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Volunteer Reviews

Name: Tanja Kellerer
Country: Germany
Date: 3 March 2017

Fantastic - Unforgettable  :-)
I had the best time of my life. It was such a great experience. The leo team is fantastic and makes great work. You will be welcomed with great warmth, it is like a big family.
As close as there, you can never get to the wild animals. It makes very great fun there as volunteer help and you take this experience for all your life with. And I have learned a lot about the behavior of the animals.
I will certainly go there again and participate in this great program.
Once again a big thank you to LEO Africa!!!

Name: Elfe Peters
Country: Germany
Date: 26 February 2017

My second time at LEO (last year I spent 2 weeks in the old reserve) was as always amazing!!! The new reserve in Marataba is wonderful with a lot of mountains and rivers! I saw different animals in their natural habitat on our morning and evening drives and met also volunteers from all over the world. Volunteering at LEO means also helping the team with collecting datas about the animals, do bush clearing if necessary or do some office work - the work is varied! The atmosphere is very familial and I felt like at home!! LEO does a very good and needful work for the animals and the environment. If you also like dogs as me there are three Jack Russels at the base which could shape your day very funny! I'm very thankful that I had the possibility to stay 2 weeks again at LEO and I'm very proud to become a LEO ambassodor!! Come on guys - assure yourself of being a part of LEO as a volunteer! It's worth, you will never forgett!!!

Name: Enrico Maria De Angelis
Country: Italy
Date: 6 January 2017

A great adventure! I like green growing things so much.. I like the sun, I like animals. And I saw all these things in the Marataba section of Marakele national park! I enjoyed so much every single drive, even the rainy ones!
I saw lions a lot of times.. the big Anthony, the strong Balio, the cute Athena.. Uncountable zebras, impalas and warthogs. A lot of white rhinos, buffalos and giraffes. And all those elephants! I think that day I saw more elephants in a day than everything else in all other days, ahahah!
Not to mention the two bee eaters turned on by my whistles, ahahah!!!
But how to safely see all these plants and animals? Thanks to Julie's passion, Jason's precision, Sabrina's "impality" (AHAHAHAHAH, @Cameron Bec knows what I'm talking about! :D), Sebastian's simpathy, George's farts & dishes, and Koos's experience!
I liked to feel so relaxed and involved in work at the same time, as part of a bigger project!
Oh... I'll be back!

Name: Emily Gonsalves
Country: Australia
Date: 7 January 2017

Thank-you 'Leo Africa' for making my dream come true!
I had an incredible 2 weeks in the Marataba section of the Marakele national park - seeing sooo many beautiful animals in the stunning reserve.
It was so amazing to be involved with the wildlife monitoring drives, data collection and conservation work: alien plant removal and erosion control
I really hope to be back one day!! :D :D

Name: Patricia Coe
Country: US
Date: 2nd January 2017

Amazing, amazing, AMAZING! If you want to experience abundant wildlife including the big 5 in a drop dead gorgeous setting, then volunteering with LEOAfrica is the project for you. I volunteered with LEO at their old reserve in Selati in 2014 and was so impressed with the well run operation and the FUN that I couldn't wait for the chance to see Marataba. It's even better.

Full disclosure....I'm an elephant fanatic and any day I am able to see elephants is a perfect day for me. And we saw elephants about every other day in the Marataba section of the Marakele National Park. Sometimes we saw matriarchal families running to greet other families, trumpeting loudly while the babies played and pushed each other around, or we saw herds of 30 or more splashing in the river. Often we saw majestic bulls peacefully walking near the road, browsing on grass or trees. But the most exciting of all was when a bull in musth would happen to walk into the road in front of us. These bulls, testosterone fueled and unpredictable, usually started to purposely walk towards our vehicle. Always, the knowledgeable and experienced field guides would quickly access his intentions and, if needed, to quickly back up and get out of his path...but not before we got incredible videos of the charge!

Every morning as we set off into the sunrise on 5:30 am game drive, I felt so lucky at the prospect of another day of adventures. At LEO, you literally never know what will be around the bend in the road! Every day we saw the usual cast of hoofed characters. Impalas ( there are 6000), kudos, water buck, wildebeests, and eland. Also, giraffes (with the most adorable babies), warthogs ( usually their backside as they were running away), and sometimes bat eared fox with babies, ostrich, leopard tortoise, or hyenas, just to name a few. And the birds!! If you are a camera buff, the gorgeous array of birds will be a real treat..and challenge for you.

For most volunteers, the most exciting encounters were the lions! It's quite unbelievable how closely you can observe these truly magnificent cats chilled out in the shade of a bush after gorging on a kill, or mating, or just walking around. I guess my favorite lion memory is when, at night using the spotlight, we watched a lioness with her 6 month old daughter sitting and staring intently into the dark. When we moved the spot to see what had their attention, we saw a hippo quietly grazing near them. Then the cub started playing and pouncing on mom chewing on her face, until the lioness decided that baby needed a good cleaning and rolled her over and licked her from stem to stern.

Due to the horrific poaching crisis for rhinos in S Africa, we don't talk specifics about the rhinos at Marataba. One of the important tasks of the volunteers on drive is logging data on many of the animals such as white rhinos, black rhinos, elephants, hyenas, lions!, and leopards. Leopards and pangolins are the most elusive animals so it's really exciting when we see one, usually at night with the spotlight.

LEO's most important mission is conservation and, on reflection, the part of my stay that I am most proud of. About every third day, 2 or 3 hours of the game drive is devoted to some form of conservation. Sometimes it's removing alien plants which could mean hiking up the mountain side to poison queen of the night plants, digging prickly pear cactus, or pulling plants like thorny apple which are an invasive that choke out native grasses that the grazers depend on. When Marataba was farmland, there were 7000 km of barbed wire fence (yes, 7000), and some of the old rusty pieces are still laying around and need to be picked up and removed. Also we do some road maintenance.

Building water bars ( bolsters) or carrying large rocks to fill eroded sections of roads, or laying down special material to stop hillside erosion.

It can be hard work in the hot sun, but when everyone pitches in with a cheerful attitude we finish quickly and there is a wonderful satisfaction of a job well done. Most days on drive, we find branches or even trees knocked into the road by (Ninja) elephants. We saw up the branches and pull everything out of the road.

Life at LEO base is fun. I found that both times at LEO I was so lucky to meet fantastic volunteers with whom I've formed close and lasting bonds. The enthusiastic and irrepressible volunteer coordinator, George, keeps daily operations running smoothly. Volunteers read the duty board to see what assignment they might have. Each game drive needs someone to record data and another to pack up the cooler with tea and coffee for Phuza (coffee break on drive when we stop at some picturesque place to have a drink and stretch our legs). About twice a week you will have house duty, which means you stay back from drive and cook, with expert help from George, clean up, and help in the office with computer work like cataloging camera trap pictures, etc.

The food at LEO is varied, tasty, and plentiful. Hey, you didn't sign up for a high end lodge, and on the weekly trip to Thabazimbi for lunch/dinner and grocery shopping you can buy anything you want to supplement the menu.

All the field guides are excellent and fountains of information. But it's a special treat when Koos is driving as he seems to have eyes in the back of his head and never misses anything interesting. Because he carries a rifle with him, we often can do a bush walk to get a closer look, very quietly, at a rhino, or he will lead the group up into the mountains to see 100,000 year old cave paintings.

Sabrina and Koos have dedicated their lives to conservation efforts to protect the wildlife of Marataba and it's inspiring to learn from them. Talks around the dinner table are lively and fun.

About 4 days before the end of my stay at LEO, I had a small medical issue but decided I could tough it out until I got home. But when Sabrina found out about it, she insisted that she take me to the Mediclinic in Thabazimbi and was very helpful and sympathetic. It turned out that she was correct and I was very grateful to her, and to the excellent doctor at the clinic.

Hopefully, you won't ever need this service, but it's good to know that it's available just 40 minutes from base.

If you make the exciting decision to join the LEO team, come for as long as you possibly can. The time flies by and every day is fantastic and varied.

You won't regret it.