I initially found out about African Conservation Experience after searching online for volunteering programmes that would give me experience shadowing a wildlife vet. When I looked into their experiences in more detail I found the Shimongwe Wildlife Veterinary Experience which looked exactly like what I was looking for.
After applying online I had a call with one of their consultants, Georgina. When I spoke to her I knew straight away that I wanted to do the Shimongwe Veterinary Experience because this project would give me the experience that will help me towards my career goal of becoming a wildlife vet. She also recommended doing a split placement and broadening my experience by joining a wildlife rehabilitation centre. She talked to me about Care for Wild and went over the activities volunteers would get involved in and how past volunteers have loved this project. I took her advice and decided to go for it. This was the best decision I made because I absolutely loved this project!
I’m a very hands-on person and I love being around animals. Care for Wild was great because I had the chance to be around wildlife such as rhinos which is very different to being around domestic species which I am used to. It was an awesome experience that far exceeded any of my expectations. It was incredible to be able to feed baby rhinos which I never thought would be possible, and being able to get close to them was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Feeding the rhinos for the first time was one of the best experiences I have ever had!
I then went on to spend 2 weeks on the Shimongwe Wildlife Veterinary Experience. This project was awesome, because I went into it not knowing what a wildlife vet did during the day. So it was really interesting to be involved in surgeries, darting, and even dehorning rhinos. During the rhino dehorning I was also shown how to check the respiration rate to make sure the rhinos were ok. I also got to watch the vet dart and relocate sable antelopes from one wildlife reserve to another. The family I stayed with were so welcoming and accommodating. They made my stay really fun by taking me through the reserve where they live where I saw animals like giraffes and zebras! Sheridan is also a wonderful cook, and I would definitely recommend her incredible desserts.
The support provided was excellent, ACE were there 24/7! If I had a question they would always answer it very quickly. I had no problems, but I knew if I ran into any issues or trouble they would have been there to assist me whatever the situation was. I felt very safe and supported the whole time.
This experience has made me realise that I really want to get more into conservation work. Before travelling I knew I wanted to become a wildlife vet so that I could support wildlife but the experience opened my eyes to opportunities to work in conservation that I hadn’t been aware of. I now not only want to get involved in wildlife veterinary work but also in all of the other aspects of conservation that my eyes have been opened to!
Paying for this trip out of pocket would have definitely been worth every penny as it was such a great experience. However, I managed to fundraise for my trip by selling homemade meals to people in my local community for 5 months before my trip. Fundraising can seem scary but I recommend going out and trying something because people are happy to help support you when it’s for a worthwhile project like the ones that ACE offers!