Tag Archives: volunteering

My “volunteering with wild cats” adventure

After receiving quite a few questions about my trip to South Africa, I decided to write another blog about my volunteering work I did for two weeks in Bloemfontein.

I’ve been wanting to “work” with wild cats for the longest time. Lions are the most magnificent animals and being able to be up close to them, other than staring at them while they’re living their miserable lives in a zoo, has been a dream for as long as I can remember. So in September of 2013 I did some research on whether this was possible and where. I eventually came across a video on YouTube from a girl who volunteered at this place called “Cheetah Experience“. I googled their website & Facebook page and I was convinced. So I ended up e-mailing them for more details on their volunteer program. I was very excited because of their answers & fast responses so I ended up booking the trip, a couple months later, in December of the same year.

I booked my flight about four months in advance (I went to Africa in March of 2014) with KLM Airlines. There was a direct, international flight available from Amsterdam to Johannesburg. The flight was around €500 if I’m correct, which isn’t too bad at all considering it was an 11-hour flight. Johannesburg wasn’t my last stop. I eventually had to get to Bloemfontein, which is about an hour flight away from the major city, 3 hours if you drive their. But considering it was my first time in South Africa I had no interest in sitting on a bus in a relatively “un-safe” country for a couple hours. I booked my flight with South African Airways.

When arrived in Bloemfontein someone from Cheetah Experience picked me and my cousin up (she decided to tag alone). The airport was +- 30 minutes away from the sanctuary.

We stayed at the volunteer house (included in the price you’d pay to go there) which was a 2/3 minute ride from the sanctuary. Breakfast & lunch was served daily and you’d be taken to the supermarket twice a week to buy dinner & other things you’d like. The cost price for two weeks there was around €500. However I don’t know the exact prices for 2015.

Arriving at Bloemfontein and being surrounded by cheetahs, lions, leopards, wolves and more animals was the most incredible feeling. My cousin (Shana) and I were welcomed by the staff members & other volunteers from all around the world. (Most) of them were very welcoming and they immediately explained to us what we’d be doing over the course of two weeks while we were there. All the chores were divided into two groups: the lion-side & the cheetah-side. You’d work on one side one week & the other side the next. The lion-side meant you’d work with/for the leopards, lions, wolves, caracals & servals. Working on the cheetah side meant, well, working with & for the cheetahs.

Duties included, but not limited to, cleaning poop (wolf poop SMELLS SO BAD and they poop.. A LOT, like A LOT), checking the fences, feeding the animals, checking whether all the animals appear to be healthy, guide tours, work at the curio shop and more.

On a regular day you’d have from 12 to 2 off, unless you’d have to guide a tour during lunch time. When there are a lot of volunteers (full capacity at the volunteer house) you’d have more free time compared to when there aren’t that many. Free time means you can interact with the animals (wolves, the tame cheetahs and the smaller animals), read a book, relax, do whatever you feel like doing. Interacting is only allowed when you feel comfortable AND when the animals feel comfortable around you. Most of the animals were brought up in captivity (please don’t confuse this with a zoo, because it is very different) so they are pretty tame, but they maintain wild animals.

Now that I just mentioned it I’d like to explain the differences between a regular zoo and a sanctuary, or Cheetah Experience in this case. The animals live in a much, much bigger area. Most, or a lot, of them are rescued. At a zoo the animal gets food and that’s pretty much it. At Cheetah Experience the volunteers & staff members try to make sure the animals don’t get bored, still try to let them use all their senses, enrich the animals (almost on a daily basis) and more.

Back to the volunteering. (I’m so sorry this story is so long) Day in day out you’d wake up when the sun comes up, which is pretty epic, and the first thing you hear are the lions roaring. I can guarantee you, there’s no better way to wake up. We’d start our day, work long hours and we’d get the chance to get to know the animals a little bit more. I especially enjoyed spending time with the wolves. Wolves are obviously a lot like dogs, but I consider them to be even more loyal, more trustworthy. You know how a dog knows when something’s wrong? A wolf does too. It takes quite a while before a wolf gets used to you and ‘accepts’ you. At Cheetah Experience you have to get accepted by Shakira, the alpha wolf, before you can spend time with them. How can you get accepted? She must lick your face. That way you know she feels comfortable around you. She can sense when you’re afraid, she can sense when you disrespect her. I loved spending my lunch break with them. They have a little ‘house’ they can climb on and I would go on there, bring a book and the two wolves would often join me.

Two weeks was too short now that I look back at it, but those two weeks were some of my favorite weeks in my entire life.

Have you ever volunteered (with animals) before? Would you want to do something like this one day?

Please feel free to ask me any more questions in case you have ’em! Wanna read more about this incredible experience? Check out the Bloemfontein/South Africa category! And for more photos click on the Africa tab.

Footage from Cheetah Experience + more photos!

I made a short video of some footage I shot while I was volunteering and uploaded it onto Youtube, I hope you like it!

In the meantime I also added more photos of my amazing 2 weeks, click on the photo below and make sure to check ’em out :)

(how do you like my incredible, mind-blowing sunburn?)

xo naomi

Photo update from Bloemfontein, South Africa

Time flies when you’re having fun right? I got home yesterday after an extremely long travel day! Been catching up with my mom & sister and I found the time to upload some photos. It’s so hard to make a selection and I haven’t received all the photos yet, but I wanted to share some of my favorite ones with you already! Click on the photo below and I hope you like ’em!

xo naomi

Leaving South Africa for Europe today!

Today is our last day in Bloemfontein, we are leaving later today to catch our flight back to Johannesburg and then at 11pm we will be on our way to Amsterdam! We have yet another 11 hour flight coming up with KLM which I’m not looking forward to, but we worked 13 out of 14 days so its safe to say we’re exhausted! Sleep, give me all the sleep.

The past couple of days have been a lot of fun! I got to spend some more time with the animals. Yesterday I was trying to nap in one of the bigger camps and 3 cheetahs (Faith, Dew & Eden) decided to join us.

Saying goodbye will be rough, I wish I could take the wolves, Orion (baby leopard) and the two baby cheetahs (hope and horizon) home with me! Today we don’t have to work so were definitely taking our time.

I have got some amazing photos on my camera, I can’t wait to share the best of them with everyone!

That’s pretty much it for now. Thank you Africa for the memories.

xo naomi

Orion and feeding!

Today was yet another long but fun day! My favorite moment was walking with the baby leopard Orion, who’s 5 months old. He loves to bite anything and everything and his claws are incredibly strong for such a small body. We try to interact with him so he gets used to visitors, I don’t know the full background story on him as in why he’s here, but he’s a ladies man. His eyes are GORGEOUS.

One of my favorite things to do is feeding the animals. It’s interesting to see how we sometimes don’t see them all day (like two of our lions, who stay far in their enclosures) but as soon as they KNOW they get fed they are running to their feeding camps.

I now also have a confirmed sun allergy. It doesn’t hurt but I can’t stay out in the sun for too long, so it does suck.

Tomorrow might be my favorite day yet. I get to start my day off with checking the fences which is fun since its a huge walk around the park. I also have to observe the animals while doing that. Then I get to babysit little Orion and then I’ll be working tours. I hope I get to spend some time afterwards with my favorites, Shakira & Nikita!

xo naomi

T-minus two weeks before I leave for Bloemfontein!

I’m leaving in less than two weeks for South Africa and I have this obnoxious countdown app on my iPhone ’cause I’m so incredibly excited and nervous at the same time.

I leave Monday the 17th of March at 10am in Amsterdam, we (my cousin and I) have an 10-11 hour flight to Johannesburg where we’ll be spending the night. Our next flight leaves at 7am in Johannesburg, to Bloemfontein, where we’ll be staying for two weeks.

I’m really excited to meet all the other volunteers and the animals, of course! We’ll be getting some information before we start working that Tuesday. It’ll be a long couple of days but I can’t wait!

I’m pretty sure we have a day (or two) off while we’re in Bloemfontein, if you’ve ever been there and have any suggestions, please let me know!

South Africa, I’m ready.

xo naomi

Hi, hello

Hello everyone and welcome, to my blog! I mainly created this blog to write about my (upcoming) travels, post pictures and possibly videos. I decided to do this so I can look back at this every now and then, and re-read everything. And maybe you’ll enjoy this blog as much as I do.

I’m leaving for my next adventure the 17th of March, I’ll be flying to Bloemfontein (South Africa) and will be spending two weeks volunteering at the Cheetah Experience. I’m ridiculously excited because it’s always been a dream of mine to work with wild cats and now I get to do that. My cousin will be traveling with me, which makes this whole experience even more amazing.

Oh and about the name, traveling is my favorite thing to do, I always feel like I’m in some sort of a wonderland whenever I get to see new places. Explore this beautiful world with me.

xo naomi