13 Aug 2018
For those seeking mature wildlife volunteer projects in Africa, Wildlife ACT has something for every kind of wildlife enthusiast, of any age, and any level of experience. Robin Shepard first joined our African wildlife conservation projects in 2013 and offers some insight and reassurance for anyone doubting their capability of actively participating in wildlife conservation volunteering projects in Africa.
My friend and I (in our 40’s) spent two incredible weeks learning and participating in real wildlife conservation volunteering work in Africa, and it was a game-changer for both of us. Wildlife ACT’s mature wildlife volunteer projects are located in many different wildlife reserves in Zululand, South Africa. They include a variety of duties, accommodations and local perks. You can see and assist in the conservation of everything from elephants, lions, leopards, endangered vultures, white and black rhino, to the amazing cheetah and of course the iconic African Wild Dogs.
What duties are involved in these mature wildlife volunteer projects?
You can participate in many areas of wildlife conservation work during your volunteer stay. You could participate in the research side entering vital data gathered in the field, learn to use GPS and radio telemetry tracking equipment, and/or participate in different levels of good-old-fashioned manual labour. This could be building or improving things around camp, setting up wildlife hides, or placing camera traps in the field. While the groups in these mature wildlife volunteer projects are kept small and intimate, everyone tries to help with all the tasks, but ultimately you do what you can and what makes you happy.
Is there an age limit with these mature wildlife volunteer projects?
There is truly something for anyone and everyone of any age. We made wonderful new friends from around the world and of every age group, including a couple in their 60’s who had already been with Wildlife ACT four times before and were already planning their next return trip. Another gal was in her late 50’s and was travelling alone for her first ever African adventure!
Where do these mature wildlife volunteer projects take place?
Wildlife Act works on several wildlife reserves that offer different types of accommodations – from the rustic uMkhuze camp to the more hotel-like Tembe Elephant Park lodging. None of the locations are super fancy (including the residences of the staff – all the way up to the owners themselves)! Wildlife ACT is focused on putting every penny into their conservation programs, but the basics are there at each reserve. They also offer mature wildlife volunteer projects on Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve, Manyoni Private Game Reserve, and Somkhanda Community Game Reserve.
Is there sufficient down-time on these mature wildlife volunteer projects?
You’ll spend many hours tracking and observing endangered and priority wildlife species, but in camp, life is often relaxed and reflective. We often spent a few hours in the day chatting or napping, sitting with native wildlife and birds that visit the camp or by walking around discovering plants and animals in the area. Meals are usually prepared by the volunteers who wish to cook, or a braai (barbeque) is common with an evening of drinks and joking around a fire – blanketed by stars out in the African bush.
Any highlights from your time spent on these mature wildlife volunteer projects?
One day I will never forget: everyone else was in for a siesta as I sat in a camp chair with a young nyala buck grazing in the shade, within about 12 feet of me, for 30 minutes. It was like we were the only two beings on Earth, there together in the warm, bird-song-filled air. It was truly sublime and a once-in-a-lifetime connection I will forever treasure. The exciting, and alternately relaxing, hours spent with the Wild Dogs were also a life-altering and spiritual experience. Discovering intricacies of their behaviours and their special bonds opened my eyes to another dimension of animal appreciation.
Do these mature wildlife volunteer projects provide guidance?
The Wildlife ACT volunteer coordinators are able to walk you through each and every step, from booking your flights to choosing the right wildlife reserve for you, to packing, what to expect, arrival, getting around, and everything else in between. They’re always only a phone call away. Everyone on the staff was helpful and friendly, and we never felt neglected or unsure of what to do. When we missed our flight (doh!), we were patiently and happily guided to lodging for the night and got sent a staff member out to bring us to the reserve.
You can work with the coordinator to decide which mature wildlife volunteer projects suit your preferences for wildlife, accommodation, work-type, and what other area of travel or sight-seeing opportunities exist. But beware, it will be hard to choose just one of the African wildlife volunteering projects to experience! You will also be trained for safety and anything specific you’ll need to do there, so no prior experience is necessary on any of their mature wildlife volunteer projects.
What would you say to those seeking mature wildlife volunteer projects for over 50’s?
I think now, as I “mature” I appreciate the reality and inter-connectedness of humans and nature more than ever before. I appreciate the mindfulness of life and kinship of being in a wild environment. I appreciate the dire need for conservation of critical species and environments more, and feel a strong desire to do what I can to help the struggle to preserve our delicate, awesome, and fractured ecological balance.
Wildlife ACT offers the opportunity to participate in mature wildlife volunteer projects with a truly hard-working, results-oriented, dedicated group doing the difficult on-the-ground work needed to maintain this balance. There is a place in their team effort for anyone and everyone who wants to share in this crucial work. Regardless of your age, you have something to contribute and you will also receive something priceless in return. I know I did. And I can’t wait to go back and re-join their mature wildlife volunteer projects. I hope to meet you there, in the wild, helping to preserve this unique balance of life on our shared earth.
Warmest regards and looking toward conservation of balance,
Wildlife ACT is recognised as a reputable wildlife organisation in Africa by numerous world-renowned conservation organisations such as WWF and Panthera. Their endangered wildlife volunteering programme which caters for those seeking mature wildlife volunteering projects in Africa, is unmatched. Their wildlife volunteering projects are Fair Trade Tourism certified, and Wildlife ACT was awarded at the African Responsible Tourism Awards in the category: Best for Habitat and Species Conservation.
Follow your dreams, and apply to volunteer today.