Volunteer – Modisa Wildlife Project

EKOSINI

WHAT WILL BE EXPECTED OF ME?

The Modisa program offers a truly authentic learning experience for people who want to make a difference in wildlife preservation and experience the habitat and culture firsthand.

As part of this holistic bushveld experience, volunteers will enjoy:

• Broad daily lectures on the ecosystem

• Hiking in the wilderness with specialized guides

• Camping in bushveld under the breathtaking Kalahari Desert sky

• Experiencing the unique culture of the Bushmen (San people)

• Feeding the animals (lion, leopard, wild dog, etc)

• Basic tracking training

• Horse riding in the bush

• Participating in game counts and other area surveys

• Cooking on a campfire, including lessons on preparing traditional food, while enjoying the surrounding wildlife and roaring lions.

Bush Walks

Instead of experiencing the Bush in a game drive car as many regular tourists would do, you will instead get to walk in the wild and get close to different species of antelopes, zebras, wildebeests, giraffes and many other mammals. During every walk, our guide will explain interesting facts about the vegetation, point out animal tracks and give you an idea of what kind of things you have to watch out for in the environment. Walking through the Kalahari, with animals roaming freely around you, will give you a much deeper sense of this unique environment and provide a better learning experience as well.

Sleep Outs

We start walks in the afternoon at a beautiful spot on the farm, where you will learn how to pick a safe place to sleep. The group will then collect firewood and learn how to make a fire by using the materials around you. After, we’ll practice our fire making skills with a braai. When dinner and story telling around the fire is over, you will learn about the stars and hear the stories around them while also learning how to use the night sky of the southern hemisphere for orientation in the wilderness.

Everybody goes to sleep at the same time, but each group will spend one hour awake for night watch with a member of our staff. You will learn how to look out for animals, how to protect your camp and how to navigate in the darkness to provide the best understanding of the things and animals around you and to interpret the sounds and what you see.

The campfire and the night watch create a safe environment, which will make it possible for you to enjoy the beauty of the trip without fear of your surroundings.

The next morning you will learn how to clean up after sleeping in the Bush and how best to leave as little impact as possible on the surrounding wildlife. Afterwards, a relaxed walk takes us back to camp, where our guide will answer all questions you might have.

Game Counts & Grass Surveys

When we get ready to conduct game counts and surveys, the first thing you will learn is why we are doing game counts. We will answer questions such as: Why do we need to know how many animals there are on the farm? What do we do if there are too many or not enough? Why do we need to do grass surveys?

Once you have a basic knowledge on the topic, we start by packing up the car to do a practical game count. On the drive, everyone keeps an eye out for animals in the area, equipped only with binoculars. You will count every individual in herds and individual species from giraffes to springbok. You will learn to differentiate between males and females, as well as judge their condition and estimate their age.

On our grass surveys you will learn how to measure the grass cover on the farm, how to tell whether grass is palatable and how to use this information to determine the number of animals that can live in the area.

Both the game counts and the grass surveys are on-going projects, as it will take many years to get to an accurate figure. With your stay at the Modisa Wildlife Project, you will contribute towards a long-term study and leave a lasting, positive impact on the area.

Tracking

On our tracking activities, you will learn how to identify many different animals and how to interpret the tracks and signs that are everywhere around you. Furthermore, you will learn how to determine their age and get a clear picture of what has happened in their lives.

The tracking activity will mainly involve many walks among the breathtaking Bush, where your focus will be on finding tracks and identifying tracks. During track walks, there are always animals around you, allowing you to get close to wild animals and observe their behaviors.

The part of the Bush we track may look on its surface to be relatively unremarkable, but once you learn how to read the signs you will be able to read the bush like an open book at any time. This knowledge alters the perception that many have of their surroundings in a lasting way.

Animal Feeding

Animals held in captivity on the farm have all been “problem animals” that ventured into cattle farming areas to kill livestock. Unfortunately, farmers in Botswana are allowed to shoot these predators. To save them from certain death, they were captured and relocated to Modisa where they are now used for education and research. As part of Modisa Wildlife Project, we are in the process of creating a program to secure the gene pool of all cats. Captive wildlife can contribute greatly to this mission, since many populations in the wild are isolated from others. We are now looking at a situation where the gene pool in these smaller groups is weakening. The genes of captive wildlife can easily be monitored, and if needed, new genes can be brought to problem areas in the wild through the reintroduction of the healthiest captive animals to these areas.

Not all of our animals will get the chance to roam wild again, which is why we work to give them the best possible living conditions for their retirement. We are also fundraising to secure the outside fence of the 25,000 acres to keep lions in the reserve perimeter so the young and capable animals can be reintroduced into the wild in the Grassland reserve.

You will feed these animals and spend time in the wild dog enclosure to observe them and their fascinating social behavior. You will be able to spend some evenings with the lions and you’ll often hear them roar close by as the sun sets over the Kalahari.

While enjoying the unique opportunity to be close to these intriguing wild predators, you will also learn a lot about their behavior, their history and today’s problems for these impressive animals.

Bush Orientation

Have you ever tried to find your way somewhere without roads or signs? In our program, you will learn simple methods to get your own directions. Using simple, common items like wooden sticks, your analog watch and/or the sun and stars to help you orientate yourself in the African wilderness. You will practice these skills using a map or a compass, but the focus will be to find your way without using technology. You will be able to practice orienting yourself several times during your stay as you become more familiar and comfortable with the environment.

Fence Patrol

Fence patrol will be done on horseback or by car, depending on whether horses are available. You will ride or drive along the outer fence of the farm to look for signs of animals breeching the fence or any damages. Small damages will be fixed straight away while a team will mend bigger problems. Furthermore, we continue lectures on the vegetation and animals surrounding us, so you are able to practice and improve your tracking skills.

Vegetation Identification & Uses

The first thing you will learn is why we are doing vegetation IDs and the importance of it. We will answer questions such as: Why do we need to know what kind of trees and bushes there are on the property? What do we do if the vegetation is changing? And what impact would this have?

As the importance of Grass Surveys to determine the number of animals that can live in the area vegetation ID would give you a basic understanding of the vegetation in the Kalahari, and even better understanding of the importance of everything around you. You will learn how to identify the most common and most interesting trees in the area and what they are good for and can be use as.

Afternoon with Botswana Researcher

Because of its fascinating wildlife, Botswana has a number of scientific researchers in the country who work hard to learn more about the Kalahari ecosystem and its animals. After independence, Botswana was a country with few outsiders, but it has quickly become a destination and home for an international community.

You will get the opportunity to spend an afternoon with a researcher from Botswana or a longtime resident of the country. They will tell you about life in Botswana after independence in 1966 and how the country has developed since then, and/ or what kind of research they do and how they view nature conservation.

We cannot guarantee this experience at all times, since the researchers are not always available as they are immersed in their work.

HOW LONG CAN I VOLUNTEER FOR?

1 week and up. Most volunteers stay for 2-4 weeks, but longer is possible.

WHAT QUALIFICATIONS, IF ANY, DO I REQUIRE?

The Modisa program is for anyone over 18 years who loves nature, wildlife and social experiences with people from all over the world.  People who are not afraid of getting their hands dirty and participating in the nitty-gritty of life in Botswana. Volunteers under 18 years old are only considered when accompanied by a parent/guardian.  There isn’t a maximum age limit, though a reasonable fitness level is necessary.

WHAT LANGUAGE WILL I NEED TO KNOW?

English

HOW DO I GET TO YOUR LOCATION?

Volunteers should fly into the Maun International Airport (MUB) in Botswana on the Sunday before their scheduled Monday start date.  Most volunteers fly to Maun via the Johannesburg (JNB) or Windhoek (WDH) International Airports.

On arrival to Maun Airport, the Okavango River Lodge will arrange your airport pick-up and transfer to the Lodge for Sunday night stay (+/- $40 for food and accommodation).

On Monday morning, a 4×4 minibus shuttle will pick you up at the Okavango River Lodge and transport you straight to the Modisa camp (departing Lodge at 8am, arriving Modisa mid-day). The shuttle costs +/- $50 each way and payment can be made directly to the Modisa team on arrival.

On the returning Monday, you will depart Modisa mid-day by shuttle, back to Maun by around 6-7pm for another night at Okavango River Lodge. We strongly recommend that you book your return flight on Tuesday (NOT Monday evening) as road delays are common.

Some volunteers choose to arrive earlier than Sunday to relax for a few days before the program starts.  Just let us know your arrival date so that we can arrange transfers accordingly.  Volunteers can exchange currency to Botswana Pula at the Maun airport.

ARE THERE ANY COSTS INVOLVED TO VOLUNTEER?

Click HERE to find out up to date costs and requirements for volunteering with MODISA WILDLIFE PROJECT.

WHAT TYPE OF ACCOMMODATION, MEALS AND FACILITIES CAN I EXPECT TO BE AVAILABLE TO ME?

The Modisa campsite is 4 km from the Grassland Safari Lodge. We have safari tents for volunteers, which hold four beds each and are separated by gender. At the camp, you will live side-by-side with nature and its inhabitants, an experience that is hard to find in the increasingly busy world we live in. At night, lions can be heard roaring accompanied by the patter of herds of animals roaming outside your tent. The campsite has two bathrooms and showers, with hot water and a great view into the Bush. The facilities, coupled with the chance to live with nature in the truest sense, will give you the ultimate African experience.

You will enjoy your stay in our comfortable dome tents. All tents are secured with a natural barrier of thorny branches to prevent unexpected encounters with the animals around you. The tents can house up to four people, divided by gender.

Each tent is equipped with four beds, along with linens, pillows, duvets and comforters. The washing block is nearby with fresh, running water from the borehole. Toilets and showers are fully equipped and hot water is provided.  Washing powder is provided for washing clothing by hand.

In our roofed sitting area you will have three meals a day from our fully equipped kitchen and be sheltered from the burning sun or the occasional rain storms in the wet season. The space has wide-open sides so you can still enjoy the outdoors while keeping cool or dry. Animals might be grazing within a few meters, and honey badgers, along with other smaller mammals, occasionally pay a visit after sunset.

At our camp fire you will enjoy braai (barbeque) evenings. During the cold winter nights, you will be able to watch the amazingly clear African sky while the soothing heat of the campfire provides enough warmth to keep you comfortable.

Every evening, the group will meet to watch the sunset over the Kalahari and sit together to share their personal stories and experiences.

Electricity is provided to our camp through solar panels and will therefore only be available during the day for charging cameras, computers, flashlights and other assorted goods. The tents do not have electricity so we recommend a good head torch for reading at night.

The entire camp is set up to make you feel safe and comfortable without changing the nature around you. This allows you to experience the African Bush and animals every second of your stay without harming them or disturbing their natural habitat.

Meals

We offer three meals a day. Our chef will cook traditional dishes but also more familiar food over the fire. Once a week we will have a braai where you will cook your own food at the campfire. In addition the kitchen is equipped with snacks free of charge and complimentary tea and coffee during your stay.

Other snacks and candy will be available for purchase as well as beer, soft drinks and cider. We will provide occasional trips to the nearby city of Ghanzi, where many goods are available for purchase including more snacks and traditional cloth.

If you have a particular diet we are happy to accommodate you. We can easily cook vegetarian food, but vegans will be charged extra due to the added cost of providing such meals.

WHAT WILDLIFE SPECIES ARE THERE?

Lions, leopards, wild dogs, zebras, giraffes and a variety of other game like cheetahs & brown hyena call Modisa their home. The wild predators are however quite elusive and therefore not seen as often as the other animals.

WHAT ATTRACTIONS CAN I EXPERIENCE DURING FREE-TIME?

The Bushmen Village is near the farm, and you will have the unique opportunity to get insight into their culture. You can learn from them what plants are edible and how to find water in this semi-desert environment. You can watch them demonstrate how they hunt wild animals for survival by using their body strength and assets, made from materials from the vegetation around them.

You will get the opportunity to learn a few words in their fascinating “click” language. They will play traditional games with you, to see if you can compete with their skills as well.

Learning and socializing with the Bushmen is an unforgettable experience and an eye-opener for the amazing skills and traditions that are still preserved here, without intervention from the outside world. This is a truly unique characteristic that you will find in very few places on Earth.

Every night, you will sit around the campfire-site, even on nights when it’s too hot to create an actual fire. In the dry season, the nights can be very cold and the fire will be there every night to keep you warm while you are enjoying your time before bed.

Social situations centered on fires have a long tradition in Africa which we will bring to your experience. You can sit and relax around the fire and chat about the day with other visitors and guides, an activity normally reserved only for camping in your home countries.

Every week there will be a braai night where food will be cooked on the open fire. This will be one of the best meals you’ve ever had, not only for the delicious flavors the campfire and traditional cooking-style brings, but also because of the fantastic atmosphere.

IN CONCLUSION

Modisa Wildlife Project was created by two passionate conservationists, Mikkel Legarth and Valentin Gruener, who wanted to create an authentic learning experience for people to make a difference in wildlife preservation and experience the habitat and culture in a close, personal way.

Mikkel and Val met on a wildlife farm in Namibia in 2009, and their mutual love and passion for wildlife, especially big cats, was a catalyst for them to set up a wildlife project with an emphasis on creating a bond between people and the wilderness. By cooperating with leading researchers in Botswana, Modisa Wildlife Project has the unique opportunity to create positive changes in local communities which in turn will create a better understanding of and a brighter future for wildlife and the big cats of Botswana.

Based in the Kalahari ecosystem of Botswana, where diverse wildlife and breathtaking scenery blend harmoniously, Modisa is ideal for those who want a “real” bushveld experience.

Project

Modisa’s mission is inherent in its name, which means “guardian” in the local language of Tswana.  It is Modisa’s goal to act as advocates for the wildlife in Botswana.

Modisa’s vision is to develop a sustainable project which can stop conflict and unite local farmers with wildlife.  During the past few decades, wildlife in Botswana has experienced a significant decline – a drop of more than 60 percent – caused by people taking over wild land, the decline of prey species, and poaching. Lack of attention to the problem locally and internationally has also contributed to this severe decline.  Modisa aims to use education and awareness campaigns to implement sustainable changes in the area.

Modisa Wildlife Project is located on the 25,000 acre Grassland reserve, thirty kilometres west of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) in Botswana. Grassland provides a beautiful landscape for Kalahari’s diverse wildlife. The wide open space and untamed wilderness provide ideal conditions for a wide range of animals to thrive. The space also offers incredible wildlife viewing.

Modisa and the Grassland Safari Lodge are working together towards a common goal of protecting Botswana’s big cats and surrounding wildlife.  Grassland is situated between many cattle farming areas, where the farmers are still allowed to shoot predators like big cats.  All the captive predators at the Modisa Wildlife Project were relocated out of farming areas around the reserve, after conflict with farmers protecting their livestock and property.  Rather than getting shot or poisoned, the predators were relocated to Modisa.  At Modisa, they are given the best possible life with as natural an environment as possible.  They have space to roam while they serve as “ambassadors” for educational and awareness purposes. Modisa’s long-term goal is to find suitable locations for these animals to be relocated and released.

Modisa Wildlife Project runs exclusively on natural power, sustainable materials and products from local suppliers.

For more information on ENKOSINI ECO EXPERIENCE, please visit www.enkosini.org

For important information on travelling overseas, please read ‘KNOW BEFORE YOU GO WILD!‘