November was a month of hard manual labour, road repairs and lots of muddy clothes! The reserve was still recovering from the after effects of one of the worst floods in history, which we experienced during the end of October. This meant that there were lots of important jobs for the volunteers to get involved in and make themselves useful around the reserve. The fence lines had to be checked for damage, as in many places the water had either ripped holes through the wire or flattened the fence altogether. In other places roads had completely washed away. And while the bulldozers and other heavy machinery was occupied with the more challenging tasks such as re-building river crossings, the volunteers gamely donned their pickaxes and spades to fill in potholes and places where the ruts had washed too deep. This prevented damage to the cruisers as well as making the guests drive infinitely more comfortable. Once or twice during our endeavours to fix the slightly more affected areas we perhaps went beyond the call of duty and ended up getting our own cruiser stuck. Luckily the volunteers are always game to get their hands dirty and after a few innovative ideas we usually manage to get the vehicle out in one piece.
Making a difference at Farmerfield School
November was also the last month of our time volunteering at Farmerfield School, as they break up for summer holidays in December. We had some very productive lessons and perhaps more importantly "life lessons" in the classrooms this month. Quite a few of my volunteers have been at Kariega for several weeks now, which means that they know what to expect and can build on lessons from week to week. Everyone benefits from our time at Farmerfield, while the learners enjoy interacting with foreigners and improving their English, the Kariega Volunteers get to see things from a rural African perceptive. It is also a real eye opener as to how much we have to be grateful for in our own lives! Hopefully the volunteers time spend at Farmerfield will also inspire them to give to those less fortunate than them during the upcoming Christmas period.
Quality time with the elephant herd
As usual we had some fantastic, at times bordering on spiritual, experiences with the elephant herd. On one particular afternoon the elephants were calmly grazing in an open area of grasslands, when they suddenly turned without warning and stormed towards the cruiser. One could clearly see they were agitated, but not aggressive, and were coming TO the cruiser as opposed to AT it. Once they had all pushed past the cruiser they regrouped and began visibly relaxing again. One of my volunteers got the whole thing on camera, including the terrified expression on his face. Let me tell you, a herd of upset elephants running towards you will get your heart racing every time, regardless of their intentions. The strange thing about this scenario is it is not the first time I have experienced it at this particular spot on the reserve.
The elephants have also been enjoying all the fresh water dams that have sprung up since the floods, especially on the hot summer days we've had lately. We caught them swimming at one newly formed watering hole two days in a row. They put on quite a show for us. Splashing water with their trunks, kicking it with their feet and diving under the surface head first with their backsides in the air. Not to mention the accompanying noise. Happy rumbles, trumpets and squeals from the youngsters. They were clearly enjoying themselves recreationally!
Welcome to the new volunteer leader!
We were joined for a few weeks by Azel Crous for her training, as she will be taking over my position as volunteer coordinator in 2013. As she learned the ropes around Kariega, we were all thoroughly entertained by her catch phrase "yeaaah baby" accompanied by fist pumping whenever she achieved something. Everyone enjoyed her enthusiasm for all tasks, as well as her sunny disposition and quirky humour. To all future volunteers, rest assured you are in good hands!!
To end off another fantastic month we were lucky enough to experience yet another rhino capture. So many of this year’s rhino capture days were tainted by the fact that we were treating Thandi for her horrific injuries inflicted during the poaching incident earlier this year. On this occasion we were cutting off their horns. This is done to protect the rhinos and deter future poaching attempts on Kariega. Another point to be proud of is that the operation was largely funded by past Kariega Volunteer, Angie Goodie, who held various fund raisers in the Isle of Man during the course of the year. Just another reminder of how one person can make a massive difference by being proactive. Well done Angie for your efforts!
Thanks to all the volunteers who came out this month and kept positive attitudes under trying conditions. The floods were disruptive to our usual routines but the majority of volunteers saw this as a chance to really get stuck in and help when the reserve needed them the most! Your hard work did not go unnoticed and was greatly appreciated by everyone at Kariega.
Thanks again to all the volunteers over the past two years who have made my job at Kariega a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Kariega Game Reserve, and everyone I have met along the way, has a special place in my heart.
Safe travels over the festive season,
Kariega Volunteer Coordinator