Thursday, 15 November 2012

Leaving the Lion Park

Today was my final day at the Lion Park. I got up as normal and helped the other volunteers to clean the enclosures, before spending most of the morning playing with the cubs, feeding the giraffes, taking lots of photos and generally enjoying my last few hours of African sunshine before returning to the British winter.

By the time my taxi arrived at 4pm, I was overwhelmed with sadness at leaving behind the friends I have made over the past two weeks, both animal and human. I can't believe that I have known the other volunteers for only two weeks, nor did I believe it possible to get as close to complete strangers as we all have during this time. I have made some friends for life, and will be definitely be keeping in contact with them all.

A few of my amazing memories...

As my two weeks drew to a close, it dawned on me that it had felt far longer. As sad as it was to say goodbye to everyone, I was definitely ready to pack up and head home!

Previous entry: My final day
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  1. Thanks so much for your wonderfully written blog about volunteering at the Lion Park in JHB. My daughter is traveling there on Tuesday for a 2 week volunteer trip through i-to-i and we have been quite worried, until we read your blog. Can you give me any advice to pass on to her? She is almost 19 and this is her first (and farthest) trip abroad, alone. You went out a lot, did you visit anywhere where you would not have gone if you had known better? Did you always exit the park in a group? Did you meet volunteers from different organizations? Was everyone given the same support? Meals, etc.? I would be so grateful if you would please respond to this comment. Thanks so very much, worried parent.

  2. Hi, I'm glad my blog was of some help! It was my first trip abroad alone as well (I was 21) but as soon as I got there and realised how many other volunteers were there, I didn't feel alone at all!

    Leaving the park was always very safe- we had to let Karin, the volunteer organiser, know if we were planning to leave the park, and what time we would be back, and were only allowed to leave in groups. The park has several contacts with well-reputed taxi firms in the area, so travelling is always safe with these companies.

    In terms of where I wouldn't go - don't go into Johannesburg without a guide!! We were fortunate that an employee of the park had a friend who was a tour guide, so we were put in contact with him and organised our excursion with him, and he was with us at all times, but it is dangerous for tourists to go into Johannesburg without a guide.

    Because the park is so remote, we didn't meet any other volunteers from other places - but there were up to 20 of us volunteers at the park at any one time, plus the full time staff, so plenty of people to get along with!

    Depending which program you booked on, either one or two meals a day are provided by the Lion Park (I think it's two a day with i-to-i). There's quite a choice in the restaurant, from salads, to toasted sandwiches, pizza... - I'm a really fussy eater but I managed fine! We were also taken to the supermarket on route from the airport to the park to stock up on other supplies. It's hard to know what to buy before arriving at the park, but there are basic cooking facilities available. I didn't actually eat a lot of the food I bought to cook myself - the meals at the restaurant are very filling! Either way, your daughter won't starve - she can buy additional meals at the restaurant, or the gift shop sells plenty of snacks!

    My one piece of advice would be to take a few warm clothes as well - just hoodies and tracksuit bottoms, as it can be very chilly in the evenings. I went in November, which is Spring in SA, but it was still quite chilly. I guess it must be heading into Winter there now, so even chillier. Also, I didn't know until I arrived that any trousers/shorts worn whilst at work were supposed to be knee length or longer. Although nobody got into trouble for wearing shorter (As far as I know), it was something I didn't know before I went, and would have packed differently if I knew!

    I hope this has helped, and I hope your daughter has a great time. If you have any more questions, please feel free to email me ( -I wish I'd had someone to ask questions before I'd gone, so I'd be happy to answer anything, however minor!