|Photography and Skilled Volunteering in an African Primate Sanctuary
|Tell us about the sign-up process and preparation with Kaya
|My idea to go and volunteer abroad was quite impulsive. I think I contacted Kaya asking if I could arrive within a couple weeks! They got in touch with me very rapidly and everything was sorted out really fast. In the end there was a gap of only about 4 weeks between contacting Kaya and touching down in Africa.
|Can you tell us a bit more about your role on the project?
|It was very much a self-directed project. I spoke to Lara there (one of the wonderful managers) and she gave me a gist of what she liked and didn't like and essentially left me to it. I know some people might be uncomfortable in that situation and would want more direction but I have experience in the past directing my own projects so I loved it. I spent hours in the forest each day filming the primates, at first they were shy around me but after a week they got used to me and would happily come up to me, curious about my camera. I edited all my own videos but video wasn't the only thing I was doing there, I also tried to help out where I could - I redesigned their map of the forest and even helped feed the monkeys occasionally.
|Did you have any worries before you left?
|I think my mother had more worries than I did! South Africa has a reputation for being a dangerous country, which is a shame because it's such a beautiful place! I think one of my worries is that universal one of “will I make any friends?"… Sure enough I made plenty of them.
|What were the highlights of the project?
|At one point I set down my camera on a tripod somewhere in the forest and just sat down waiting for something to happen after five minutes Atlas the Gibbon came and sat down in front of me then lay down and started having a nap. It was wonderful to be so close to such fascinating creatures. Also, some of the best experiences didn't come from the volunteering project but from the stuff we did in our free time. There are hundreds of activities available to do there and as a volunteer many places give you discount. We hiked on the fantastic Robberg nature reserve one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited and I went bungee jumping for the first time. It was exhilarating!
“Travelling as a volunteer means experiencing the world in a way you wouldn’t experience if you were say travailing on holiday with your parents. One of the key elements of that trip was living with new and different people. At home I tend to interact with people similar to myself those who work in media. However anyone from any walk of life can choose to be a volunteer and it’s great to meet new people that way.”