A Travellerspoint blog

January 2013

Seventh Day Volunteering

sunny 34 °C
View Southeast asia on Chelsandliam's travel map.

Today has been amazing, the best day so far! This morning Chelsea introduced Tang, another volunteer to the giraffes and Lung Noi, the giraffe keeper. Lung Noi gets nicer every day as the more he sees Chelsea the more jobs she gets to do. He bosses her around the Zebra and giraffe enclosures showing her what to do. He was really smiley this morning and its lovely to have a quiet morning at the giraffes every day. Liam helped clean out the monkey cages and then we went to breakfast.

Wednesday is enrichment day for us and the monkeys. Everyone has to come up with an idea of what to make for a monkey and we submit them over breakfast. We then do a secret vote and the one with the most votes gets made. There were some great ideas but Chelsea’s idea won and Liam’s came second. Chelsea’s idea was a nesting area for the macaque called Trousers to use. We have a forked tree for the enclosure and her idea was to make a criss-cross hammock for in between and put substrate leaves inside for him to forage in. He has been in his cage for 10 years plus and there is nothing for him to play with or climb up so he should love the trees and hammock when they go in. Liam’s idea is a feeder that spins on a rope so the monkeys have to think more when they get fed.

Liam went off after breakfast with some other volunteers to make the ideas, the nest was made and it has turned out really well. Tat (the person who started the volunteer programme) told Chelsea during breakfast that she had a surprise for her. We drove down to the tiger cub enclosure and in the cage were two brand new baby leopards called mocha and latte. They are the cutest thing we have ever seen.

Chelsea spent the whole day with the leopards and Liam joined her after lunch for the afternoon. They are amazing, we sat with them and they just love attention, we bottle fed them but they get so excited for the milk they bite through the bottle and the milk goes everywhere. Then the leopards would not leave us alone because we smelled like milk and they were climbing all over us. The best part though is when they fall asleep on you due to you stroking them, they purr like kittens and cuddle into your crossed legs. It was great for us to spend the whole afternoon together playing with the leopard cubs and they are literally the most beautiful things we have ever seen, little balls of fluff with big blue eyes.

DSCF0836.jpgDSCF0855.jpgDSCF0913.jpgP1020271.jpgDSCF0839.jpgP1020277.jpg

The cubs get taken away at 4.30 so we went back to help with the usual Monkey evening feed. We had the afternoon off from English (we teach Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday)

We have been told that there is a chance that we will be in charge of the cubs. Liam the tigers and Chelsea the leopards, this means Chelsea’s whole day will be feed the giraffes then play with tiny leopard cubs all day. Liam does not think she will ever want to leave as she is already calling them her beautiful babies…….

Posted by Chelsandliam 07:53 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand volunteering kanchanaburi Comments (5)

Sixth Day Volunteering

sunny 35 °C
View Southeast asia on Chelsandliam's travel map.

The 6.30 start this morning was a little easier as we both got to go to feed the giraffes rather than clean out the monkeys. Chelsea took Liam to meet Lung Noi the man in charge of the giraffes and we set about feeding them along with the zebras and ostrich that are also kept there overnight. The giraffes are beautiful (even with the drool) and the males are huge, they could easily step over the fence in their enclosure. They have two giant bowls, one for pellets, and one for greens but once you fill one of the giraffes bowls the giraffes at either side reach over with their long necks and tuck in as well. Once the feeding was over we hand fed them bananas with vitamins inside and then Lung Noi left us and we were able to admire them for a while before going back to help with the monkeys. They have decided that as Chelsea has started to build up a relationship with Lung Noi that she can do giraffes every morning and introduce a new person every day which she is ecstatic about as it is her favourite job.

We made it in time for the last half hour of the clean up then Liam left as he had the amazing role of walking the Tiger cubs from their overnight enclosure to the pen they spend the day in which the customers can pay to enter. Unbelievably this involves putting a lead on the cubs and running alongside them as they bound along. Every so often they need a little persuasion to carry on, so you carry a bag of chicken and dangle it in front of their nose. If that fails then they like to chase a stick. The male cub is very protective of his sister and will only walk forward if he can see her ahead, so if she stops, he stops. It takes quite a while.

Once the cubs were at their pen, Liam joined the rest of the group for breakfast and then we were set our morning tasks. Liam got to spend the whole morning with the cubs; and Chelsea had to photograph information for a volunteer guide. A morning with the cubs involves, feeding them mince chicken and milk, cleaning any mess and sitting in with them (trying all the time not to get bit because it really hurts) and being there to help tourists if they pay to sit in with them (making sure they do not get bit), as well as telling the idiotic tourists not to provoke the cubs. It’s a great job and they are fun to watch and to play with and feed. As it is right by the entrance we also get the chance to tell the few customers the park gets about the volunteer programme.

Chelsea had a busy morning with the camera, she had to photograph every aspect of being a volunteer, this included all the monkeys and leopards and cages, the food and seeds they eat and what if anything can be harmful to the monkeys. She enjoyed a slower paced morning.

After lunch Liam came back from the cubs and we both went off into the jungle by the zoo with Mike, another volunteer to find a tree for Trousers, the monkey in next cage that we are renovating. It took a while to find a tree that would be suitable, it had to be strong enough that he would not break it but we also had to be able to chop it down and carry it back. It was hard work cutting it down with a rusty saw and a machete but we managed it. At one point the tree was almost falling over so Chelsea gave it a push and it almost landed on Mike, but he just about scrambled away and was left covered in leaves. We carried it back and then we both went off to plan our English lesson for tonight before dinner time.

English class was meant to be in the village but the owner of the park wasn’t comfortable with us going down to the village as apparently some teenagers tried to thieve our bike wheel last time (we were too busy to even notice) so the village came to us. We weren’t expecting many people because of this but loads turned up which was amazing. In Thailand they can fit like five people on a bike so we should have known. We decided to split the group in half, the more advanced in one and the beginners in another as their abilities vary so much. Some have very good skills and good vocabulary but some literally don’t know any words at all. Me and Liam took the beginners and taught them some conversational basics like, ‘my name is’ and ‘how are you?’. We then taught them some of the animals in the zoo and played some games to get them guessing and speaking. They like to get up and play and love it when you act over the top and they all laugh and giggle at you. We played a running game incorporating animals and snap and then played duck, duck goose (well we actually played Lion, Lion, Tiger) which went down a storm and they were laughing their heads off every time they picked the teacher to run. They are so cute and even the shy ones came out of their shell which was great. At the end we came together and sang some songs, Hokey kokey, If you’re happy and you know it and Heads shoulders knees and toes. The mahouts (elephant trainers) watched us playing and looked a little worried that their English class might be about holding hands and singing songs.

At the end all the children say in unison ‘Thank you teacher’ and it’s so cute. We love teaching the English school, it is one of our favourite jobs and can’t understand why so many of the volunteers shy away from it as it is so much fun and so rewarding. We can’t wait for our next class on Thursday.

Posted by Chelsandliam 08:22 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand volunteering kanchanaburi Comments (3)

Fifth Day Volunteering

semi-overcast 32 °C
View Southeast asia on Chelsandliam's travel map.

Day 5
This morning was another example of the favouritism for Chelsea. She was given the job of feeding the giraffes their breakfast in their enclosure whilst Liam was cleaning out the monkeys. Chelsea really enjoyed the giraffes and they have quickly become her favourite thing about the park. She met an old toothless man at the gate who didn’t speak a word of English. She followed him around for a bit while he got stuff ready and then when he started to feed she just got stuck in so he knew she wanted to help. By the end he was bossing her around and letting her do everything. He is really sweet and can’t communicate in English so pointed to things and made noises when it was too much food or too little and he showed her what to do. It was such a nice experience. She filled up troughs with pellets first and then they have some veg. They are very different in their enclosures and quite shy and timid so you can’t stroke them as they back off but she got to hand feed them bananas with vitamins inside. It’s really funny when you first walk down to them because they are hungry and drooling and the drool is like a meter long.

DSCF0678.jpg

Whilst Chelsea was having fun with the giraffes Liam had cleaned out 5 monkey cages, a great reason to get up at 6.30am. Chelsea turned up in time for the last monkey, Gramps, who is the oldest of the monkeys here and is the nicest, he quietly waits in his back cage whilst you clean his enclosure and scatter around his food. On her way back she managed to see the some of the parks newest arrivals, a pair of leopard cubs. Liam saw them yesterday, and they will soon be handed over to the volunteer group to look after. They are beautiful balls for of fluff with bug blue eyes.

DSCF0695.jpg

After breakfast we were set the task, with a few other newer volunteers, of building a ladder for one of the monkeys. It was a way of seeing what we were capable of with the hand tools. We were shown the way to do it at first and quickly picked it up. Chelsea was surprisingly good and eagerly worked away and was made the new teacher of hand tools. We had to saw a tree in to 5 equal pieces, around 2 foot long, and then saw and chisel out grooves at either end for the rope to sit in. The most difficult part was tying the knots. We decided to put the ladder in Jam’s cage to encourage him to move around more; however Jam is incredibly strong so we needed it to hold up. Fortunately we have two volunteers from China who came yesterday and seem to be whizzes with knots. They had to show us several times how to tie the knots as they were so fast with the rope.

DSCF0701.jpg
DSCF0699.jpg

We all ate our lunch down by the tiger cubs together and a lot of tourist came to see Blue, the huge tiger chained to the table which wasn’t very nice to see. They climb all over him and take pictures and he just sits there. He makes the park the most of its money but we are working with the owners and the customers to show that the park came make more money with Blue off the table. With the break for lunch the ladder took us up to around 3pm. We had been told that we would be able to go see the elephants and see if the Mahouts (elephant trainers) would let us ride them, but they were out in the jungle so this will have to wait for another day. We spent the some of the time before the evening feed simply collecting dried leaves for the enclosure floors, and we also planned tonight’s English lesson.

The evening feed is better than the morning feed as you get to feed a monkey directly. In the morning we leave the food in and around the enclosure for them to find but in an evening we get allocated monkey each and feed them by sticking a piece of food on a stick for them to grab. Today Chelsea fed King Kong again, and Liam fed Trousers. After the feed we got to see King Kong enter his new enclosure. He had briefly been in yesterday but he shook it all so hard that he broke the climbing frame so today it was repaired and strengthened. He is very happy with it and now has twice the room he had before. We also let Jam in with his new ladder, although he completely ignored it. We will bribe him to use it tomorrow with some food.

The only negative of today was that a staff meeting for the safari park was called at the same time as our English lesson was supposed to be so no one showed up. We are really enjoying teaching the English and have another session scheduled in the village tomorrow.

Today has been another great day, and as usual we are shattered. The days go so fast, we cannot believe we have done five days already. Tomorrow promises to be a good day too, as Chelsea gets to go feed the giraffe’s breakfast again, but this time Liam gets to tag along and be introduced. The idea is that Liam will then introduce someone new the day after so the lovely old man gets used to us being in there with him.

Posted by Chelsandliam 08:21 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand kanchanaburi Comments (3)

Fourth Day Volunteering

Happy Birthday Mum!!!!!

37 °C
View Southeast asia on Chelsandliam's travel map.

Today it is Chelsea’s mum’s 50h birthday so we couldn’t wait to talk to her later tonight. Happy birthday mum…. Love you loads and loads xxx

Today has been a great day. We got up bright and early to feed and clean the monkeys at 7.30am. Liam cleaned the leopards and Chelsea cleaned the monkeys. This job takes all morning as there are a lot of enclosures to do. We work in pairs, securing the animal in the back cage, sweeping and cleaning the front, hiding the food and cleaning the water. We then let them out and do the same to the back. It sounds easy enough but it is hard work and some of the monkeys are quite aggressive or curious so you have to watch they don’t grab you, especially your hair so it can be a little nerve wracking.

DSCF0618.jpg

After we all met for a breakfast of green curry and rice all the jobs that needed to be done were allocated. Liam’s job was to sweep up all the used hay, leaves and poo and make fire pits to burn it all. Surprisingly dried hay and poo takes a lot of effort to alight. Chelsea got allocated the tiger cubs for the morning (talk about favouritism) which she was obviously really happy about. They are beautiful and so cute. Whilst we look after them we are in charge of making their milk, feeding them and making sure any tourists that pay to go in with them don’t do anything stupid. They are surprisingly strong and when they bite it really hurts. They were really playful today so they were jumping all over each other and coming up all the time trying to bite and play.

After lunch all the volunteers got to go on the safari bus. This is the main feature of the park and it is so much fun. You get on a sort of old minibus with all the windows down and have a bowl of carrots as food. You drive through the big open enclosures feeding the animals. The deer take the carrots but the lions, bears, tigers and leopards just lay around in the shade. We saw a tiger swimming today in the small lake they have which was lovely. The most fun park is the giraffes. When you arrive they are waiting at the gate for the bus and as soon as you go in they put their giant heads in the bus for the food. From all angles there are giraffes everywhere searching for food and they are amazing. It is hilarious and chaotic but by far the best thing about the park. They are gorgeous and they let you stroke their heads and necks and are really friendly and tame.

P1020231.jpgDSCF0656.jpgDSCF0650.jpg

After this everyone went off to different jobs. Liam went on tiger cub duty and Chelsea learned how to prepare and weigh the food for the monkeys. Everyone then meets at the monkey enclosures to do the tea time feed and takes a bowl each to feed a monkey. Chelsea fed King Kong who was really calm and nice and Liam fed Jam who was really angry. He likes the fruit so every time Liam gave him a piece of veg he grabbed the feeding stick, broke it in half, threw it on the floor and rattled the cage.

Then it was time for our English class. The class was in the tiny village today so we weren’t sure how many would turn up. When we arrived there was more than thirty people, mostly cute children with pads and pencils in hand. Three of us took the class and we first tried to do it as one class but it was too chaotic so we split into three groups. It was so much fun and the children were so eager to learn. We taught them a few animals and food as we weren’t expecting as may people so our plan to teach opposites was no good as the level of English was very low. We played some games and sang some songs which they all loved. We really enjoy the teaching and it’s so nice to see them all laughing and smiling even the really shy ones.

After we came back and ate dinner in the common room and not much else as again we were shattered. We have decided to stay another week as we are enjoying it. We spoke to Chelsea’s mum which was really nice and everyone sang her happy birthday whilst they made us all jealous eating their Sunday dinner.

Posted by Chelsandliam 08:44 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand volunteering kanchanaburi Comments (4)

Third Day of Volunteering

sunny 37 °C
View Southeast asia on Chelsandliam's travel map.

We were absolutely shattered last night. We are not used to all the work after the two months we have been on the road. Again today was a 7am start so we could clean out the leopards and monkeys, before feeding them. So we were in bed early to try and recooperate.

This morning we swapped roles, Chelsea took the leopards and Liam helped with the monkeys. It takes a couple of hours to clean up and feed them, and this is done every morning. There is one particular male leopard that is ill, the volunteers here think he is terminal and he certainly looks in a bad way. Unfortunately being a Buddhist country, they can not put the animal down, so he is suffering. It's hard to watch but we are doing what we can and giving him tablets in his food to try and make him more comfortable, as well as vitamins etc that he should have receiving for years.

One of the other leopards is called coffee and is absolutely gorgeous. He was originally in the safari park but he was too playful so they locked him in one of the small concrete cages. If you run around the cage he follows and his food gets attached to a pully system so he can jump around for it. He needs a much bigger and better enclosure.

Some of the team left today, and the two who run the volunteers went to Kanchanaburi for the day to meet new volunteers that arrive tomorrow. For most of the day there has been four of us working, mainly carrying on where we left of yesterday and renovating the monkey King Kong's cage. We were given a job each, Liam had to remove a mesh sheet that was attached to the roof of the enclosure and Chelsea had to build a tire swing to go inside. The other two finished off building the climbing rig that Liam worked on yesterday. 

It was going well until we had our first incident. Liam was on the ladder on the side of the monkey enclosure, King Kong is a really strong monkey who sometimes likes to hold your hand and other times likes to try and rag it out of the socket. He kept coming up to see Liam on the ladder and he was staying out of reach, although he grabbed the ladder a couple of times. Liam was removing the mesh and was keeping a knife and small serrated blade in his pocket out of reach of King Kong, however he was also using a pair of small wire cutters that he forgot about when taking some rubbish away from the cage. Within five seconds of Liam leaving the ladder King Kong had the wire cutters in his cage. They had plastic handles which he managed to remove on no time and put in his mouth, all the time Liam was hoping he didn't choke so he wouldn't kill a monkey on his first volunteering job. After a while we managed to bribe the monkey into a small back cage where we could lock him in and retrieve the wire cutters. It was nerve racking but everything is now okay.

Meanwhile, Chelsea had done an amazing job building the tire swing. The tire sits flat and has holes drilled through it with rope coming through that is used to pivot the swing and tie it to the cage. Liam was very impressed, and Chelsea was really proud herself and got to use the power drill.

DSCF0666.jpg

We managed to finish the enclosure today but he will not be going in it until tomorrow when all the team is back to see him. For the rest of the day we collected some seeds that grow in the area that the monkeys like to eat. We also collected some dried leaves and foliage for the cage floors and other small jobs. By the time we had done this it was time for the evening feed. 

In the evening the monkeys are fed through the bars rather than hiding it throughout their enclosure like the mornings. We feed them with a stick rather than our hands and the trick is to not let them know what is coming next, as of they prefer it they will either refuse to eat what is on the stick or rip the stick out of your hand and throw it away. Chelsea then got to hand feed one of the binturongs, they are tame and the team are trying to train them to use as a symbol for the park rather than the chained tigers as they are rare and can be playful. There are two, Wendy and Sydney. Sydney is stronger and more adventurous but Wendy is blind. They look like a little old couple as they have grey faces and whiskers but have big sharp teeth so Chelsea was a little scared but also excited. 

DSCF0622.jpg

One of the highlights of today was the fact we have moved rooms. We were temporarialy in a unfinished room that had a squat toilet and no shower or sink, but now people have left we have moved into one of the nicer rooms complete with western bathroom. 

Today has been another hard day and we are worn out, but we are enjoying it and are looking forward to seeing King Kong move into his new enclosure that we have helped build tomorrow. 

Posted by Chelsandliam 08:34 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand kanchanaburi Comments (1)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 30) Page [1] 2 3 4 5 6 » Next