Finishing up at N/a’ankuse Wildlife Sanctuary
By now I’ve described many high and low points at my time at the N/a’ankuse wildlife sanctuary in Namibia. Many people come here multiple times and love it. The volunteers range in numbers – usually upwards of 15-25 people in the low season, some are teenagers just finishing school, others having study breaks or older ones who are using their annual leave or taking career breaks.
You’re put into groups of 4-5 people usually, with a mix of people, some there a few weeks and some several months. No matter the age, each group seems to have its fair share of different personalities, some which clash and some which click well. The organisers help sometimes and other times its up to the group to help you and tell you what to do. Sometimes this results in the newbies getting the ‘less appealing’ jobs within each activity or being bossed around, rather than helped.
The accommodation is simple, but reasonable. I was lucky to have friendly two roommates that didn’t snore, but my single bed had a massive dip in it, so I was always comforted by the mattress rising around me when I laid down. The food was also reasonable. The second week seemed to consist of a lot more bread and wraps than the first week, but I was always so exhausted that I’d eat almost anything – I didn’t have to make it so I couldn’t complain. You didn’t have to do any washing up of your food dishes and you could also get laundry done – although sometimes it was hit and miss as to whether your clothes would still be there once cleaned. Thankfully I hand washed some items and others were always waiting on the laundry shelves within a day or two.
Twice a week the ‘shop’ would open where you could buy a few luxuries. I became a soda a day person, as a way to cool down with a cold drink after a hard mornings work. Water was always the drink of choice when you could carry it with you, but the odd coke or fanta was nice, as were the odd evening biscuit/cookie.
Some volunteers really disliked this project. I did feel that I always ended up doing a lot of cleaning and work related to baboons and farm animals. I had expected the cleaning, but I think it just felt like I was always doing it, from several enclosure days to always cleaning buckets and containers. I had hoped for more focus on the unique animals, like carnivore feed. That was my favourite activity, throwing meat to the cheetahs, lions and leopards (when it didn’t rain that is). The last Saturday was torrential rain during carnivore feed and I hadn’t dressed warm enough, so was just in a light rain jacket, shorts and t-shirt standing/sitting in the back of the truck as the rain poured down on me. I didn’t even watch the last leopard get fed, I was so cold and miserable! Coming back we couldn’t just go for a shower, it was either help food prep or go do an enclosure cage check.
I did feel that something could be changed with the groups. Maybe could be that the organisers take a more active roll in helping the new people so that less people have the responsibility to boss the new people around. Some activities could be more interesting and less pointless too ie. Junior baboon walk. This is my first time volunteering for such a project and I just hope that my next one improves (Ecuador in March at this stage).
It wasn’t a bad project by any means, but I don’t think I will be returning. It isn’t a cheap volunteering trip by any means – it’s about five times the cost of my project in Ecuador. Many people loved it and return every year, so even become employees there, so I think it just depends what type of person you are and what you want out of it. To me it didn’t feel like I was doing wildlife conservation as such, but maybe I just need to figure out what ‘conservation’ means to me.
If you’re considering this project, I hope my blog posts about it have given you some insight to make an informed decision before you go. My top tip is bring a head torch, exfoliating glove (to scrub the dirt) and garden gloves (to pick up poo). Expect hard manual work in hot weather and getting dirty, but there will still be some high points along the way to make up for the hard work.
For now, I’m off to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe to begin my three weeks of camping and hopefully avoiding the horrible spiders and bugs.
If you want to check out the past posts I’ve written about volunteering at N/a’ankuse check out these:
Week one at N/a’ankuse – Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary »
N/a’ankuse – Week two on the wildlife sanctuary »
Babysitting a Baby Baboon »
Wish day at N/a’ankuse Wildlife Sanctuary »