How a placement works

This section gives you an overview of what is involved in embarking on a conservation placement, from how you start planning a volunteering placement to what you can expect from ACE in terms of organisation and support and what will happen once you are in country.

Discover the inner workings of a conservation placement

How do I get started?

The very first thing to do - if you haven’t already done that - is to read everything on this website! Make sure you browse our project descriptions as well as the information about costs, safety, and flights & visas. After that you should have a pretty good idea of what it would be like to plan a conservation placement, as well as what type of project placement you might like best.

You are then ready to submit your application. You can do this online or by post. And don’t worry - you application does not commit you to anything. It is just an expression of interest on your side and it helps us prepare the best advice for you.

How do I book a placement?

We will contact you after accepting your application and chat to you about the best project choice, costs and dates. Once you are happy with your choices, we will set up your very own conservation experience for you and send you all the extra information you need - from the “small print” terms and conditions to insurance information. If you definitely want to go for it, all you have to do is send us a signed confirmation and a deposit of 295 GBP - or the equivalent in US$, CA$, AU$ or Euro.

What do I need to do before I start my placement?

Once you have confirmed your placement, you can get started with organising your trip. We will actually do most of the legwork on this! Nonetheless, there are a few things you need to put on your “to do” list:

  • You might need to book your own flights or insurance, if you have not arranged them through us.
  • You need to visit a doctor for advice on vaccinations.
  • You need to pay us! The final payment for your placement is due 8 weeks before you travel. If you have applied a few months in advance, which we’d recommend, you have enough time to save some money or to do some fund raising to finance your placement.
  • Go shopping. We will send you a recommended kit list for your placement. Most placements don’t require any special gear, but there are still the odd bits and pieces you might need.
  • Check if you need a visa.
  • Get to know your project and fellow volunteers. We have a lovely facebook page, where you can post messages and check updates from the project you will join. We will also send you a “Flight Buddy” list a couple of weeks before your departure with the contact details of other volunteers who are going out on the same flight or who start at the project on the same date.

What happens when I arrive in Africa?

Travelling from the airport to the project

Once you arrive in Johannesburg airport, our ground manager, Martin Bornman, will meet you in the arrivals hall. He will do a briefing with you and any other volunteers starting the same day, before organising everybody’s transfers. The transfers to most projects are done by road, with the majority using private vehicles. You are driven either by Martin himself, or by his assistant or the trusted drivers of a small transfer company we have used for years. Should the necessity arise, we may at times use reputable public transport. All transfers will take you directly to your project, stopping for lunch en route (it’s on us!) and explaining facts about southern Africa as you travel, so that you get an introduction to this amazing region.

For a few selected projects, we sometimes arrange a domestic flight from Johannesburg, followed by a pick up and transfer at the other end.

Nobody gets lost! Martin will not leave the airport until he has made sure he has met everyone - or at least know where their flight got stuck! He will notify us, and if you have requested it, we will let your family know you arrived safely.

At the project

We have a dedicated volunteer coordinator at every project, who will greet you and show you around when you arrive. Over the first few days at the project, the coordinator and the more experienced volunteers will show you the ropes, explaining the volunteers’ responsibilities, teaching you any skills that you need and generally keeping an eye out for you.

Your accommodation is always provided, although it varies depending on the project that you work at. The accommodation at all our projects is basic but comfortable. Sometimes you will be sleeping out in the bush, which although less comfortable, is highly exciting! Most projects also include your meals or a food kitty. If you do need to self-cater, the coordinators will take you to the local shops, so that you can shop for provisions.

At the end of your placement, we will provide transfers back to Johannesburg airport for you and Martin will be there to see you all the way through to check-in.

How we support you

From the moment you first send us an inquiry, we are always just a phone call or email away. You can contact our office team with any question you have. We’ll be happy to help you as much as we can while you prepare for your conservation experience. Once you are in Africa, we have a dedicated team of coordinators who will look after you - whether you need help with your conservation responsibilities, are feeling poorly or need to get to a bank to get out some money.

If your family need to get hold of you in an emergency, we have a 24 hour emergency phone line, and we can always facilitate contact to you in Africa

How we support conservation with your help

We ensure all our projects are of real conservation value, and by joining a conservation experience you make it possible for us to support projects with financial contributions and hands-on help.

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Your placement cost includes return flights and carbon offsets (if selected), return transfers from Johannesburg Airport to your project, all accommodation, meals (at most projects), transfers between projects if you are volunteering at more than one project, the 24 hour support of our South African ground manager, ACE T-Shirts, and, of course, the contributions to the projects, without which they could not operate. Read more about the costs, where your money goes and financing your volunteering placement here