Volunteer Experiences
August 13, 2018

African Wildlife Volunteering for Over 50's

It Began With the StarsIt was still dark and quiet in the early morning hours and the remote campsite in Zululand, South Africa was illuminated only by the soft radiance of the Milky Way galaxy. The light seemed close enough to reach out and touch. I stretched and eagerly slipped into my boots - seeing a shooting star crossing high on the horizon - and wished for yet another fantastic day. Maybe we would find those elusive lion cubs? There would be elephants of course, lots of them. And surprises too.

Sunrise on Tembe Elephant Park

African Wildlife Volunteering for Over 50's at Tembe

I was joining Wildlife ACT for two weeks at Tembe Elephant Park - set deep in a nature reserve not far from the Mozambique border. The camp was well run and we slept in quaint little cabins – perfect for someone over 50 who wasn’t a regular camper. It was rustic but had everything you needed.We began each day seeing a different, breathtakingly beautiful sunrise reflecting over the bushveld and mountains while sitting in our research vehicle. Waking up with the animals on the reserve was exhilarating, and I can even now hear the lions roaring. Coffee breaks took on a whole new meaning while being surrounded by wildlife and the beauty of nature.

Tembe Volunteer Cabin

African Wildlife Volunteering for Over 50's Tasks

But we were there to work. Learning how to track the collared lions and elephants using telemetry equipment and finding their location was challenging at times, but rewarding when the animals appeared in the bush in front of you. Tracking other animals only by their prints in the sand was another art displayed by the wildlife monitor who accompanied us. Checking motion-sensored camera traps and logging animal behaviours - as well as the constant learning - also filled the day.

Lion paw print

The Wildlife ACT monitors are some of the most fun-loving, knowledgeable and patient people I have ever encountered. No questions went unanswered by these individuals who clearly have the inner passion for the wildlife that they work so hard to protect. Their dedication to education on the importance of conservation of Africa’s wildlife, must be applauded. Leo (who I nicknamed The Elephant Man) is a fascinating person with extensive knowledge of these huge and special pachyderms. I love elephants and had several encounters that left me breathless.The day ended with our small group discussing the day's events over a communal dinner and fire before falling asleep listening to the animals stirring around the camp.[caption id="attachment_17032" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]

Tembe Volunteer Group

All Photos by Leslie Hope[/caption]

Would you Recommend African Wildlife Volunteering for Over 50's?

I reluctantly left Tembe after my two week stay, but I took with me new friends from around the world and a heightened sense of the critical importance of conservation of wildlife and the natural environment. Wildlife ACT is a well-run organisation and one that needs our support!You can become a volunteer and have a life changing experience, as I certainly did. It’s a great way to reinvent yourself after 50. I carry all these experiences close to my heart and will return!Every day is a new adventure; let it begin with the stars.

- Written by Leslie Hope

Wildlife ACT is recognised as a reputable wildlife organisation by numerous world-renowned conservation organisations such as WWF and Panthera. Their Endangered Species Monitoring programme, which caters for those seeking African Wildlife Volunteering for over 50's, is unmatched. Their volunteering projects are Fair Trade Tourism certified and Wildlife ACT was awarded at the African Responsible Tourism Awards in the category: Best for Habitat and Species Conservation.