse into the magic of the veldt.
I can already hear Africa calling me back.