South Africa, and the Western Cape especially, is experiencing the worst drought in nearly 100 years. The area along the coast is desperately dry, and hot "berg" winds fanned small sparks which set off a number of massive wildfires. It took nearly 4 days, hundreds of firemen and women, and millions of Rand to finally control the blaze. Sadly, a dozen people lost their lives and hundreds were displaced, without electricity, water and shelter. Vanessa Randon, our Good Hope Volunteers manager, was in the area to assist with the fire efforts. And has a first hand account of what it was like on the road.
"It was quite unlike anything I have ever seen, the fire was intense, the sky darkened by thick black smoke for miles. At one point the sun appeared only as a red ball in the sky. The heat coming off the flames, as we drove along the national highway was terrifying. You could feel the wind whipping the flames across the countryside, and it shook me to my bones. I was most nervous for the countless men, women, children and animals, who were in the fires path. It was truly heartbreaking."
Luckily the Good Hope Volunteers team was on hand to assist one of our volunteering projects, African Horizon, as they evacuated late on Saturday night. 16 volunteers, including 8 GHV volunteers were evacuated in a terrifying rush, as the flames licked the outer fences of the wildlife sanctuary. It was devastating to see the volunteers’ heartache for the animals they had to leave behind. Animals that they had grown close to and worked with personally over the previous weeks.
Late that night, in the safety of a backpackers in Jeffery’s Bay, news reached the team that by some miracle the sanctuary had been saved. Only a small amount of damage to the enclosures and some desperately scared animals awaited the volunteers when they returned the following day. Needing, more than ever, to volunteer their time and passion to protect and support the animals, and sanctuary they grew to love.
Good Hope Volunteers would like to personally thank those volunteers who worked tirelessly and bravely in the face of such a trial, and who showed their passion and love for conservation by returning to the ashes to continue working.
We would also like to show our respect for the staff of African Horizon, who refused to leave the sanctuary even as the flames came closer. It’s these type of selfless individuals, Good Hope Volunteers would like to showcase and whose spirit we would like to commend. The world certainly needs more people like these.
To be part of the African Horizon project, please contact us.