Working with wildlife in South Africa - with African Conservation Experience

Posted on 4th Dec 2015 in African conservation experience, Africa, Volunteering abroad, my gap-year

Sophie Gates writes about the experience she had working alongside doctors and wild animals in South Africa with African Conservation Experience...

I knew when I applied to study veterinary medicine at university that getting in was going to be difficult, so 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 and do something I may never get the chance to do again.

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 beautiful landscapes are second to none. I soon found the African Conservation Experience website and looked at all of the different projects they offered. I filled out their online application and was contacted the next day with the offer of a place on my first choice of project; the wildlife veterinary experience with Dr Rogers.

When we landed in South Africa we were met at the airport by members of the ACE team who took us to our different projects. I arrived at my project and was met by a member of the host family I would be living with for the next month. The whole family were lovely, so welcoming and accommodating—they even spent their weekends driving us around, taking us to different sites and on day trips. They went to great lengths to ensure we got the most out of our trip, whether it was driving us for two hours to see elephants or getting up at 4am with us to meet the vet for early rhino dehorning.

Working with Dr Rogers was an incredible honour, I got to see and do such a massive range of things I never dreamed I would. I was not sat 100 yards away in a truck watching from a 'safe' distance, I was stood right there with the vet monitoring the breathing of the sedated rhinos and leopards, and even got the chance to administer drugs to the animals. I learnt so much, Dr Rogers is an incredible teacher and always explained what he was doing and why, and never got annoyed at having to repeat the long names of the drugs I couldn’t remember (just make sure you pronounce the 't' in warthog, that does annoy him!). He always encouraged us to get involved, take lots of pictures and even let me take a ride in the helicopter, he is a genuinely nice guy and it was a pleasure working with him.

Every second of the trip, without exception, was perfect. I would give anything to go back and do the month again and wouldn’t change a thing—except maybe never coming home.

To find out more about African Conservation Experience click here