For the last ten weeks, wildlife enthuasiast Nicky Lawrence has spent time at our Big 5 reserve in South Africa, participating on our Game Ranger Internship (with a splash of volunteering thrown in for good measure). Check out her blog post on her experience below!
Warning, the old cliché of "the best experience of my life" applies here! I spent 10 weeks at the game reserve in South Africa and it didn't disappoint.
The internship itself is hard work, I cannot lie about that, its a lot of work and a lot of time spent with your head in the books! But its 100% worth it, I learnt so much on the course thanks to an amazing teacher, I never imagined I'd be able to go around naming grasses and bird calls at the end of eight weeks!
Be prepared for some early mornings, you can be up as early as four o clock for dawn drives, but its always worth it when you go out and see all the animals and when the African sun is beaming down through your window and the lions start roaring its hard not to get up!!
Usually you'll have two lectures in the classroom a day and one out and about on the reserve where you'll be learning all about the animals, birds, snakes, tracks, trees, grasses and loads more!You also get the chance to mix with the volunteers and do things such as road maintenance, erosion control, game counts (where you count specific animals) or just a good old fashion game drive which everyone loved! We were also lucky enough to be there when there two tiny lion cubs, so we got to "cub sit" which normally involves just chilling out with the cubs and playing with them when they finally wake up!
The rangers are fantastic and really help you with your learning, I even got to do my own game drive during my two weeks volunteering where I did all the talking the whole way through which is a once in a lifetime opportunity!
I met new people every week as new volunteers arrive every Monday, I've made so many new friends who I'll continue to keep in touch with and meet up with in the future. You all get to go to Port Elizabeth on the weekends to let your hair down, (the reserve itself is a non-alcohol resort) buy some local arts or crafts or just have some different food. Other weekend activities included Black Water Tubing, Zip Lining, Sky Diving and the Worlds Highest Bridge Bungee!
In short, if you are even remotely interested in animals, African wildlife or just Africa in general, this is for you! If you are thinking about doing the Internship, just book!! It was one of the best things I've done in my life and I learnt more than I ever thought I would, so much so I have gone from having no idea what I want to do with my life to being a woman with a plan and after my second trip to South Africa this year (I leave in two weeks!) I have booked on to a Vet Nurse programme!