April 2014 my boyfriend and I were fortunate enough to fly to Namibia South West Africa. Neither of us had ever been there before. But we were both very passionate about animals and their welfare, that this seemed like a beautiful and beneficial place to help. We wanted to volunteer and make a difference to vulnerable animals. We did not want to pay to have a photograph taken with a drugged or caged cheetah, so we had to be very thorough and commit to our research as we soon learned that not all places are like Na'ankuse. So I do warn others like ourselves to be vigilant.
Na'ankuse meaning 'God will protect us' 'God watches over us' is an animal sanctuary who's purpose is to rescue orphaned animals, and care for them till they are fit enough to survive back in the wild! As you can imagine the latter is very important to us. They do not breed in captivity.
These beautiful creatures have been orphaned in many ways-the parents may have died not long after their birth and they have been abandoned with no life skills or they were snatched from their parents to become pets!! I can not stress enough that a tiger should never be a pet!!
For the rescued wildlife at Na'ankuse that have been humanised therefore are unable to completely adapt to living in the wild. Na'ankuse have built acres and acres of land for the individuals to experience the next best thing to their natural environment.
Here's where we come in as volunteers.
Our helpful jobs begin at 8.00. Do not be fooled they are not created for our entertainment. We are genuinely involved and needed in these activities. Without the schedule and explanation in great detail of our chores the animals would be hungry, dirty and unmonitored.
Whilst we were camping at Na'ankuse we got to clean out the enclosures and feed
Cheetahs, an Aardvark, horses, pole cats, baboons, vervets, lions, wild dogs, caracals, ostriches, jackals and many many more. We helped to build new enclosures, prepare their morning and nightly feeds. We scaled Naankuse's borders for signs of fence damage and cheeky little tunnels under the fences where warthogs burrow through, which in turn leaves enough space for wild leopards to follow. Who could threaten the tamer creatures protected inside. In Fact whilst we were there, one of our jobs was to trek out in search for footprints of animals in places they shouldn't be-watch back video tapes of hidden cameras and check the traps set up to catch hyenas. This was all to protect the vulnerable and if caught released a long long way away back into the wild ;)
We even went out in search of a snake !! Needle in a haystack comes to mind. But with a very clever tracker we managed to find it day 2. Where was it?! In our showers! Yes it kept coming back. Which is why our Na'ankuse co ordinator was tracking it in the first place.
Our favourite job whilst we were at Na'ankuse (you couldn't call
It a job) was to spend time with the humanised animals. We would go for walks with the cheetah, sit and play with the mongooses and have sleep overs with baby baboons. These young animals without parents become scared and cold at night. Our duty was to be their surrogate mother till they were old enough to no longer be afraid of the dark. Ever tried to put a nappy one? Try one on a bouncy baboon at 3amin pitch black IN A TENT! Haha
We really enjoyed our two week adventure at Na'ankuse we wished we could have stayed for longer and plan to go back. There was nothing too challenging for us out there as even the hardest or most physical of jobs were all for a great cause.
We booked our time there because we had two weeks for us. Although we thought about sitting on a beach and relaxing. We knew we would get bored and learn little whilst we did. So we pack our insect spray and 'got involved' with those who needed us. It was the most amazing experience. Our holiday blues have never been so strong. I urge and encourage anyone to give it a go. You don't have to travel to AFRICA to find animals that need you. Which is why I am also extremely passionate about Cats Protection. No matter how big, small or where in the world they are..if an animal needs us. It's our duty to respond. With what you get back from them-you are the lucky one!