Group of ACE volunteers relaxing around the campfire
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Sophie Gates: injecting a rhino's ear

Sophie Gates

🇬🇧 United Kingdom

Length of Trip
20 Nights

Project Year

I knew when I applied to study veterinary medicine at university that getting a place was going to be difficult. It came as no surprise when on results day, I narrowly missed the grades for my offer to study at Liverpool. I quickly decided to take a gap year and reapply but wanted to make the most of my year out.

I started looking online for gap year trips where I could work alongside vets in other countries. Deciding on Africa was easy, its wildlife and landscapes are second to none. I quickly found ACE’s website and filled out their online application and was contacted the next day with the offer of a place on my first choice of project. ACE organised every aspect of my trip and allowed me to pay in instalments, which made funding the trip a lot easier.

On arriving in South Africa we were met at the airport by members of the ACE team. Despite being so far from home I never once felt unsafe or on my own. I arrived at my project quite late and was met by a member of the host family. I immediately felt relaxed and knew it was going to be an incredible month. The whole family were lovely, so welcoming and accommodating.

Working with the vet was an incredible honour. I got to see and do such a massive range of things I never even dreamed of. I was not sitting 100 yards away in a truck watching from a “safe” distance, I was standing right there with the vet monitoring the breathing of the sedated rhinos and leopards that we were working with and even getting the chance to administer drugs to the animals.

The vet I was working with was an incredible teacher and always explained what he was doing and why.

He always encouraged us to get involved and even let me take a ride in the helicopter! On the occasional day when there were no rhinos to dehorn or elephant to cut loose from a snare, we spent time at the small animal practice watching the different operations.

Africa is a truly amazing place with beautiful landscapes, amazing wildlife and even more amazing people. Africa has and always will have a special place in my heart and I am so unbelievably grateful to ACE for giving me this amazing experience and all the memories that came with it.