We've just received a fantastic blog post from Real Gap customer Archie Middleton, who's just completed our Game Ranger Internship. If you want to find out what life's like on a Big 5 game reserve, have a little gander....
My time spent training for my level one Field Guide qualification on my Game Ranger internship in South Africa was some of the best of my life so far. What made it so enjoyable was the fact that although we spent our days running, climbing and crawling about the bush, and our evenings throwing each other around the playing fields and exploring the small community we were living in; we always had a bed or sofa to collapse on at night. This was a contrast to our expectations: we all seemed to think we'd be sleeping in tents or tin shacks.
For many of us the food was a highlight, with a Braai (aka, a South African BBQ!) being offered every Friday, which we were encouraged to cook on ourselves, and meat available nearly always three times a day. The staff at the reserve, whether they were rangers or gardeners, all had something to offer us even if it was only a friendly greeting every time we walked by. Everyone was so relaxed that it was difficult to feel hard worked even after a day building fences in forty degree heat.
There was always plenty work on offer between our lectures, and we often mixed groups with the volunteers for a bit of variety. Rain or shine we were out in the land rover by half past seven every morning, heading to check the electric fences, count certain animals or maintain the roads through the reserve. Though this was based on it being so recently born, we all had regular opportunities to babysit the white lion cub, and I'm sure new experiences like this will present themselves all the time.
New volunteers arrived every Monday over my eight week stay so I ended up meeting around a hundred new people from all over the world, most of whom I am still in regular contact with. The weekends were absolutely crazy, even for those who didn't drink, as we had a weeks worth to do in two days. Nearby Port Elizabeth had some of the nicest restaurants and cafés I've been to, all of which served alcohol. The shopping opportunities were also not to be missed, with everything from traditional African gifts to expensive clothes being on offer.
In summary, I'd say that my time completing the Real Gap internship was made so special by the people I met. Everyone had something to offer, whether it was gymnastics lessons or snacks their mums had sent them from home, and I'm sure that I am not alone in saying so.
Even if it is only for two week's volunteering and not on the whole 8 week training course, I would urge anyone and everyone to spend some time on the Reserve, it was a part ofmy life that I'll never forget.
You can find out more information on our Game Ranger Internship on the Real Gap website here. As Archie mentioned, you can also volunteer on the same game reserve from 2 weeks upwards on our 'Big 5 Wildlife and Community' project- which you can read about here.