Here is an interview with Rhys Masterson about his experiences interning and volunteering abroad in Swaziland and Mozambique:
What was the most exciting thing that you did while you were here in Swaziland?
“I really loved the Murula Festival which is nearby Mbuluzi. It happens in March and is a 1 day event. It was really good to go with the local Swazi team to the Festival. I really have enjoyed learning about Swazi culture from them.”
What have you learnt on your placement?
“I have learnt that not everything goes to plan and there is a need to adapt. What is written in books on your course does not always work in practice! When you study you expect things to go 1,2,3 but when you are in the field things don’t work like that. For example, applying a radio tag to Guinea fowl wasn’t always successful as the batteries ran out. I have learnt practical skills such as vegetation counting, camera trapping and monitoring ungulates. That was my favourite task.”
What advice would you give to other interns who are looking to join the programme?
“Either come with a specific research topic or interest in mind or come as a generalist and try to overlap your placement with a group or research programme as you can often get involved in some of the work they are doing. Coming at the same time as a group is great as you can sit in on the fireside talks about conservation based issues.”
How have you found camping every night for such a long period of time?
“I was dreading it before I came but now I just roll with it even the outside showers and toilets!”
How has your placement impacted on your future?
“I have enjoyed travelling so much that I have decided to go back, work for a while and then head off again. I still intend to do my masters in a year or two but I want to travel some more first. I have been able to identify some areas I don’t want to focus on in my masters such as camera traps which is helpful. I did have a clear idea what I wanted to study before I came and now I am sure which course I want to do.”
While you have been staying in Swaziland I understand you have done lots of travel and had quite an adventure with another intern you met here. What have you been doing?
“Swaziland is a great location. It is very safe and I have had no problems here. It is beautiful too. A friend had a car so we have visited Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia. I really want to do more travel.”
You also combined it with the Marine Conservation programme in Mozambique. So what did you learn there?
“Became a rescue diver. Katie the dive instructor was great. We did dives in the morning and had time in the afternoons to study.”
What did you see?
“I missed the whale sharks by one day! I did see 1 manta ray and also a guitar fish which only comes to the area twice a year.”
Advice for other volunteers
“If you are a vegetarian food might get a bit monotonous.
Whale shark season is from mid May onwards so a summer booking is good if you want to see them.”
What should we change?
“The accommodation description in Tofo as it is much better than you described! I arrived first so I even had a double bed in the chalet.”