Monica Filkova, Daktari Volunteer 28/07/2012 - 11/08/2012
Daktari was a great experience - from getting to know the animals to learning to cook pap and helping out in the eco-club at the school. But while caring for ailing animals is good and coming up with enrichment ideas is fun, it was the educational aspect that attracted me and that left the most lasting impression.
I’ve done a number of volunteer placements focused on wildlife research, protection or rehabilitation, but this one was special because you could see a visible difference in the kids even after just a few days of getting attention with their maths and English, being engaged in conversations and being challenged to think through their role in the social and natural environment. It’s not always easy and there are hiccups, but it’s such an amazing experience to see them get up on the rock by the pool to get their completion certificate - sometimes maybe the first time their efforts have been acknowledged formally.
It’s astonishing that they live an hour from Kruger Park but have never been and most don’t really appreciate the diversity of flora and fauna at their doorstep or why it is important to protect it.
It’s amazing what Michelle and Ian have accomplished and that Daktari keeps moving forward so there are now graduates of the eco-clubs and the one-week program that are moving forward in life along the path Daktari showed them. It’s an inspiring blueprint for bringing together education, wildlife conservation and giving a helping hand to under-privileged children.
Tim Marriott, Daktari Volunteer, Repeat Visitor!
I first went to Daktari for four months in 2010. The main reason for going was to satisfy my ambition for a placement working with animals, both to care for the sick and orphaned that are looked after there and also to learn more about the wild animals that surround the project, in the beautiful and unique bush environment that borders the Kruger Park.
Other than the animals, the main aim of the project is to educate the under-privileged local children that live in the nearby villages who have not had the chance to learn about their natural heritage and the respect that the environment they live in deserves. I was amazed how much helping these children had an impact on me, having never been drawn to teaching beforehand. In turn it was incredible to see the impact we had on them, after a five day programme where they had the pleasure of spending time in the bush and the opportunity of working alongside international volunteers and the wonderful staff at Daktari. The smiles on their faces as they said goodbye and the hope that they held in their hearts after what they had gained from the experience, whether it be a minor thing or something more substantial, makes Daktari truly unique in its priceless quest.
Michele and Ian, who established the foundation, are absolute diamonds and are two of the most amazing, caring and hardworking committed people I have ever met, and who I can, I hope, now call friends.
I have since been back in 2011 and 2012 (and will continue to do so when finances allow), where I was pleased to see how any donations needed and gratefully received have led to many improvements, and likewise thrilled to get the same sense of soul and aspiration that I received from the project during my first experience. I am absolutely certain that Daktari will have a special place in my heart forever.
Maud Metayer, Daktari Volunteer 2011
I spent 3 weeks at Daktari during the year 2011 and I will always remember it! I had a great time there and I met wonderful persons from different countries all around the world. During the morning we used to clean the cages of animals, give them food and take care of them. Kids were coming with us. After breakfast and dog walking it was time for class where we had a lot of interesting time with the kids...we also had fun during swimming pool party or playing cards or others games...it was wonderful when we walked in the bush and specialy during sunset. I saw many different species of animals and my wish today would be to come back to daktari...
Thank you Michele, thank you Ian for your hospitality and your kindness,
Danielle Austin, Daktari Volunteer 24/08/2013 - 08/09/2013
My adventure started with a fundraiser. I stumbled upon Daktari’s website by chance about a year ago. I was doing research for a class assignment and somehow ended up reading about the organization for several hours. I thought it would be an exciting opportunity, but didn’t have the time or money to travel. However, I continued to visit the website every few months to read the newsletters. I was going to make a donation on Christmas when I saw they were hosting a fundraising contest. The grand prize was three free volunteer weeks and two nights in a luxurious game lodge. It was like fate telling me to go to South Africa. Or at least that’s what I told myself when I entered the fundraiser a few weeks later.
I ended up raising € 2, 462 and, even though I didn’t win, the owners Ian & Michele Merrifield offered to let me come volunteer at Daktari for two weeks and arranged one week with Wildlife Vet Peter Rogers.
I didn’t really know what to expect when I arrived at Daktari seven months later. I had been in contact with Michele all summer and read everything I could about Daktari and South Africa, but nothing I read or imagined even came close to the amazing people I met and experiences I had.
The moment I stepped off the plane in Hoedspruit I was greeted with a warm welcome. The kindness continued to pour in, not only from the other volunteers and staff members but from the children as well.
I was initially drawn to Daktari because of my love for animals, but I left with a passion to teach. Don’t get me wrong, the animals were amazing, but the children were incredible. They always had smiles on their faces and were so eager to learn new things. I’ll never forget reading a thank you letter I received from a group of students after my first week there. It was absolutely amazing to see just how much this experience meant to them.
Ian and Michele have put their heart and soul into this program — and it shows. I’ve never met two people who are more genuine and dedicated to making South Africa a better place. Both the children and volunteers learn so much during their time there. The opportunity to see and interact with such wonderful wild animals is icing on the cake. I returned to the United States with a new outlook on life and will always be thankful for the time I was able to spend at Daktari. I would do it all again in a heartbeat — even the 16-hour plane ride.
If you are looking for an organization to volunteer with or donate to, I couldn’t think of a place more deserving than Daktari.
Lizzy Garland, Daktari Volunteer 27/10/12 - 17/11/2012
When I was initially deciding to volunteer in South Africa I knew two things about the experience I was looking for. 1. I wanted to work with animals and 2. I wanted to work with students. After a lot of research on different organisations I came across Daktari and knew immediately this was exactly what I had been looking for.
Before traveling to South Africa I held an event to raise money directly for Daktari. I also setup an online account which I encouraged friends and family to donate towards which I used to assist in paying for volunteer fees. Every little bit raised went straight to Daktari and it was an incredible way for me to share what I was about to do with the people around me. If you are looking for a place that feels like home, working alongside incredible people in a beautiful environment set up by two of the most generous and kind people you will ever meet, you have found the right place.
Despite having only spent a few short weeks at Daktari, it was an experience I will always cherish dearly. I would highly recommend Daktari to anyone who wants to learn more about wildlife and who wants to help the community. Believe me when I say it was truly an incredible adventure that I will never forget.
Thank you to everyone who I met at Daktari, in particular the wonderful Michele and Ian!
Barbro and Kjell Asplund, Daktari volunteers 20/10/2012 - 09/11/2012
We had a wonderful time, three weeks, at Daktari last year. Michele, Ian, the staff and the other volunteers made us feel at home from the moment we arrived. It was so nice to be working with the children. They really enjoyed their time at Daktari. Michele and Ian! What a wonderful work you do. We know that many children are so grateful and will remember Daktari for ever. Their education will be useful in the future.
Among the volunteers we met people in variety of ages and nationalities. Together we had a lot of fun as music, games in the evenings.
Everything at Daktari was so nice, our room was comfortable and we got a lot of service. The staff was lovely. They always took care of everything with a big smile.
Our stay at Daktari has enriched our lives and sometimes we long to go back.
It is a privilege to visit such a beautiful country as South Africa too.
Barbro and Kjell
Sinclair Smith, Daktari volunteer 30/04/2011 - 27/05/2011
I spent 2011's month of May at Daktari.
Wild life, Humanity, Adventure.
After landing in one of South Africa's main airports, you take another plane (believe it or not this one is a propeller aircraft). You can feel every little vibration and mini-turbulence , if you are not used to flying, it can quickly become an adrenaline trip. Eventually, you land. You are about to see for the first time the last bastion of civilisation: Hoedspruit. Once all the luggage recovered (or not haha) you will be heading towards the Kruger Park in a typical mini-van. If you are attentive enough you might see some road signs you probably won't find anywhere else.
One of the main ingredients of Daktari's beauty is your fellow companions: I had the chance to meet an "interesting" swiss guy, a (what a surprise) huge Deutschman and some of the finest female specimens coming from the United-States, Scotland, England, Germany...
Then comes the trip in the bush, the first encounters with wild life (even a part of the Big Five if you're lucky enough). Now, the team, the "cadre", the explanations...for you won't have as much luxury as you have at home. (running water, electricity etc.) Each and everyday is a succession of discoveries, laughter (big up to Mr Porcupine) and enjoyment.
You will be able to take care of a multitude of creatures, from the meerkats to the leopard, from the tortoise to the rats...and all this with the help of the youngsters from the nearby schools...English, Mathematics, Geography, Sexual Education, singing and dancing around the fire...meeting and sharing. You will learn from them as much as they do from you.
The hardest part is when the end of the week arrives and you have to say goodbye.
I would like to say a huge "Thank you" to Michele and Ian for I did not take the opportunity before.
P.S and some more thanks to Thabo, and the whole team!
Katrien Vermeulen, Daktari volunteer 15/09/2012 - 27/09/2013
What can I say about Daktari?
It will be very difficult to keep it short for me, but will start to say that it was absolutely amazing!! My name is Katrien Vermeulen from Belgium and I stayed at Daktari for exactly 1 year. I fell in love with so many animals, met beautiful people and saw a positive program that helps the local underprivileged children. The owners Ian & Michele Merrifield have dedicated their life to this project which I admire so much.
I can only say to future volunteers, funders and friends, if you love animals and would like to help the local community, then Daktari in South Africa is the place to be! Daktari Bush School & Wildlife Orphanage will always have a place in my heart.
Gillian Kenneally, Daktari Volunteer, repeat visitor!
Well, I so enjoyed my time at Daktari that I came again and again and again…looking after animals "amazing", teaching the children "challenging" and the scenery "magnificent" - add to this, a friendly and peaceful environment. In short a wonderful volunteering experience - you'll love it!
Gemma Annan, GVI intern volunteer 06/05/2011 - 17/06/2011
I volunteered at Daktari for 6 weeks in 2011 and I absolutely fell in love with the project and the people that run it. I was in South Africa for a total of 9 months on that trip and my 6 weeks at Daktari hold some of my most precious memories. Caring for rescued injured wildlife and teaching local children about the importance of wildlife was an incredible opportunity. During my time at Daktari I was lucky to assist on taking 10 of the local children to Kruger Park on a day trip offered by Daktari as a reward to 10 of the hardest workers to be on project. The trip was one I will always treasure; I remember jumping out of my seat when we saw a wild cheetah and all the children wanted to see was a lion! The children learned a lot from seeing their local wildlife in the flesh as realistically they do not have the opportunity to visit such places; if not for Daktari who knows if they'd ever see wild cheetah, elephants or ostrich?!
My other great experiences include; creating enrichment's for the mongoose and meerkats, listening to wild jackals and owls in bed, and getting up extra early some mornings to 'run' around the small park surrounding the base with 2 of my closest friends on project.
The experience given to me at Daktari has helped me go on to become a base manager on an elephant rehabilitation project in Thailand; it gave me leadership and teaching skills as well as increasing my wildlife and tracking knowledge. If Daktari offered paid positions I'd be fighting to work there, the atmosphere and family vibe made me feel welcome and appreciated. I'd urge anyone wanting to gain some wildlife or teaching experience or who just wants to make a difference to give it a go!
Volunteer placement on the GVI internship May 2011