Safari Park Volunteering – Safari
Finishing up the series of our week volunteering at Safari Park Volunteers in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, the next team we were assigned to was Safari.
You can read our experience on the other teams here:
Volunteer Team – Safari
The Safari Team starts off at 8AM feeding the zebras in their enclosures, and then we hopped onto a 3 wheeled pickup loaded with food driven by our team leader, Salapong. We also stopped along the way to cut off some branches and leaves to feed the deer.
The deer already anticipate our arrival and run, follow, and circle the vehicle while waiting to be fed.
We filled up their feeding troughs with corn feed and hand fed some of them the leaves and branches.
After feeding all the deer, we headed back to the zebra and giraffe enclosures to let them out. Many of the zebras are whining and some even get a running start into the open area once we opened the gate!
Now comes the dirty work of cleaning the zebra and giraffe enclosures. It’s hard labor, as we have to sweep, scoop up the poop into bags (saved for later use for fertilizer) and then hose down the areas. It’s the most physically demanding of all the teams so far, since the poop is so heavy! After about an hour or so, we’re done cleaning up all the enclosures and we have some free time to relax and visit other parts of the Safari Park before we have to return later in the afternoon.
During this time, we were able to visit the Big Cat Garden. To volunteer on the Big Cat Team, you must stay for a minimum of 4 weeks, as each Cat is developing critical skills and need to be able to develop a relationship with the people they’re interacting with. We dropped in on Big Cat volunteers, Matt and Alex, who were working on some enrichment projects and got to hang out with some of the leopards – Somchai, Somying, Hershey, and Snickers.
These cats are much larger and intimidating than the cubs, and we weren’t sure if we wanted to go inside the cages with them at first. Matt and Alex reassured us it was fine, (keeping in mind to never have your back to them), so I went in first. Minh stayed outside, but saw that the big cats are actually much calmer, and don’t pounce you as much as the cubs do and eventually came in. It was nice to spend some time with these beautiful leopards, as the leopard cubs are a lot to handle!
We had a few days volunteering on the Safari team during our week there, and Salapong also took us to visit a nearby temple and grabbed ice cream at a local shop during our free time before having to return for the afternoon shift.
It was time to go back to the Safari Team for our afternoon shift, when it started pouring rain out of nowhere.
It was a nice change from the scorching heat, but wasn’t so great that we had to carry out our duties in the heavy rain and mud. While waiting for the rain to let up, I helped paint some signs for the Safari Team and we even got to name some zebras and giraffes!
Due to being what’s considered a “tall Asian,” I was given the unofficial nickname of Giraffe by one of my good friends when we were younger, so naturally, I had to name a giraffe after myself!
The rain finally let up a little, and we headed out to feed the deer a second time. While we were out feeding the deer, Salapong pointed out one he named “Funny Face” due to his obvious under-bite that made his tongue stick out.
It was due to Funny Face’s distinct look that made us realize that there must have been a hole in one of the fences that needed repairing, since he showed up in a different sectioned off area looking for more food!
We also stopped by to feed this emu, and thought it was funny to see how its legs bend forward to sit down and eat.
And then stopped by to say hi to some of the big cats that have “graduated” out to the safari zone. The large tiger, Fluke, will usually come to the fence when called over to enjoy a back scratch.
Up next, we got to feed the zebras and giraffes! This was even more fun than when we were in the Safari Bus, as we’re out in the open, able to interact with the animals. We fed them an assortment of carrots and cucumbers.
Feeding the giraffes for the first time was a little scary, as they’re so tall and your first instinct is to back up as they approach you. If you back up and they’re already approaching you for food, they won’t be able to see where you went, so make sure to stay where you are to properly feed them! The carrots went quick, but we found out that once the carrots were gone, they didn’t care much for the cucumbers.
There were also sneaky Ostrich there with big beady eyes that pecked at our bowls when we weren’t looking. We tried avoiding them, but they somehow always found us!
Salapong’s favorite zebra, Spot, always made sure to pay a visit and she actually got jealous when we tried to give more attention to the other zebras!
We spent our last day volunteering on the Safari team, and Salapong graciously offered to drop us off at the mini bus office to take back to Bangkok. On our way to the mini bus office, we stopped by a free zoo in the nearby town. The conditions of this zoo were much dirtier and validated that the work the volunteers were doing at Safari Park actually made a difference in the quality and condition of the animals’ living quarters and hopefully quality of life.
Salapong suggesting stopping at a second zoo in the nearby town really showed his love for animals, as even on his time off, he still enjoyed visiting more animals.
After a week at the Safari Park, we felt so physically beat up and exhausted from the hard labor, relentless heat, and constant pounce attacks, but we were also rewarded with truly unforgettable memories and time spent with amazing animals (and people!). Getting to build a relationship with the animals, learn their personalities, and contribute to their well being is such a unique experience and am so happy that we had the chance to do it. The park is constantly working on improving the conditions for the animals as well as the volunteer program. It’s definitely not a “relaxing” vacation of any sorts, but if you’re an animal lover who wants to participate in an unforgettably unique experience with all kinds of wildlife, I’d recommend checking it out – it’s worth it!