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  • Writer's pictureDr.Eleonore Op de Beeck

South Africa: Veterinary experience

This was my first time going to South Africa, a place I had dreamed of to go for so many years.

I was in the UK working at the time, when things didn't go well with my back then partner, we were supposed to go on vacation together until he bailed on me on a last minute notice, so I decided to travel solo as I desperately needed the vacation.

Doing a hard long search on how and where to go on my own, I was hoping to find some kind of travel that envolved more people so that I wouldn't feel alone and this is where I bumped into volunteering , where you had everything organised for you, you would meet a bunch of people with a common interest joining forces for a better cause, I thought this was an ideal way of travelling.

I searched for South Africa opportunities and there it was, as if it was just made for me, a veterinary experience, where I would be helping and assisting a wildlife vet curing lions, zebras, giraffes, elephants while wandering the vast beautiful lands of the African savannah ....and so, I booked my flight and off I went to my new and exciting adventure!

I was picked up by the game reserve driver, where I would stay for the next two weeks, at the airport, I met the other volunteers that were also joining the program, all ages were involved, some were vets, some were vet students...all excited to start our exciting wildlife journey.

Upon arrival into the game reserve lodge, we were taken to our sleeping area into this massive and stunning game reserve, beautiful wooden furniture and loads of African pictures and sculptures made the living room and rooms of our stay. Three meals a day were provided, which were absolutely delicious, they had vegan options too so I wouldn't go hungry!

The program was full on, early rise at 5-6 am to go see the lions and help out the vet, we did all kinds of work, we practiced our darting skills, not on live animals of course, we fed the lions that were at the sanctuary healing from wounds before being released again, we provided wound curing and medication to injured animals, we learned about the hard truth about rhino poaching and how military trained rangers are risking their lives to protect these majestic animals, we did post mortem studies, we visited local communities providing information about zoonotic diseases from their animals like cattle or dogs and cats, we provided neutering and medical assistance to their pets...we visited an orphanage and helped feed the kids...and so much more!

Weekends were off duty and we were provided with loads of excursions to go to from swimming with sea lions, to bungy jumping to shark cave diving or horse riding on the stunning south african beaches and even surfing!

Two weeks passed so quickly, which usually happens when you are having so much fun! I even got my partner annoyed as I was having way too much fun without him! haha!

Until today, about 6 years later, I am still in touch with the other volunteers I met during my wild African experience, and this is one of many reasons WHY I am promoting these kinds of travel, not only because you are getting enveloped in something so important as the conservation of wild life and the environment but also because you get to experience an amazing adventure and make life long friends and make incredible memories.

After this first volunteering experience, I was hooked, I was already burned out from being stuck in a clinical practice where I was mainly providing vaccinations and curing "man made" animal diseases, diseases that pets had that were due to human habits like bad food (yes, dog and cat kibble is not the best for your pet), sedentary life, too much sugar into their diets (carbohydrates found in pellets) giving way to diabetes, obesity and cancer....I wanted to feel more helpful and get out of the 4 walls I was stuck in....then and there I decided to go 100% into conservation, where I could still help animals and the environment but also where I would help myself be happier and more fulfilled....and, I never looked back...

I tell my story in my book, "The year I went wild" published in December 2021 found on, I provide you there with my true story on how I went from being depressed and unfulfilled to becoming the most excited and happy person on earth doing what I love and making lifelong experiences along the way....

If you are in a place of unhappiness and need a drastic change and a new perspective on your life, I can only say one thing, GO TRAVEL, GO MAKE EXPERIENCES,GO WILD...go volunteer somewhere, choose something you really like, love kids? there are plenty of places who need people to help out at schools to teach kids, you like animals, go volunteer at animal sanctuaries, you like the ocean, there are plenty of marine conservation volunteering opportunities out there to choose from...and I can provide you with all the information and cheap travel deals of your, don't wait, make this new year 2023 the year you decided to be the best version of yourself, you true happy self...remember, you have no other life than this one....what are you waiting for?? Come join me and let's make some God damn good memories!!!!


Eleonore xx

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