African Conservation Experience

Program Reviews

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Margarida
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I’m a veterinary student and I traveled last year to South Africa with the Shimongwe Wildlife Veterinary Experience. I stayed there for two weeks and it was absolutely amazing!! I wish I'd stayed there a little longer. I can definitely say it was one of the best experiences I've ever had in my life! During my placement in South Africa, I had the opportunity to work with an incredible team and participate in a variety of different procedures with several african mammals. I also worked in the clinic with small and exotic animals! During my last weekend, we went to Kruger National Park!
ACE work was amazing, they were always there to help me and gave me support with everything I needed. It is a safe experience and I learnt SO MUCH.
I higly recommend this to anyone that loves animals and nature and is looking for a once in a lifetime experience! I would definitely do it again!

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would change the duration of my trip! It is such an enriching experience that it's worth staying a little longer :)
Response from African Conservation Experience

Hi Margarida, thank you for letting us know about your incredible experience. The veterinary experiences that we provide for students like yourself give you the amazing opportunity to shadow a busy and experienced wildlife vet going about their daily work. We pride ourselves on working with the best vets and giving all our travellers a high level of support with a focus on keeping everyone safe. It is great to hear you mention this. You very quickly became part of the team and if you do decide to return we would love to put a second trip together for you!

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Katharina
6/10
Yes, I recommend this program

For the volunteer work at Care for Wild I have mixed emotions and cannot fully recommend it to just everybody. I will go into more detail in the following.

Volunteer Work: One works for about 8 hours a day, which mainly includes hard physical work (cleaning the bomas and haying) while the rhinos are in another area. If you have any problems with knees, back, hay fever or dust allergy, probably best not to go there because you‘ll be confronted with it all the time. It’s hard work, so one should know that beforehand. Staff jokingly calls volunteers slaves and honestly that‘s what it feels like sometimes.

Interaction with Rhinos: One gets to bottlefeed rhino babies through a fence 2-3 times a day for about 5 minutes and that’s about all the rhino interaction that one gets. There is no time to just watch the rhinos, or even pet or play with them. This is definitely in the best interest for the rhino! However, pictures on Instagram and Facebook are very misleading as one can see staff members petting and playing with them. But as a volunteer the only interaction one gets is during the 5 minutes when feeding the babies through the fence. There is only little time to observate the rhinos behavior. Again, I completely understand why it has to be that way but the marketing on Instagram is misleading and should maybe be improved, as well as the wording on the website about the volunteer work.Sometimes staff will take you on game drives for about one hour after work, which is very nice and rewards you for the hard work.

Accommodation: Very basic and tiny cabins for 3-4 people (about 6m^2) with bunk beds. Showers are full of mould and there’s quite a few spiders and bugs in the room. One can hear every word the neighbors say as well so definitely bring ear plugs. At night it got down to 7 degrees (September) and that’s the temperature we had in our rooms as well. Most people caught a slight flu because it was so cold and we only had ice cold water in the shower for about one week, which has been fixed after contacting someone from ACE who got CFW staff to fix the issue.
The place puts an emphasis on the rhinos rather than on volunteers which is definitely the right way, however I just try to give new volunteers a better insight before they arrive.

Food: Good food is provided three times a day. It’s usually meat and a side for every meal. If you want less meat and some veggies instead you should opt for the vegetarian option beforehand. Water is provided as well.

Management of volunteers onsite: Staff is really nice but they‘re not trained to manage people. When it gets down to pick things that the volunteers want to do, the one that screams the loudest gets to do the best things. This encourages competition and also bullying. The staff doesn’t really care about those things/ or doesn’t know what to do about it, but that’s probably because they‘re busy with other things. There should be someone who really looks out to distribute things equally amongst volunteers and also encourages a positive vibe within the group.
I found it very disappointing that one half of the group was able to experience the release of rhinos into the wild, where others didn’t even know about it. There was a trip planned for half of the group and staff was told to keep quiet about the release of the rhinos, which has been planned for a long time beforehand. Afterwards people bragged about what they experienced and made a show out of it. This was very upsetting and frustrating for the other half of the group, who wasn't fortunate enough to experience this. It should be either that all volunteers get the chance to experience major events or none of them!

Further, staff should take more care about people bullying and spreading negative energy, rather than just watching it happen.

Management though ACE: The manager is really nice and tries their best to meet everyone’s needs. Two people wanted to leave care for wild earlier than planned and it was no problem at all.

To sum up, if you want to donate to CFW then do it because it’s for a great cause and they definitely need the funds. If you want to volunteer there, maybe take above mentioned aspects into consideration.

What would you improve about this program?
Clear information beforehand what the work will be about (Cleaning) and that there will only be little interaction with the animals. Better management of the volunteers so that everyone gets to experience the same things.
Response from African Conservation Experience

Dear Katharina,

We at African Conservation Experience greatly appreciate all feedback that we receive.

We pride ourselves on the high level of in-country support that we provide all of our travellers with and thank you for acknowledging this. Our Rhino ratings tab is as you say an indication of the level of physical work that a project requires and as you mentioned the Care for wild rhino sanctuary is indeed a genuine working project that provides volunteers with the opportunity to be part of the team as opposed to being a spectator. The projects focus is 100% on rehabilitating the rhinos orphans coming into the centre back into the wild which is incredibly rewarding. We regret that it was not clear to you that we see, and between ourselves, refer to the volunteers as the unsung heroes of Care For Wild Rhino Sanctuary. We have taken your feedback seriously and have discussed this with our team. We want to thank you for your hard work and we'd love to see you back, possibly at our Phinda project. :)

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Mallory
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

ACE was extremely helpful with getting to amd from my flights, i never worried about my travel while with them. My time at Chipangali was excellent, really felt like i was learning a lot and making a difference. I was glad that we were given time each day with the animals and that we were able to also have free time to rest and have fun before and after dinner. Also was greatful that we were allowed to be involved more in specific areas of interest if we wanted to. The research trips were information and the rhino walk was certainly something that i would do again.
The rooms were nice and spacious and had good storage. There was always snacks available even between meals so there was never a food issue. They were very informative and gave good directions.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
When we went on the rhino walk seeing the cave paintings and hearing about how old they were was quite a shock
Response from African Conservation Experience

Thank you for your feedback and for rating us so highly. We are so pleased that you had an amazing time and found ACE to be supportive of your conservation trip. We pride ourselves on getting to know all of our volunteers and ensuring that the projects they join align with their individual aspirations.

African Conservation Experience supports our projects in many different ways. The physical and financial contributions from you and your fellow volunteers bring invaluable support to enable year-round resources for the much-needed work; ACE has also been a key partner in setting up many of our projects including donating sizeable grants and interest-free loans. Our experienced and qualified team on the ground regularly visit and meet with the project management on-site to discuss the programs, and develop ways in which the project can be improved for volunteers and assist with staff training. This long term and continuous support has meant that our valuable conservation projects have been able to increase the impact they have on conservation and wildlife.

Thanks again for your feedback Malory, we wish you all the best and everyone would love to see you back!

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Jamie
2/10
No, I don't recommend this program

My trip to the Blouberg clinic with the African Conservation Experience was very poor. There was both an opportunity to go and see a lion and a rhino during my stay which the team members couldn't be bothered taking us to. On top of this, the meals weren't all covered, the vets never explained what was happening (why we were doing certain things to the animals) and there were in total anywhere between 6 - 8 people sharing one, small 2 bedroom house and one bathroom.
I was lead on to believe that this would be a great adventure, that I would be 'kept on my toes' and was doing great work to help wild animals. All I saw on this trip were farm animals, far from what was promised, and the overall value of the trip was not acceptable. $4,300 and they couldn't even cover all meals.
DO NOT trust these people with your money, they are vultures.

What would you improve about this program?
Deliver on what you promised.
Response from African Conservation Experience

Thank you Jamie for your feedback. Whilst we are disappointed to read your comments, we do appreciate your point of view and thank you for taking the time to provide your feedback.

It is clear from your comments that you did not enjoy your veterinary placement and we’re sorry to hear that. We ensure that we have an in depth conversation with every one of our travellers before they book their conservation trip to ensure that the placement they choose matches their expectations. After conversations with our sales team, including deciding between various projects you chose one of our veterinary placements.
During your placement you were exposed to valuable hands-on veterinary experience with a team of real vets. Work that you were involved in included chemical immobilisations to treat wounds, disease testing and parasite control. The team also work with production animals, something I believe you were keen to have exposure to and did. The busy team of vets that you were working with go out of their way to give students as much access as possible to all of the veterinary cases that they have. If on a rare occasion students are not able to visit an animal, this is for very specific reasons and not because the vets cannot be bothered. Working with real vets in the field, who will never undertake unnecessary procedures means that your workload will be varied and educational but the types of work and the animals you are working on are never guaranteed.

All meals, as well as your accommodation, internal transfers and 24/7 support from our in-country team are all included in our placements. The only exception to this being if you visit a local restaurant during your free time.

From the time that you set foot on South African soil you had 24/7 support from our in-country team. They are available to all of our travellers to ensure that they get the most out of their experience. It was not until your day of departure that they heard from you, which meant that they were not given the opportunity to either address your issues or to move you to a project which better matched your expectations.

Our vet placements provide valuable hands-on experience to our travellers, many of whom are considering veterinary as a career option or are currently studying veterinary sciences and wish to gain some real experience with African wildlife. We have been working with the vets you were placed with for 8 years and whilst we understand that it was not what you wished it to be, we have received much positive feedback from previous travellers.

We do wish you all the best in your future career. Both us, the vets and people on the ground could see your passion and they truly wish you all the best.

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Kyle
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Traveling with ACE to the Okavango Delta in Botswana was an amazing experience. I traveled to Concession 43 in June 2017 to work on a elephant and predator study, which included several days stay on an island in the Okavango.

While there we worked with local researchers to measure abundance of a variety of game on the concession. This included lion, leopard, gemsbok, roan, wild dog, and many other species. During my stay we saw several hundred elephant, something that is now impossible throughout most of Africa.

The typical days were variable, and usually included several hours of game drives to conduct line transects to collect data for use in a multi-year survey of the area. This trips can be rough at times, as the trails are unkept and the temperature changes dramatically throughout the day.

The team I worked with was excellent, and ACE's expedition staff is second-to-none. The staff is highly experienced in conservation work and knowledgeable of the region. Planning the trip and arriving on location was easy, as their office staff was helpful every step of the process.

I highly recommend traveling with ACE to the region. The trip was unlike any other, and a valuable experience for conservationists and adventurers alike.

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Pamela
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Chipangali and actually felt much safer in the country than I anticipated before my trip. One of the little stories I would like to share (and there are many) is that whilst myself and another volunteer were busy cleaning the lion cages on a really hot day which was a great experience in itself working so close to these majestic animals but in a very safe environment because of the lock down system within the cages - we returned for a lunch break to find 5 of our fellow volunteers all in the pool outside the main house. They had 6 hand reared ducklings with them in the swimming pool giving them their first swimming lesson and they were lining them up and having them race to the other side of the pool to declare the winner of the duck race. There was something so funny and yet caring about it in a sanctuary that has so many charismatic animals - these lovely baby ducklings were bringing so much joy and were equally cared for.

What would you improve about this program?
I did find the days fairly chaotic but that's the nature of working with wildlife your day depends on what is happening at the time and can change very rapidly - however we did seem to get mixed messages from different staff at times at to what was happening - its no big deal and nice to be spontaneous but for the volunteer who likes a routine it could be a bit of a shock
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Rachelle
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This was my first solo trip ever and it could not have been more ideal. South Africa may have a bit of a reputation but had always felt completely safe since I had arrived. I did have some problems with my luggage going missing but Martin straightened it all out.
I participated in the Shimongwe vet program with Dr.Kreil and the Phinda wildlife management.
To get to the vet placement we drove approx four hours out of Johannesburg. Our host Family was Alfie and Jackie and they could not have been more fantastic, and so much fun. With Dr.Kriel we experienced clinic life and getting to go out on calls. He got us to be very hands on which really made the experience powerful. I would this recommend for anyone interested in veterinary medicine.
To get to Phinda you fly to Richards bay from jo-burg. Then a 3 hour drive out to the reserve. I personally loved Phinda, it was so amazing and educational to see these animals interacting. The amazing thing about this one is you get to see so much behind the scene that normal safari goers don't get usually see. Everyone at the researcher house was so much fun and so kind.
I honestly could not recommend ACE enough. It has left me with such a lasting impression and I miss SA practically everyday. I know I will return to the country, because of such an amazing time!

What would you improve about this program?
I honestly don't have any suggestions.
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Tiana
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I went to the Moholoholo Rehab centre in South Africa and my biggest regret was that I didn't stay longer. I have always dreamed of working with lions, servals, cheetahs, rinos, giraffes, and hyenas but I had no idea I would be able to work with all of them in one place. We helped relocate young leopards, bottle-fed baby rinks, giraffes and sables, and in my down time took pictures and played with the servals, baby honey badger and all the other amazing animals on site. Trips to waterfalls and canyon tours as well as horse back and buggy tours of Kruger were also offered (for a very reasonable price). As spectacular as the animals were, the staff and other volunteers made the experience that much better. I am making it my mission to go back and bring my friends with me some time soon!

What would you improve about this program?
The food could have been better but it was good enough!
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Rachel
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Animals I encountered:
Rhino, Lion, Leopard, Giraffe, Buffalo, Kudu, Sable, Roan, Eland, Gemsbuck, Nyala, Wildebeest, Zebra, Ostrich, Baboon, Elephant, Hippo.

I was able to give injections (muscular and venous) to these animals and treat them at the age of 17 - what more can I say? If you have the means, this project is totally mind blowing and will give you some of the best experiences of your life. I went on the Shimongwe Limpopo project for 4 weeks and had the best time - I want to go back already!
Alfie and Jackie will take care of you like you're their own children, and you will feel very welcome and eat good food. Niel the vet will teach you about anything you're interested in, and show you how to carry out everything you'll be getting involved with. You should be outgoing and enthusiastic to get the most out of this project. You will also gain a fair amount of small animal clinical work, as Niel has his own clinic where consultations and surgeries take place.

Good luck and enjoy!

Rachel

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Katie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

After spending two months and 1 day in South Africa working with ACE there was a HUGE part of me that never would have left. The first project, Khulula Care for Wild, supplied me with an experience I will carry with me for an eternity. If you don't mind early mornings and long days that is... The work is hard, but the people you meet you'll not want to say goodbye to. This project is a big eye opener to the reality of South Africa, both people and animals, but with a willingness to learn and accept your surroundings it becomes a beautiful place to work. After working with orphaned White Rhino for four weeks, vervet monkeys and many other animals, I can easily say that it was completely worth the money.
The second project, Hanchi conservation experience, simply topped off my trip. I met people I will never forget, who opened my eyes to so many life opportunities. This project, which involves tracking animals such as buffalo, white rhino and elephants, was just unforgettable. The camp is shared with the Elephant and Rhino tracking project, which I was lucky enough to be involved with several times. The members of staff were fantastic, ensuring we all had the best experience possible. I highly recommend ACE as a program to use, I was entirely safe in their hands and any problems people had were sorted immediately. ACE have all the right priorities and volunteers happiness at heart. Don't think twice about this, I promise it's something you'll never regret!

What would you improve about this program?
If there were any imperfections about this programme they were certainly only minor as I seem to have completely forgotten any of them!