Wesley Ellington - 2015 Program Participant
Sunset from the container in Botswana at Modisa
What inspired you to volunteer abroad in Africa?
I applied for the program for the thrill of a new challenge and to volunteer my time with African wildlife.
Why did you choose the Enkosini Eco Experience?
It has been my dream to travel to Africa since i was a boy. I fell in love with lions at the age of four, when i had a beautiful encounter with a lioness at an open plain zoo near my home in Australia. After researching volunteer projects, I was drawn to Modisa as it looked like a wonderful place where the animals were treated fairly and conservation seemed very important. Enkosini made it really easy and hassle free to finally choose Modisa.
What was your favorite part about Modisa?
The best part about the location is being in isolation in the middle of the Kalahari. Sunsets and lions roaring at night really bring out a peace within that only the individual can feel.
What aspects of your program experience made it unique?
Definitely the co-founder, Val, and his relationship with Sirga the lioness. Val raised her from a cub and still cares for her. Every day he takes her for a walk in the wild, and the best part for me was seeing them wrestle and roll around together. He opens the gate and she jumps on him, licks him and takes him to the ground; it is one of the greatest things I have ever witnessed! But there is so much more uniqueness to the program, like the staffs’ passion for what they are doing and the time and effort they take to make sure everyone understands what is happening on the project.
How did the local staff support you throughout your program?
I have never met more friendly people. Val and Mikkel (co-owner) use the local bush community as employees. They have a few bushmen, which guided us on everyday activities, a few lovely ladies to help keep the camp clean, and an amazing cook; the food was amazing! Every question we had, there was an answer, and in most cases a practical demonstration. They are amazing guides.
Sirga getting ready for a hunt!
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
The only thing I wish I had done differently was stay longer! Definitely cannot spend too much time at this place. I recommend if you're going to book, stay for a minimum of one month.
Describe what a typical day was like for you as a volunteer in Botswana.
We started off having breakfast at around 6 a.m. to 7 a.m., then we would venture out and do different things, because every day was different. For example, after we ate some of us would go on a bush walk in the desert and track wildlife. Others would clean the wild dog and lion enclosures. Driving for sunrise and sunsets are a common activity.
Lunch happens at midday and dinner at 6 p.m. or so. Rosters are in place for cooking and cleaning so it is fairly divided up between the camp. Other activities included accompanying Val on his walk with Sirga, feeding the animals (gets really messy), game drives, game counts, grass surveys, perimeter checks, clearing vegetation, and handyman activities around the camp, like building sleeping platforms and fences.
What did you enjoy doing on your free time?
Definitely going to the waterhole at night with a cider and watching the wildlife drink! The waterhole is man made due to the lack of rain sometimes in the area. A big floodlight shines on the waterhole at night. We would bring chairs and sit approximately 30 meters away (which is unbelievably close) from the water and watch the wildlife drink. Animals that frequented the area were kudu, eland, wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, jackals, and cheetahs, with the odd elephant track close by. This is a must for everyone!
What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?
Accommodation was amazing! It was just like camping. We had very heavy duty tents to keep the bugs out at night and very comfortable mattresses, pillows, and blankets. But, the best part was not spending many nights in the tents.
On a clear night we took our mattresses and put them on top of a shipping container, used as the kitchen, to sleep for the night. You can't imagine the feeling of sleeping under the Kalahari night sky, gazing at the millions of bright stars, and hearing the african wilderness at it's best, lions roaring, birds singing, and zebra and wildebeest running in the open. Often, once finally being able to fall asleep, I'd wake up just before sunrise and see giraffe and kudu lurking around the campsite. It was just amazing!
Up close and personal, just beautiful
How has volunteering abroad in Botswana impacted your life?
Well for starters, I met my girlfriend at Modisa, and seeing as she is Danish and I am Australian, it makes for very exciting travel opportunities. We have both quit our jobs and are spending some time in each other's countries. Next year we are going back to Africa and volunteering on another project in Namibia. Then after that we will venture back down to Botswana and visit Modisa again. We cannot wait to see all our friends there again; friendships will last forever once you go there! The experience has made me realize that chasing a dream pays off, and one day I hope to run my own wildlife project. One step at a time and Iknow I'll get there.