We spent the final week of our trip at the main N/a’am ku sê sanctuary. The N/a’am ku sê Foundation encompasses the Solitaire Cheetah release project, a hospital for the San Bushmen and a school for the Bushmen children, as well as the sanctuary and supported by no less than the Jolie - Pitt Foundation. The 3200 hectare sanctuary houses many animals which have been orphaned or kept as pets or need protecting for a variety of reasons. These range from battery hens to baboons, and big cats. Many other animals are destined to be released into the wild including cheetahs and African wild dogs.
|Peggy-Sue: A whirlwind of warthog-powered demolition|
|A beautiful caracal|
We were there with an ever-changing group of 20 or so other volunteers from all over the world, which made it very different from our cosy group of 4 for the week at Solitaire. Instead there always a big group of people around and some interesting group dynamics. Annoyingly we arrived on Saturday afternoon, so were too late to join in any of the activities scheduled for the rest day on Sunday. Instead we spent a very hot and frustrating day at the camp with nothing to do, and not able to spend any time with the animals as we wouldn’t get our induction until Monday. A rest day before starting work is no use to anyone!
Once Monday came, things improved and the hard work started. It was very different from Solitaire as there was loads more to do. We worked on lots of very practical things like food prep, painting a hyena enclosure, border fence repair and game counts. Many of these tasks were made more strenuous by the heat. Lots of the jobs were also great fun, however, especially feeding the animals (everything from lambs to lions), walking the junior baboons and caracals, and spending time with an ageing cheetah called Sameera and ‘Trailer Monkey’ (a newly-arrived Vervet monkey who has to live in a trailer until he learns to get on with the existing Vervets, and who has yet to be given a proper name).
|Liz walking one of the caracals|
|Preparing food for the baboons|
|Lunch delivery for a cheetah|
|and a leopard tucks into his dinner|
|Liz gets to know Sameera|
Tuesday night saw us on baby-sitting duty - for a 3 month old baboon called Sheila. She's the youngest of all the baboons, and despite being so hairy, she's too small to spend the night outdoors. She needs 3 bottles to keep her fed and wears a nappy to prevent 3 bottles worth of fluid ending up all over her baby-sitter's bed. We were shown how to bath her and put her nappy on. Despite all this effort though, she was still extremely smelly! She was actually pretty well behaved. We were advised to wear her out by letting her run around while we enjoyed a beer. We then had to get her back to the tent, feed her and change her nappy. Despite seeming to like me (Marc) previously, she started screaming and freaking out any time I came near the tent, so Liz had to look after her until she went to sleep. Apparently she's respects men BUT is generally scared of them too, so not just me! Sheila slept pretty well that night, but we didn't, what with the smell and the basic fact that there was a baboon in our bed! It was a fabulous experience yet we were both quite relieved when she was returned to the baboon enclosure next morning.
|Sheila shows off her nappy|
|Liz looking the worse for wear after a sleepless night baboon-sitting|
At dinner-time on Wednesday night, the rainy season arrived at N/a’am ku sê. Liz went to our tent to get something. In the 2 minutes it took her to walk there a torrential storm started, trapping Liz in the tent. It was a good job she was there though, to close up all the ventilation flaps and to mop up the river of water that was already inside the tent by the time she’d closed everything up. Some of the other tent-dwellers were not so fortunate. The storm led to a bit of a party atmosphere, with everyone squeezed into the kitchen rather spread throughout the camp as usual. 37mm of rain fell in a couple of hours, creating rivers of water all over the farmyard. The baboons loved it, escaping from their enclosure and running amok until some of the staff braved the rain and the baboons’ teeth to round them all up again.
Apart from the rain and the animals housed at the sanctuary, we had a couple of other encounters with nature. A wild porcupine visited the kitchen on a three of the evenings. The first two occasions were both a few minutes after we’d gone to bed, but the third time we did see it, although we didn’t manage to get a photo. They’re such weird creatures, and much bigger than we expected. There were also a couple of highly venomous puff adders caught in the volunteer area during our week there. Luckily the resident snake lover (or lunatic, depending on your view of dangerous snakes) was on hand to capture them for later release out of harm’s way. I turned out the snakes were quite a problem, killing both a wild dog and a cheetah in the weeks just before our arrival.
|Chilling out with the other volunteers after a hard days work|
|Puff adder - scary|
After all the hard work at the lodge we decided to spend the last 24 hours of our holiday in the luxury of the N/a’am ku sê lodge. This was probably the most opulent place we stayed on the whole trip – luckily they offer a discounted rate for volunteers! We did very little at the lodge except eating our way through a mountain of delicious food, relax in the best swimming pool we’d used, enjoy the view across a small gorge and watch all the wildlife (kudu, hartebeest, oryx, warthog, ostrich, baboons, hyrax, a scorpion, enormous beetles, and loads of birds).
|A bit of luxury to end the trip with|
It was a great way to round off our trip, and to reflect back on the previous 4 weeks. Namibia is a fantastic country, which we’d thoroughly recommend. It’s very safe and easy to travel around, with a huge variety of landscapes, tons of wildlife and very friendly and interesting people. There’s loads more places we want to see, and we’ll certainly go back. Several people we met over the course of our trip told us Africa really gets under your skin. I think they may be right!
|Goodbye from Namibia|