Kate on Conservation

Shamwari Diaries: Act 1, Scene 1 – Arrival


Welcome to week two of my Shamwari series! In case you missed it, last week I set the scene for looking back over my travel diaries from 10 years ago, to share my experiences as a volunteer working on a private game reserve in South Africa. Part 1, ‘Prologue’ can be viewed or re-visited here.

This week I’ll be taking look at my 18-year-old self’s first foray into independence and re-living the moment a long term dream came true, when I first stepped foot into Born Free’s big cat sanctuary...

First time in the wild…

Thursday 24th July, 2008

I didn’t imagine that my first day on my first big adventure away from my ‘real life’ would begin with an early wake up call to get to school on time! We were to spend the morning at a local primary school, to finish-up painting one of the classrooms; complete with a mural on one wall featuring the school’s emblem, the Worldwide Experience logo, our handprints and the Born Free Foundation‘s logo; as Born Free had raised the funds to create the new room in the school, which will soon be carpeted and have a television installed. Funny to think that a lovely new classroom with a TV will stand just across the way from possibly the worst school toilets I’ve ever seen. I should definitely recommend that the school bogs are the next on the list to get refurbished!

The finished wall in the classroom

We drove through the North part of Shamwari private game reserve and I got my first taste of animal sightings! Giraffe, wildebeest, monkeys and gazelle. What a rush! Topped off by having lunch at a lovely pavilion area by a river, with hippos lying just upstream from where we ate!

Our student volunteer co-ordinator decided that because it was such a nice afternoon, we should make the most of it and enjoy a game drive (unlike back home, it’s currently winter out here at the moment — so it’s good to make the most of the weather while it lasts). I SAW MY FIRST WHITE RHINO!

Rhino by Kate on Conservation

Plus blesbok and giraffe along side zebra and warthhogs. Tons of birds, admittedly, I don’t really know my bird species yet — something to aspire to.

Proded a termite mound on the way home, which was fun. Had a dinner at Louis’ pub — real African food! Was good and very cheap.


Friday 25th July, 2008

Surprisingly, I went fishing for carp this morning, as they are damaging the eco-system and need removing. Surprised myself by actually being able to cast-out, but the one time I did have a fish on my line it snapped the line in half! I think that was a relief — I’m not sure fishing is for me; problem species or not.

Feeding time at Born Free’s big cat sanctuary

I know it’s part of the reason I’m here, but I can’t quite believe we actually went to Born Free’s big cat sanctuary for feeding time! A ‘pinch-myself’ moment! I’ve wanted to do this since I was 9 years old! Half my life!

I saw Brutus the lion (pictured above and below), two young lion cubs, Kuma the leopard (shown at the top of this post), James and Jeff the lions, and Jules; their lioness mother. It was amazing! Of course they’ve been raised in captivity, so have to have food delivered, as they haven’t learnt the skills to hunt for themselves.

Brutus with his lunch

Visited Alicedale ‘community centre’, which was basically a field and playground. Played frisbee and netball with the local kids! They loved it, and also insisted on braiding my hair.


Louis’ for drinks in the evening — I was the only girl brave enough to try the boys’ concoction known as ‘the snorthog’… which consisted of a shot of god knows what (3 different liquors?) mixed with chilli, followed by 5ml of tequila, which is purely snorted. Have a feeling I’m going to fit in well here!

Follow my adventures next week to discover my first real regret of volunteer life and the start of my understanding of land management conservation! Like this post? Discover why I’m revisiting this time here.


EXCITING NEWS! This first post of my Shamwari Series will feature in a brand new book, The Wildlife Blog Collection: a compilation of 70 amazing stories celebrating some of the most memorable, entrancing and exciting wildlife moments as told by top nature writers from across the globe. Order your copy here

kate on conservation wildlife blog logo

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