Last week, DAKTARI visited Lepono High School to conduct a workshop on the importance and value of education. DAKTARI runs an outreach program in addition to an environmental education program and wildlife orphanage. DAKTARI's outreach program has four main parts: eco-clubs at two local secondary schools (Maahlamele and Rakgalokwana), community development, waste management and a job-hunting program.
Approximately one hundred eight and ninth graders were able to participate in the workshop. In small groups, the children spent seven minutes interviewing a DAKTARI volunteer about their job and previous education. Once the seven minutes were up, the groups swapped and the children were able to interview another volunteer. The children asked the volunteers what they do, what they studied at school and whether or not they went to university. By the end of the workshop the students had spoken to seven volunteers who were from different countries around the world. The volunteer's career and education backgrounds were all vastly different which was beneficial for the students as it highlighted that basic education is important no matter what job you want to do!
Online, DAKTARI's ideal balance of working with children and animals seemed too good to be true. I arrived expecting some sort of catch but soon learned that the website, as well as the rave reviews from past volunteers, are extremely accurate in depicting the curriculum and atmosphere DAKTARI has to offer. Unlike many programs, the volunteers aren't coddled - they are immediately embraced and given the utmost feeling of importance, as well as aptitude to complete their tasks. This sense of independence is, in my opinion, what gives DAKTARI the familial atmosphere that makes you forget that you are a volunteer. Although given a schedule of lessons, along with instructions, the way in which you're encouraged to be interpretive shows the way that DAKTARI understands how there is no 'right way' for something to be done. Although a running establishment for more than 11 years, this humility continues to be felt the minute Ian greets you at the airport.
I was very impressed in the ways which DAKTARI implemented little, seemingly casual lessons with nature to instill impactful environmental considerations with the kids. Even the 20-minute morning dog walks managed to teach the kids important lessons about countering wild snakes and how to walk a dog with a combination of firmness and gentleness. These little lessons, as well as countless others are the ones I had assumed that the kids already knew. They hadn't and this highlights the way in which DAKTARI's great relationships with the nearby communities allow a valuable understanding of what to include in their curriculum. This understanding is also seen in the environmental lessons, in which DAKTARI's understanding of the local rubbish practices allow them to turn a broad lesson about the environment into one that the kids can relate to.
One of my favorite parts about DAKTARI was how remote its location is. Coming from a big city, I expected to take a while to get used to the isolation and wild animals. This turned out to be the farthest thing from true- now back home, I realize how easily I took these things for granted. Small encounters, like Eeyore the donkey hanging out next to your chalet, or the squirrel coming up to you for a cuddle in the lapa are thing that I would give anything to experience one more time. And don't get me started on how much I miss cuddling with my meerkats.
A little review cannot do justice to explain the amazing four weeks I had at DAKTARI. Even explaining DAKTARI to my friends and family back at home proves futile. This is because the experience at DAKTARI cannot be justified in the curriculum or the types of animals that they have there. Instead, my time at DAKTARI is made up of countless moments with the kids, animals, and other volunteers that I will take with me for the rest of my life. It's made up of the moments in which Ian and Michele truly felt like my surrogate parents. It's made up of the way I weirdly enjoyed picking up spotted owl poop. All these little moments are why I definitely know that I will be back one day.
Recently DAKTARI Bush School & Wildlife Orphanage acquired a new member of the family - a six month old baby bush pig called Molly. Molly was found abandoned, wandering around alone behind a shop in Hoedspruit, our nearest town.
Since arriving at DAKTARI in May, Molly's confidence has grown everyday. She has quite the personality and loves walking around the camp, meeting all the other animals. She even tried to make friends with our cheetah Martin but I think he was more interested in eating her for dinner! As she's such a social animal we now take her on daily walks and give her a chance to stretch her legs and play around the camp!
Molly loves to play with our volunteers and tries her best to give everyone muddy kisses! Some of her favourite things to do include playing football and taking mud baths! Click here to see a video of Molly playing football!
This Nelson Mandela Day, DAKTARI joined forces with one of our nearby villages, the Oaks, to take part in a big clean. Nelson Mandela Day celebrates Mandela's life and encourages everyone to take positive action in a way that will bring about sustainable change. There is no rubbish collection service in the area so waste management is a sizeable problem. Over the last few months, DAKTARI has been supporting the Oaks in formulating a waste management plan. The first step in this process was a village litter clean-up!
Over fifty volunteers participated in the big clean including members of the Community Works Program and residents of the Oaks Village. The volunteers worked hard all morning collecting trash around the market place and along the side of the main road. By the end of the day, an impressive sixty-seven trash bags had been filled, commemorating Mandela's sixty-seven years of public service!
Plans are already underway to install bins in the village as the Oaks strives to be a positive example to other villages in the area!
Every Friday, before the children leave, a 'winner of the week' is chosen based on how helpful, kind and polite they have been during their stay at DAKTARI. They are given a tree to plant and are rewarded with a game drive.
Last weekend, the winners from the previous ten weeks went on their game drive to Balule Nature Reserve in Greater Kruger and were generously shown around by Tsakane Safari Co. On the game drive, they got to see numerous animals including a herd of nearly forty elephants! This was the first time they had ever seen these animals in the wild and were fascinated by the sheer size of them. They also saw giraffe, impala, kudu and zebra.
As they drove through the reserve, the field ranger explained how he tracks animals using the sights and sounds of the bush and why it is important to conserve wildlife. This built upon the knowledge they gained during their stay at DAKTARI.
At the end of the drive, the children were shown around a tented camp and got to talk to one of the game rangers about what it's like to live amongst lions and elephants! Thank you Tsakane for showing the children the magic of the bush and providing them with an unforgettable educational experience.
Eight years ago, Nathaniel came to DAKTARI as a child to take part in our environmental education program. Last week, we had the pleasure of welcoming him back as a volunteer! Nathaniel is currently in his third year of University in Johannesburg studying Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences and plans to pursue a career in conservation.
“It’s quite funny that I came here again because coming here for the second time really shows that DAKTARI is a place where most of the students, if not all, would like to come back at a later stage in their life.”
When Nathaniel first came to DAKTARI in Grade 8, it was a completely new experience for him. He’d never interacted with animals before and found it fascinating to be part of a community that respects and cares for wildlife. His week at DAKTARI made him very curious about the environment and his passion for nature and wildlife started to grow. Nathaniel decided to return to DAKTARI as a volunteer because it was here that he was first inspired to care for nature. During his two weeks working as a volunteer, he has been involved in teaching the education program as well as tending to the animals in our wildlife orphanage.
“What I have enjoyed most in my two weeks at DAKTARI is the educational program because I love to teach about the environment and I can tell the children are happy to be here”
Thank you for giving your time back to DAKTARI Nathaniel, we have loved having you here and we look forward to hearing about your progress in the future!
It is a bittersweet week here at DAKTARI. First, we need to say goodbye to Micah, our Outreach Manager since April 2016. During his time as the outreach manager, he built a truly amazing curriculum for the Eco Clubs at Maahlamele and Rakgolokwana. The new lessons are full of great information and provide lots of activities and fun for the kids. Each week, the kids come back and often they bring friends to join them! We are so excited to see how the Eco Clubs continue after his fantastic work.
We do have some good news, great news actually - we have a new Outreach Manager! Helene Colson has been here at DAKTARI for five weeks, learning all about the outreach program from Micah and teaching her first few Eco Clubs. Here is her welcome to you:
My name is Hélène, and I will be the new Micah (well, the new outreach manager). I am French, I am 25 and I used to work in an NGO as a legal advisor.
I’ve decided to come to South Africa because I really wanted to discover this beautiful country with amazing wildlife and landscapes.
DAKTARI is the perfect association for me, giving me the opportunity to put together environment and kids! Kids are the future of our planet and I think that it is important to stake everything on their education and on their ability to build great things.
And living in the middle of the bush is incredible! I love my morning cup of coffee watching our nyalas.
I am looking forward to achieving fun and helpful projects with the Eco-Clubs kids and the communities. And I will do my best to learn Sepedi thanks to the amazing teachers I have here in DAKTARI!
Anyone who has been to DAKTARI or follows us regularly knows that we have a thing for dassies. With the successful release of our last dassies, Buddha and Lulu, there were no more dassies at camp!
Not to worry though, last week DAKTARI picked up seven more!
|Three of the dassies were handraised in the nearby province of Mpumalanga. The caretakers were not able to keep the dassies any longer and asked if DAKTARI would take them. All of the dassies are fully grown and we are hoping to be able to release them soon. One of the dassies, however, is sick and we are busy caring for him.|
|The other four dassies are small little babies that DAKTARI picked up from Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre. The mother of these dassies sadly died and now they require constant attention – something our volunteers are happy to help out with! The cute little dassies are settling in well. Again, we hope to release them when they are fully grown.
It’s never boring here at DAKTARI ☺
|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!