I really enjoyed my stay at Buffelsdrift. I went there because I have a degree in zoology and I am very interested in animal management, conservation, and animal behaviour. The lodge was beautiful and all of the animals we very well taken care of. It is rare to see animals have so much free space, or to see them so loved. When I first went to the lodge I did not like that they did elephant rides, since people have a bad perspective about that. Generally I do not think wild animals should be used for rides or “animal encounters”. But the elephants there are very well taken care of and loved. It was easy to see how much Joseph and all of the elephant keepers love and respect them. They really know the animal’s personalities well. My opinion on the elephants definitely changed after going. The best part of staying at Buffelsdrift was all of the people. Everyone was so nice to me and the other volunteer Ami. They made us feel at home, and were so kind to take us to do other activities. Everyone was so informative and was great about answering our questions and letting us learn from them. I feel like I really got a lot out meeting everyone there. Seeing the animals on safari were my favorite, the animals are so beautiful and the guides were very informative. I also enjoyed getting to learn about how the animals are managed. It was all very interesting. I did hear some concerns of the animals struggling to get the right nutrition during the winter, which I hope gets addressed.

My only issue I had while staying at the lodge was there was nothing to do when it rains. Volunteers are paying to be there, and we had to sit around and do nothing. Thankfully it only rained for a few days.  Another issue I had was that I never got to see how the meerkat behavior research works, which was advertised online. But I also understand they weather was a factor with the meerkats. Other than those two issues I would highly recommend this trip, especially if one could go in the summer when it is busier. It was a place that is really worth visiting, and the people there really made the trip. But I do think that Buffelsdrift should be given more info on the volunteer’s bus info, they had trouble finding me.

There were three tours that I did while at the lodge. The Cango Caves was a great tour, I highly recommend it. I did the adventure tour, and it was so much fun. The wildlife park was alright, the cages were small, and the animals were overweight. I did not like that they had animal encounters. I feel like they gave the public a bad view on wild animals. People should not think it is safe to touch wild animals, especially big cats. I also saw a lot of really bad pacing and stereotypies there, the public had no idea that was a bad thing. I wish there was a better place to tour, they did not seem like a conservation place to me. I also did not enjoy the ostrich rides at the ostrich farm, they seemed cruel. But the tour was interesting. It was hard to go to places where the animals are not well taken care of.

Thank you to everyone at Buffelsdrift , it was great!

Volunteer: Katie Cupp – USA