Rainer's story - An experience in South Africa that changed our lives!
In October, my wife Tamara and I spent two weeks with LEO Africa in the Marataba Section of the Marakele National Park. This conservation volunteering program is unique in three ways: The team, the wildlife, the environmental mission.
First, we met the great team of LEO Africa. Sabrina, the soul of the program, is the most energetic person we have met in our lives. Together with Koos, the man who can fix anything, they run the organisation and they took us on many game drives. If you want to observe cheetahs or leopards, make sure to stay with Veronica – she always finds her favourite animals (or my torch which I lost somewhere in the Park). Her knowledge about animals is unmatched. We also had good fun with Caroline at our home, LEO base, working on the animal database, downloading photos or just cooking in the kitchen. The dedication of this team and the interest and team work of the volunteers is an amazing experience.
Second: The wildlife. We have spent up to 12 hours per day on game drives observing the animals, taking countless photos and filing GPS coordinates of lions, elephants, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas and more. Our knowledgeable LEO team also showed us lizards, turtles, birds, and all kinds of insects. Very quickly we also got introduced to another dangerous species: spikey bushes and trees – we had no idea that the thorns of plants seem to attack humans while all animals seem to walk right through them… We also changed our perspective and went on a boat or microlight plane. The ultimate highlight was the sleepout of our group next to a waterhole: It was very exciting to listen to the animals while watching the stars. Some of us had little sleep and just enjoyed this experience.
Third: The environmental mission. Sabrina and the team educated us on reducing waste, especially disposable plastics like straws or bags. Even more, we practiced this at LEO base and ensured that we recycled our waste and saved water and any leftover food. At LEO every other day we helped to clean nature of any waste from previous times when the land was owned by farmers.
Under Koos’ guidance we cut some non-native trees that are a potential danger for the native plants. We will never forget the day when he motivated us to move 500kg of barbed wire down from a little mountain so it could be transported by car to the recycling place. This was quite exhausting, but also very fulfilling.
Within just a few weeks we had unique moments, we learned a lot and we had plenty of time to reflect what each and every one of us can do to preserve nature and our precious planet. We have met great people and became friends with other volunteers. This has changed our lives and every single day we share a little bit of this experience with friends and colleagues.
Thank you forever, LEO team!