Group of ACE volunteers relaxing around the campfire
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Close-up of a rhino, Golola Rhino Orphanage and Rehabilitation Centre

Austin Hiner

🇺🇸 United States

Length of Trip
21 Nights

Project Year

I chose to travel with African Conservation Experience (ACE) because I’m changing my career and wanted to do something that was both related to my future and my passion which is conservation. I just left the military and later this year I’ll be going to college to study wildlife conservation. So I wanted to see everything that South Africa had to offer!

This experience definitely educated me on a lot of things, and gave me a lot more ideas in how my degree could branch out into different careers. I also thought it was great that ACE showed me a range of conservation challenges and potential solutions, and encouraged me to think critically about each situation. The variety of options ACE offers is great, and I was looked after and listened to, so the most rewarding experience could be found for me. 

All the way, from that first phone conversation until the end of my trip, the experience was amazing. I didn’t have any problems, the itinerary was well-thought-out, and the projects were very well supported, maintained, and incredibly educational.

I would recommend visiting a couple of projects because they are all different experiences that challenge and educate you in different ways. 

The highlight of my Vikela Kruger Conservation Experience was getting to see so many animals, despite the thick bush. I wasn’t expecting to see many rhinos, but I did, and up close! Seeing the African wild dogs was also just incredible. I know how endangered they are, and to see two different packs was an amazing privilege. We either did game drives or walks every day, and got to experience something new every time we went out. The guide, with his anti-poaching dog, was extremely knowledgeable!

I also enjoyed so much about Golola, The Rhino Orphanage. Obviously, feeding the rhino calves and interacting with them was amazing, but it was just the experience of being around the other rhinos, helping them in such a natural environment, which was so exciting. I couldn’t believe it!

It’s difficult to sum the experience up, because there was just so much I got to see and do. It was a good balance of work and play, as you were also able to relax. The staff at Golola made such a big effort for us, which was wonderful, because I know their first responsibility is to the rhinos, and they’re such hard-working people, but they also organised game drives for us and made us feel at home.

Being around such inspirational people who care equally for the wildlife and the people of Africa, as well as caring for me, was one of the best experiences of my life!