We cannot speak for other volunteer organisations, but with Wildlife ACT the simple answer is yes, it is safe to volunteer in South Africa. Our monitors are well trained and we aim to keep our volunteers safe at all times. However, it is important to remember that we operate in the bush and we are dealing with wild animals both big and small.
When considering whether or not it is safe to volunteer in South Africa, it’s important to understand that just about any animal can be dangerous if it feels threatened. It is thus imperative that volunteers listen to their monitor at all times. At Wildlife ACT, we aim to interfere as little as possible with the animals and to respect their comfort zones, in order to minimise situations where the animals could feel uncomfortable.
The majority of the time we monitor and view the wildlife from the safety of the monitoring vehicle. This vehicle is controlled and driven by the Wildlife ACT monitor who is trained to interpret the behaviour of animals and can keep the volunteers away from dangerous situations. Should a volunteer ever feel unsafe or in danger, for any reason, they should always inform their monitor and follow their instructions to safely resolve the situation.
So is it Safe to Volunteer in South Africa?
On Wednesdays our volunteers take part in Wacky Wednesdays, where they role-play a situation where their monitor might be injured or incapacitated. In these sessions the volunteers learn what they might do and who to contact in the unlikely event that their monitor is in need of assistance. These are enjoyable sessions as volunteers compete to fabricate the most ridiculous scenarios, such as their monitor being swallowed whole by a python or being carried off by an elephant. Everyone has a laugh while learning the correct protocol.
At Wildlife ACT we live by the phrase ‘This is Zululand, Not Disneyland’. It is absolutely true that in Zululand we are in the heart of the African bush, but that is no reason to feel uneasy and unsafe. If we respect the bush and follow the instructions of the monitors, there is no reason to ever be in danger or believe that it is not safe to volunteer in South Africa.