GoAbroad Interview

Jack Ntema - Professional Guide

Jack Ntema - Professional Guide

When the founders of Modisa Wildlife Project came to Botswana for the first time, Jack served as their local guide and translator. His relationship and dedication to the organization has only grown overtime, as he continues to support international volunteers and foster community support of wildlife conservation in all its forms.

How did you first hear about Modisa Wildlife Project?

I met Valentin Gruener, who is the co-founder of the project, during his first week in Maun. He had nothing except his dream of starting a wildlife project. This is when I helped him translate the name of the project "Modisa" from our local language.

Sunrise in Botswana

Volunteers enjoying the sunrise after a short morning drive

What inspired you to work for Modisa Wildlife Project?

Only love and passion for wildlife and conservation inspired me to work for Modisa Wildlife Project.

What do you think makes Modisa sustainable and impactful?

By working together with the local researchers, promoting awareness at the local and global level, assisting in the human-carnivore conflict, and supporting all research and conservation activities around the globe, we are both sustainable and impactful.

What is the biggest benefit of volunteering abroad in your opinion?

You get to meet and learn about people from different cultures, races, and countries, and put yourself in a new place outside your comfort zone. It helps to unite people of different countries who have the same common interests and cause. Information about the cause can be shared across borders and volunteers can learn to adapt to new surroundings and conditions in a new country, which will enhance their life experiences.

Volunteers during a bushwalk in Botswana

On our bushwalks, we look at various things like tracks, insects, and vegetation, so we can make explanation about tracks.

Why is volunteering with Modisa different from volunteering with other wildlife conservation organizations?

Modisa strives to offer a real insight into the world of wildlife conservation, both its exciting side and the challenges involved. While volunteering with Modisa here in Botswana, volunteers learn how wildlife should be treated and respected. Moreover, Modisa volunteers are invited to get involved in all aspects of the project.

What does a typical day look like for volunteers?

We usually start the day early to go on a game drive or bush walk. In the mornings, it is still cool and the chances of seeing animals is much higher. When we return to the camp, breakfast is waiting for the volunteers. Then various duties around the camp and taking care of camels is on the list of things to do.

After lunch, activities vary depending on what is to be done on the specific day. In this ever changing and exciting environment, we occasionally find ourselves having to change plans spontaneously. However, there is always something we can do. We also do lectures to give volunteers more insight into the topic of conservation.

In the evenings, when the weather has cooled down, we go and check on the animals, water holes, and food supply. After dinner we sit together and chat about the day.

Breakfast at a campsite in Botswana

Breakfast with the volunteers early in the morning while watching the sunrise

How do you guide and support volunteers throughout their stay?

My objective when guiding volunteers is to make sure they learn a lot about African wildlife and ecosystems and help create awareness about wildlife in conflict as it is the major threat to wildlife populations around the world, and especially in Botswana.

What is your best piece of advice for incoming Modisa volunteers?

Expect the unexpected. Be ready to learn a lot and have plenty of life-changing experiences.

Upon arrival, what is the thing that shocks volunteers about Botswana?

Upon arrival, volunteers are shocked by realizing that Botswana is a remote, peaceful country. About 39 percent of the country is set aside for wildlife only, and all these areas, or game reserves, are true wild areas without any structural developments in them.

What are some cultural characteristics of Botswana that volunteers should be aware of before arrival?

The people of Botswana are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which volunteers will live may display a range reactions to cultural differences that each volunteer presents. Outside larger cities and towns in Botswana, residents of rural communities may have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles, making them a bit shy and not very confident around foreigners.

Where do volunteers stay? What is their accommodation like?

Our volunteers stay in a tented accommodation, complete with full bedding, which is changed and cleaned regularly. Our tents sit up on top of wooden decks or platforms to maximise the safety of volunteers from all sorts of small animals creeping on the ground.

Bushmen in Botswana dancing with international volunteers

Bushmen teaching volunteers how to dance

What do you hope to accomplish in 2016?

My objective is to be the best at what i'm doing. I really want to see all locals involved in conservation activities and learn a lot about living close together with animals, understanding their ecological role. One thing I’ve learned is that you cannot conserve nature without reducing poverty and preserving human dignity.

What is the most rewarding part about your job?

For me, every walk in the bush and every animal sighting is great, each and every time, especially when I’m sharing it with the volunteers. Also, meeting people from so many different backgrounds is fantastic.