I was already familiar with ACE as I’d spent two weeks at Phinda in 2014. However, the Okavango Wilderness Experience in Botswana seemed like a greater challenge in an area of Africa to which I had never been. As before, the travel arrangements worked perfectly with Martin meeting me at the airport and providing an excellent overview of the project we were to be engaged in. Martin is extremely passionate about his work and it is quite motivating to the novice, which clearly I was, to understand the significance of the project and being provided a clear indication as to the contribution you can make. I was also able to meet my co-volunteers. There is something quite rewarding in meeting people who share your views about conservation and like you who are willing to put some of your own time into making some slight difference.
The greatest reward, however, is the privilege of being able to spend time in the bush. While we were under canvas, the camp facilities were brilliant; certainly that would be the impression for anyone who has spent any time camping. My time there was during the dry season and the evidence of migration of animals due to diminishing water holes was clear; and this was recorded with great commitment by our team which bonded amazingly well. The evidence of the cooperation we enjoyed was most noticeable each evening when we shared the duties of creating a meal; and then sharing stories around a camp fire.
ACE understand that if you volunteer to work in these contexts you also hope to enjoy seeing as much as possible of the wildlife which surrounds you. The balance which was achieved in terms of getting the job done while providing opportunities to see much of what Northern Botswana has to offer worked incredibly well. The long days monitoring in the vehicle were always rewarding. In addition, the few days when entered the Chobe and Moremi Game Reserves provided a wonderful set of memories to share with those back home. A great experience which everyone in my group of five enjoyed.
The most significant of sightings was a Pangolin. As rare an animal as you might find in this part of the world. Even our Botswanan driver was elated by this find.