Volunteer Experiences - Zululand and The Great White Shark Project

Volunteer Experiences - Zululand and The Great White Shark Project

Posted by Michael Starbuck on Nov 20, 2015

Our latest post in our series of volunteer stories comes from Tristan who was lucky enough to go on two different South African trips! First stop for Tristan was the Zululand Wildlife Conservation Project, and he followed this up by experiencing the incredible Great White Shark Project. Tristan can tell you just how good these projects are, so I’ll let him take it from here!

What would you say was the highlight of your trips?

Zululand: The highlights of my trip were being out in nature and really connecting with wildlife! This was a closed reserve and there were very few tourists. This project that I joined with The Great Projects really gave me the opportunity to get hands-on in the field and not to just sit on a tour bus. I have one moment that was spectacular above all others. I was always fascinated by rhino's and the rhino conservation wars. I wanted to become a ranger from a young age to protect the rhino, so on this project I really wanted to get close to a rhino and see it from close by, but the whole trip went by and I hadn't seen one from close up! Two days before I was due to leave I was sitting at a bar where the volunteer group go to relax after work or when off duty. I met a lady at the bar and had an amazing conversation with her! She was one of the managers on the reserve and she promised me that we could go and see a rhino the day after. This rhino had a sad story accompanying it as it was poached and shot in the head as it was trying to save its calf that was also shot and unfortunately passed away. The rhino had been tranquillized to see if the medical team could improve her situation, as because she took a bullet just above the brain an operation would have been very dangerous and she would most likely not survive. We helped by feeding her nutritious pellets with hay and water. This was amazing because she would hear us coming, and as she smelt the hay she came running at the car. I thought she was going to smash the car! Luckily for everyone she didn’t, and she loved to see us. I stayed with her for about half hour and then left. It was an amazing experience!

Great White Shark: This project was more about having fun for me and enjoying being around other people, but the best moment was when I was sitting in the cage on the boat and they were feeding the sharks. Suddenly a shark comes up smashed straight into the cage just below me! As a group of volunteers we used to go and do fun stuff together after working at sea, most would have a drink and watch TV, but we also went to do horse riding at sunset in the mountains. This was amazing and we also went quaking and dune surfing! There were too many great memories to list!

Would you like to venture back to the project or even take on some new volunteering trips?

I would love to do more trips with The Great Projects! They are extremely well organised, but I’ll need to save up first! I am a nature lover and enjoy working with animals. Maybe in the future I’ll do some projects again, but at the moment my hands are full with training to climb the summit of Mount Everest!

Do you have any expert tips for new travellers?

Yes a few very good tips, if travelling to Africa, always carry a pouch beneath your T-shirt, to ensure all of your belongings stay safe. When in South Africa, don’t be worried about malaria as there is no malaria there. I was high up north in South Africa and I didn’t see or even hear a mosquito! Make sure you keep an eye out for snakes and spiders in the rainy season though!

Did the trip inspire you to help with animal conservation in any other way?

Yes it sure did, but I already have my own animal conservation program back home in Belgium which focuses on birds mainly so I’ll be concentrating on this!

Why do you think others need to experience travel?

People see Africa on TV and form a stereotype of it, but Africa is so different compared to what you see on your television! You need to go visit and see it for yourself and then you can judge. Travelling is also important to create awareness and understanding of other people’s cultures and traditions, to see how poor some people live when we complain when our iPhones are not fast enough...

Experience is the key to understanding and knowledge. Experience is what makes people successful.

If you have been inspired by Tristan's volunteer reviews then you can find out a bit more about the Zululand Project here, and the Great White Shark Project here!


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