A group of ACE volunteers and staff gathered around a camp fire at night time in the African bush

I have dreamed of coming to Africa to work with animals for quite some time so when I heard about African Conservation Experience (ACE) I knew I had to go!

No matter who you are or where you are from, if you love animals and want to experience a wonderful part of this world, this is the company for you.  

The first week of my adventure in South Africa started at Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre where I worked with the other ACE volunteers to care for the animals at the sanctuary. While I was there I was able to help with different projects such as cleaning a new serval enclosure and remodeling a mongoose enclosure. At Moholoholo I was able to work with amazing animals and incredible people.

My daily work was feeding and caring for species such as lions, cheetahs, owls, eagles, hyenas, leopards, and many others.

My second and third weeks were spent at the Shimongwe Wildlife Veterinary Experience. Under the care of the fantastic vets, I was fortunate enough to assist with 17 black and white rhino horn trimmings, help a wounded white rhino, and transport four cheetahs. There were so many experiences that showed me the fast-paced life of a wildlife veterinarian.

There was never a moment in my entire experience where I felt unsafe or unsure of what to do, I constantly had a guiding hand supporting me and helping me contribute to conservation.

The vets at this project took every opportunity to teach me new things about animal care and medicine as well as answer any questions that I had. I have completely fallen in love with the fast-paced nature of wildlife medicine in South Africa!

While working with the vets I stayed with an amazing host family. They took me in as if I was one of their own family members. My host family was always willing to drive me to the clinic or to a rhino horn trimming site at any point during the day. Throughout my trip, I ended up having more early mornings than regular times, and they were completely accommodating. After long fulfilling days I would go home to amazing home-cooked meals and wonderful conversations with the family.

Side note: make sure to stop by the Great Outdoors store in Hoedspruit to buy Vellies! 

My final week was spent at The Vikela Kruger Conservation Experience where, with other volunteers, I went on game walks and drives. We were able to become familiar with individual animals and herds in the park while recording vital conservation data.

As an Environmental Biology student, I will say one of my favourite moments at Vikela Kruger was going through game camera footage from a waterhole, and recording the species, number of animals, and time of day of the animals that visited the waterhole. 

When I left for my ACE experience I thought this would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I now know this was the first of many experiences I will have in conservation and animal care in Africa.

From the very beginning, the ACE staff were incredibly helpful in planning and personalising my trip.

The South African team were significant in making my trip flow seamlessly because they were there at the very beginning and at the very end of my journey, meeting me at the airport. They always seemed to know exactly what I needed and they provided me with direction, taking away any anxieties that come with travelling to a new country alone.

I don’t believe my words are capable of describing how incredible this trip was for me. 

Thank you so much to Moholoholo, the vets and host family at Shimongwe, the team at Vikela, and the amazing friends I made along the way!  And of course a massive thank you to the ACE team for making this happen!