Rhino volunteering project in Uganda – through the eyes of a volunteer

A rhino sleeps at the sanctuary in Uganda Mandy Hathway recently went to Uganda to join Oyster Worldwide’s rhino volunteering project. She has been keeping us updated on her progress – and is most importantly having an amazing time!

I am part way through my time at the rhino volunteering project and wanted to let everyone know what a fantastic time it is!

On my fourth day, another couple came to volunteer at the rhino sanctuary. That brought the rhino volunteering group size up to a total of four. We spent a day at the school that is on the property, Hakuna Matata, cleaning and painting the outdoor equipment to freshen it up – what fun! Initially it did not require much artistic ability but we ended up with a white wall so we nominated one of the volunteers to paint pictures on it…later in the week one of the managers and I went back and added more (she did the drawings I did the paint by numbers basically!)

In a few days there was going to be a big celebration held in the school yard to name the youngest baby rhino, recently born at the sanctuary. The community was naming the baby rhino, and this meant that there would be an evening celebration for locals and staff alike.

Other adventures continued everyday…the 4 of us went bull tracking for 4 hours (Holly measured our steps to be equivalent to 10km or more!) and we did find a bull…we found Hussein hanging out in the bushes grazing. On our way back to the road we found Kori and her baby. The rhino tracking is not all about the rhinos either…we found a tortoise, and many birds. I think I drove the rangers crazy with my bird questions…but it was also good practice for them to learn the birds.

A volunteer and ranger track rhinos at the sanctuary in UgandaLast day volunteering at the Rhino Sanctuary

Sadly it is my last day. The last few days I have been the only volunteer so I feel like I got a lot of special attention! I have met a lot of really great people…the work they are doing to preserve the rhinos and help bring the numbers back up, is amazing. It’s not all about the rhinos though…it’s about learning the plants, birds and other animals around the property as well as the people and their culture.

I have had so many great moments…from listening and watching the weaver birds in their nests in the morning while I drink coffee, to watching that big grey back end walk down the path to the pond for water, watching the young rhinos play, coming across a python in the grass, finding a green pigeon in a nest, and interacting with everyone involved with the work of the sanctuary and hearing the history behind it.

My advice to anyone is keep an open mind, engage in conversation with the rangers and take every opportunity to enjoy your time here and remember you are here to help out.

A few tips for packing…YES you do need rubber boots …tall ones are best in case you go walking in swamps and they also keep the scratchy grass off your legs. Rain gear-a rain coat for sure, rain pants if you have them…when it rains it RAINS! Clothes for painting or getting really dirty-in case there is painting etc to be done. Sunscreen, hat and bug spray!!! Any special treats that you want for yourself-keep in mind you can’t just run out to the local store! Treats from your country to share with the rangers and people at the lodge (I brought maple candies and maple syrup). If you want to bring items to donate (not mandatory) contact Oyster or contact the Sanctuary…they may have a list.

A rhino approaching the camera at the rhino sanctuary in UgandaOn to safari

Mandy’s next stage of her Ugandan adventure takes her on a 3 day safari of the Murchison Falls National Park. Her next update will follow!

Find out more

To find out more about rhino volunteering in Uganda, check out our rhino conservation webpage. If you have any questions about rhino volunteering or the project itself, you can contact Destination Manager Anne Smellie. Anne spent time on this project in February 2016 and loved every minute of it!Mother and baby rhino graze together

 

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