Group of ACE volunteers relaxing around the campfire
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Mark and Jean Skilling: Two volunteers

Mark and Jean Skilling

🇺🇸 United States

Length of Trip
7 Nights

Project Year

The entire trip was fantastic with not a moment of negativity. From my first communications with the African Conservation Experience (ACE) team; they were responsive, clear, and detailed to make the travel arrangements stress-free. Upon arrival, our transfer from Johannesburg Airport to the partnered hotel was straightforward. We found the accommodations at the hotel to be very pleasant and clean, and the meals were tasty. We even met some of the other ACE travellers that night, which was enjoyable.

ACE organised for us to do an excursion before our volunteer trip even started, where we got to see some of Johannesburg and the green spaces in the city, and it was a great way to start our conservation experience. It was interesting to see the reserve ecosystem so vibrant in the middle of urban sprawl.

Our transfers from Johannesburg to the Phinda Wildlife Research Project were flawless.

The flight from Johannesburg to Durban Airport was quick and easy. The road transfer from Durban might have been long but it was extremely interesting to see the South African countryside and the people along the way. 

The volunteer experience at Phinda was top-notch. The volunteer house was very comfortable, and the choice of food supplied was even better than we thought both in terms of variety and quantity.

We have been to two other volunteer experiences previously which were not nearly as clean and comfortable as Phinda. It was amazing to have hot water, a nice private bathroom, air conditioning, and a daily housekeeper! That was not expected and greatly appreciated!

Mark and Jean Skilling: rhino and bird at Phinda

Our twice-daily jeep excursions to monitor wildlife around the reserve led by the Phinda team were incredibly interesting and entertaining. The wildlife we consistently encountered was frequent and fascinating.

We learned so much about the wildlife, habitat, and the ecosystem! We were able to participate in tracking the recently released cheetahs from Namibia, trim the horn of a rhino, and observe lion matings. All memorable experiences. As a keen photographer, I was able to get some brilliant footage throughout my time around the daily volunteer work. 

I definitely would have been happy to stay at Phinda as a volunteer for longer and was sad when our time there came to an end. I appreciated the enthusiasm of all the monitors, guides, staff and other ACE volunteers that we were lucky to meet. Just a tremendous experience!

ACE was fantastic in coordinating our itinerary and transfers throughout our experience even organising everything for our next stop, &Beyond’s Serengeti Under Canvas in Tanzania.

Thank you for the great, great, great experience in South Africa and Tanzania and I would not hesitate to travel through the African Conservation Experience again. In fact, I’m looking at the Okavango Wilderness Project in Botswana as a possibility for next year. We hold ACE’s recommendations in high regard, and any chance to replicate our wonderful time at Phinda would be perfect!