We spent a fortnight at Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in the northern province of South Africa, a 45-minute drive from Hoedspruit.
A few years ago, we came across Kevin Richardson on YouTube and decided to visit both places while in Africa.
We contacted Moholoholo and the Kevin Richardson’s Lion Sanctuary through their web sites and six months later we were in Africa lining up for experiences without knowing what to expect.
Memories of a lifetime
I hoped to have some close and personal, touchy feely type experiences. We got so much more than either of us had expected. And memories to last a lifetime.
Moholoholo is located near Hoedspruit, at the base of the Drakensburg Mountains. It’s on the door step of the Blyde River Canyon, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, Echo caves and Kruger National Park.
There’s a rehabilitation centre and three tourist attractions: Forest Camp and Lodge, Mountain View and Ya Mati.
Volunteers access these places as part of daily and weekly schedules but our accommodation at the rehabilitation centre was more basic than the accommodation offered in the other sections.
We shared our accommodation with the orphans, rehabilitated and ambassador animals that the tour groups came to see.
The rehabilitation centre is home to many animals, with the exception of elephants. Elephants require intensive, specialist care with surrogate parents across extended periods of time.
Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation
Moholoholo has been run by Brian Jones and his family for over 20 years. Brian is a self-taught wildlife carer and conservationist with a reputation in South Africa for his work.
The centre cares for both short and long-term animals. The animals are realised released back into the wild whenever possible. We made friends with six-month-old babies Gerald the giraffe, Olive the white rhino and Petals, a sable antelope.
There was Julius, a honey badger and Maurice, a thick tailed bush baby and numerous big cats, including lions, leopards and cheetahs.
The centre has a long standing and very successful serval breeding project with release of many back into the wild, including private game parks like Shamwari, South Africa.
We saw eagles, vultures, hyenas, a pack of wild dogs, black and white rhino and a caracal with attitude and character called Lucius (also known as Lucifer).
The volunteer program has been operating since 1998 and offers a true hands-on experience. Volunteers are involved with day-to-day activities.
We were essential keeping the rehabilitation centre running with the help of local ‘green men’ who are employed to do jobs like fence fixing and carcass processing.
We fed animals, cleaned enclosures and provided play time for orphaned animals and those deemed appropriate for interactions with people. Call outs, drop offs, visits to and from the vet and availability 24 hours a day, seven days a week was ‘normal’ at Moholoholo.
For example, a baby meerkat was dropped off after being found on the roadside. It was checked and temporarily housed in the clinic and before we left Moholoholo, it was on its way for a role at Daktari as an animal ambassador for school children to learn about and to value Africa’s diminishing wildlife.
Interaction with the animals varied with the nature and history of each individual animal.
Big cats were off limits for cuddles and hugs but, having said that, our experience with Brian’s hand-reared cheetah, Shenandi, feeding from our open hands and having her jump up on our ute or “bakkie” was utterly priceless.
Baby Honey Badger
Cuddling the baby honey badger was definitely on the cards, as was spending time with three bush babies as they flew around their enclosure at night. Bottle-feeding the sable, giraffe and white rhino became moments to treasure forever.
We spent time in our raptor enclosure twice each day and discovered some of the bataleurs loved having their heads scratched, whilst the vultures and a ground hornbill called Dudu loved destroying rakes and other objects of limited usefulness.
The caracal Lucius loved hissing and snarling at everyone while its neighbour, a male serval named Tigger, loved to mark me with surprising accuracy and play with a purple ball, clawing anything and anyone in the process.
We couldn’t go in their enclosure, but a hyena called Luma loved having a scratch around his head, ears and neck through the fencing – an activity that is not permitted according to the black and bright yellow warning signage the fencing. We did sign the disclaimer!
There was never a dull moment at Moholoholo, from hippo runs to walking in the bush with the baby rhino. Be prepared for the unexpected and you won’t be disappointed!
Irene Isaacson travelled at her own expense.