“Hello. My name is Joshua Hopkins or David as some people called me by my middle name for the first week or so. I am from Scotland and I stayed at DAKTARI for a total of 10 weeks. I really wanted to spend my summer doing something productive and rewarding and as I loved working with children and animals, it seemed that DAKTARI was the best place for me. This was definitely not wrong!
My first couple of weeks consisted of teaching the children. There was a large variety of classes which I could volunteer to do. At the start of the day, we went on a dog walk around the camp which helped the children learn about how to care for your dog as dogs in South Africa tend not to be pets but rather guard dogs and so on. We then moved onto ‘Morning Stabling’ which got the children actively working with the animals either cleaning the enclosures or feeding them. The children got to work with a range of animals such as Dassies, Mongooses and even a Caracal. After this we move straight onto the classes. The main lessons at DAKTARI were environmental as the aim of DAKTARI is to save the environment through education. However, there were also social talks such as safe sex and substance abuse which allowed the children to be more open with the volunteers. These talks always led to interesting discussions although it can really show the true reality of the situation within the country which can be quite scary.
However, for the majority of my time I worked as part of the animal care team to look after the welfare of all the animals. This consisted of big cleans of major enclosures such as the Cheetah, Wild Dog and Crocodile.
My favourite activity at DAKTARI was when we done enclosure improvement on the Mongooses. It was great fun. However, very hard work. At first, we had to dig up most of the ground and remove all the rocks in the enclosure. This was extreme manual labour and we needed lots of breaks throughout. Although, once the hard work was completed we were able to have a lot more fun as we were able to use our creative natures to find ways at improving the enclosures. We used many items such as logs, branches and even old car tyres. Once we had thought about our creative ideas we were able to start putting them into action. It is an amazing feeling you get when you see your finished work and it looked brilliant so we were all proud!
My favourite animal at DAKTARI had to be the Mongooses. They were such intelligent and fun animals. It was great to watch them crack open the eggs during animal kitchen. It really did show how impressive these animals are. They can also be very cute and cuddly; however, they were vicious too but what would you expect from animals who are used to taking on snakes in the wild. My favourite mongoose was definitely had to be Banjo. Every time I was in with him, he wanted to play and he was extremely fun to play with too!
I couldn’t exactly say I had one best memory as I enjoyed so much of my time here. It was just so great to meet lots new people. I have found very good friends and even my new girlfriend from my time here at DAKTARI and I will definitely be visiting them all in the near future.
When I first came here, I didn’t realise how the vast number of excursions available. Through my time here, I visited Kruger National Park, Blyde River Canyon, Cheetah Walk and Reptile Park. I would say my favourite excursion had to be Blyde River Canyon. This was because it was just such a spectacular sight to see a canyon so full of life was incredible. This excursion allowed me to do the bungee jumpin Graskop which was great; however, it did give me a very weird feeling in my stomach!
Overall, DAKTARI was a very fulfilling experience and it has created so many memories for me that I will never forget. I would say to anyone thinking of coming to DAKTARI, YOU MUST DO IT! This organisation really stands out compared to others as you have the opportunity to work with children and animals. This means if you aren’t too fond of working with the children, you can always work with the animal care team which I can guarantee its great fun and full of a lot of laughs. I have to admit many volunteers came for 1 week or 2 weeks. This is a very bad amount of time to come for. It just isn’t long enough. To feel like you have really lived the experience I would say at least 4 weeks. This is because it takes about a week to come out of your shell and that is the case for most volunteers. I started off very shy on my first week because I wasn’t used to so many different nationalities. However, I am now very comfortable and I don’t seem to shut up at times!
I really do believe that DAKTARI has a very positive impact on the community. It helps children understand the importance of the environment and the animals in the surrounding neighbourhoods. It has also helped many volunteers understanding too because when I first came here I didn’t know the difference between poaching and hunting but thanks to DAKTARI, I now do. DAKTARI has been such a welcoming and amazing organisation to volunteer with. I would like to say a massive thank you to all they done for me over my time here!
To finish off my review, I have been asked if I enjoyed living in the Bush. My answer? Of course, who doesn’t love waking in the morning to be surrounded by some many different animals? You can literally see a new animal each day. It is incredible. It may be very dangerous because there may be a leopard nearby but that can also give you a bit of a thrill. To round up, I would definitely live in the Bush!