I found African Conservation Experience (ACE) while looking for volunteering projects to take part in during my gap year before my postgraduate master’s degree. I can definitely say that I have enjoyed every part of my experience with ACE. I found all of the transports between the projects and meet-ups ran smoothly, making me feel at ease between the projects.
The projects I was part of were similar, but at the same time very different. The first project I volunteered at, Phinda Wildlife Research Project, had a more personal feel as there were a lot of times when we were working directly with the animals. The second project I was part of was The Vikela Kruger Conservation Experience. It was more observational than Phinda, but we also worked on the environment, such as helping to do bush clearing. We also got to walk in the bush! The Okavango Wilderness Project was my final placement and it was the most different as it was focussed on doing transects.
Even with the differences between them, I very much enjoyed each project. Given the chance, I would love to return to all of them.
I’ve always found it difficult to pinpoint a favourite part of anything, and with an experience like this I find it even harder. I truly loved every part of the trip as it offered such a wide variety of experiences. However the part I loved learning about the most was how conservation efforts are not solely focussed on the actions taken when working with animals and their habitats, but also when working with the communities surrounding the game reserves to help create a connection between the reserve and communities.
There is always going to be something you didn’t expect to see or hear, whether it’s new information, a creature you’ve never heard of, or taking part in an activity like rhino horn trimming. To future volunteers: always expect new experiences when you are there.