So as you know if you have been following me over on my social channels, I have just come back from a trip of a lifetime in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. I was there on a 16-day course called ‘Vets Go Wild’ set up by the wonderful people over at Worldwide Experience and run in conjunction with my new hero Dr William Fowlds. Ever since watching Safari Vet School back in the day the trip had been on my bucket list, so last Autumn I took the leap and booked it, and I do not regret a thing. My experience was nothing short of life changing and one that will always stay with me.
If you are still undecided about joining, or even if you haven’t heard about the course before, I thought I would list the reasons that made this trip so incredible for me.
EMS / CPD
Let’s get the important stuff out of the way first, Vets Go Wild is predominately aimed at Vet Students as part of Extra-Mural Studies, so that is one less placement to sort out and a pretty cool one at that, I honestly think you will hard pushed to find another placement with as much hands-on experience with large animals. Aside from Vet Students, student and qualified Veterinary Nurses are also welcomed onto the course, and it is a brilliant way to rack up the CPD hours, while you cannot claim the full 16 days, you can claim a fair amount. I also found a lot of the lectures to be interchangeable across species.
The course is in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, a country that will have you constantly wanting to go back for more. I talk about my love for South Africa a lot, it is one of my favourite places and holds a very special place, I do believe everyone should experience it at least once. During the 16 day course, you will be fully immersed in South African culture, from traditional dances to the food, to the wide array of wildlife.
During our trip, we worked with three out of the big five – Lion, Rhino and Buffalo, having the opportunity to work so closely with these magnificent creatures was nothing short of humbling. We also had the opportunity to work with Giraffe, Red hartebeest, Waterbucks, Elands and a various other antelope species, Vets Go Wild offered hands on opportunities with wild species that I have not seen offered by any other course before.
Vets Go Wild is a working holiday, while you do get time to chill out and plenty of time to relax on game drives, you do need to prepare yourself to work as well. Procedures can be incredibly stressful, but stress is good, I especially think this is important for the vet students that attend the course, it is a small glimpse into what veterinary life can be like at times and it is essential for learning the art of teamwork in practice.
From the people who work on Vets Go Wild to the other attendees, I met the most wonderful people, people I am sure I will see many times again in the future. Your sixteen days are spent working, relaxing, sleeping and eating with these people, you bond incredibly quickly and in fact, feel quite lost when you finally come home and they are not there.
I am pretty sure during my time on Vets Go Wild I felt every emotion possible, it was an emotional rollercoaster, a good one, but a rollercoaster nevertheless. Working alongside Dr Will Fowlds and his team was a dream come true, to be surrounded and learn from people that are so amazingly passionate about their field was an honour. I have the utmost respect for every single person in his team and I hope I can continue to learn from them in the future. If you are a ‘non-veterinary’ person reading this, who hasn’t heard of Will Fowlds, please click here to read about the amazing work that he is doing.
Another one aimed at the Vet Students on EMS placement, Vets Go Wild gives you many opportunities to practice vital skills such as injections, placing intravenous catheters, as well as taking blood samples and lots more. Although the qualified Veterinary Nurses who attend may already be competent with this, it is still pretty cool to say you took blood from Eland and placed an intravenous catheter on an endangered white rhino right?
South Africa is a beautiful country, but like many other countries, it is not perfect by any means. During our time we were exposed to the side that you do not see when you are there on a safari holiday, we saw the poverty that many people are still experiencing, we met the people that are working around the clock to ensure their rhinos are not being poached then we learnt about how extreme the poaching situation currently is. Worldwide Experience has done a brilliant job of providing a well-rounded moving experience, highlighting their important role in conservation and the impact of volunteering.
Practising Darting from a Helicopter
Hands down one of the coolest things I have ever done! After learning how to put together tranquillizer darts and practising darting a target on the ground, we were also given the opportunity to individually go up in a helicopter to attempt darting down at a moving target – I say attempt as my aim was terrible, but nevertheless, it was an exhilarating experience.
Invaluable Team Experience
I have already touched on this but it is something I feel strongly about. Veterinary work is about team work, everyone member plays a different role that cannot be replicated by a different member. Vets and Nurses are taught very different skills but together it works and gets a job done, Vets Go Wild gave the students a real opportunity to experience this and gave everyone a chance to bring their skill set to their groups in order to complete the challenge at hand.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of the Vets Go Wild course, on top of all the things mentioned we also experienced boat trips to see dolphins and learnt autopsy skills, we furthered our pharmacology skills then got to see drug choices in action, we saw the importance of tracking devices and used telemetry to find cheetah, we shared glasses of wine with new friends over many African sunsets, we danced in the local pub and ate incredible food everyday, and most importantly we had fun and created lifelong memories.
Vets Go Wild will be running again in 2018 and you can reserve your place by clicking here.
Still not convinced volunteering is for you? This should help to persuade you otherwise.