Louise Hawkins South Africa
Why did you want to volunteer?
I wanted to work with animals and travel, meet new people and experience Africa.
Do you feel you made a difference, how?
I feel we helped out a lot yes.
What did you do for fun?
We played games most nights where everyone got involved, that was fun! Also, there was a pool next door where we were allowed to go so went there on our days off to sunbathe. The ‘work’ we did was fun, playing with monkeys isn’t hard! There’s also a bar next door where drinks were cheap so we’d all go there often. There are different types of safaris, we did one that cost around £30 (travel included) which was amazing! Also a shopping centre nearby which has an internet café and there are some good shops – a shop like primark! There is an airport about 30 minutes away which we used to fly to Cape Town for a few days, an incredible place that I would recommend anyone doing this project to visit.
When was your most enjoyable experience, do you have an interesting story?
Playing with the monkeys was so much fun, they are very entertaining and had lots of fun. The most enjoyable experience I had in South Africa was in Cape Town when we went to Robben Island, it’s such an interesting place! When we went to the safari, we saw an elephant. The park ranger told us to be really quiet and not to startle it. The elephant then crouched down and went to sleep – something the ranger had never seen, he was astonished that it put itself in such a vulnerable position when we were only about ten metres away from it. I turned on my camera and it made a loud noise, it does this every time it’s turned on but I forgot this! The elephant jumped up and started coming towards us. Me and three other young girls were terrified! The ranger told us to stay still and not make any noises – it’s not easy to stay still when in an open top car and an elephant is angry with you! It then gave the car a warning stomp so the ranger slowly moved the car up the road, he said he didn’t want to move away completely because the elephants hadn’t lived there long and he had to stand his ground and make them know we’re not scared of them. A few minutes later, another elephant appeared out of the bushes with a tag around its neck. The ranger asked if that was the one that had given the warning stomp but we assured him it wasn’t and he let out a sigh of relief, telling us that she is the ‘Matriarch’ (the leader) and if she gives the warning signal, you’re in trouble. Two minutes later, she gives us the warning. The next thing we know, we are being chased by around twenty elephants, speeding over bumps and through bushes to try and escape them. This lasted for a good ten minutes. Eventually getting away from them, our hearts pounding and absolutely petrified! Such a scary experience but a very funny memory when we think back on it!!
Who did you make friends with and for what reasons?
Everybody! All the people there were lovely and easy to get along with. The girl I went with, who I met through Original Volunteers, and I made good friends. We also met a girl there who we are going to see in Australia sometime this year!
Would you considering going again or perhaps to another project with Original Volunteers? Please explain why.
I wouldn’t go to that one again but would 100% use original volunteers again! I think there are so many places to visit in the world, it would be silly to go there again!
Could you offer any tips to future volunteers?
Definitely take a raincoat! We went in their summer but it rained quite a lot. Also take socks and long pants for the morning feed because there is long grass and creepy crawlies. A head torch is essential as you feed the monkeys before sunrise. They do sell UK brands like Cadburys bit it’s not the same at all. So chocolate and biscuits would be good to take. I took hot chocolate which was great on cold nights by the fire.