“Hello. My name is Joshua Hopkins or David as some people called me by my middle name for the first week or so. I am from Scotland and I stayed at DAKTARI for a total of 10 weeks. I really wanted to spend my summer doing something productive and rewarding and as I loved working with children and animals, it seemed that DAKTARI was the best place for me. This was definitely not wrong!
My first couple of weeks consisted of teaching the children. There was a large variety of classes which I could volunteer to do. At the start of the day, we went on a dog walk around the camp which helped the children learn about how to care for your dog as dogs in South Africa tend not to be pets but rather guard dogs and so on. We then moved onto ‘Morning Stabling’ which got the children actively working with the animals either cleaning the enclosures or feeding them. The children got to work with a range of animals such as Dassies, Mongooses and even a Caracal. After this we move straight onto the classes. The main lessons at DAKTARI were environmental as the aim of DAKTARI is to save the environment through education. However, there were also social talks such as safe sex and substance abuse which allowed the children to be more open with the volunteers. These talks always led to interesting discussions although it can really show the true reality of the situation within the country which can be quite scary.
However, for the majority of my time I worked as part of the animal care team to look after the welfare of all the animals. This consisted of big cleans of major enclosures such as the Cheetah, Wild Dog and Crocodile.
My favourite activity at DAKTARI was when we done enclosure improvement on the Mongooses. It was great fun. However, very hard work. At first, we had to dig up most of the ground and remove all the rocks in the enclosure. This was extreme manual labour and we needed lots of breaks throughout. Although, once the hard work was completed we were able to have a lot more fun as we were able to use our creative natures to find ways at improving the enclosures. We used many items such as logs, branches and even old car tyres. Once we had thought about our creative ideas we were able to start putting them into action. It is an amazing feeling you get when you see your finished work and it looked brilliant so we were all proud!
My favourite animal at DAKTARI had to be the Mongooses. They were such intelligent and fun animals. It was great to watch them crack open the eggs during animal kitchen. It really did show how impressive these animals are. They can also be very cute and cuddly; however, they were vicious too but what would you expect from animals who are used to taking on snakes in the wild. My favourite mongoose was definitely had to be Banjo. Every time I was in with him, he wanted to play and he was extremely fun to play with too!
I couldn’t exactly say I had one best memory as I enjoyed so much of my time here. It was just so great to meet lots new people. I have found very good friends and even my new girlfriend from my time here at DAKTARI and I will definitely be visiting them all in the near future.
When I first came here, I didn’t realise how the vast number of excursions available. Through my time here, I visited Kruger National Park, Blyde River Canyon, Cheetah Walk and Reptile Park. I would say my favourite excursion had to be Blyde River Canyon. This was because it was just such a spectacular sight to see a canyon so full of life was incredible. This excursion allowed me to do the bungee jump in Graskop which was great; however, it did give me a very weird feeling in my stomach!
Overall, DAKTARI was a very fulfilling experience and it has created so many memories for me that I will never forget. I would say to anyone thinking of coming to DAKTARI, YOU MUST DO IT! This organisation really stands out compared to others as you have the opportunity to work with children and animals. This means if you aren’t too fond of working with the children, you can always work with the animal care team which I can guarantee its great fun and full of a lot of laughs. I have to admit many volunteers came for 1 week or 2 weeks. This is a very bad amount of time to come for. It just isn’t long enough. To feel like you have really lived the experience I would say at least 4 weeks. This is because it takes about a week to come out of your shell and that is the case for most volunteers. I started off very shy on my first week because I wasn’t used to so many different nationalities. However, I am now very comfortable and I don’t seem to shut up at times!
I really do believe that DAKTARI has a very positive impact on the community. It helps children understand the importance of the environment and the animals in the surrounding neighbourhoods. It has also helped many volunteers understanding too because when I first came here I didn’t know the difference between poaching and hunting but thanks to DAKTARI, I now do. DAKTARI has been such a welcoming and amazing organisation to volunteer with. I would like to say a massive thank you to all they done for me over my time here!
To finish off my review, I have been asked if I enjoyed living in the Bush. My answer? Of course, who doesn’t love waking in the morning to be surrounded by some many different animals? You can literally see a new animal each day. It is incredible. It may be very dangerous because there may be a leopard nearby but that can also give you a bit of a thrill. To round up, I would definitely live in the Bush!
"My name is Léna, I am 20 years old, I come from France and I stayed 3 weeks at DAKTARI.
I always wanted to do volunteering and I decided in November 2017 that it would be this year ! So I did a huge amount of research on the internet about volunteering, others volunteer’s experiences, organisations all around the world... DAKTARI was the perfect one because it mixes children and animals : all of which I love. So I booked everything and I arrived in August for 3 weeks of volunteering at DAKTARI.
My stay in DAKTARI was one of the best experiences in my life. These 3 weeks were amazing. I met fabulous people, I have seen and taken care of many animals, I have taught many things on many topics to children...
Also you can do lots of excursions and Daktari books everything, you just have to tell them which excursion you want to do and they take care of it for you. So I have done a horseback riding safari (amazing!), I have spent two days in the Kruger Park and I have walked in the Blyde River canyon.
Life in DAKTARI is very special. It’s like a big family. The days are never the same. You learn more and more about South Africa, about animals and about these incredible children each new day. Everything is so interesting and exciting. Indeed, it’s never boring, each day is different : each new day you have different lessons to teach, you do different animal stabling, you play a different game with the children ...
I think it’s something you have to do in your life and that will change you for ever.
Thanks for everything Daktari, these three weeks were absolutely unbelievable."
"My name is Marine, I am 18 years old, I come from France and I stayed one month in DAKTARI.
I had to do a civic internship for my school, I decided to take this opportunity to realise something special and go abroad. I was already really involved in the children cause around the world with the NGO UNICEF and also in the environmental cause in my all-day life. Then I found DAKTARI, which works at the same time for both. I didn’t hesitate long and decided to go to South Africa to discover the culture by helping the children and save the environment.
Every morning, I woke up at 6.30 am with the sunlight and the animal’s barks. Then I joined all the children and the volunteers to do the dog walk around the camp. It was a good way to wake up properly and talk with the children. After that, we were split into small groups in order to clean up the animal’s enclosures and to feed them. It’s called the Stabling. Then, morning lessons are done by two or three volunteers. Every week, I used to do the environment one because I found it really interesting, even if it was a little bit complicated to teach. When we had a little break, I used to love playing with the kids at some games I invented. Some volunteers enjoyed joining us and we had a wonderful time, laughing and playing. There were also lot of lessons during the afternoon. It was about animal tracks, anti-poaching, making South Africa a better place etc.… Then, every child went to the shower duty. In the evening, we had social talks. It was about respect, alcohol and drugs addiction, sex and HIV. It was a calm time, when children could ask questions and discuss with the volunteers in small groups.
My favorite part at DAKTARI was the bonfire. Every Thursday evening, we used to light up a fire outside of the camp and dancing around singing traditional songs and playing games. I loved to dance with the children because they taught me the steps and it was a really joyful moment. My favorite lesson to teach was Make South Africa a better place. I liked it because I could see what children learned during the week and how they could imagine their world after that. For some of them, DAKTARI made a real change and opened lot of future perspectives. The Dassies were my favorite animal without any hesitation. When I had some break time, I spend some time in their enclosure to cuddle them and ply with them.
At DAKTARI, I have learned a lot thanks to the lessons and the activities I had to teach. All the environments problems appeared clearer to myself while I taught to the kids. I also learned of the South African culture and that’s the best memory I have. I learned some Sepedi words, some dance steps and how people there lived.
My very best memory happened on the last day of my stay. It was a Friday, and with some of the volunteers we went to a village to clean the school. All the children who were in DAKTARI during the week came to help us. Other children and people from the village came and we accomplished a huge work! They were happy to do it with us and I enjoyed doing it. It was a beautiful day and all the children wanted to play, dance and took pictures with us. I felt like I was a real part of this world. I met Pretty’s daughter, which was the cutest little girl I ever met, and I played with her for ages. At the end of the day, two boys of the village danced for us, it was incredible! I couldn’t stop smiling.
I have also been on few excursions to the Kruger Park, which I really enjoyed. But the best one I have been to is the Homestay. I went to the Oaks Village during 1 day and a half to live like the inhabitants. I learned how to cook pap, a traditional meal. I sold some fish on the market place at 5 o’clock in the morning, I walked in the village to meet people, I dressed with traditional clothes, I played with the kids and I have been blessed by a priest in a church. It was intense and at the end I was really tired. But it was a such different way of life than what I used to know, that I realized how lucky I was, and that I wanted to work for humanity. I came back to DAKTARI with stars in the eyes because I met wonderful people and I lived strong experiences.
In the end, this is an experience I will never forget. These people I met and these days I lived were amazing and I dreamt so many times that I was still there. The Bush is full of nature and animals, I felt really good in this atmosphere. Waking up with the sunlight and working with a pure air made me feel calm and unstressed. But if I could, I would have stayed at least six months. One month is too short, you don’t have the time to see the impact of what you have accomplished.
At DAKTARI, we all are like a big family. And we work together either for the children, either for the animals and the environment. I think that the impact of what DAKTARI does in South Africa will appear on the long run. The children will remember the rules and the advices we gave them. The day before I left, a girl told me that, since she has been in DAKTARI, she told everyone to put the rubbish in the dustbin. I felt really proud of her and I realized that I made a real impact I could also be proud of."
Below an overview of Marine's adventure
"My name is Maya, I am a 19-year-old French girl and I decided to volunteer at Daktari for three weeks. I decided to come here by myself to improve my English but also because I wanted to discover South Africa. I started thinking about volunteering a few years ago, but I never had a precise idea of what I wanted to do, so when I discovered the organisation on Lea Camilleri’s channel, I signed up immediately."
"My name is Emmelien, I’m 19 years old and I’m from Belgium. I also volunteered at Daktari for three weeks. I’m studying medicine but because I’m not able to do anything medical yet, I decided to try and help others in a different way. Daktari became the project I chose because of the combination of working with children and animals."
"We arrived at DAKTARI on the same day from two different places of the world, strangers to each other and now, we are the closest friends. When other volunteers told us that Daktari is a place where you become real friends in a very quick time, we didn’t believe them (we are not the most sociable people). But Daktari isn’t just a place where you do your volunteering, it really is a family. Every time someone is leaving, the goodbyes are painful but the memories are amazing.
The kids arrive on Monday. Most of them are really shy at first but you will see that they open up during the week. One of the good things about Daktari is that it is not just about knowledge. Indeed, we want them to learn about the environment, poaching, and the animals, but we also encourage the improvement on politeness, respect and having fun. The way we teach is a lot different than we are used to but we have different forms of teaching like socials talks, going in the bush… You’ll see that sometimes you will be the one learning
We also had the opportunity to get out of the reserve and see a part of South Africa. Indeed, there are many activities that you can do during your stay in order to discover other beautiful places. During our first week, we went on a Homestay in the Oaks village, where we lived for 24 hours. It was a beautiful way to experience the South African way of life. But we also did a lot of other excursions. We went to see the elephants and cheetah, spend two days in the Kruger Park and walked in the Blyde Canyon River. Once in a lifetime experience!
We talked about it a lot and we agreed that this adventure has really changed our life in so many ways. We now know how lucky we are to be given so many chances in life that other people may not have, depending on where they were born. We discovered ourselves here and grew more confident. Thank you Daktari! Thank you Ian and Michele, staff and other volunteers for letting us be a part of this family. We love you all."
"Hello ! We are Ophélie and Julie. We are 23 years old and come from Belgium. We stayed at DAKTARI for three weeks.
We wanted to volunteer abroad and were looking for a project that was meaningful to us. As future childhood psychologists, we wanted to work with children. Taking care of animals and the environment were other topics that interested us. DAKTARI was the perfect combination. Indeed, it combines different projects and ideals: protecting the environment, the animals, help educating the children, discover a new culture…
So every morning we start with a dog walk. There are four dogs at DAKTARI that we must take care of. All of the children and the volunteers have to participate. After a delicious breakfast (by the way, we enjoyed the peanut butter very much), we do the morning stabling, which means we clean the enclosures and feed the animals. The rest of the day is dedicated to the lessons. We get to talk about different topics, e.g. environment, tracks, animal knowledge, … Each night, there is a different activity to do with the children. For example, we watched the Lion King on Wednesdays. Every activity is also an occasion to learn something. We really enjoyed the stabling because, among other things, we got to see how to feed different animals, including the cheetah, which is very impressive. The meerkats were definitely our favourite the meerkats! They’re very cuddly and friendly. The bonfire was also a fun part! Concerning the lesson, our favourite one was "Making South Africa a better place". This lesson is interesting because we go over all of the subjects that were discussed during the week. The children can therefore understand the link between they have learned.
During our stay we have been on different excursions. Ophélie, will always remember the walk in the Blyde River Canyon. The nature is extremely beautiful. I am endlessly amazed by the African sceneries because they are full of surprises. And Julie, enjoyed the Kruger Park, which is one of the biggest national reserves in the world. DAKTARI is very close to this park. Therefore it is an opportunity that one cannot miss. I got to see stunning animals that I have always dreamed to encounter.
The most important thing that we have learned is how to take care of the animals. If we had to choose our least favourite part it will be waiting for dinner time because the food was so delicious! Our most striking memory is the afternoon we spent at a village collecting rubbish. Many volunteers and children helped out to clean a school. It was amazing to see everyone coming together and working for the same cause. In the end, we also got to share games and dances with the children. If you think about volunteering, come. Do not hesitate! Three weeks is an interesting length in general. You have the time to get used to the place, do excursions, enjoy the way of living at DAKTARI and say goodbye. If this kind of trip is linked to your future job, you could still do a long term volunteering and get to practice. We can also realize the reality of the life in South Africa and effectively contribute to making it a better place to stay in. We like living the bush life, first because it is a rare opportunity. Secondly we can reconsider our place on this planet. We are all part of the circle of life. We really enjoyed changing our point of view."
Alix comes from Belgium, she is 18 years old and stayed 2 weeks at Daktari.
“I was looking for an organisation that would allowed me to work with animals. DAKTARI was the only one that allowed me to feed them, clean their enclosures…And I loved taking care of them. Martin, the cheetah is the most impressive animal in the camp, but I enjoyed spending time with the meerkats the most.
DAKTARI offers a better interaction with both animals and the village than other organizations. Usually they offer you either a children program or an animal program, but not both. That’s why I choose to come here.
Teaching the children was really nice. You do the dog walk with them before breakfast. Then we have morning stabling where they learn how to take care of wildlife. The rest of the morning is dedicated to the lessons. You have a break between 12.30 and 2pm. The lessons continue until 4.30pm which is the time of the afternoon stabling. At 6.30pm it is dinner time and after we have an activity with the children. During the day, you can help with animals at any time, as long as you don’t have a lesson. I really enjoyed the social talk about the safe sex, it was really interesting.
That’s why DAKTARI’s project is important because you can sensitize the children, the future of the country, to the importance of taking care of their animals and their environment. It is with project like this that you can make a real difference on the long term.
During my volunteer experience, I went to the Blyde River Canyon. It was super impressive and really beautiful, I highly recommend it. If I had to choose my best memory, I would say that is when we went to the Oaks village for the Mandela day. We cleaned the village for 67 minutes, then we ate a delicious meal. At the end of the lunch, we went to the school and children surprised us with a song. We played with them for an hour and a half and we talked a lot. That was a special day for them and we had the possibility to share it with them.
What I learnt the most is the way of living of the South Africans. Children taught us their games, you can share your vision of life with them and talk about the differences… And I liked living in the bush, it is such a different way of living. You can experiment something different, even though DAKTARI has more comfort that the houses in the villages around us.
So, to conclude, I would say COME, do not hesitate!”
"I decided to come to DAKTARI Bush School with my son, Alexandre,11 years old, to share and experiment with something very different from our everyday life in Europe, through another culture, both with animals care and with children.
My best memory at DAKTARI has been to watch my son interact with animals and becoming independent and taking so much pleasure doing it. Alex’s best experience was the Bonfire night, dancing and singing around the fire with all the other kids, a lot of joy and laughs.
During our stay in DAKTARI, we managed to do a Safari in the Kruger reserve, a wonderful moment which brought us in the magic of Africa, watching the beauty of nature and animals.
Alex enjoyed every moment of his stay at DAKTARI, the contact with children, playing and dancing with them, the kindness of the staff and the other volunteers. He worked hard with everyone and fell proud of what he was achieving.
When I left to go to DAKTARI I didn’t know what to expect, it was a real adventure. I am happy that we did it, I know that we will come back to Europe enriched from this experience, full of unique “souvenirs”. DAKTARI is quite special from other ONG because it offers to families and young adults the possibility to interact and help with animals caring for them, stabling, preparing their food, feed them, clean after. It is also very nice and challenging to teach a group of children from a poor neighborhood on world topics such as the environment, geography, animals in South Africa etc.. as well as discussions on substance abuse, safe sex, respect… and through games, dancing, and singing!
To conclude I would like to say again how rewarding it has been to see my boy of 11 feeling so happy and full of joy during his stay at DAKTARI and to realize at his young age that through help and connecting with other children that are very poor and animal care, that life is much more beautiful and interesting.
Thank you, DAKTARI!"
"Hello everyone, we are Zoe and Aurea, two 19-year-old french girls who decided to come to South Africa to live the DAKTARI adventure.
This place was advised to us by a friend of ours who enjoyed it a lot. We both wanted to volunteer to help people and hearing about this project convinced us. Indeed, having the possibility to teach young students while taking care of animals sounded like an amazing opportunity for us. We both stayed here a month and had the occasion to experiment the two different programs lead by DAKTARI: the Job Hunting Program and the Environmental Education Program.
The first one targeted students from 18 to 25 years old and was supposed to help them get ready to enter the job market. During the two fist weeks, we taught them how to make CVs, cover letters and how to behave in job interviews. It was really rewarding for us because we met great students who improved a lot during their stay. Moreover, we really had the feeling to play a part in their life and that the knowledge we brought them could really make a difference in their future.
The second program was focused on younger children (grade 8) and their relationship with their environment. During the last two weeks, we taught them how to protect their world and the animals that surround them. The role we played was more one of a counselor than a teacher but it was a great experience as well, given that the children were very curious and enthusiastic about their stay at DAKTARI Bush School.
During our volunteer experience, we had the occasion to discover the surroundings thanks to the excursions proposed by DAKTARI. We went to the Blyde River Canyon, on of the most beautiful places we have ever seen. We also did a safari in the Kruger National Park on our own, with two other volunteers we met here and who became our friends. It was unforgettable!
We made a lot of great memories here, thanks to the children and volunteers we met and who all brought something different and personal to our life. Furthermore, being in contact with all these animals (especially the babies antelopes, who were the cutest) was very cool! The best memories we made were at the bonfires when volunteers and children gathered to dance and sing in the bush: the atmosphere was so joyful!
Our stay in DAKTARI Bush School & Wildlife Orphanage was a rewarding and unique experience during which we met extraordinary people. It was an occasion to discover South Africa: a beautiful country which is, unfortunately, still facing some issues that need to be solved. We were gd to contribute, in our scale, to try to solve them."
In my perspective, Daktari’s project represents the future for the next generations of Africa.
Before I had even heard about Daktari -along with their project, I already had similar ideas I could see myself building in the future. Reconnecting humans - and especially the children, with their inner instincts, respect, love and bond with nature and with the animals, with earth, and therefore their land and their culture…
I have always believed the importance of future generations to re-immerse the feeling and deep understanding of being part of everything and everything being part of them, of us, comprehending we are ONE.
Seeing the children open their minds and put their trust in us made me feel blessed and fortunate. I feel I taught them as much as they taught me, and also much about myself…
This has led to a loss of animal habitat, wrong interspecies communication and a damaged relationship between human and animal. Humankind have a way of making you feel and be in the present moment...
Humankind and animals belong together, as equals, side by side. No other way.
Our vision of the world and being has the possibility to extend through contact with other individuals, different locations, diverse cultures and different mindsets. Exchanges as such, not only intercultural but emotional and personal experiences are the most powerful tool towards an open-minded education and therefore a change in our current society. And this is what Daktari’s mission is about.
What particularly counts for me is to transmit; not to persuade but to give the foundations to be further interpreted freely.
My name is Karin and I’m from the Netherlands. I’m at Daktari with my husband Gerwin and my two sons Nils (14) and Bjorn (10). When we’re planning this holiday we really like to combine working as a volunteer and meeting other cultures and experience the nature. Daktari offers that. Especially the education program for the local students and working with the animals is why we choose Daktari.
We came at DAKTARI on Saturday 28th of April 2018 for a week. We flew to Johannesburg where we rent a car. We drove to DAKTARI ourselves. It was a beautiful trip and, in the end, we even saw buffalo!
At Daktari, every volunteer works with the animals and give some lessons to the students. Every evening there is a meeting where the work and the lessons for the next day are planned. You do stabling, feeding the animals and cleaning up. The animals vary from smaller ones like mongoose, meerkat, owls, eagles, bush baby and dassies to bigger ones like ostrich, caracal, cheetah and wild dog. The subjects of the lessons are about the environment, renewable energy, knowledge of the animals but also about politeness, respect and job opportunities at a game reserve.
My sons helped with cleaning the enclosure of the cheetah "Martin". That was exciting! First, we had to lure the cheetah with a chicken to got him locked. It took a couple of minutes but eventually, it worked. And Then they could start cleaning the water and fill it up with fresh water agin.
The Tuesday we went to another school in the village where DAKTARI offers a special education program called "Eco-Club". The children coming there on voluntary. It is very special to see how eager the students are to learn. It was a lesson which took 2 hours without a break. And they were still focussing! In the Netherlands that age (15-17) not even have the focus for 1hour! I was impressed.
When we where at DAKTARI they had a baby buffalo and two baby sable antelope. Six times a day they get a bottle of warm milk. At 6 pm it was my turn and it was really dark. With my headlight, I got into the fence and the buffalo came immediately to me. He was pushing me forward to get along so he gets his milk. It was really funny! When he was drinking I had to say to myself: I am here in South Africa feeding a baby buffalo! It was great!
DAKTARI was a family experience we will never forget!
Thank you so much!