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Phinda Wildlife Research Project: 28 November - 12 December 2023*
I was originally planning on going to Thailand for my gap year, however, some plans changed so I was looking around for other options. This is when I came across African Conservation Experience (ACE), and I realised this would be a great choice for me. I have visited South Africa before with my family and it is one of my favourite countries I have visited, and the chance to travel solo and do something beneficial with conservation seemed perfect.
As for choosing ACE to travel with, it was a very easy decision. After reading all the reviews I could see this was an amazing organisation.
They make sure to tailor your trip to your interests. This helps you to also find other similar people at the projects making it social. The whole trip is made and organised for you. I did not worry about a single detail, they had everything sorted.
The choice to join The Vikela Kruger Conservation Experience was an easy one. ACE’s website provided a clear overview of the available projects, and I knew I wanted something adventurous. After my first conversation with a member of the ACE team, who guided me through the options, I was recommended some that would suit my interests. They were spot on, and it was the perfect fit for me.
It gave me that adventurous feel with bushwalks and a chance to be out and about in the wild.
My journey has been full of incredible highlights. I've been lucky enough to see rhinos and even a caracal in daylight. Seeing a caracal out in the daytime was even a first for our ranger!
The Blyde River Canyon stands out as it is such a beautiful place, and it is the biggest green canyon in the world.
The people I've met during this experience have been amazing, and we all had similar interests making it very easy to connect.
Sitting around the campfire after a day of work was a great way to form new friendships.
Before I arrived in Africa, I didn't have specific expectations. However, I did anticipate having an authentic African experience with wildlife and conservation. My experience has completely met that expectation, and you can see that it did not disappoint.
This journey has been a really big personal achievement, as it is my first solo travel outside of Europe. I also have felt I have made a significant contribution to conservation efforts.
I learnt all about how my physical help is going into conservation initiatives, and also the rangers explained how our presence in the area deters poachers. I've been involved in various tasks that helped preserve the environment as well, like taking fences out and clearing roads. It's a truly unforgettable experience that not many people my age back home have had.
To future volunteers considering ACE, I would say definitely go for it! Don’t be hesitant if you are worried about things like travelling solo, it is not a problem at all. You will meet lots of people out here, and they are all in the same position. ACE also makes sure you feel supported.
I have gained a huge amount of knowledge about tracking, wildlife, and the bush, thanks to the amazing guides I've had. They are incredible, I have never met anyone like them! They know everything, they can see a bird 100 metres away or even just hear its faint call and will be like “that's the American Green Wood Pigeon” and then two seconds later it flies past.
This was a really powerful life experience.
Working with them and being out in the bush has made me a lot more passionate about conservation, and my future plans.