I spent the last six months traveling and volunteering my way around South Africa. I was looking for a new way of life, an escape from the mundane, and in my opinion there was no better place to do that than in Africa, a continent vastly different from my own and one I had already grown to love. I knew I would learn some things about myself along the way and hoped it would shed light on what my future path should be. What I didn’t know was how deeply it would affect me. I owe most of this to one place. The place where I began and ended my travels: Transfrontier Africa.
I decided to join Transfrontier because it was extremely rustic. I wanted my South African bushveld experience to be authentic. It was definitely authentic. Volunteers stay in concrete, thatched
roof chalets in the middle of the bush, meals are cooked over a campfire and animals are free to roam in and out. It was because of this that I signed on for three months. I wanted to become
completely engrossed in life on a Nature Reserve. I also thought it would be best to start with the most rustic program and work my way back to normalcy. Little did I know that I would want life at
Transfrontier to be my new normal.
Two days at Transfrontier are never the same. Volunteers assist with what’s needed around the reserve, but plans can change at a moment’s notice. During my time I participated in monitoring VHF collared rhino, snare and alien vegetation removal, fence repairs, elephant relocations, reserve maintenance, grass surveys, and more. The program allows you to feel like you’re a part of the bushveld. Most days are spent walking through the reserve, not knowing what will be around the next corner. In the evenings, time is spent in the lapa or around the campfire with other volunteers and with the reserve’s Head Warden, conservationist and ecologist Craig Spencer. Craig started the Black Mambas, the first nearly all female anti-poaching unit. The radio for the anti-poaching teams is always on and volunteers really understand that working in conservation is a 24/7 job. The most devastating sound is when a rhino is poached. After the chaos comes silence. The silence is the worst, a mixture of despair and helplessness, but out of those feelings comes hope when you get to witness first-hand the passion and tenacity that Craig Spencer and his team have.
Leaving Transfrontier to participate in other volunteer projects was difficult because it’s so unlike other programs. It was the only volunteer project where I didn’t feel like I was on someone else’s repetitive schedule. Transfrontier made me feel like I was a part of the team. It was because of this that I extended my travels so I could go back again before heading home.
If you let it, Transfrontier will push you physically and mentally. It will expose you to an entirely different way of life. For me it was proof that there is still magic in the world. Regardless of what you go for, I can assure you you’ll leave feeling inspired and you’ll learn more than you could have ever imagined. If you’re like me you’ll leave wanting and needing more.
Amy Hazelow | July 2016
I left not fully knowing what I was getting myself into. It turned out to be the best choice I ever made. I had dreamed of Africa for so long I wanted to be involved with Africa, not just a
bystander basking in the beauty and sun. Balule gave me that and so much more. The conservation project is amazing, complex and some say it demands a lot out of you. Not so for me, I assure you I
never felt so healthy and alive in my life. The hours spent in the field, under the sun, carrying out research, were a little tiring, but so rewarding. To witness life in the bush, firsthand and with
no filters is priceless. At the end of the day when I realized what all that research is for and understood how vital it is, it was both humbling and immensely gratifying. To know I played an active
part in preserving not just a general idea of wildlife, but that incredible variety of animals and plants I admired everyday, is so fulfilling!
And it’s not just about the wildlife. The most surprising aspect for me was meeting the staff and volunteers there. I have rarely met anyone so passionate, dedicated, driven, determined, enaging, lively and fun! Craig, Leonie, Zala and everyone else you have taught me so much I will never thank you enough! And I will never forget the way you made me feel welcome at camp, part of a small community that I have been missing since I got on the plane home.
In Italian there's a saying that once one comes back from Africa he/she will forever carry with him/herself what is called "Mal d'Africa", loosely transalted as "African nostalgia" ... meaning one will forever want to go back. I know I do... In fact I'm considering taking a sabbatical! Who knows, if I try hard enough I might actually malke it!!!
Azzura Lavecchia | October 2015 (Italy)
Transfrontier Africa is by far one of the most amazing organizations out there working to protect the native wildlife. After 7 weeks living at one of their base camps as an intern, I was fortunate enough to be granted the opportunity to learn how to track rhinos with VHF telemetry and see them and all sorts of other wildlife up close and personal. During which, I also was able to help eliminate invasive prickly pear plants, study the possible linkage between rodents and the native Marula tree growth, and work with the nearby community.
I do have to say these people are so hard working. It really amazes me how they are able to keep going through it all. This exposure really opened my eyes to the hardships the wildlife community faces day to day and what sacrifices that must be made to meet one's goals in this modern society, and it has only inspired me to try and go the distance they have.
Thank you in particular to Craig, Stefan, Jason, Leonie, Sam, and Amy. Thank you for letting me join you in this adventure. Getting to know you all was definitely an interesting experience that I will never forget, and one that I will cherish for a long time.
This Summer I travelled all the way to intern with Transfrontier Africa. As far as practical experimental knowledge is concerned I learned more in that one month period of interning with Trans-frontier Africa than I have in the past two years that I have been studying at University! I learned how to conduct student research in the field by participating and helping with the student rodent project, I learned how to use telemetry equipment in order to track rhinos, and along the way I also learned how to identify and differentiate tracks and stool from different animals! Besides everything I learned I was given the opportunity to wake up to a stunning view of the mountains and go out in the field every day to see all the incredible animals that are native to South Africa in their natural environment! Every day was such an incredible adventure and I consider myself so lucky to have been able to work alongside such talented and driven individuals!! I would absolutely recommend this internship to anyone interested, it really changed my life.
My three month stay with Transfrontier Africa was nothing less than amazing. Helping in the efforts to save rhinos taught me about the hard work and incredible people necessary to conservation. In addition, the amount of concern and care for every animal on the reserve is outstanding. One of my greatest experiences was when a cheetah was darted to be examined because of an injured leg. Waking up to roaring lions or elephants outside my room also definitely made my time unforgettable. Overall my internship in Africa was both an educational and irreplaceable experience.
For previous testimonials, please see Testimonials on the Afreco Tours website