|If you have ever volunteered at DAKTARI, there is a good chance you have helped us raise a baby tree squirrel. If not, you have most definitely met Compton, our tame, breakfast-stealing tree squirrel. It is become a major part of DAKTARI's program in the summer and we almost always have a squirrel in our care.
Since September 2016, DAKTARI has cared for seven different baby squirrels. Two have been released, two are still in care, and the other three sadly didn't make it. The squirrels are fragile and we always prefer to have the mother take him or her back. However, the mother will sometimes abandon the baby if she is too scared to retrieve it. This often happens when the squirrel nests are in the roofs of the chalets, dorms, or other structures at DAKTARI.
If you have been keeping up with the news at DAKTARI, you will know that we have had a lot to be thankful for this year. Thanks to support from our supporters like you and our sponsors, we were able to do a lot of wonderful things this year and we want to tell you about them!
A quick snapshot of our year:
- Welcomed 295 Grade 8 students from four secondary schools near DAKTARI to our camp in 2016
- Introduced 14 new animals to the wildlife orphanage
- Upgraded several buildings and our solar power system at DAKTARI
- Had 38 young adults attend our career guidance program to help them gain employment
- Hosted 57 Eco Clubs at two school
- Worked alongside 118 volunteers from 11 different countries
For a more detailed breakdown of everything we’ve accomplished with your help in 2016 and a sneak peek into 2017, keep reading! If you are short on time, just know that the DAKTARI team, our volunteers, our kids, and our animals all thank you for the opportunity to do what we love and reach so many people in our community.
I stayed at Daktari during 3 weeks from end October to mid November 2016. This was not my first holiday volunteering but Daktari provided me with a unique opportunity to both bring some of my experience to children and to be surrounded by nature and animals.
Each Monday 8 children aged 12-13 year old came from local villages to spend the week with us. Our days were organised around giving lessons to the children (mostly linked to the environment) and taking care of the animals (meerkats, mongoose, eagles, wild dogs etc.). The programme of lessons is very well prepared and detailed but Daktari is always keen for volunteers to bring their own experience and personality, and improve it if necessary. Depending on the number of volunteers present, we usually led with another volunteer a couple of lessons a day (which we chose the day before) and attended the other lessons in order to bring one on one support to the children. We also had more relaxed talks with the children on topics such as respect, substance abuse and safe sex and played board games. Overall the days were quite busy but you have some breaks to relax. There was no obligation to attend all the activities but most volunteers wanted to help and spend as much time as possible with the children. A volunteer coordinator attended most of the lessons and helped with the organisation and translation in case the children struggle to understand in English.
Daktari is situated in the middle of a game reserve which makes it a unique location too. You are surrounded by the bush and the sound of animals. This is a place where you feel very quickly at home and relaxed. The accommodation (chalets) was comfortable and to my surprise, we had hot water everyday! The food was very good too (and I'm French) and you don't have to drop bad habits like smoking (there is a nice quiet area for smokers) and drinking (for a cheap price too). There was a really nice atmosphere among the volunteers who came from everywhere.
Every Saturday we had the opportunity to go to the nearest town for shopping. I also spent an amazing week end in the Kruger Park with Greg, our guide, and 3 other volunteers. Visiting the park in a small group and accompanied by somebody like Greg who has a great deal of knowledge and passion about the animals is something you'll experience nowhere else. Greg also offers other types of day or week end excursions for Daktari.
In short, I had an unique and amazing experience at Daktari and guess what... I'm already planning to go back there for a longer period...
Such an amazing project with the loveliest people!
I have had the most amazing month at Daktari! Daktari is such a great project, what they do is amazing! I've always wanted to go and volunteer in Africa but I wasn't sure if I wanted to find a project with animals or with people and this was just such a good combination, I immediately knew this was it!
My first week, the group of kids we got were amazing! They were a little shy in the beginning because this is such a new experience for them. For most, it was the first time they went away from home for that long. But very quickly the kids opened up to us. They were so enthusiastic to learn! You can tell they're not used to having people actually ask them questions and pay attention to them in class.
In the beginning of the week we take a survey with each kid with questions about animals, the environment, safe sex, respect... all the topics we teach about in the week. On Friday we take the survey again and we can see how much they improved. A girl there my first week went from 2/16 to 14/16! All the kids improve and grow so much! Not only pure knowledge, but also their English, their confidence...
The animal part was amazing as well! My first night I hardly slept because of all the noises; owls, ostrich, dogs, donkey, squirrels... But I got used to it so quick and now it's weird to be back home and to hear cars and plains at night! Every day you do stabling twice a day; preparing food, cleaning out the cages, giving clean water... There was also an orphaned baby nyala we had to take care of while I was there which was such an amazing experience! It's also good to know that all the animals at Daktari are there for a reason! That was something we really tried to teach the kids as well; protecting the animals doesn't mean putting them into cages if they can live in the wild!
On Friday afternoon and in the weekends you have free time and there are lots of trips and excursions to take! Me and another volunteer Beccy, went to the Blyde River Canyon with Gregg. Not very cheap but definitely cheaper than a tour with a company, and Gregg knows so much about the area, the animals, the history! We also went and did a homestay in the Oaks village to really get immersed in the culture! I was also very lucky and joined the students of the week (each week the volunteers choose a student of the week; someone who improved the most and has shown the most interest. They win a free game drive) for their game drive to Kruger! We saw so many animals and all the Big 5 except for a leopard!
Last but not least, the people there, staff and long-terms and Michele and Ian are so wonderful! They have been so sweet! I would highly recommend this project, you'll have the time of your life!
On October 16th, DAKTARI welcomed its largest group of volunteers ever. A South African based travel company, Toerboer, brought 28 volunteers to work at DAKTARI Bush School & Wildlife Orphanage. The group, made up of volunteers from Canada, the U.S., and South Africa, was split in half and each group shared the responsibilities of teaching the children at DAKTARI and completing community projects.
During their 6-day stay, the volunteers successfully completed a teaching week at DAKTARI and also planted 60 trees at four different secondary schools! It was a very rewarding experience for DAKTARI and for Toerboer’s volunteers. All 28 volunteers left with tears in their eyes, hoping to return soon!
DAKTARI volunteer, Meret Hartmann, was with us for 5 weeks in August of this year. When she got home, she got to work! Meret wrote a wonderful article in the Swiss magazine, Willisauer Bote. She shared the article and the English translation with us...
Another World at the End of the Worldby Meret Hartmann
Pfaffnau / South Africa
Meret Hartmann volunteered in the South African Bush for five weeks. She talks about her work as a teacher, zookeeper, intermediator and playmate for a monkey at Daktari Bush School & Wildlife Orphanage.
It is an indescribable feeling of nervous eagerness I get when boarding a plane to a new travel adventure. This summer, my wanderlust brought me to South Africa, a country of two different faces. They are easily distinguished on the way from Johannesburg to Hoedspruit; from the vibrant city with six-lane highways to the rocky provincial streets bordering the famous Kruger National Park.
Final Destination: Bush
A small shuttle bus brought me from sleepless Johannesburg, where neither woman nor man dare to walk alone at night, into a world that belongs to wild animals. Surrounded by a vast expanse of dry trees lies Daktari Bush School & Wildlife Orphanage; my destination.
Our family of 4 has returned from our volunteer time at Daktari... and we miss you and all the animals!
We still laugh about finding blind Eeyore outside of the camp, miss Thor your monkey stealing our food and Boy, the bird taking a liking to Alex (15) and attacking him nonstop from behind....
Our goal of exposing our French-American teenage sons (17, 15) to the "real" South African bush with its children and animals, was exceeded on all levels: it allowed a complete disconnect with our fast-paced school and work lives. In fact, one week was too short, one month would have been even better!
The community feeling at Daktari, the insights learned from caring for wild or injured animals are powerful. The opportunity to teach local children and then accompany them to the "back stage" of a Safari Lodge (hotel)" showed us how lucky we were not to only see one side, the "touristy South Africa". Accompanying your Outreach Manager to the local schools and exchanging with the Young Eco-Club members who proudly showed the trees they had proactively planted at their school, confirms that your concept "Education drives Environmental protection!" works.
We all returned, vocal proponents of this type of humanitarian vacation! What we gave in terms of our time and energy to teach teenagers in English, was returned 1000 times to us with the insights we gained from the local staff, the Children, the animals and the staff.
A few friends had travelled abroad and it looked like a lot of fun, and I was always incredibly jealous seeing their pictures when they got back! As it was my first time travelling solo, I decided that a volunteering project would be the best way to get out there, whilst not being completely alone.
I had looked at a lot of programs on many different websites. In the end, I chose the project at Daktari Bush School in South Africa as it involved teaching local children whilst also looking after animals - I was sure it would keep me busy! As a primary school teacher, I love working with children and thought that this would be a brilliant opportunity to not only make a difference for these children, but improve my own teaching in a situation completely different to the one I am used to in England.
I was a little nervous when I first arrived as this was my first time travelling solo, but I soon realised I had no reason to be! Ian was there at the airport to greet myself and another volunteer, and he immediately made us feel welcome. He even stopped the car a few times on the way back to show us the giraffes and other animals! Arriving at Daktari, the warm welcome continued and it seemed like Ian and Michele had created a proper little Daktari family. After settling in, we were invited to join the other volunteers on an overnight safari, organised by Greg, which was such a fantastic experience and allowed me to bond with the other volunteers before the children arrived, and get a real taste of Africa.
At the start of both weeks, the children were so shy and quiet, but it was fantastic to see them growing in confidence and knowledge as the week progressed. By the time Thursday rolled around, we were all toasting marshmallows on the bonfire, with the children teaching us different songs, chants and dances.
The teaching programme at Daktari covered so many areas in such a short space of time, but it managed to do it in a way that kept the children engaged and motivated. As volunteers, we were encouraged to improve the lessons, so we worked on the existing knowledge hunt lesson to create a challenging scavenger hunt. The children got incredibly competitive running around the camp looking for the clues, and it was great to see them helping the other children in their team.
I was also given the opportunity to visit a local crèche as part of Daktari’s outreach programme and teach a lesson to the 3-4 year olds. It was a real eye opener, and such a contrast from my school back in England.
I think the thing that makes Daktari unique is the combination of working with children and animals. I was drawn to this project as very few others give this opportunity. As a volunteer, you have a real impact on the children by teaching them about job opportunities, tourism, their environment, how to look after the animals and social issues such as substance abuse. After a long week of teaching, you then have the chance to cuddle up to the meerkats at the camp, go on a Big 5 safari in the nearby Kruger park or go bungee jumping off of Blyde river canyon. It was just such a fantastic project!
All in all, I have had such a fantastic experience at Daktari, and my only regret was that it didn’t last longer! It’s incredible what Ian and Michele have achieved at Daktari in 10 years, and it’s clear the impact it has on the children, animals, local communities, and the volunteers who visit. I cannot recommend it enough, and I hope very much to visit again in the not too distant future!
My summer at DAKTARI primarily consisted of teaching local children and working with orphaned African wildlife. Working with local children proved to be the largest interaction while working at DAKTARI as students would come for five days a week and we would work with them from 7 A.M. to 8 P.M. each day. We would teach the students different subjects related to the environment and eco-tourism with some lessons touching on making South Africa a better place, safe sex, respect, and substance abuse.
The schedule for working with the children was very similar to that of an educational summer camp, and also involved the children and volunteers with the care taking of animals kept within enclosures around DAKTARI's camp. Taking care of the animals consisted of cleaning their enclosures and feeding and watering them every day.
At times, volunteers created projects to enhance the animal enclosures and would work on those projects when students were not at DAKTARI.
There were also opportunities for volunteers to go on excursions during the weekends, where every Saturday volunteers could go into town or go on other excursions such as hot air balloon tours, trips to Kruger National Park and to different wildlife centers around Hoedspruit.
I had a wonderful time and would recommend looking into DAKTARI as a possible volunteering opportunity. Be prepared to work, as it can be a demanding and tiring job at times. While I worked at DAKTARI some issues arose between volunteers and managerial staff where views did not align at times, and jokes could be off-color, but the long term volunteers were great to discuss these issues with. DAKTARI gave me a wonderful, life changing experience and really opened my eyes to the world outside of the United States. I could have never predicted what the experience was like and the African bush was truly breath-taking.
I greatly enjoyed working with the local children, they were very fun to teach and to play games around the camp with. I enjoyed working with all of the other volunteers and I am so glad that I met all of the long term volunteers, all of which are wonderful people and great company around a dinner table. I hope DAKTARI continues to touch the lives of the locals and to make a difference in how the environment is perceived in Africa.
It's not what you might be thinking...
Thankfully, the Black Mambas that visited DAKTARI last week are not snakes, but anti-poachers and the "Bushbabies" are kids in their conservation education program.
The Black Mambas are a group of anti-poachers that have been trained in Hoedspruit. All of them come from a disadvantaged community. Since 2013, they have destroyed more than 10 poacher camps and 3 bushmeat kitchens. Snaring and poisoning has been reduced by 76% in the areas they patrol. Amazing work! The Bushbaby program is fairly similar to DAKTARI's program. It works well with the existing curriculum that the children receive at school and it provides extra teaching in environmental topics. As an added bonus, it's always a lot of fun for the kids who get to go on field trips and interact with animals!
It was great being able to welcome both groups for a tour of DAKTARI and answer their great questions about our wildlife orphanage. We hope to have another inspiring group come to visit us again soon!
DAKTARI is so thankful for all of the support we received during the June 15, 2016 Bonus Day on GlobalGiving UK. We received more than £15,000 in donations, matching, and prizes thanks to our amazing donors!
We were so thrilled to also be awarded the top prize for the most funds raised on that day on GlobalGiving UK and for having the most donors on that day as well – prizes totaling £1,300.
These funds will be used towards DAKTARI’s teaching program. The children coming to stay with us will have delicious meals, new school supplies, and warm beds to fall into after an exciting day at DAKTARI.
DAKTARI would not be here without your continued support throughout the past 10 years. THANK YOU!