There are a few other activities that we do at Harnas however they don’t happen as often as the other activities I mentioned.
The main extra activity that volunteers get allocated to is some sort of animal interaction. The most common is a 3 cheetah interaction, a Juliet and Samar (2 caracals) interaction, an Audrey interaction (the blind vervet monkey) or a baby baby baboon interaction (with the now 4 baby baboons – Bella, Floyke, Panickie and King). The reason they are baby babies is because there are also slightly older baboons that are called the baby baboons – their names are Ronnie, Rica and Rosie. Basically, during animal interactions you just spend time with the animals and keep them company – it’s a bit like having time off really! We also have the lion interaction where we go out with one of the coordinators in one of the land rovers and we park 2m away from the 3 brother lions and just watch. It doesn’t sound like much but it really is an amazing experience just to watch them! We don’t get to touch them – but I didn’t feel like I needed to, it was incredible just to see them so close!
We also have the opportunity to do baboon walks. We take Ronnie, Rica, Rosie and sometimes Abu (another baboon) out to a bushy area and let them walk around – most of the time they are running around and playing with each other and the rest of the time they are on our shoulders either grooming us or just having a look around. Sometimes they bite but most of the time they are just happy playing with each other. We also sit down for a bit sometimes and let them sit on us then we sit and groom them! They are really sweet but a little bit scary because when they bite it really hurts – and sometimes they even bite for no reason at all.
I only ever did one cheetah walk however it was a really fantastic experience. We took Atheno out in the car to a large area and simply walked around with him! We did more sitting than walking, but it was really nice to see him out in the open and to just spend time with him. He also decided to stalk some ostriches on the other side of a fence which was fun to watch!
Doing a sleep out is one of the coolest experiences – I had a sleep out with Atheno the cheetah and it really was one of the best experiences of my life. We went in with our sleeping mat and sleeping bags and lay down on the ground, then after around 30 minutes Atheno came over to us and started to sniff and lick us. The first thing he did was lick all over my friend Martina’s face then steal her pillow! It was very cute though because he stole the pillow then cuddled up around it and used it as a pillow/teddy bear himself! Throughout the night he purred super loudly until he fell asleep and I woke up several times with his face around 5cms away from mine. He also decided he wanted to be the little spoon so I was spooning and hugging him for a while too! It really was amazing. We also have the opportunity to sleep with Oma the baboon, the baby baboons (Ronnie, Rica and Rosie) and the caracals however I haven’t done either of those.
One out of the ordinary (for Harnas) experience I had was seeing 3 cheetahs be anaesthetised so there health could be checked and their tracking collars could be changed. It was very interesting to see the amount of time it took them to both go to sleep and wake up again. I also got to stay behind with 4 other people to watch the cheetahs to make sure they started walking properly and new where they were etc which was nice. Unfortunately there was also a filming team there which killed the moment a little bit but it was still very cool!
I have had a fantastic time at Harnas and I definitely do not want to leave!! I thought 5 weeks would be enough however if I had the opportunity I would definitely stay for longer. I hope by the end of my stay I will have achieved everything I want and experienced everything I wanted to! I’m sure I will J
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