"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!
"I came to DAKTARI on April 1st 2018. I was looking online for places to volunteer abroad and out of around 20 organizations DAKTARI was the one that seemed to offer the most opportunities and experiences. After I found DAKTARI I spent no time hesitating to prepare for the trip. I bought my plane tickets just a few days after I emailed them saying that I wanted to volunteer and would be arriving in 2 weeks.
My experience here overall has been wonderful. I was nervous because I have had no previous experience on teaching children or taking care of wildlife but every new thing I am doing here has been with a supportive team of amazing volunteers and staff. I learned that teaching children about the environment is fun and rewarding. However, kids are still kids and they can get into quite a lot of trouble-making which means that we the volunteers spend much time watching over them. Trying to juggle the classroom lessons while caring for baby antelopes and doing regular duties has occasionally left me exhausted though. I love that I am making a difference here in the lives of many children and animals but my limits have definitely been pushed but they have been pushed for the better. I think my favorite times were when I was able to share in the local culture and dances with everybody and we all had a great time as well as when I was able to take breaks and bask in the beauty of South Africa and not worry about a single thing.
I have enjoyed my time here greatly. I come from a very urbanized city with little to no wildlife. Coming here is like a vacation and reminder that the Earth has so many wonderful things to show us. I was also able to partake in great opportunities like working with children to teach them to take care of their environment and feed baby antelopes and buffalo from a bottle. We also are lucky enough to work closely with a cheetah, dassies, jackals and wild dogs which is something very few people will ever do in their lifetime. It also gave me a break from the very fast-paced lifestyle we have in Los Angeles so I will be very refreshed coming back home.
My best memory may have to be the bonfire night dances with the children and staff. It is like a party and everyone has a great time. It makes me feel like we are all one big family enjoying our time together."
I arrived 3 of March 2018 for one month. My biggest interest to come to DAKTARI was the kids because I would like to work in social services. I always wanted to do a volunteers trip. Furthermore, the perfect place for me is in the middle of the bush to discover the animals and to learn a lot of things about them.
During my stay at DAKTARI, I went a week in the neighbouring village. I lived with a local family and discovered their daily life and their culture. I was disoriented by their way of life: the toilets are not in the house, it looks like a hole outside and sometimes there is no door. The most shocking thing for me was the shower. The family puts a little water in a bath with a dishcloth and you have to do it by yourself. And there is not a real road in the village.
Then the children play everywhere with everything the most of the time without shoes. Everybody is really welcome, friendly and you feel like a star because everyone wants a picture with you!
During this week, I visited the creche and discovered that it is very different than in Switzerland. I went also to the primary school and secondary. I had the opportunity to teach English and math. The greatest difference is the number of student in one classroom: around 50, sometimes more!
During the english lesson, they had to read a text and answer questions. The problem was that if a front person read basically they were talking to each other and it’s hard to get everyone’s attention. During the math lesson, I tested the children with mental calculations, they all stood up to answer. What I remember is that really hard and tiresome to have a large class like that.
The secondary school was to teach the teenagers to keep a healthy environment, not to throw waste on the ground and how to reuse it. For example, we make a rubbish with the brick of milch. You have to know that this is an optional lesson and there were so many students present.
My experience was just amazing! I really want to come back there because the life is totally different but really a good place to live as well.
My best memory was in the primary school when all children come to hug me. I felt really overwhelmed but so comfortable at the same time because they look so happy.
I volunteered at DAKTARI for three weeks and it was the most beautiful project of my young life. I had wanted to volunteer for a while but I was more interested in volunteering with animals rather than children. After three weeks at DAKTARI that completely changed and I was so happy to be able to spend so much time with such incredible children.
Every week eight children from a local school come to spend one week with us to follow a teaching program and do educational activities. From Monday to Friday you could see how much they had changed. On Monday we helped the children to fill out a questionnaire with questions on several topics that will be discussed during the week with them. Usually on Monday they cannot answer the questions correctly. The same questionnaire is given to them on Friday and it is a joy for all the volunteers to see there has been a big improvement. During one of my weeks, the child I helped went from 4 out of 16 right on Monday to 14 out of 16 right on Friday! It is really amazing to observe the impact one can have on them and to realize that their future is in your hands.
The best time of the week is Thursday night. We gather around a bonfire with the children and sing and dance all together. It is a beautiful moment to share with the volunteers and children.
In terms of the animals, it is just as wonderful. Each animal has its own story that has led it to DAKTARI. I loved being close to the animals, cleaning their enclosures, feeding them twice a day and cuddling the baby dassies!
I could talk about my experience at DAKTARI for hours so I will thank all the volunteers and staff who I share my time with - it was lovely to meet you all. Leaving was the hardest thing but as DAKTARI says so well "Goodbyes are not forever, goodbyes are not the end, they simply mean I'll miss you until we meet again!"
I'm already saving to go back!
To sum up I would like to say that my time at DAKTARI was awesome!
I had my first volunteer experience at Daktari in September 2017. I was staying for nine long weeks. Before my arrival I was quite anxious and nervous because I did not know if I would like the place or the people. My worries completely disappeared as I was taken care of as soon as I stepped off the plane and into the green van and the airport and drove to Daktari, which is a one hour drive away from Hoedspruit.
The welcome at Daktari was very warm and quelled my fear that these people will have no interest at making me feel at home. I was supported by the staff from the moment I arrived at Daktari until my departure in December. Never was anyone annoyed by any questions I asked and never did I feel like I was unwelcome or unwanted.
Every week we welcome a group of eight students to teach about the environment and every week was unique because every group of children had their own dynamics.
Every week we welcome a group of eight students to teach about the environment and every week was unique because every group of children had their own dynamics. Concerning the lessons, a big plus was that you do not have to teach every one of them. You can choose which classes you want to teach at the daily board meetings. Classes are usually taught by two volunteers, so you do not have to be afraid about having to do the classes alone without support.
Even though I felt like my experience was very positive, there were a few things I disliked. That would be the fact that you do not have much privacy or the opportunity to wander outside of the camp due to the wild animals on the reserve. However, you do have the chance on going on tours on the weekend to see some of the local sites so do not worry about not being able to leave the Daktari camp during your stay.
To sum up my experience, I would like to say that my time at Daktari was awesome! I had fun, great students and lovely baby animals to take care of. I do not regret spending nine weeks at Daktari and I would love to visit again.