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Volunteer of the Month (October) - Harriet Thatcher

Every month we ask staff on one of our Frontier group camps to nominate a Volunteer of the Month. This time it was the turn of our Tanzania camp on Mafia Island, who selected Harriet Smith, a volunteer on our Tanzania Wildlife Conservation Internship. We got in contact to find out what she's been up to and hopefully a little insight into why she is our Volunteer of the Month for October!

Into The Wild: Why did you choose the Tanzania Wildlife Conservation Internship?

As part of my university degree I have the choice to go on a placement year and I thought I should make the most out of such an opportunity. I got recommended to go through Frontier by friends, and after speaking to Frontier's London HQ I was advised that this was a very science based project that would suit my placement well. I had previously done a similar volunteer project and loved it and knew I wanted to do something similar again, having the excuse of doing it as part of my university degree was a big bonus.

Into The Wild: Describe a typical day on the project

The project here is still in the early stages. So a lot of the work we are doing is basic survey techniques to try and catalogue all of the wildlife we can find on Mafia Island. We have set up pitfall and Sherman traps in the neighbouring surroundings and check these daily to record the wildlife. We also get up extra early some days to do bird point counts. More recently we have started work on my BTEC project looking at local bat populations.

Into The Wild: What have the best moments been so far?

My best moment so far would have to be swimming with the whale sharks. Was such a great experience to be able to get so close to such gentle giants. They didn’t seem at all bothered by us being around them at all, was strange to just be snorkelling and then see this huge great shadow underneath you, startling at first! 


Image courtesy of Eleanor Delaney

Into The Wild: Are there any wildlife highlights that stand out?

The wildlife highlight that stands out best so far was watching the turtles hatch. Seeing so many baby turtles clambering down the beach to the sea and cheering on the slower turtles near the end that struggled to make it to the sea!

Into The Wild: What new skills have you learnt so far?

My mum will be happy to know I can now make bread! I have also learnt new surveying techniques and I am getting much better at identification exercises.

Into The Wild: What is the aim of the work the project carries out?

As the project is only just in set up stages we are mainly just trying to create an inventory of all the wildlife we can find around Mafia Island. We are hoping to use this information to do some socio-economic surveys working with the local community.

Into The Wild: How has it been adapting to life on a beach camp?

I am surprised how quickly I have adapted to life on camp sleeping on sticks and washing with a bucket. Having the beach only minutes away is a big bonus, with it being so hot here it is nice to have the opportunity to go for a swim and cool off.... the view isn’t too bad either!

Image courtesy of Eleanor Delaney

Into The Wild: If you could be animal what would you be?

If I could be any animal I would be a bird, just so I could see what it was like to fly. If I had to pick the bird it would be a seagull, they aren’t endangered so I would have lots of friends and they have the best diet of fish chips and ice-cream!

Into The Wild: What are you missing most from home?

I miss so much from home! I miss the simple things such as being able to turn a tap to get water and a seat with a back. However I think if I had to pick one thing it would have to be a toilet with a seat and a flush!

Into The Wild: What do you wish you’d packed more of?

Earplugs! Though I am getting used to the sound of the wildlife as we sleep, the Morning Prayer and the bush babies still wake me up! Bringing only one pair of earplugs with me was a silly mistake.

Into The Wild: Finally, what’s the camp gossip?

That would be telling...

Questions by Maria Sowter

To find out more about Tanzania Wildlife Conservation Internship, or any of Frontier's other projects, placements, internships or qualifications, please visit the website.