Elephant monitoring at LEO Africa - Vesta's three months
When I was a child my wish was to go to Africa. This was made possible when I first came to LEO Africa in 2014. Finding the LEO Africa Wildlife Monitoring and Conservation Volunteer Project and experiencing all it had to offer was a blessing. The project allowed me to experience Africa’s nature and wildlife, whilst contributing to conservation, making it a truly rewarding and life changing experience that I will never forget.
Also having the chance to experience all of this alongside experts such as Sabrina and Koos provided a unique twist to the project due to their deep passion for wildlife and strong commitment to conservation. In turn, their enthusiasm, passion and values further motivated my desire to want to contribute and make a difference. Sabrina is a never-ending source of energy and joy. Spotting animals with her is a truly unique experience; it’s like being with a child full of amazement. Koos’ experience and knowledge of the bush and his amazing ability to track animals leaves you breathless. After my incredible experience with them I knew I was going to come back, but I didn’t’ know how wonderful my future experience would be.
Back home, after a couple of years, I decided I wanted to complete my studies in the field of animal behaviour and conservation. In order to gain more experience, I decided to come back to Africa. Of course the first idea that popped into my head was LEO!! Fortuitously I received a text from Sabrina. She knew I was thinking about coming back to Africa and told me they had opened up an elephant monitoring position. As elephants are amongst the most complex animals for their behaviour and mental abilities, I knew that having the chance to observe this wonderful animal in the wild would have been an incredible opportunity for me. So I said YES!
I took over from Hannes and Anja, a German couple who had been at LEO for 3 months. Their excellent work enabled me to continue in the best way possible. In my time here I had Mike as my guide for the elephant drives. We often joked about who is guide of the year, but I must admit his guiding abilities and deep passion for elephants enabled me to have the most amazing elephant sightings. I can’t count the times we saw elephants in the river, bathing, playing, pushing, standing on top of each other, spraying water and submerging themselves like submarines. We also had days where we saw many herds all together, especially next to the river or bathing in pans. I will never forget the “single and looking for elephants” drive with the funniest volunteer Alana. We saw elephants every ten minutes in the river area and also named one Lord Byron. He held a branch in his trunk, sweeping the ground and holding it in front of us as if he were bringing flowers to Alana! I will also never forget when we saw 20 elephants from the river bank as they walked across the water heading towards us.
I am sad to say that I am now completing my last week at LEO. The 11 weeks I spent here were so full of new experiences, adventures, incredible sightings and true wonder that they went by in a blink of an eye. Flying over the reserve in the microlight, doing sleep outs, game drives with incredible wildlife sightings, (we even saw a caracal!!!!), and doing conservation work have been such great experiences. However monitoring elephants by observing them out in the bush and identifying them in the office has been the most beautiful and rewarding experience of my life.
Thank you to all the staff members and to Koos and Sabrina for giving me the chance to live this adventure! See you soon :)