Week one at N/a’ankuse – Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary
Top to toe in dirt everyday, from cleaning enclosures, picking up poo to feeding big cats to cuddling baboons. The odd baboon (or five) gives the volunteers entertainment in the evenings as they escape their enclosure. The mornings when you wake up early you can wander a few steps to visit the three cheetah cubs playing ball or pat the 17 year old cheetah just out the back of the bedrooms. This is my location for the first two weeks of my big trip, volunteering at N/a’ankuse, meaning ‘God watches over us’ in the Bushman language.
Day one kicked off a lot later than expected as I wasn’t picked up until 3 hours after I expected. The upside of this was the moment I arrived I got to go on a carnivore feed, feeding cheetahs, leopards and lions. You get given a lump of meat and have to get the animal’s attention before throwing it over the high fence, so that it doesn’t hit the electric fence and bounce back in your face (yes it’s happened to people before).
The animals are orphans or troublesome animals that farmers wanted to shoot or were pets that didn’t have the legal sized enclosure. They are all beautiful and well looked after.
Day two kicked off with a half day induction about N/a’ankuse and the other properties the sanctuary owns in Namibia. It was very interesting to hear about why they also have farm animals – to help the farmers in the area by having knowledge of how to successfully farm.
That afternoon activities were skipped as we needed to dart a few cheetahs that were being moved to another property. They had managed to catch two cheetahs the previous day and one had gone into the cage overnight, but two still roamed. To be honest, most of the volunteers were just spectators, with a few helping out carrying the cheetahs out and keeping them cool in the trucks. It was a very hot, but interesting afternoon.
Day three was my first proper day, I wake up around 6:30am each morning, with breakfast at 7-8am, then you need to be at the food prep building at 8am for your group to find out what activity they are on. This day my group was on food prep. This involves preparing all the food for the following day for all the animals and also feeding a few of the animals. We started by feeding the orphaned lambs that get bottles three times a day, then I got into chopping up a horse leg (hair and all) for the 17 year old cheetah. The day continues with chopping fruit and vegetables for the baboons and other animals, not much happens until a mouse jumps out of the mixture that you need to squish with your hands for the baboons. Guess who it jumped out at? Safe to say most people now know how high I can jump and scream. A cockroach did the same to me later that day when I was cleaning the food prep room.
I’m not coping so well with the bugs, spiders and rodents. I’m a total wuss.
Turns out the blood noses is because of the dry air, a lot of people blow blood out of their nose everyday. That’s something I didn’t quite expect, but no deadly stings yet and usually someone has been around to save me from the large huntsmen spiders, but I am having to learn to ignore a lot of bugs.
Moving on… day four was horses walking them out for a few hours and riding amongst the planes of Springbok and wild fowls. The afternoon was taking the aardvark out for a walk, which was pretty laid back. Barky, just wanders around digging holes and trying to find bugs to eat.
Day five – Friday, was probably my hardest day so far. The temperatures are in the mid 30 degrees Celsius here and when you’re out in the sun all morning doing enclosure cleaning it’s tough. So from 8am until 12:30pm (lunchtime and break until 2:30pm) my group was shovelling, racking and picking up poo and leftovers. We cleaned several enclosures and cleaned out some waterholes. It was shattering. Luckily the afternoon consisted of carnivore feeding again so that was fun.
Each afternoon you have an activity from 2:30pm until about 5pm, then dinner at 6pm. We’re all pretty well fed, with a decent meal three times a day. The sun goes down around 7pm and then most nights people are so exhausted that it’s a push to stay awake past 8:30pm.
Saturday is a shorter day and Sunday is optional. Saturday I walked with the big baby baboons to the dry waterhole where they had a play and gave us cuddles and grooming. It’s all very messy work, but kind of liberating not to have to make yourself look presentable each day. Just wake up, chuck on clothes and go for breakfast. There is the odd person that wears makeup, but most of us wear the same grubby clothes a few days in a row with a hat and sunnies. Not much point putting on new clothes each day I’ve learnt just to get covered in dirt.
I’ve been pretty busy that it’s been a good way to start my travels and not have too much time to think about the things and people I miss back in London. I hope everyone that reads this is safe and well.
Peace out from N/a’ankuse, Namibia!