Friday, 27 June 2014

Volunteer Update - Week 23

Week 23 volunteers: Georgina Jones, Lucinda Abberley, James Orr, Lyndsay Walsh, Courtney, Lea Kemmer, Karen Baylioo and David Newell.

So the volunteer updates have been a bit thin on the ground recently, my apologies for that. Kate and I first had a break in the States for her little sisters wedding and then I became really sick with what was eventually diagnosed as a kidney stone. The stone thankfully has passed thanks to a doctor prescribed three day beer drinking session and normal service can now be resumed!  - Matt

"The week at Neuras was unbelievable. I never felt down for a nano second. Hot showers, warm beds, great food and great people. I felt like I didn't deserve to be treated so well! Every day is an adventure in the vast open environment at Neuras. 
The work Matt and Kate do is phenomenal. My top moments were the crazy trip to Sossusvlei; tracking Lightning and every single meal. An underrated feature is the thee amazing dogs who provide endless entertainment and the epic movie nights; especially STARCRASH!!!!!
Note from Matt - Starcrash is an amazingly awful Italian Star Wars rip off with David Hasselhoff from 1978 (no seriously, it does exist) for which I have created the world's best drinking game! For rules please feel free to drop me a line! 

David Newell.

"My favourite moment was pizza night; because it was so nice to all sit around together with Matt and Kate, and the pizza was sooooo good! Matt made me a Marmite dough ball which was AMAZING, and played some great music too. Even better was that there was enough pizza left over that we could have cold pizza the next day! Such a nice evening."
Lucinda Abberley.

"Best moments - The sundowner, being able to sit in the middle of no where and watch the sun set is magical and tracking Lightning was scary but special. I enjoyed learning about the camera traps, setting them up, finding them with the GPS and checking the pictures. The Namib Carnivore Conservation Centre and Sossusvlei were both amazing places to visit and pizza night was great. Thanks Matt and Kate for a fun and educational time. "
Karen Baylioo.

"I have fallen in love with Neuras and can't face leaving so I have extended my stay! Highlights so far include the stunning scenery, comfortable accommodation, dune climbs and scrambling up a mountain. We've all had an amazing time and if you want to see the true beauty of Namibia you should not hesitate on jumping on that bus to come down south."  
Georgina Jones

"Really glad I came to Neuras, it was a brilliant first hand experience to see how the tracking of cheetahs and leopards work. We got to help set up trap cages, check the camera traps and use radio-telemetry gear to actually track a leopard - we got so close to Lightning but she was too well disguised amongst thick reeds for us to see her.  Hiking  up the dunes and running (falling) back down was also unforgettable. Overall an amazing week, especially helpful as I hope to study Zoology and this gave me a chance to see what conservationists do day to day."
Lyndsay Walsh.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Volunteer Update - Week 15

Week 15 volunteers: Amanda Keyte, Kirsten Rowlingson, Anne Schattenberg, Tanja Greter, Louise Mercer, Joel Schroeder, Vivien Mangin, Femke Spoor, Stephen Harvey, Sandi Simmons, Yvonne Wemmenhove and Sarita Vyas. 

"As far as a commute to work goes it doesn't get much better than this; standing in the back of the ute, you speed past mountain ranges shaped over centuries by wind and water with the Naukluft mountains standing high in the distance. Its impossible to not feel that surge of hope as you approach the trap cage, maybe this time the bait has worked. The road soon turns to red rocks as we cut across country to the cage, we hit the riverbed and start the slower walk through its sandy bottom; the chatter has now stopped, the anticipation bringing a breathless silence to the group. Batting back the flies we reach the first vantage point some fifty metres away from the cage to see if maybe this time we've succeeded. Alas, during our time here, the doors were always up, nothing had been trapped for collaring. But here you quickly learn that conservation is a game of patience. Mother nature has her own timetable.
While animal sightings maybe few and far between, when you see the evidence of wild animals it makes it that much more rewarding. The thrill of tracking Lightning the Leopard, realising that she's circling you, just out of sight is payment enough for the long hikes and the heat. 
At the Namib Carnivore Conservation Centre you are guarantied to see cheetahs. At the 500ha enclosure six cats are kept, unreleasable due to either being problem cats or too tame. These six ambassador cheetahs live a life as close to  the wild as can be provided. Pepper, a hand reared orphan, is the first to come for the meal we've prepared; stalking along the side of the car waiting for her side of horse. 
As she eats Kate fills us in on her history but she doesn't get to finish the story as Spartacus, the biggest of the six creeps up behind her, impatient for his meal.  After feeding the cats its time to feed ourselves and the famous apple pie lives up to its reputation, as does the Neuras Shiraz - chocolate, subtle spice and dark cherry flavours are perfectly complemented by the blue cheese and figs ordered back at the camp that night.

In all the food and wines are as much a highlight as the stunning scenery of the area. Rose tastes that much better when accompanied by a pink streaked sky during sundownwers on our final night."
Kirsten Rowlingson.

Stephen Harvey.