Monica Filkova - 2012 Program Participant

Students at Daktari Bush School in South Africa

Students at Daktari Bush School

What do you think the value of traveling and volunteering abroad is?

I love travelling, volunteering on wildlife. and educational programs, and this combined all three into one. Living in a local community or working with local people is the best way to travel and experience a destination, if you ask me.

Why did you choose your specific program?

I wanted to do four to five weeks in one country, but not necessarily the same project. So I booked Daktari Bush School and the Leo Project, both in Limpopo, South Africa (and adjacent land plots apparently) for August 2012, with a long weekend at Kruger Park in between.

What was your favorite part about spending time in South Africa?

Very close to Kruger National Park and Blyde River Canyon. There's lots to do on day's off, especially if you hire a car.

What made volunteering at Daktari Bush School unique?

Daktari is a fantastic program. It is a unique combination of wildlife conservation and social service. Yes, it's education, but it's actually more than that as a lot of the activities involve local villages and reserves, and there is constant engagement with the EcoClub at two local schools, not just the work at Daktari itself.

How helpful were local staff during your program?

Very helpful. Particularly the camp manager/coordinator. Pick ups, weekend drop off for shopping, occasional trips into Kruger, etc - all included. Plus, it’s great to have your laundry done daily and have great food prepared three times a day. Best full service volunteer program I've ever been on!

If you could go back, what would you do differently?

Booked a few more weeks. I can make amends, though; in fact, I'm currently considering when I can go again.

Can you give us a “rundown” of your daily schedule when you were volunteering in South Africa? 

  • Get up by 7 a.m.
  • Coffee and tea until 7:30 a.m., make sure everyone's up
  • 7:30 - 8:00 a.m. Walk the dogs together with all the kids in the bush
  • 8:00 - 9:00 a.m. Animal husbandry (clean and feed) on rotation basis between teams, so we cover different activities and animals each day and kids get to experience food prep, cleaning, and feeding different animals
  • 9:00 - 10 a.m. Breakfast
  • 10:00 -12:00 p.m. Morning classes
  • 12:00 - 1:30 p.m. Lunch and free time (often used for playing in the pool)
  • 1:30 - 4:00 p.m. Afternoon classes
  • 4:00 - 4:30 p.m. Animal husbandry
  • 4:30 - 5:30 p.m. Social classes
  • 5:30 - 7:00 p.m. Free time and dinner
  • 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. Educational games, video night, and dancing around the fire in the boma on Thursday (last day kids are around)

What was your favorite activity outside the normal day-to-day schedule of your program? 

There wasn't much time outside the schedule, but trips into Hoedspruit on Saturday and weekend trips into Kruger and Blyde River Canyon. Hanging out with other volunteers at the local bar/club/resort Mahlahla.

What was your housing like?

Local style round house with thatched roof, sleeps four, with attached bathroom that was open air (i.e. wood fence and roof but not completely closed off). There was a bathroom in another hut as well.

Looking back on your program, how would you say it has impacted your life?

Its been a few years and I still rave about it when people ask about my volunteering projects. I love the concept of combining wildlife protection with education for disadvantaged kids. If only it could be replicated in more places. I've suggested it to another Great Project in Borneo, where they have accommodation for visiting school children.