Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Volunteer Report: Mirjam Frey

Everyday at the NCCC is a new great adventure. After the exciting start with finding Pepper, the newly arrived ‘lost’ five year old cat, in the 500 hectare pen, it continued with translating to German speaking guests on the cheetah drive, checking camera traps and a trip to the dunes in Sossusvlei.

We hoped that Spartacus, our only male cheetah, would bond with beautiful Pepper, because for both of them the pen will be their constant home. They are seen together from time to time. After the stressful first week she seems to like her new home. She behaves like the perfect ambassador cheetah for tourists. She is posing, hissing, spiting and at the same time just a relaxed beautiful self-confident cat, which can be approached easily with a group of guests. It is so amazing to see how different the cheetahs behave every day. 
Guests can see the cheetahs while attending either the one- or two-our drive in the morning or afternoon. Some of them don’t even realise what they will experience before they approach for their first time the cheetahs. But then, every hesitation is gone and they are just amazed by how close they can get to the cats. As there are quite a lot of German speaking guests I translate the information about the partnership between N/a'an ku se and the Solitaire Guest Farm, the pen and its purpose and about the cheetahs, and why they are here and what will happen to them. I like these tours. They are a great way to show people this beautiful slender carnivore. And while the guests learn a lot about the cats so do I while translating to them. To see the response of the guests after the drive is the best reward. They always chatting happily away about what they have just experienced with each other on the way back. Even people who seemed a bit unhappy before the drive have a bright smile all over their faces after getting that close to a cheetah.
Apart from making sure the cats are fine each day and feeding them once a week we check on the camera traps. They are all placed in different spots in riverbeds and little valleys. After a short drive always follows a hike. Some of them are shorter, some longer. But the length is not the actual challenge. Much more challenging is the sun. Even a short walk can feel like miles just because it can heat up that much during the day. But after you will be rewarded by skipping through the pictures, which is always quite exciting. Is there a hyena or even a leopard between all the pictures of zebras and kudus? Sometimes you also get funny pictures of the small animals like the cute little rock dassies, which are hanging out in front of the camera. 
Because the dunes of Sossusvlei are just ‘around’ the corner of Solitaire I also got the possibility to see them. One morning my fellow volunteer Mellissa and Matt got up at five o’clock in the morning to make our two hours drive down to the dunes. First we climbed barefoot Dune 45. It was just amazing. Such a great view all over from the top of it. But the best came on the way back: We didn’t take the ‘official’ way; instead we jumped down on one side of the dune. It was just great fun. After the ‘jump session’ we walked over to Deadvlei: A dry salt lake with a lot of dead trees and another stunning view. Our last stop was dune Big Mama – and she was big, but worse to climb it. After another ‘jumping session’ we had to run back to the car, because in the meantime the sand had heated up by the sun and we almost burnt off our feet! It was a great morning in a stunning countryside – many thanks to our great ‘tour guide’ Matt! 

Mirjam Frey.