If you share my preferences for active and non-standard rest and would dare to go on a trip that can change you and your life, you should definitely go for a volunteering program!
The only difficult point is to choose a destination. Based on my experiences, I hope that this will help how to choose a volunteering project.
The South African Big 5 program offered me the most incredible trip of my life! It exceeded my expectations & gave me a wonderful opportunity to make a tiny difference in this world! I’ve discovered a new country and culture, met the most hospitable people and became a part of multinational team . And Africa gave me a nice occasion to test myself in many ways!
This program is for those who are passionate about the wild inhabitants of the bush as it is based around the 5 biggest mammals of Africa: elephant, buffalo, rhino, lion & leopard. The volunteers’ tasks are quite diverse & they commonly include: fence patrol & maintenance, alien vegetation clearing, game count & game capture (for sanitary purposes only), DIY, planting trees, weeding, road maintenance, feeding predators at the rehab centre, cub sitting etc.
Hard physical work in the reserve is rewarded with the safari around the bush & with a great opportunity to learn from the highly qualified rangers. They can help you with acquiring basic survival skills, broadening the knowledge of flora & fauna, a better understanding of the country’s history, and even learning one of the local languages (the South Africa can offer you 11 official languages! one of those is English) or getting acquainted with the traditions of the diverse population.
At the weekends the volunteers can stay at the reserve or they can go back to civilisation & stroll in the Port Elizabeth old city centre or at the ocean side; go surfing, jump from the highest bungee bridge in the world or swim with the white sharks if the weekdays are not extreme enough.
The candidates’ age isn’t an obstacle but the volunteers are expected to be open, positive & friendly. They are to be active & helpful team players & to be in good physical shape.
It’s impossible to describe the whole tornado of the emotions evoked by the magical continent. It’s a dream that you resist to wake up from. Despite winter, which I found unexpectedly cold especially after the sunset, I got the warmest memories & the most curious sensations.
When I’m asked what the hardest part of the trip was, I admit that the hardest was the way back home. Yes, I have to warn you: it’s very hard to return to reality, to crazy rhythm & boring routine after such a vacation. I’ve heard from many people that Africa is addictive & I have to admit it’s true.
Abandon your preconceptions & fears, forget everything you are used to, extend your horizons, open your conscience to a fresh perception of the world & yourself.
If you are ready to sacrifice your personal time & comfort, to fight your ego& laziness – Africa is calling you!