2015 – Week 1 – Daktari

(Remember, all photos are clickable links to full-sized pics.)

I went to Daktari first this trip as it was the farthest north I was going to go and everything else was quite a ways south. I had volunteered at Daktari on a previous visit and really wanted to see it and the people – and the critters – again on this, my last trip.

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The road into Daktari is long and dusty. There are actually 3 roads you have to take after you leave the highway and for a lot of the way the roads are fenced because there are wildlife reserves on both sides of the road. One day I saw 4 giraffe behind the fence and it is amazing how good their camouflage is. Another day there was an escaped giraffe on the road. One day a zebra running behind the fence and another day I had to wait for a tortoise to cross the road. You just never know what you’ll see next.

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Not too much had changed. The rooms had changed a bit – new mozzie nets – and the little frog that used to sit on my mirror and watch me brush my teeth in the mornings had been replaced by a gecko. The frog (or its grandchild) was now behind a picture in the room.

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The squirrels would steal the toilet paper if you left it out and stuff it between the double walls of the bathroom to make a nest.

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The volunteers were all new of course, and a lovely group of people. There are now some full-time volunteers who stay for 6 months or a year so they get to know the place really well as well as the surrounding communities which they work with in conjunction with the education of the local children.

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Volunteers

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Working

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VERY hard!

Sunday is kind of a day of rest for the volunteers except for feeding and cleaning of the resident animals. Last week’s children have gone home and the new children don’t come until Monday. There is a lovely tradition of having crepes with Nutella at noon, then just lazing around for the afternoon.

While I was there I took some side-trips to places I wanted to see. A museum which turned out to be inside Kruger and when my sat-nav finally got me there it was closing. So many tourist sites in Africa don’t have good directions or even a proper street address so they are sometimes very difficult to find. They also tend to close quite early.

I did manage to get to see Jessica, the hippo of TV fame, that lived in the house with the family that rescued her when she was a baby. She has been displaced by another rescue baby and is a bit put out about it but is getting used to sleeping on her mattress by the river and interacting with the wild hippos as they come around. She will eventually go off with a mate, perhaps. Meanwhile she’ll come to the dock so tourists can feed her and give her the tea she loves.

I also visited a reptile farm nearby which didn’t make me feel any better about walking in the long grass or under trees. I go to Africa when I do because there it is early spring and most of the spiders and snakes are still not very active and that’s the way I like it. I’m just a total chicken when it comes to those two things, mainly because they tend to startle you when they show up. I mean you can see a zebra coming from a long way away, but usually a snake doesn’t make its presence known until it’s much too close for my liking. Funnily enough though, an elephant can be 3 feet away and you won’t see it. It’s amazing how they can just sort of disappear so easily when they’re so huge.

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Hen at the snake farm. Any bets on life span?

A couple new things at Daktari are the marmosets and the squirrels. When I was there previously Leia was the only marmoset around and she was caged. She and her relatives now run the camp and come to search your bags and body for sweeties. And Leia has had some run-ins with the larger vervet monkies trying to defend her territory and was almost scalped in one such occurrence. The little squirrels also come looking for treats and for scratches.

Both the antelopes and the porcupines who were previously taken in as orphans or injured have had several more generations, and though they were released to the wild they still come back for treats sometimes, though the newer generations tend to stay on the edge of the camp and not interact directly with humans as much, which is a good thing.

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Resting in the shade

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Belly rubs, please?

I took my Gravity Light to Daktari to donate it. South Africa is having significant problems with electrical distribution and there are frequent black-outs so anything that can help give light in an emergency is helpful. They use a lot of solar light too.

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Gravity light makes its own power with a weighted sandbag.

One photo I will post here looks strange as the guinea fowl (the spotted one) turned its head just as I snapped the pic so it looks like it has the hornbill’s head. There are actually 3 birds in this picture.

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I really, really enjoyed my time this week, just seeing things and people again.  If you ever have a chance to do any volunteer work, Daktari would be an excellent choice.

There are a couple more videos on the YouTube channel (cybercroneca) in case you wanted to see a bit more, or you can scroll back in this blog to my first visit.

Thanks for reading, and please make all comments, ask all questions on the comment section of the blog so I don’t have to answer the same question more than once and so I can keep all comments together.

 

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