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Tasikoki Wildlife Rescue Center

Sulawesi_trip_426~ Sulawesi, Indonesia ~

Hi, my name is Desiree Winkel, owner and founder of Fitness Coaching. I've been working for years now with Martijn Steffens, a manual therapist who runs his office in the same studio as mine. We work with clients, who are in pain, need to exercise and want to get healthy. This summer I did a one month trip to Sulawesi, Indonesia – something I've had on my bucket list for years!

July 3: Finally, I am packed. My backpack is full of medical supplies sponsored by Dick Luttekes and The Animal Hospital here in Sint Maarten. I am at least 20 pounds extra resulting in me having to repack my bag pack. I throw stuff out and make sure I am not over the 23kg limit. This results in three pants, four shirts, some underwear and all my survival gear and medication in case of sickness. The organization for this trip had taken a while, with difficulty getting all the vaccinations and paper work, but the day finally arrives and I am leaving...

After some major delays in Sint Maarten, Curaçao and Jakarta, I arrive in Manado, Sulawesi, after three days of travelling. It is very hot and very humid outside. I somehow get the impression at Manado airport that they do not get many visitors from outside Indonesia. Man and children are calling me "Mister... Mister." I smile and say, "I am Misses." I point out to them that I do not need a taxi since Tasikoki Rescue Center has organized for me to be picked up.

After two hours in the taxi, I arrive by a big iron gate that says, "Tasikoki Rescue Center". I am a little tired. Not much is seen from the landscape since it is already dark when I arrive. The taxi driver brings me up to the house where the girls sleep in bunker beds and have a sort of living area. Even though it is all very primitive, it is much better than I had expected it would be.

The next morning after a well-earned sleep, the new volunteers have to go to the classroom for instructions on how to deal with the animals in the rescue centre, how to feed them, how to approach them, etc. It is a long morning with lots of interesting information.

In the afternoon, we get instruction on what to do and what not to do at the site. I am a little bit disappointed when it is clear that we do not have as much interaction with the animals as I first thought we would have. They explain that hopefully most of the animals will one day be released; consequently, too much interaction with them will harm their future if they come to depend too much on human. Later that week I understand more as I notice that we could have more interactions with the animals that will never be released.

There is an untold story about my sweet, little, albino, long-tale monkey, 14 years old, and why he came to the rescue centre with maybe another four to five years to live. For sure, he used to do tricks; he is well behaved. He is somewhat angry and most of the volunteers do not like him at all, but Hanniman (see picture) and I have a special bond. Every morning, I bring him something special to chew on or to play with. We become close.

My daily routine most of the time is browsing for "jungle salad" for all the different species of monkeys. Waking up at 5:00am, I start working at 6:00. I go into the jungle and get the "jungle salad." After two and a half hours, I go to the crew house to eat breakfast which consists mostly of fruits like pineapple and papaya rice or noodles. I work till 12:00 making enrichments for the animals, cleaning cages, looking for specific fruits, cutting trees and branches and making toys. I often do the same thing after lunch. Most animals get food at least three times a day.

Sometimes we have a day off. There are trips organized by the managers of Tasikoki or you can decide to do things on your own. Diving trips are very popular as are trips to the volcanoes; sightseeing tours, like going into a cave; visiting the sulphur lake or witnessing the hatching of the turtle eggs or studying a little Indonesian.

Besides the different species of monkeys, we have alligators, turtles, birds, snakes, spiders, deer and pigs. It basically feels like working in a zoo.

The stories they tell us about most of the animals and the abuse they have endured are truly heartbreaking. This is one of the reasons I became a volunteer at the rescue centre.

Three weeks go by very fast. I make loads of friends and learn a lot. Even though you have to pay to work in the rescue centre, it's absolutely worth it. For one thing, you will appreciate what you have so much more: a simple cup of coffee or water that is clean, a shower, a good bed. The love that you feel in return for what you are doing in a centre like this will blow your mind. I am not saying is easy. Some days are hard, but I literally love every minute of it.

If you have questions or need more information about Fitness Training, call me, Desiree Winkel, at 524-7700. We are located on Welfare Road, next to Blast and North Eastern Insurance on the first level of the building.

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