"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.

 

Tuesday, 20 February 2018 01:40

Mélissa Faugère - Volunteer January 2018

 

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. 

Monday, 14 August 2017 22:44

Hannah Barnett - Volunteer July 2017

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. 

Wednesday, 07 December 2016 13:33

Delphine Peraudeau - Volunteer November 2016

Delphine Volunteer Review

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...

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