Volunteer Diaries
January 27, 2015

Volunteer diary: Two weeks on ZRR

Our experience at Zululand Rhino Reserve (6-18 January 2015)Written by volunteers: Ana Viana Castro Gache, Rachel Chriswell and Jax Bath

'Volunteer Diary: South Africa'

6 Jan – 7 Jan 2015We arrived as the first volunteers on Zululand Rhino Reserve (ZRR) for 2015 - very excited to see the elusive Black Rhino. When we pulled up at the old guest house we were pleased to hear that it now has electricity, functioning plumbing and a new stove! Our first project was to brighten up the house a bit by assisting Zoë Luhdo (ZRR wildlife monitor) paint silhouette murals on the wall.

Painting walls at Zululand Rhino Reserve
Painting walls on ZRR

Our first exciting adventure as conservation volunteers was a drive to the boma where the soon-to-be ZRR wild dog pack is being held.

African Wild Dog Zululand Rhino Reserve

They were very excited to see us in the afternoon as we brought them a fresh Impala to eat. Watching the pack feed was definitely a great way to start the trip! It got even better with our first White Rhino sighting.We saw our first Black Rhino hiding in the bushes as well as a group of three male lions on day two!

Male lion Wildlife ACT Zululand Rhino Reserve

We can’t wait to see what the next week and a half will bring!8 Jan – 10 Jan 2015Over the next couple of days we learned the in’s and out’s of camera trap set ups and data collection. We thoroughly enjoyed going through the footage as we managed to get some awesome shots of the more mysterious creatures such as aardvark, porcupine and leopard![caption id="attachment_9156" align="aligncenter" width="594"]

Leopard Camera Trap Wildlife ACT Zululand Rhino Reserve

A leopard caught on one of the camera traps.[/caption]The best sighting of the trip was when we got the rare chance to be up close to a Black Rhino, which was extremely curious and walked within three meters of the car!

Black Rhino Zululand Rhino Reserve Wildlife ACT

11 Jan- 12 Jan 2015Today we met Michelle Swemmer our other wildlife monitor, and her gorgeous puppy Mia! That evening we experienced our first ever traditional braai with authentic South African boerewors and braai broodjies, yum!Monday was a shopping day so we drove into a town called Mkuze with our cooler boxes and stocked up on food for the next week. We also bought some fruit from the street vendors.13 Jan – 14 Jan 2015What a great day! The morning started off slowly with only a couple of vulture sightings but the afternoon ended with a bang... 10 cheetahs in one day!Our first sighting was a group of five cheetah feeding on their fresh Nyala kill. While we were busy snapping away with our cameras, a rhino walked behind the Cheetah!

Cheetah kill Wildlife ACT Zululand Rhino Reserve

Then to our surprise, on our drive home we spotted another five cheetah lying next to the road!15 Jan – 16 Jan 2015Today was dog feeding day again! Watching the dogs feed is always an exciting way to start the day. We haven’t seen much big game the last two days but instead we have learned all about the native bird and plant species. For example the nutritional properties of the marula and the toxic effects of the tamboti. We also took some time to take photos of the Purple crested turaco and a cute little cardinal woodpecker.17 Jan – 18 Jan 2015Today was a day of amazing sightings! We witnessed a bull elephant in full splendour, stretching to reach the tallest branches with its trunk, munching on branches, and picking up fallen marula fruits.

Elephant Marula Tree Wildlife ACT Zululand Rhino Reserve

After only seeing distant or very quick sightings of the bull elephants for most of our two weeks, we were treated to an amazing show today as we followed one of the two bulls for almost an hour in total awe, watching these beautiful and peaceful giants.We were also lucky to spend some time watching our favourite five cheetahs who, were frolicking around in the early morning sunrise, climbing trees and pouncing on one another.

Cheetah climbing tree Wildlife ACT Zululand Rhino Reserve

Little did they know they were in a very cranky wildebeest’s territory, who was very vocal in trying to clear them out. However, they happily ignored him and continued to run around causing trouble.*All photographs supplied by Rachel Chriswell and Ana Viana Castro Gache, unless stated otherwise.Read more about becoming a wildlife volunteer with Wildlifeact.com