The placement was a hands on training experience encompassing a huge range of the aspects of living, managing and working in conservation on a game reserve. My placement there included an introduction to the vast array flora and fauna in South Africa, and close encounters with many of the plant and animal species that surrounded us on the reserve.
At UmPhafa I assisted in regular game and progeny monitoring and counting, conducted large mammal ethogram studies, set out camera traps and followed this up by monitoring their memory capacity, battery life, then viewing and recording data from the images captured. I was able to patrol on foot with game rangers and gain insight into their responsibilities in the fight against poaching and maintaining security, plus learnt skills in tracking and bush craft. I was also able to take part in night drives and dusk activities to see how the bush changes after dark.
In addition to the animal management and monitoring in the bush, I assisted with data entry, compiling a Rhino Identification guide, assisting with ongoing Zebra Identification, GPS erosion site location, plus hands on erosion site control. There was also the opportunity to help with routine maintenance including repairs to the look out towers, painting, and tending to the gardens and vegetable plots.
Such a relaxed environment with the friendliest staff, I felt completely at home and had lots of laughs and incredible experiences.
My hosts and all the staff made me feel a part of the team and always keen to interact with me and teach me.
I had fantastic mentoring during my placement.
Busy enough to cram the most into every days with plenty of time to chill at the evening and weekends, or get involved in extra activities if I wanted to.
I was given more responsibility and independence as time progressed but also carefully monitored so I didn;t feel I had been left to it on my own.
I have learnt skills and knowledge that would be hard to gain without being in the field with such excellent teachers.
Laid back but busy, a contradiction, the work was always there but I never felt pressured or stressed, how can you when the African bush is your office!
Absolutely floor-less, everything was explained to me, in advance and during the placement, and I had every opportunity to ask any questions at any point.
They gave me their undivided attention and I really felt the personal touch.
I have everything crossed that I could get a position if one became available.
I was the only intern at the time but the social interation between myself and the staff was fantastic.
Living costs were covered by the placement, I needed very little money whilst out there for spending.
When you hear a Hyena calling outside your window at night or you go on a night drive and find Chameleons in the trees, nightlife doesn't get any better!
It was fantastic to have the opportunity to visit other sanctuaries in the area.