James Kapp Testimonial – August 2018
Before coming here it has been my dream to work with elephants and to have hands on experience with these beautiful animals. When looking online there were many volunteer projects, but coming here has really been the best option as I have had an amazing time and the most amazing summer with amazing animals and people.
My first day here it was raining and cold but that did not stop me from enjoying the precious moment of feeding the elephants and being beside the gentle giants. Spending my time at a research facility has really opened my eyes to see what is going on to help conserve this magnificent species. To see the hard work from the research team being translated in other parks across Africa is brilliant. The African elephant research unit (AERU) team really know what is going on with each elephant in the park and how to make each elephant happier with what facilities they have. The guides here are also doing amazing work with the elephants out in the field and it’s amazing to see the connection between them and the ellies, and how hard they work being out in the field in all weathers no matter how cold it gets. They really are amazing people.
One of my highlights was waking up early and doing a boma observation, this is where the research team observe the elephant’s behaviour when they are in their own private space. That was truly so beautiful to be able to see the elephants slowly waking up and getting up for the day. Even though they’re big animals, they get up pretty gracefully! It was well worth the early start!
Another highlight was that Knysna Elephant Park (KEP) and AERU are connected to a few other game reserves in South Africa. During my stay I was lucky enough to go to two of them. One being a game drive in Plettenberg game reserve (PGR) which was amazing to see so many different African animals such as elephants, rhinos, giraffes, hippos, wildebeest, lions and many more. I was also lucky enough to visit Botlierskop game reserve to check on the elephants there, we took a while to find them but once found (even though they were far away) it was nice to see them in a more natural environment, with loads of space for them to roam free.
While staying here, the best night of my life happened, as I got to stay a night in the lodge. This is where guests can stay when they come to the park. Each room opens out to a balcony overlooking the boma where you get to see the elephants settle down and sleep for the night. This was amazing to watch as you get to see what they do when they are away from tourists. It was a beautiful sight to wake up to.
The three weeks have really flown by and it really only feels like it’s just begun. Even though it’s been tiring and cold, to be able to live my childhood dream, this experience has been an amazing one I will never forget. Thank you AERU for this amazing opportunity and I hope to be back some time in the future!!