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Wildlife Action Group - Malawi
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VOLUNTEER

Bush life - volunteers report by Joe Perkins (UK) - June, 2017

I arrived at Thuma in total darkness after a long journey from the UK. After a late dinner, I got into my bed and under my mosquito net, still a little disorientated to where I am. The morning revealed the beauty of my new home for the month: wild, raw and totally stunning.

Pride Rock

Relaxing at volunteer camp

Base camp is basic, rustic and beautiful. It has a sense of what a bush camp should feel like apart of nature. You really are in the middle of nowhere, which is the beauty of the place. Volunteer camp has charming thatched roofed houses with a bed, table and a candle for bed time reading. The kitchen and communal area is comfortable, with books and games that enable you and fellow volunteers to relax and enjoy free time (I became the king of Yahtzee). Also, a hammock for midday siestas. If you are lucky you get occasional visitors to the camp. Not so lucky if you have left food about.

A visitor enters camp

A visitor enters camp

After settling in, I was sent to camp Abraham for the night and went on patrols with the scouts. The scouts were incredible. Their knowledge and expertise complemented their warm and friendly personalities. Seeing elephants on my first night blew me away and then my first African sunset, blew me away again.

Views from camp Abraham

Views from camp Abraham

Back at base camp we went on patrols with the scouts, seeing elephants, baboon, warthog, kudu and many more animals. On more than one occasion we had Barak a big male bull elephant, enter our camp to snack on the fruit trees. An experience you really can’t describe.

As the days and weeks went on I became heavily involved in many aspects of the operation. You must be prepared to work hard and expect the unexpected. That is the nature of this kind of work. Conservation needs flexibility and dedication. This is what WAG is about. Dedication and passion unlike I’ve ever seen. This is inspiring and makes you want to give as much as possible whilst here, and even when returning home.

Studying wildlife conservation at university, I wanted a voluntary experience where I wasn’t just there to make up numbers and do work that didn’t really compliment my studies. This, to me was the biggest impression that really exceeded my expectations. Lynn enabled me to do things I had worked on whilst studying and put them onto practice. I worked on an IUCN red list of endangered species within the forest, creating a list of all species known in the forest and adding conservation statuses to them. Don’t get me wrong this is a working camp, and you must get stuck into almost anything, but if you come with ideas and are willing to implement them, there is a real opportunity to leave something behind once you leave.

I think coming to a place like this you get to see the whole picture of conversation, which is missed when sat at home reading and studying these issues. One of my fondest and most memorable experiences is entering local villages asking the local people about issues within their community amongst several things. This really gives a humble reality check of how tough life is there and what an amazing job WAG are doing to balance out conservation efforts within the forest and in parallel work with the communities ensuring they benefit and have enough to live sustainable and happy lives.

I really learnt a lot at Thuma. There is no easy and quick solution to the problems faced in conservation, but I feel people like Lynn, her workers and volunteers are what gives hope. I believe when I return that things will be even better than they are now and wildlife will be thriving even more within Thuma forest.

 beer on top rock as the sun sets

A beer on top rock as the sun sets

Along with the hard-rewarding work, the voluntary experience enabled me to visit places like Senga Bay, which was stunning and a nice night off. We had a once in a life time opportunity in seeing elephants been relocated into a nearby national park. Movie and music nights on top rock, with a cold beer and a tasty BBQ. It was so nice at the end of a hard day’s work in the bush, to watch the sun go down over the forest, with a beer, great company and the sounds of the forest (although the Hyenas giggles were a little creepy).

Senga Bay sunrise

Senga Bay sunrise

Senga Bay sunrise

To some up my experience, I want to copy what I put in the guestbook as it really summed up my time here at Thuma.

“Had an amazing month in Thuma Forest. Met beautiful people in a beautiful part of the world. I’ve been treated like part of the Thuma family and feel privileged and proud to say I’ve been a volunteer here. Lynn and her team of scouts and workers are doing something special. I wish you all the best and keep up the amazing work. I may be leaving Thuma, but in certain, Thuma won’t leave me. If Malawi is the warm heart of Africa, then Thuma is the warm hearts heartbeat. Goodbye for now. Thank you for everything.”