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This section gives you an overview of what is involved in embarking on a conservation placement, from how you start planning your placement, to what you can expect from ACE in terms of organisation and support and what will happen once you are in country.
The very first thing to do – if you haven’t already – is to read everything on this website! Make sure you browse our wildlife 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 might best suit you.
You are then ready to submit your application, which you can do via our online application, or a good old-fashioned paper application (please contact the UK office to have one sent to you). And don’t worry – your 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.
We will contact you after accepting your application and chat to you about the best conservation 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/ 500 US$, 600 CA$, 500 AU$ or €350 Euro.
Once you have confirmed your conservation placement, you can get started with organising your adventure. 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:
Get to know your conservation project and fellow ACE community. 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.
If your project is based in South Africa, once you arrive in Johannesburg airport a member of our southern African ACE team, will meet you in the arrivals hall. They will do a briefing with you and any other ACE travellers starting the same day, before organising everybody’s transfers. The transfers to most conservation projects are done by road, with the majority using private vehicles or reputable public shuttle services. You are driven either by the trusted drivers of our great partner transfer companies we have used for many years, by Martin himself, or by an assistant. 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 couple of South African projects we will arrange a domestic flight from Johannesburg, followed by a pick-up and transfer at the other end.
For projects outside of South Africa, most of you will arrive into Johannesburg airport and go straight through in transit to take a short-haul international flight to Maun (Botswana), Windhoek (Namibia) or Bulawayo (Zimbabwe). From here you will meet the project coordinator at the airport and get your pre-arranged transfer to your project.
Nobody gets lost! Martin or Natalie will not leave Johannesburg airport until they have made sure they have met everyone or checked everyone has arrived at the correct airport – or at least know where their flight got stuck! They will notify us, and if you have requested it, we will let your family know you arrived safely.
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 your 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 and courses is basic but comfortable. Sometimes you will be sleeping out in the bush, which although less comfortable, is highly exciting! All projects and courses 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 the airport for you. For those based in South Africa, Martin or Natalie will be there to see you all the way through to check-in.
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 our experienced southern African team and 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 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.
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. Now with the power of the internet, and in particular social media, all of you can spread the word about your project and become ambassadors for wildlife conservation! Many of our past travellers have gone on to work in the field of conservation.