A Travellerspoint blog

Sleep Outs

Bodily fluids

sunny 28 °C

It has finally stopped raining and the sun is back, which means we can do sleep outs!

We only have 3 nights left before we leave, the first will be spent with the 3 baby baboons and the following with Atheno the cheetah. Sleep outs means that we sleep with the animals inside their enclosure. In the baby baboon case, we sleep in Mariettas courtyard since Cloe and Abu sleeps in their enclosure at night. Since this is the first night in a while that it's been possible to do sleep outs, half the volunteers seams to want to do it, so there is a rush to secure mattresses to sleep on. Vanessa, Nicky and I are able to secure two that we'll share.

At nine we put our mattresses down and get into our sleeping bags, the baby baboons are already in the courtyard as they normally are let out of their enclosure at six. Rica is already fast a sleep on top of Captain (on of the dogs), he has nice long fur that remind them of their mothers fur, so they love to play with and sleep on the dogs. Both Rosie and Ronny comes running when I call them and they both fall asleep on me instantly, Rosie on my pillow and Ronny beside me in my open sleeping bag. Vanessa tries to wake Rica up and get her off of the dog, but she want none of it. Ronny wakes up and wanders over, but comes back to sleep with Nicky. Vanessa moves her sleeping bag over to the dog and lies down beside Captain and is finally able to coach Rica off of the dog and into her sleeping bag and carries her over to us, so now we've got one baby baboon each.

Rica decides to come over to check on her siblings and decides to have a pee at the same time, on both Nicky and me...
Rosie some how senses this and discoveres she has to pee as well, but is to laisy to get up so she just pees all over my arm, my pillow and inside my sleeping bag!

Soon after Marietta comes out with bottles and nappies for the babies, just a little too late for my sleeping bag. The babies gets their bottles and we settle down to sleep onces again, this time with nappies on and an old sleeping bag to cover the wet spots in my own sleeping bag.
It's hard to sleep, the dogs are keeping us awake, either chasing the missing porcupine or the bat eared foxes.

The babies move around a bit and sometime during the night I have all 3 babies inside my sleepingbag, it's quite cozy actually, but I'm a bit scared their going to suffocate, espesially Rica who is head down and half way down my leg, almost at he bottom of the sleepingbag.
At 5.30 Marietta comes out with bottles for them again and we feed them, Ronny falls asleep on his bottle as usual and has to be feed while half asleep, which isn't so easy as he likes to hold onto the bottle and don't like it to be taken away from him. After their breakfast the sleep a little while longer before really waking up and staring a new exciting day in their lives.

The next night we are to sleep inside Atheno's enclosure and is now also joined by Lena.
Atheno is a two year old cheetah and he is quite tame. I've put my mattress a little bit away from the rest of the girls that have put all of their mattresses together. When I'm half way into my sleeping bag, Atheno comes over and lies down on top of me with his head in my lap. I'm not quite sure how to feel about that, this is a cheetah, I don't speak cheetah, or cat for that matter, and I don't know him all that well, I've only met him a few times since he's been away to be part of a movie for the better part of our first week and I'm kind of trapped inside my sleeping bag. He starts to pur, loudly, and my heartbeat settles down.

After a little while he ventures over to Nicky and lies claim to her pillow and her sleeping bag before she's even gotten into it. Nicky feels a little nervous and moves over in between Vanessa and Lena with the extra sleeping bag we brought. Atheno stays with the girls for the rest of the might, moving around to sleep in between them in turn. Sleeping isn't the only thing he does, he also pees on all of them and humps both Nicky's and Vanessa's pillows ferociously during the night. I'm kind of disappointed that he didn't spend more time with me, but glad I didn't get peed on again. As the day breaks, we pick up our sleeping bags but leaves the mattresses and the sleeping bag Atheno don't want to relinquish to come back to fetch them after breakfast.

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When we go to fetch the mattresses I bring my camera so that we can take some photos, Atheno is still on top of the sleeping bag so I lay down beside him while Nicky takes some photos. Apparently I must smell enticing to him since he decides to hump me! He is clearly sexually frustrated! Someone needs to get him a proper mate!

Afterwards I learned that what we should have done is give him a proper slap across the face. A slap in the face seems to be the solution to both crazy baboon behavior and sexually frustrated cheetah behavior!

Posted by RaijaKarma 03:45 Archived in Namibia Tagged animals volunteering namibia Comments (0)

Baby baboon walk and feeding tour

I seem to be spending a lot of time with baboons, I didn't know I'd like them so much, but they say that dog people normally get along very well with baboons. I've been spending a lot of my free time with the baby baboons inside their enclosure, playing with them. They are so much fun! They all have their different personalities. Rica loves to give kisses, I don't know why, but she likes the taste of our spit. It's so sweet, she will come and sit in your lap, but her hands behind you neck and give you a kiss on the mouth. She is also the one that likes to cuddle the most.
We've taken them on walks, like we did with the teenagers, and they actually walk more than the teenagers did. Rosie prefers to be carried most of the way, she has a bent back leg because she broke it when she was younger, but seem to get on just fine. Ronny prefers sitting on your shoe and holding on to your foot, while Rica is more adventurous, but she is also the oldest, around 9 months.We take them walking for about an hour, find a good place to sit for a while, let them play around a bit and then they fall asleep. When they wake up we walk back.

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There are a lot of different task that you can be handed, I've had Fatty and Fatso grooming, that is two of the bat eared foxes who live on the farm, they love to be brushed, they are just like dogs.

Another task we can get is outside feeding tour, with or without guest. Then we drive around to the outside enclosures and feed the animals. There are baboons, ostriches, several lion enclosures, leopards, wild dogs, caracals and an enclosure with 20 cheetahs. We fed the pack of wild dog a whole sheep, they were able to rip it to pieces in less than 3 minutes!

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When feeding the baboons we stand on top of a trailer and throw millipop over the fence while the car drives along it. If we fed them all in one place they'd end up fighting about the food. It's pretty messy. Millipop is a mix between corn, carrots, water and some other stuff and they let it cook in a big pot for hours and it comes out looking like a mix between porridge and bulgur rice. The carnivores get a lot of donkey and horse meet, we had to throw horse and donkey heads over the fence into the lion enclosure, not an easy task when the fences are 3m high and the heads are heavy. The wild dogs also get fed intestines, again pretty messy!

I've also had teenage baboon interaction, that's when we go into the teenagers enclosure. When they are out on a walk they mostly behave nicely, but inside their enclosure their a different story. These are so old that we girls can't play with them the same way we do the baby baboons, they only except that from the boys, and we always need at least one boy with us. There are a lot of stories going around about girls that have got bitten during interaction, two came out in tears just the other day. They behaved quite nicely when I was in there, they get exited when they want stuff that you don't want to give them, like bra straps for instance, I almost lost both my singlet and my bra straps, so I had to go out and change, I clipped off all the washing tags on my clothes, since they love to rip those off, and if that leaves a hole, that will not be left alone. Buttons and strings are tempting as well. When I went back in, all baboon proofed, Loydie came over for a groom and fell asleep while I groomed her. She is quite jealous, so if any of the other baboons came over for a groom while I groomed her, she would chase them away. Apparently she doesn't often fall asleep during interaction or during the day for that matter, so I was quite pleased with my grooming skills :)

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We went out after Cloe got excited about one of the girls underwear, she was able to unbutton her shorts and pull down the zipper and wanted to steal her nickers and got rather upset when Simon told her to back off. The thing is, they don't get mad at the boys, only the girls, no matter what the boys do. But it was a good interaction, no one got bitten, but some of Lucienne's hair was left behind, the baboons loved chewing on it since the shampoo she used smells of mango.

Posted by RaijaKarma 02:12 Archived in Namibia Tagged animals volunteering namibia harnas Comments (0)

Baboon Madness

overcast 24 °C

The morning started off as usual with breakfast at 7am. After breakfast Vanessa and I did what we normally do, feed a group of the baboon with some piece of fruit we've saved from breakfast. Today we chose the teenagers, they have their enclosure next to the baby baboons. Some of the volunteers did a sleep-out with he baby baboons last night and they were out and running outside their enclosure when we got there. One of the babies took of with Vanessas sitting thingy, and they don't take lightly to having things taken away from them, they tend to get angry. When it looked like they'd lost interest in it, I went to get it, apparently the interest was still there, I got me some really good looking bites on my legs from the three of them. I did not help that the teenage baboons started screaming either, that made them just more worked up. It's not much you can do, just wait for them to calm down, screaming at them only makes it worse.

First day without food-prep on the program for me since I got here. The days activities are being given out during the morning meeting by the coordinators and the group then decides who is doing which task. My task for the morning was teenage baboon walk. I've been a bit nervous about going into their enclosure for teenage baboon interaction, but luckily this was a walk. The thing with baboons is that the alfa is normally a female and she does not like other females including human females so there always have to be at least one boy with us to protect us and to break up a fight if they should get angry for some reason or another, since they don't respect females.
On walks they are easier to handle, since they are away from their home and a bit scared, so we become the safe haven. We only took Abu and Cloe and left Loydie and Jannie behind.

The walk was really nice, they behaved themselves really well, no biting. It was more of a volunteer walk than a baboon walk, since the baboons spent most of the time riding on our shoulders instead of actually walking... Abu fell asleep in my lap while I was grooming him and then Cloe came over to do some grooming on her own, on me. She is so sweet, but she is pulling so hard, I was sitting down with Abu in my lap and Cloe sitting in between my legs and I was bent over double for her to get to the hair at the base of my head. They also tend to groom while their sitting on our shoulders and also grabs onto our hair for support. My scalp is so sore from all the hear pulling it hurts just to touch it. Getting them back into their cages and into the car for the ride back proved a challenge though. We managed to get Abu in, but not Cloe. We put the cage with Abu in the car and got in with him while Bonita hunted Cloe. Abu got out of the cage, but got scared inside the car and held onto me, when they get scared they jump onto you and sits on your hip and cling to you for comfort, it's really sweet.

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After lunch there are new activities and this time I got baby baboon interaction with Rosy, Rica and Ronny. I wondered how they would react to me after our ordeal in the morning, luckily they tend to forget things quickly, faster than me at least. Getting into their enclosure you have to go through two doors, getting through the 2nd was not easy, since all three of them wanted to go outside. It was a hassle getting them back in so the next person could come through the two doors. I got a couple of new bites, but not as bad as the ones they gave me in the morning. It was the same hassle going back out, Ann Louise has spent two months at Harnas and knows them well and thought me that I had to slap them if they bit me again, which Rica did as she got excited as I left, so I gave her a couple of good slaps until she stopped looking me in the eyes and the fight went out of her.

An extra activity in the evening was taking 7 of the bigger baboons out for a walk. They don't get put into a cage and driven out like the babies and the teenagers, we just line up all the way to the bridge leading out from the lawn and outside, they open the door and we start springing for the bridge and calling them as they come running after us. Some of these baboons are quite big, Roger, which is the alfa male of this group, jumped onto my back from behind after we had slowed down after our run over the bridge. He weights about 35 kg and gets quite have heavy after a while if he decides to stay on your shoulder for a while. We had the German film crew with us on this walk, which always slows things down as they want more shots or shots from a different angle or have something repeated. They behaved nicely on the walk, both the baboons and the film crew, no one got bitten by either. I got a scratch form a baboon on my upper lip as he took hold of my hair with one hand and my nose with the other as he jumped of my shoulder.

Now I'm in my cabin, I can't hear myself think because of the rain drumming so hard on the roof, it's impossible to have a conversation with anyone without shouting because of the noise! It's Lapa night and the send off dinner for the ones that are leaving today starts in 5 min, but there is no way I'm doing the 20 min walk down to the farm for dinner! I went out just to run quickly over to another cabin and got soaked to the skin in seconds! I don't want to get sick again now that I've finally gotten rid of the cold I had before leaving Norway. So dinner tonight will consist of «Eet sum mor» biscuits and a bit of biltong and some water if I bother to go outside again to fill up a water bottle. Will be spending the evening licking my battle wounds and reading a book before turning in early listening to they rain and thunder.

Posted by RaijaKarma 03:28 Archived in Namibia Tagged animals volunteering namibia Comments (0)

Warthog attack and thieving monkeys

Arrival at Harnas

sunny 30 °C

After one night in Windhok followed by a long drive, we finally arrived at Harnas.
When I arrived at Antelope Park two years ago, we were met at the gate by elephants, this time we were met by a German film crew making a documentary about Harnas. They filmed us arriving at the gate and driving up to the volunteer village. They'll be following a few of the German volunteers. After being assigned our bungalows, we walked down to the farm. The bungalows are quite nice, they have walls made of mosquito netting with shutters we can close on the outside.

The center of the farm is big lawn where the baby animals (mostly herbivores) play during the day. Marietta, the owner where there with her dogs and the baby baboons when we arrived, the baby baboons and the dogs are good friends and play together, the monkeys jumping all over the dogs and use them to catch a ride. There are also baby springboks, a baby kudo, a flock of baby ostriches, geese, warthogs, a couple of donkeys, quite a few mongoose, cats plus a few animals I'm sure I've forgotten to mention.

After being introduced to the other volunteers, and to the two volunteer coordinators Henrico and Bonita, Vanessa and I snook of to check out the area and ran into the owners granddaughter taking the four baby baboons for a walk on the lawn. Of course we wanted to say hello, they are really cute! Kneeling down to talk to them one of them saw my necklace. It's a locket that I always wear and almost never take off, it's become part of me. The locket dangling from the necklace was too tempting for one of the baby monkeys who grabbed it and somehow was able to take of with the locket without braking the actual necklace. Those nimble little fingers were quickly able to open it and the contents apparently looked real tasty since it ended up being eaten. Luckily we were able to recover the locket after chasing the baby around for a bit and I got it back. Wouldn't want to lose it again so the necklace will have to stay off until I leave.

There are lion enclosures on the farm as well, but we are not allowed to go near them, but we can hear the big lions roar, it's an amazing sound and one I miss from my stay at Antelope Park. I love going to sleep and waking up to the sound of lions roaring!!

The next morning we got up around 6 am and went down to the farm for breakfast which starts at 7am every morning, except Sundays when we get to sleep in for another hour. The volunteer village is a 10-15 min walk away, 10 min if we take the shortcut which we are only allowed to do during the day since it's a narrow track, or 15 min on the sandy road along the sandy airstrip.

Waiting for the 8am morning meeting to begin the two warthogs came running and wanted some loving so they both decided to climb onto my lap!
After the morning meeting we got a tour of the farm and the different animal enclosures encircling the lawn and those behind the office and the main house. Our meeting point is under the trees just next to the cheetahs enclosure, it's amazing watching them patrolling the fence or just resting in the shade so close by. After we get through the newbie program, we'll be able to go into them! We started with the baboon enclosures and got a crash course in baboon, sitting down at the teenage baboons saying hello and shaking hands through the fence. Now that my necklace was off, my watch seemed to be very interesting and they got very excited trying to get it off and left me with a few nice scratches, so the watch will have to come off as well while going into their enclosures. Next on the tour was the vervet monkeys, including the blind vervet monkey Audrey, the previous owner had kept here in a dark rooms and she was let out into bright sunlight without any adjustment and ended up going blind. Then there's the bat eared foxes who walk around more or less as they please. There is the caracal enclosure with 3 caracals of which one is a three legged one who lost one of his legs, can't remember how at the moment. There is Elsa, the lion who go injured by accident playing with one of her cubs and ended up being paralyzed from the waist down. And them there is the leopards who are waiting to be released. Plus a few other enclosures. Right by the gate, Gumbi the hyena has his enclosure, he is much bigger then I imagined a hyena would be, but he's not one of the spotted type and apparently bigger than the more common spotted hyena.

After lunch we were put into groups and joined some of the other volunteers in our group for food prep, meaning that we prepared the food for the animals we are responsible for, that wasn't already prepared in the morning, and then fed them. I'm was put in the snoobab groups (which is baboons spelled backwards), we have quite a few animals; merkats (Fatty and her companions), the teenage baboons (Loidy, Jannie, Cloe and Aboo), the warthogs (poombas, also called Ham and Bacon), Audrey (the blind vervet monkey), Bonitas dog Tara (the dog that think she is a wild dog and goes hunting if she get out, she recently killed two of Mariettas priced black chickens which costs 1200 Namiban dollars a piece, the cost is going out of Bonitas salary), Elsa (the lion), caracals (the pregnant Tammy plus 2 others), the two outside ostriches, two hamsters (Hamster and Fluffy), the baby turkeys, Pop-Eye (the owl that is missing an eye and lives in one of the threes in the animal graveyard), the geese, the vultures in the aviary and 5 cats. Plus we have to chase in the goats in the evening.

The next day was all about food prep, both in the morning and in the evening, the newbies are still not allowed into any of the enclosures though so we always need one of the oldies with us when feeding the animals. Saturday is bonfire night up at the volunteer village. Bonfire and barbecue is a mans job so the guys have to prepare the food for us ladies :)

The third day also started with food prep for us newbies, but this day we had a test, we had to prepare all the food with help of the oldies and then answer questions as to who gets what, how often and what to be aware off regarding each of the animals. We are now allowed to go into the enclosures, but only accompanies by an oldie. So after lunch, during our time off before the evenings chores, Monica and I spent some time inside the baby baboons' enclosure playing with them :)

Part of our task with the warthogs is to feed them, but also to lock them into their enclosure for the night. They normally come willingly when we feed them in there during the day, but not at night. Today they hid under a shed and we looked for them for an hour before we finally found them and then used another 20 minutes to persuade them to come out. Finished just in time for our own dinner!

Pictures to come!

Posted by RaijaKarma 08:10 Archived in Namibia Tagged animals volunteering namibia Comments (0)

On the road again

Next stop Namibia

sunny -5 °C

It's been two years and it's time to go back to Africa!!

The last time I went to Africa, I volunteered at Antelope Park in Gweru, Zimbabwe, walking lions!
Three amazing weeks with the lions was followed by a few days in Victoria falls, the adrenalin capital of the world, before I joined a safari starting in Zambia, traveling through Botswana and into South Africa, finishing of with 4 days in Krüger National Park.

This time I'm going to Namibia for 4 weeks!!

I'll be spending the first 2 weeks volunteering at the Harnas Wilflife Foundation.
The Harnas farm takes care of orphaned, abandoned and injured animals, rehabilitates them and releases them back into the wild.
I'll be helping with feeding and care taking of the animals, interact with them and take them on walks, and help with research and general farm work.
Below is a youtube clip showing a brief overview of Harnas Gobabis and some of the projects and activities

The next 2 weeks I'll be spending volunteering at a horse farm, who takes clients into the Eros Mountains for trail riding.
I'll help train the younger horses that haven't gone on the trails yet and help out in any way else that I can as well.
I'm looking forward to be able to ride every day for two weeks. Back home I rarely have the time to go horseback riding anymore.
I went trail riding in Wadi Rum desert in Jordan in November and had an amazing time!
I wanted to spend some more time on horseback so volunteering to help out at this farm in sunny Namibia seemed like a good idea.
Unfontunatly I haven't had the time to "acclimatize" my bum before leaving, so I'll definitely be walking funny the first few days!

On my way home I'll be stopping off in Cape Town for 4 days were I'll also be meeting up with Rae, whom I met on the safari two years ago, she lives in Cape Town and has great plans for these 4 days! I can't wait to explore this fabulous city! Hiking up Table Mountain and sea kayaking to mention just a few of our plans :)

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Time to get packing, in 48 hours I'll be on a plane headed for Namibia! :)

Posted by RaijaKarma 12:02 Archived in Norway Tagged animals travel volunteering Comments (0)

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