My name is Silke, I’m 22 years young and live in Belgium. Normally, I was supposed to stay at DAKTARI for 4 weeks. However, after living my dream for 3 weeks, I realised I wasn’t ready to say goodbye yet and decided to add another 2. I’m sad to say that my adventure has come to an end, but I can gladly say that these past 6 weeks were the best ones of my life.
Volunteering had been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. To travel to a new place and try to help someone out, even in the smallest way, always seemed like a great thing to do. I spent lots of time researching different volunteering programs, and once I came across DAKTARI, I knew this was the place I would end up at. The thing that excited me most is the fact that they provide education for children while also taking care of animals in need. Once I finished school and had earned enough money to pay for my adventure, I was on my way.
I took the bus from Johannesburg to Hoedspruit. Even though the ride takes about 6 hours, the views are beautiful and make time go faster than you’d think. As soon as I arrived in Hoedspruit, other volunteers were there to pick me up. And I immediately felt it, I was home. The camp has everything you need: great people, water, electricity (during the day), a good bed and cute animals. Oh, and not to forget: delicious food! What more could you ask for?
Even though there is a schedule to stick to every day, not a single day at DAKTARI is boring. Your days as a volunteer are packed with all kinds of activities. Some planned, some not. Friendships are so easily made here that you’re one big family before you know it. There’s never a dull moment when everyone’s together.
I worked with the children for the first 2 or 3 weeks. After that, I decided to work with Beth, the animal assistant. Turns out my passion lies more within scooping poop than teaching! Who knew? However, I still got to interact with the children during morning and afternoon stabling and in between classes, which was very nice. You teach the children about all sorts of things, from different kinds of tracks to safe sex. Things that might seem very normal to us, are completely new for some of these kids. I feel like DAKTARI really does make a difference in every single one of their lives.
During my stay, I tried to do as many excursions as possible. Because you’re only here once, right? My favourite has to be the 2 days at Kruger. The first day, we went into Manyeleti, which is part of the greater Kruger. There, we were able to go off-road and drive into the actual South African bush. I simply cannot explain to you how gorgeous everything there was. But believe me, there’s nothing like it. On the second day, we went into the Kruger Park and drove around there. Kruger is obviously an unbelievable place to drive around, but Manyeleti will always have a special place in my heart. Maybe the fact that we almost got trampled by elephants has something to do with that?
I’ll never forget DAKTARI and the amazing 6 weeks I spent here. From the people I met to the memories I made, this experience will stick with me forever. Not a day went by where I didn’t (almost) pee my pants laughing or went to sleep with a huge smile plastered across my face. Michele and Ian created something very special here, and I’m glad I got to experience it. If you’re on the fence about coming or not, I would advise you to just do it. You’ve got nothing to lose and an adventure of a lifetime to win! And while you’re at it, you might as well book for a few weeks. I would recommend you stay at least 3 weeks so you can really enjoy your time here. One thing’s for sure: I can’t wait to come back.