British summertime is in full swing, and the travel season has begun! If you're getting ready for a summer holiday or a volunteer project, you're not alone. Here at The Great Projects, we're getting ready to send two team members, Senior Travel Consultant Lauren and Videographer James, to not just one, but four projects in South Africa.
There are a number of reasons why staff trips are so important. Firstly, we personally visit and assess our projects, so you can rest assured that we're sending our travellers to ethical, fun and safe projects that are making remarkable contributions to wildlife conservation. Secondly, our office is filled with travel-mad enthusiasts and wildlife lovers who are passionate about making a difference, and these trips give us the opportunity to be actively involved and partake in the magic!
As an animated marketing colleague looking for any excuse for a chat, I sat down with Lauren and James to discuss the projects and discover any valuable insights or inspiring words that I could share with you, dear reader. Here's how our conversation unfolded:
Lauren: I'm heading out to our newly launched project, the SanWild Sanctuary & Reserve, followed by the Wildlife Orphanage in South Africa, then the Amakhala Conservation Project and ending with the Shamwari Conservation Experience. As Senior Travel Consultant, I'm going to gain more knowledge and understanding of the projects and what volunteers can expect during their time, this way, I can better advise prospective volunteers on the best project for them. It’s important that we keep up to date with the teams we work with across the world, and the best way to do this is to meet them in person and experience the projects first-hand.
James: As a videographer, I’m going to capture content that shows the magic of Africa and highlights the areas in which volunteers can make a difference in conservation efforts. Visiting projects like this isn't something I take for granted, and I’m glad that I’ll be able to raise awareness of the work done by the SanWild Sanctuary & Reserve and the Wildlife Orphanage in South Africa, I'm hoping to show the areas that need aid, and hopefully, in turn, contribute to the success of the conservation projects.
James: Yeah, I visited Eastern Cape at the end of 2022 to document the volunteer experience and conservation efforts at the Shamwari Conservation Experience, the Amakhala Conservation Project (both of which Lauren is going to this year) and the Kariega 'Big 5' Conservation Project. After this trip, I will have experienced 5 out of 7 South African projects we run, so I'm extra eager to get on that plane as I've already had a flavour of South Africa and loved every moment. I can’t wait to get back out there.
Lauren: I haven’t been to South Africa before, but I have been to Africa. Last year, I successfully summitted Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. This time round though, I'm definitely looking forward to an experience involving less hiking and more wildlife!
James: I’m looking forward to being a part of game management procedures or at least witnessing the operations from behind my camera. SanWild is known for its beauty, and it's luxury accommodation, so to get to fall asleep in comfort with the sounds of the wild will be a treat after a busy day filming the activities. I’m a big fan of a bush Braai as well, so that can’t come soon enough!
Lauren: The top of my bucket list has always been to photograph cheetahs in the wild, so knowing that the SanWild Sanctuary & Reserve carries out vital work specific to cheetah conservation means that this dream may become a reality! Being a huge cat lover, the opportunity to see any of Africa’s big cats is amazing. I am also really keen to learn all about the gold mining history in the area as it sounds fascinating.
Lauren: This will be a great chance to put me out of my comfort zone a little in terms of classroom activities! Having studied animal management at college, I love the idea of teaching children the practical side of looking after the animals within the sanctuary. The Wildlife Orphanage in South Africa has a huge variety of native animals and a lot of smaller species, so I'm looking forward to getting involved with their care alongside the kids.
James: From past trips with The Great Projects, community work is something I’ve always found really rewarding – I suppose something to do with the energy of local children and their willingness to learn. Education can play a huge role in motivating future conservation efforts, so I’m excited by this being a community-based project for that reason. And the kids always love to play up to the camera, which makes for great videos, making my job easier!
Lauren: As Amakhala & Shamwari are fairly similar in terms of location, animal focus and the overall aims of the volunteer programmes, I am often asked what the key differences are by volunteers who are deciding upon a game reserve volunteer project in South Africa. Taking the time to experience both projects myself means that I can understand the volunteer activities, accommodation and its amenities, alongside the general landscape of the reserves better so I'll be able to advise our travellers on which 'Big 5' project is best for them. Alongside the incredible videos made by James above, volunteers will have all the information they need!
James: There’s a slim chance I won't have any room for personal belongings as my equipment list is rather long and airline baggage allowances always problematic! However, I will attempt to squeeze in some cosy evening wear. Even though it’s Africa, warm clothes will be a must in August once the sun sets. Also, I’ll be bringing some stationary items like coloured pencils to donate to the school.
Lauren: My experience climbing Kilimanjaro taught me that the evenings in Africa can be cold! As James and I are travelling to South Africa in their Winter, I will be packing a couple of thick fleeces for the early morning game drives and the evenings spent enjoying a Braai around the fire. I will also be packing a power bank as I think these are so useful to have in your daypack as it mitigates the risk of running out of battery on your camera or phone and missing those amazing photo ops.
Will Lauren get to photograph a cheetah in the wild? Will James over-pack and have to pay for additional baggage? What project puts on the best Braai? Tune in next month to read their South African adventure in full. In the meantime, you can follow their journey on our Facebook and Instagram; make sure to like and follow to see their regular updates.
If any of the projects mentioned in this blog have caught your attention and you'd like to learn more, contact the travel team today - you may even catch Lauren before she goes!
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Come face to face with one of the world’s most misunderstood predators whilst aiding great white shark conservation. As a volunteer, not only will you get the incredible opportunity to dive with sharks, but you will also assist the team in raising awareness of the great white as you work alongside tourists and local school children to provide them with knowledge of the local environment and the importance of living in harmony with South Africa’s marine life.
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