Erika W

UK | October 2014

So many special moments!

Where to start! Amy and I arrived late in the evening in the pitch black. Mike and two other volunteers, Steve and Bryan, stayed up to welcome us – everyone else was in bed! In the morning we woke up early to a strange banging noise, looked out the window and saw that there were two rhino (Tatenda and Shanu) knocking their horns on the gum pole pen where they spend their nights. What an amazing wake-up!

Our trip of a lifetime had begun!

Our first part of that morning was to spend time with the elephants, Mac and Toto. Mac performed a few of his tricks (eating Steve’s hat) and then we rode them – what an experience! It’s so different from riding a horse and you get to feel their movement and their strength.

The bull elephants and us volunteers then went to see Kutanga, Imire’s baby elephant, who had sprained his ankle and was being contained him a large pen for rest and treatment. We got to spend some quality time with him, just hanging out and keeping each other company. He was so inquisitive (naughty), always wanting to smell you and be cheeky! He stopped trusting the food which the handlers were giving him because they had been putting pain medication and antibiotics in it which must taste nasty – he had to take 80 tablets twice a day! However, this did mean that we got to feed him a lot. We’d sneak him apples and bananas from the volunteer house and give him treats.

We also cut browse for him twice a day – we were joined in this by Gomo, another black rhino who would hang around waiting for a branch or apple. While everyone else was unloading the truck of browse, I’d sneak the odd branch to him.

We saw so much during our rides – tsessebe, impala, kudu, sable, side striped jackal, waterbuck, giraffe, elephants, rhinos, zebra, eland and so much more. My favourite part of the trip was definitely the riding with Judy. She’s not just knowledgeable about the area and the wildlife, but she has such enthusiasm and passion.

I’ve met some amazing people during my stay here. Judy is the most inspiring woman I have ever met. It was fabulous to spend time with her, listen to her stories and be part of something for the future. She introduced us to two Australians that were fund-raising for a school that was going to close because it had no water and no toilets. We were inspired to make a donation to the project, which we wouldn’t have known about if it wasn’t for Judy. Everybody needs a Judy in their life. If we could be half the human being she is, the world would be a better place.

We’ve loved every minute of our volunteer programme. The elephant riding was amazing, spending time with the handlers was so informative – they have so much knowledge which we wouldn’t have been able to tap into just driving by the animals on a safari.

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