5 Reasons why this was one of the best times of my life
South Africa – Welgevonden Game Reserve by Claire Ellis
What a trip. Looking back on it now I can truly say I had one of the best times of my life at Welgevonden in the winter of 2015. The breath taking scenery, magnificent animals and fantastic people all are my highlights of the trip.
I thought I’d take you through the two weeks I spent at Welgevonden in July of 2015. But I’ll simply it by categorising the trip into five key points:
I have met some incredible people during my trip.
First off, Vicki from International Working Holidays and the hard working people at Awesome Travel. They all work so hard so the volunteers can have the best time. I felt very supported and could trust the people who were running the behind the scenes.Next, Sil and Jorinde, the two ladies who joined me on my journey. You really do make some lifelong friends volunteering with people from all over the world. And finally Pip and the staff at Welgevonden. What made my trip so special is that I felt like one of the team.
We were given a lot of access to the runnings of the reserve which was enjoyable because it made the trip feel like we were actually achieving something rather than just doing monotonous work which wouldn’t benefit the reserve.
A key aspect of our time at Welgevonden was to be flexible. Every day was different and the nature of conservation work concerns animals, who don’t run on our schedules.
This means changes to the days, very quickly and suddenly. I have two prominent cases of this being true. Firstly was our first day on the reserve. We in the middle of our orientation, just an hour or two of arriving when Pip (our co-ordinator) gets a call saying there is a Rhino capture. We quickly get ready to go and we are off. Another case I had was getting a call in the morning, after we had planned to go into town for game auction, saying there was to be a cheetah capture. Our whole day changed in an instant.
The reserve itself is all about conservation; preserving the nature environment and the animals that live on it. This means we got to see the Big 5 and other typical animals of Africa in their nature environment.
Zoos are forever ruined for me since I have been able to see how beautiful and happy animals are when they are living they way they should. Elephants are my favourite animal and seeing them in their natural environment strengthened my love for them. Welgevonden Reserve itself is actually not the best place for many of the animals we saw to live in. The nutrient defiant grasses make it hard for many Impala and Kudo to get the right nutrients.
So a part of our job as volunteers was to put out lick blocks. Lick blocks are mineral rich blocks of sugar. We put them out all over the reserve so that animals can get some more goodness that they aren’t obtaining from their nature food. This was a great way to see what conservation really is about and to see most of Welgevonden.
The lick blocks and the Plains project are just two examples of research projects the reserve is conducting. Several lick block sites have camera traps and specific data collected so that the managers of the reserve can see who is actually eating the lick blocks and if they worth it.
The Plains project is all about developing the grass so that in the future lick blocks and other interventions are not necessary.
I plan on studying environmental science at University and this trip was just what I needed to get inspired. If you, like me, want to make a difference in to the environment then Welgevonden is the project to go to as it gets the volunteers involved in the research they are conducting.
Located in the Waterburg, Welgevonden is huge; over 36,500 hectares of several different landscapes. From your classic African savannah to rocky mountains, the reserve is breath-takingly beautiful.
I could not stop taking pictures. Environmental sustainability is important to the park as well, with water conservation and not wasting anything being key parts of life at camp. This is truly what drew me to Welgevonden. I wanted to go and experience what it is like to work with animals, I didn’t want to just be a guest, I wanted to get my hands dirty and that’s exactly what I got.
From handling elephant poo for the camera traps, monitoring the breathing of a darted cheetah, counting the animals for the game transects and feeding the buffalo, I got to experience so much more than I expected and I cannot wait to do back!
It is hard to put into words why you should go to Welgevonden so hopefully this article is enough!
To find out more check out the Big 5 Welgevonden project here.
Welgevonden has a facebook page which is filled with pictures and info from the volunteers who are currently at the reserve. If you are interested in going to Welgevonden, then like and check out their Facebook page: I think that is the best advertisement there is!
by Claire Ellis