For the love of elephants! - Chris’ time in South Africa

Volunteer Experiences / 15 October 2018 For the love of elephants! - Chris’ time in South Africa

At our Elephant Care and Research project in South Africa, volunteers care for elephants and join the research team to collect integral data on the elephants in the park. There is a lack of research completed on captive elephants in South Africa, particularly with respect to their welfare and husbandry, and the park’s research unit is the first of its kind to be dedicated to research to help guide the management of captive elephants to promote the best possible care

Chris volunteered at our Elephant Care and Research project in South Africa last year and had a fantastic time. He has has taken the time to write all about his experience and we hope you enjoy reading about this as much as we did!

“Where do I even begin... the opportunity to go to South Africa to work hand in hand with the amazing people at this project was something that will stay with me forever. I did not want to leave and come back to reality - the ride on the bus back to the airport was one of the worst rides I've been on because I knew it meant leaving that beautiful place and the new family that I had made in just three short weeks.

To start with the staff at the project - they are some of the sweetest people you will ever meet. They truly love what they do and they truly love meeting all the new faces that come to the park and help the beautiful elephants. The guides that work in the field with the elephants are very charismatic guys who love to interact with the volunteers and guests, but where the special thing lies is in their relationship with the elephants. It is honestly something to behold. You can tell that the elephants really respect these men and each guide has an elephant that they are the closest to. It is a beautiful thing and it made me very envious to watch.

The staff are some of the most wonderful women I have ever met. They are all there for the betterment of the elephants and to ensure that they are getting the care they deserve. This group of women are some of the smartest women I have ever met and I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to meet them and hope that our paths cross very soon. They added nothing but great things to my experience at the project and in South Africa.

It was amazing to be in a group of volunteers who all had different backgrounds, but were there for the same reason. The love for elephants and the desire to work with them was the single driving force that brought us all together; nowhere else have I experienced something like that. I strongly recommend people go into whatever Pod Volunteer project they choose with an open mind. You are in a group of people with different backgrounds who come from all over the world, but if you can look past any differences you might have you will only appreciate your experience on the project that much more. Some of the other volunteers are the ones that I hope to stay lifelong friends with, as well as some of the staff members at the centre.

My other piece of advice to anybody who is strongly considering going on a volunteer trip is to climb out of your comfort zone and push yourself to try things you may have never tried before. Wherever volunteering with Pod takes you, soak up as much as you can from the project you are on - from the people, to the animals, to the environment you are in. Also soak up as much as you can from the country that you are in. I fell in love immediately with South Africa. My only wish was that I could have stayed longer after my project completed to explore the beautiful country, but it gives me all the reason in the world to travel back to South Africa and stop in to see my old friends at the centre. While you are on the project, don't limit yourself to just the volunteer work. Enjoy the riches and splendour that the country you are in have to offer. Use whatever down time you have to explore and try new food, activities, or whatever your heart desires. While in South Africa I had a great balance of doing my volunteer work/spending as much time as possible with the elephants and getting out to explore the local area and do amazing things.

I could go on and on about my experience or the people that I met along the way. I just hope that the people who are volunteering now, volunteered before me, and are considering volunteering later through Pod have as amazing an experience that I did. It was truly a trip of a lifetime and I thank Pod for helping me get there.

Thank you for everything, it’s been a pleasure.”

If you would like to find out more about this amazing project and how you can join, follow the link here.

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