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News > Life after Hills Road > Monkeying around

Monkeying around

Recent alumna Caitlin Shortall visits South Africa as part of her gap year
Bowie, a baby vervet monkey
Bowie, a baby vervet monkey
As part of her gap year after leaving Hills Road in the summer of 2015, Caitlin recently went to South Africa to volunteer at Riverside Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, based in the Limpopo Province near Phalaborwa.

1. Why did you choose to go to South Africa?
For a long time I have always wanted to visit South Africa, especially to go on safari and see all the South African wildlife! My main reasons for choosing my project was the opportunity to work with and be very hands on with the animals, and also to get the opportunity to visit Kruger National Park.

2. What were you doing in South Africa?
I came to South Africa to work as a volunteer at Riverside Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre for two weeks and definitely had the best time. The centre caters mainly for vervet monkeys and chamca baboons, but also samango monkeys, a bushbaby, two ostriches, two donkeys, an owl, a parrot and most recently a porcupine!
The centre takes these animals in who may have been pets, orphaned or abused and rehabilitates them to get them to the stage where they can be released back into the wild. The centre itself is split up into quarantine, clinic, food preparation areas, baby cages (baboon and vervet monkey), introduction and semi-wild enclosures. As volunteers, we assisted with the cleaning of enclosures, feeding and general care/monitoring of these animals.
Despite the long days and early starts (particularly with all the babies!), it was so amazing to be so close to these primates, find out more about their habits and start to learn their different personalities. I’m not sure many people can say that they’ve been in an enclosure with over 30 baby vervet monkeys jumping all over them!

You can find out more about Riverside and their amazing work via their website:

3. Did you manage to see much of South Africa outside of the centre?
Although we were working every day, we did get to have some time off to go on the different excursions that Riverside offered. I had the luckiest arrival time as after only arriving at Riverside on the Thursday afternoon, at 3am the next day I was up and ready to leave for a two-day safari at Kruger National Park!
Whilst in South Africa, I was also able to go on the Panorama route in Mpumalanga. With its giant potholes, waterfalls, the Blyde River Canyon and all round natural beauty; we were able to see exactly why it was such a popular scenic route. I also did the Graskop ‘Big Swing’, which was a 68metre freefall in under 3 seconds, on one of the world’s highest cable gorge swings. It was definitely one way to see the Graskop falls!
Apart from the occasional town trip on a Monday or Wednesday afternoon, the rest of the time was spent purely at Riverside. Even when we had the afternoon off, we’d still end up spending most of our time with the babies!

4. What was the highlight of your trip?
A definite highlight of the trip for me was to be able to go to Kruger National Park and see the Big 5. It was truly amazing to see these animals in the wild and we were even lucky enough to see a white lion cub, which is an extremely rare sighting!
Whilst at Riverside, another highlight for me was having a shower with one of the baby baboons! It was also great to meet so many other volunteers who came from all over the world and to sit around the fire for a braai (South African barbeque) on a Saturday evening.
After my two weeks were up I was really sad to leave everyone, all the animals and my favourite baby vervet monkey Bowie!

Below are a few photos of Caitlin's time in South Africa:



Whilst on her gap year, Caitlin has been working alongside fellow alumna Jasmine Hughes and Marketing and Communications Officer for Hills Road, Vivien Brownlee, on the launch and development of the Alumni network. In May she leaves to go travelling for 3 months around New Zealand, Bali, Cambodia and Thailand. She has also recently accepted a place to study Management at the University of Leeds for September 2016. 

What did you do on your gap year? We'd love to hear all about your adventures via

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