I can’t say enough good things about this place. I would recommend it to anyone with a sense of adventure. You get experience Africa for what it really is, you get thrown right out of your comfort zone and then reeled back in. It’s hard work, the food isn’t amazing and the accommodation is worse. But my time at Kwantu was one of the happiest times of my life, the staff are unreal, they make you feel so at home and cater to your needs so well. The people I met there are my second family, living and working together you all become one big group. It’s not only the people, the animals you learn about and get to see on a daily basis steal a piece of your heart. Whether it’s Zulu the lion or Faith the meerkat.
The work you do actually needs doing and you know you are actively helping to maintain the game reserve. Our daily volunteering would include:
Fence Patrol- We would walk along the edge of the reserve with a little machine that monitored the electrical power of the fence. This ensured that the weather or nearby foliage had not effected the power and made sure no animals could escape .
Bush Clearing- The path we drove along to get into the volunteer section of Kwantu was home to a number of different types of deer. The reserve had become concerned for their safety and wanted to ensure they were safe from vehicles and so in the near future they will be putting up a new fence. It was up to the volunteers to clear a path for this fence using machetes (haha seriously) to chop down small trees and bushes.
Tree Chopping- To keep the game reserve as healthy as possible their were alterations that had to be made concerning the different trees and plants growing. Often they were not African trees and what would be described as an ‘alien plant species.’ We spent many hours using axes to chop down Australian Eucalyptus trees as they were soaking up too much water from the enviroment. These were so thick and took ages, even with a large group of us taking turns, but the satisfaction when the ground shook as it came crumbling down was unreal!
Game Count- It was important for us to keep record of how many animals there were on the reserve. For example if the number of zebras became too low it meant there were probably too many lions gobbling them up. So we would split up into the four different game cars and each drive round, counting how many zebras we could see, or springbok, or giraffes (although the lions would not go for these.) Then we would return and find the mean average of our scores before reporting back.
Collecting rubble- There were two areas in the reserve where they had attempted to build lodges, failing to do this, it was our responsibility to break up the rubble (using a sledge hammer) and then moving it to an area where it was needed. Usually this was for road maintenance, the rain often destroyed the path the game cars would drive on and they would often get stuck in the mud. Filling this area up with rubble prevented this.
Fence Clearing- My least favourite activity, it hurt our backs soooo much. We would take spades to the edge of the fencing and remove any grass or weeds that was growing to near to the fence in case it effected its electrical efficiency.
Local School- Every Thursday we would visit the local school, many of the children here were underprivileged and wore tatty school uniforms with shoes too big for them. It was really sad to see at first but in reality they are some of the happiest children I have ever seen. First we would take a huge pot of stew and serve it at lunch time, this way we knew the kids were getting at least one hot meal a day. Then we would spend an hour or so playing with them, they would perform danced every time and it was just so nice to see these children enjoying themselves. They would always chase the mini bus waving and dancing as we drove off.
I would recommend this place to literally anyone, especially if you love animals. The lifestyle isn’t always easy, especially waking up at 6.30am to walk along a fence for two hours in a basic hurricane, but it’s so worth it. I made the best friendships I could ever imagine and it became so easy to fall into routine.