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hamishbear Feb 10th, 2009 06:20 AM

Wildlife sanctuary-fantastic experience
Hi all

I don't post here very often, but just had to tell you all about the N/an ku se lodge and wildlife sanctuary in Namibia. I spent 4 weeks there in January as a working volunteer. Prior to my visit to the sanctuary, all my other visits to Africa had been Safaris. I wanted to give something back this time.

They say a picture speaks a 1000 words, so here are links to some of the photos taken during my stay. Although posted on facebook, you don't need a face book account to view them.

It was an incredible experience. Everyone was so friendly and worked together really well. Its ideal if you are travelling alone, or with a friend or partner. Whilst I was there, the age range of the volunteers was 18 to 55. Whilst there are a lot of english volunteers, whilst I was there there were volunteers from USA, Germany, Brazil and France.

If you want to get up close to the big cats, sleep with baby baboons a help with conservation and are happy to do some manual work as well-helping build new enclosures, clean water holes, repair fences etc, this could be the destination for you. In addition, you also help school for the bushman children;id=593237419
big baboons;id=593237419
baby baboons;id=593237419
food prep;id=593237419

semi tame cheetahs;id=593237419
tame cheetahs;id=593237419

Cheetah op;id=593237419
lodge night;id=593237419
moving the lions and cheetahs;id=593237419
Caracals, leopards, wild dogs and lions

The web address for the santuary is

If anyone wants to know more about my experience there, just ask.

spassvogel Feb 10th, 2009 07:24 AM

Wonderful pictures and certainly an interesting time in Namibia.

For the volunteers it's certainly fantastic as they can experience what they cannot anywhere else in the world.

I am a bit reluctant to agree to that kind of volunteering because it's an extremely favourable way of recruiting cheap personnel and some of these opportunities are quite exploiting youth's enthusiasm.

But of course the experiences you had will last for a lifetime.


Feistybrit Feb 10th, 2009 08:53 AM

hamishbear, I do, want to know more I mean. OMG to be that close to cheetahs.
How do you go about volunteering? How much does it cost to do it? I need to know how much I need to save.

I am desperate to get out to Africa again, and volunteering looks much better than a tourist safari as you get a much more in depth experience. I am very interested.
Waiting to hear from you.
If you want to email me my email address is [email protected].

atravelynn Feb 10th, 2009 03:23 PM

I think many of us would like to know more if you would like to post here. Otherwise, please email me at your convenience.

Great photos and it looks like it was a wonderful volunteer experience.

hamishbear Feb 11th, 2009 10:30 AM

The N/a an ku se lodge and wildlife Sanctuary is situated about 45 km from Windhoek. It is owned by Rudie and Marlice Van Vuuran. Marlice's mum owns Harnass a wildlife sanctuary near Gobabis near the Botswana border. N/a an ku se has been open for about two years. They have two volunteer co ordinators and three research staff. In addition they employ the local bushman.

The project is ideal for single travellers or couples/ friends travelling together. If you want to go to Africa but have no one to go with, this may be the option for you. It is also a very hands on experience!

N/a an ku se has a luxury lodge and a farm. Volunteers stay in simple basic accommodation at the farm. There are two accommodation blocks. Each room sleeps upto 3 people. In the new block , where I stayed, there are 8 rooms, and two bathrooms. Each bathroom contains 3 loos and 3 showers. There is a large dining area at the end of the accommodation block, the Lappa. Whilst I was there the volunteers food was cooked up at the lodge and sent down to the Lappa in individual tuppaware boxes at lunch time and in the early evening. You just took your box of food when you wanted to. On the day I left, they were rearranging everything as they were going to be cooking the volunteers food at the lappa and not at the lodge. The portions were generous and the food varied. Breakfast was help yourself to cereal and or toast. There is a laundry service.

The working day commenced at 8am with a short morning briefing. If there were to be any changed to the usual activities this is when they would be announced.

During my entire stay, the volunteers were split into two working groups, although the members of the groups changed throughout my stay due to people arriving and leaving.

The activities for the groups were:-

Group A Food prep, preparing all the meat for the carnivores and the food for the herbivores - two pigs, lots of geese, three turkeys, guinea fowl, rabbits, tortoises, a mum and baby baboon, the baby baboons ( 5 at the tiome i left) and 16 big baboons, feeding the herbivores ,feeding the three semi tame meercats living at the local bushman village and feeding two wild lions. The next activity was cheetah time! We spent about 20 minutes with the three tame cheetahs. Sometimes due to the heat they weren't particularly interested in being sociable with the volunteers! After a nice lunch break, usually 1.5 hours, it would be time to feed the wild animals including the animals which are seen by visitors staying at the lodge if there was no feeding tour that day. On a no tour day, we would feed the tour animals- 3 wild lions, 3 tame cheetahs, 2 wild dogs, 2 leopards, the other permanent animals- 3 semi tame cheetahs, 1 wild cheetah, 2 leopards, one female cheetah with four cubs, four additional cheeath cubs and the animals due to be released when sufficient funding is available for collars- 1 male cheetah and 4 leopards. If there was a guest feeding tour, the tour animals would obviously be fed then, and not with the other carnivores. A couple of volunteers would be able to go on a feeding tour if there was room and help with the feeding. Depending on timing, volunteers may then do a baboon walk or any necessary farm work. During my stay I helped dig holes for fence posts for a new baboon enclosure, collect bones from the semi tame cheetah enclosure, weed around the fence of this enclosure, take down an unwanted fence and repair the roof of a small horse shelter.

Group B-Enclosure patrol, walking round the outside of all the enclosures checking for holes daamge etc and checking the strength of the electric fence, or caracal walk, going on a walk with four beautiful caracals , then either border patrol, riding round the perimeter fence in a four whell drive golf cart checking for holes etc or cleaning the sheep pen, ie shovelling the shit. After this, its time for the bushman childrens school teaching them english, maths etc. After lunch, its preparation of the herbivores afternoon feed and feeding them. Agin depending on timing etc, volunteers would then do a baboon walk or farm work.

Each group does each activity on alternate days.

The baboon walks are an experience. Whilst it is called a baboon walk, the baboons like to climb on your back and sit on your shoulder, usually with one of their hands across your eyes! They aren't the most gentle creatures in the world and tend to use your hair to help them get on and off and to hang on to. The males are slightly more comfortable to have on your shoulder than the females, probably due to the shapes of their bums. The baboons may take to you or they may not. They may poo and pee on you. I had one baboon climb up onto my shoulder, pee all down my front and then get off again. A bit later, one got up on my shoulder to poo all down my back and yes you guessed it, it got straight off afterwards! I was also unfortunate enough to be bitten by one of them. for some reason the baboons bite the female volunteers much more than the male volunteers. Its all part of the experience.

The big baboons also get a warm bottle of milk in the evening so at least 6 volunteers help with that every night.

Depending on the needs of the animals and requirements placed on the farm, many different things can occur during a stay at the farm. On the first day of my third week, the 3 lions, 3 semi tame cheetahs and 1 wild cheetah were moved.As they were exchanging enclosures, they all had to be darted and moved in the same time period. As the cheetahs were being darted for the move, the farm had arranged for a dentist to come out to the farm to clean and check the cheetahs teeth! The cheetahs were darted first and taken to the bush dental surgery! All three had a scale, but not a polish! One had to have a couple of teeth out. Whilst the cheetah dental work was taking the place, the lions were darted. It took a long time to locate and dart the lions as they seemed to know what was going on and were hiding in their large enclosure. In the end the male lion was darted whilst sitting up a tree. Imagine pulling a sleeping lion from a tree!
The move went smoothly for the 3 lions and 3 semi tame cheetahs. Sadly the wild cheetah died early the following morning. It is though that she had liver problems. A sad day for eveyone.

Two cheetah cubs, about 6 months old, arrived at the farm in my third week. One had a very badly dfamaged back paw due to having been caught in a very nasty trap set by a farmer. After a couple of days, she was darted and Rudie examined her foot and tried to repair the damage as best he could. She was then placed in a small enclosure at Rudie's house with the other new cub as Marlice hoped to tame them. Sadly none of the cubs at the farm can ever be released back into the wild. About a week later the cheetah cub was taken to the vet to have her foot x-rayed and furtehr treatment. I was luck enough to get to go to the vet with her. Unfortunately the x-ray showed extensive bone damage and infection making it impossible to do anything to the foot to make it useable. The only viable option was to amputate her rear leg. The op took about an hour and although intersting to watch, was agin very sad. She is back at the farm with the cheetah mum and other cubs and is doing well.

I also spent four days on research. This involved looking for footprints, game counting and collecting a very wild very angry leopard from a capture cage on a nearby farm. The farmer had set the cage to catch the leopard as it had killed one of his young calfs. The leopard was to be released by the sanctuary on a nature reserve away from live stock. It is good to know that the local farmers are prepared to catch problem animals and hand them over to the sanctuary rather than shoot them.

The research team have built up good relationships with the owners of neighbouring farms and use some of the neighbouring farm land for their research studies.

As mentioned earlier, the farm has some baby baboons. They had three when I arrived and five by the time I left. The baby baboons have their own play cage where they spend the day, although they can be let out if there are volunteers around to kepp them company and watch what they are up to! These baboons need to be given a bottle of milk formula every couple of hours during the day. They baboons also need someone to sleep with at night so volunteers take it in turns to sleep with a baboon! If you have a baboon for th enight, it is your responsibility to make sure they have their bottles during the day and get to know you. At night , they are usually showered- it can be a challenge showering with a baby baboon- and have nappies put on. They then sleep with you, usually sucking on a bottle!

At the time I left, there were plans to return the three tame cheetahs and two tour leopards to Harnass, as they are only on loan to N/a an kuse. N/aa na kuse has two other leopards ready to replace those two leopards. Aparently the two leapards have been due to be returned to Harnass for a number of months so who knows when that will happen.

I booked my four weeks through a UK based travel operator, Amanzi travel, . On their website it is referred to as Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary. Most volunteers who were there at the same time as me booked through Real Gap, which is actually more expensive.. Through Amanzi Travel, it costs £745 for two weeks, £1345 for four weeks. They quote for all durations between 2 and 12 weeks. frica/namibia/volunteer_project/wildlife_conservation_volunteer_project/namibia_wildlife_sanctuary_av001.html
You can however book directly with the sanctuary. The link to their website is in my first posting.

Hope this helps, and if anyone wants to know anymore about my experiences, just ask!

hamishbear Feb 11th, 2009 10:38 AM

Oh yeah, I forgot to say that you don't need any experience or qualification to volunteer at the farm- just enthusiasm. There are no application forms to fill in either.

Whilst on the project, volunteers can have a night at the luxury lodge, at half the normal rate. I took advantage of this and it was nice to have a little luxury for an afternoon, evening, night and morning! The lodge is really really nice and apparently all the profit made by the lodge goes to the sanctuary.

I truely believe that this project is run for the benefit of the animals.

atravelynn Feb 11th, 2009 03:34 PM

Thanks for the very thorough info. Was the baboon bite a nibble? Their teeth can be deadly!

I was wondering about the caracal walk. I used to try to walk my cat on a leash and it never worked out. The caracals are free roaming?

hamishbear Feb 12th, 2009 12:05 AM

It was quite ah ard bite, but luckily the baboons tteth didn't break the skin. He also pinched my arm really hard at the same tome as biting. I had a huge bruise and a really good imprint of the baboons hand which lasted nearly two weeks. It is quite visible in a number of my pictures. The imprint was so good you could make out his fingers and palm pad! This bite was my fault as I had my casmera in my pocket and had left the strap hanging out. The baboon spotted it started pulling my camera strap and started to open my pocket. I then made the mistake of pushing his hand away- guaranteed to get an unfavouravble reaction from the baboon. To prevent the "attack" becoming any worse, you have to ignore the biting baboon and not shout out! Luckily I did manage this.

hamishbear Feb 12th, 2009 12:14 AM

The caracals are kept in a large enclosure and taken for a walk most days. The caracals are free roaming on the walk and usually come when the bushman calls them. Sometimes when it is hot, they seek out some nice shade and don't come when called. On more than one occasion the bushman had to go and retrieve one of them from under a bush. In your free time you can go into the caracal enclosure and sit with them or play with them.

Domestic cats and leads don't tend to go together. We tried it once when one of our cats was recovering from a hip operation. Impossible.

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