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“The trip of a lifetime..”

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Askari Wilderness Conservation Programme
Certificate of Excellence
San Jose, Costa Rica
2 reviews
“The trip of a lifetime..”
Reviewed December 12, 2010

Just in a couple of words…. There is not place or program due to the people who run it, their program, it’s aims scenery and wildlife I would have chosen. Aksari Has it all! Especially Joe and Katie who made me feel at home, they are truly wonderful people who pu their heart out in the wilderness program. I cant seem to find a work that would describe experience other that it will have a warm and very special meaning for me for ever. It is so great I cant stop thinking when I’m going to come back. 10 out of 10 rating – THANK YOU!"

Stayed January 2010, traveled solo
Helpful?
Thank Marcel v
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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English first
Nelson, New Zealand
Level 3 Contributor
12 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
Reviewed December 7, 2010

No, really. I actually slept through them the first few nights, and everyone made fun of me. But what a sound. Certainly not something you will hear in most bedrooms in the world. Although all the big name animals are there, my favorites were the spectacular animals that I didn't know would be there. They were complete surprises and gave me the experience of seeing something I had never heard of before, compared to seeing animals you have seen pictures and videos of since being a kid. This ranged from stick insects to bee eaters to genets to Gymnogenes brown hyenas to "how many kinds of antelopes are there?". And to see them in their own habitat, with on their terms, and to see how they interacted with their environment, and other animals was precious. There is also some structured learning so you get the big picture on what the reserve is trying to accomplish, and the people runing it and guiding you are top notch. Very passionate, and as excited about what each new day will bring as you are. And to contribute in my small way to the conservation efforts there creates a connection with that place that I would never have with a place I simply drove through on a safari. If you want to experience a place, spend some time, experience the environment, meet the people, work together, laugh, contribute to it and it will become a part of you.
My only problem now is figuring out how to get back there!

  • Stayed August 2010, traveled solo
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Helpful?
Thank Dr_fishguy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Waterloo, Canada
1 review
Reviewed December 3, 2010

The Askari Wilderness Conservation Program is fantastic and I can’t recommend it enough. It honestly was the best travel experience I have had. The first time I went to Askari, I was new to volunteer projects, but right from the start you are made to feel welcome and a member of a team that is truly making a difference for conservation in Africa. The staff are incredible and they run the program smoothly and professionally and with complete dedication to what they are doing. The days are well planned with a mix of activities that range from physical work that needs to be done on the reserve to research work that monitors the wildlife for management purposes. Sometimes the days just don’t go according to plan; no one complains though because the new plan could involve new animal arrivals, unexpected maintenance or an amazing animal sighting that you completely lose track of time. At the end of the day, you get back to your cozy house with everything you need including hot water, electricity and comfortable beds. You share a great home cooked meal with some amazing new friends laughing about the days adventures. I went back to Askari for a longer second stay gaining so much knowledge about the plants and animals in the area, conservation methods and how a reserve is run as well as 1000’s of photos of all my wonderful experiences. It was so extraordinary to stare into a lion’s eyes, track and walk into a cheetah coalition and be surrounded by a herd of elephants, not to mention all the other animals you see. All to soon it is time to go but you leave knowing that you did make a difference on this benchmark reserve. The experience will change your life and leave you wanting to return again and again.

  • Stayed April 2010, traveled solo
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Helpful?
Thank vron10
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bath, United Kingdom
1 review
Reviewed December 2, 2010

Askari offers one of the most impressive conservation trips around. Every day gives you a refreshing challenge that involves both animal and plant life. It's the perfect opportunity to really see what wilderness conservation entails andallows you to get stuck in on a one to one basis with the African bush.
The staff are extremely friendly and highly knowledgeable. It’s the best place to gain a better understanding of our planet and all the hard work that it takes to maintain a wildlife reserve. What makes Askari so special is their motto to have a wilderness reserve with the minimal amount of human contact as possible. The programme is highly dedicated to the cause, the staff are amazing, the accommodation is perfect and the whole experience is unforgettable.

  • Stayed July 2010, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
Thank Jadie89
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
1 review
Reviewed December 2, 2010

My time at Askari has been nothing short of magical. I have seen and done things I could never have dreamed of and all under the supervision of friendly, helpful and knowledgeable staff. The program is perfect for anyone with a conservation background and anyone with just a keen interest in the area. No prior knowledge is assumed so everyone starts in the same boat.

It is an incredible place to come to and the perfect opportunity to volunteer. It’s the first program I’ve done that I can wholeheartedly endorse to the extent that I have now visited twice. In total, I have spent 4.5 months there, and running the risk of sounding too cliché, they were the best months of my life. Bar none.

The setting is beautiful and peaceful, the accommodation immense, the food fantastic and the leaders superb. I’m not given to hyperbole, but no words can do this experience justice.

I won’t be able to list all of the activities here, but I will share a few of my favorites.

Cheetah tracking: A couple of the cheetahs have radio collars that can be picked up using telemetry equipment that each volunteer is taught to use. They live in a separate section of the reserve without lions, so once we got as far as we could in the vehicle, we were able to go in and track them on foot and get extraordinarily close to such incredible creatures.

Camp out: I was nervous at first, but this turned into one of my favorites the second time around. Once a month, you take a sleeping bag and various other supplies, set up camp somewhere in the bush and light a fire for warmth and light during the night. Volunteers take shifts through the night to watch out for any nearby game. It was an incredible experience to just be there with no electric fence between you and whatever happened to be walking by.

Research drives: About twice a week we would drive one of four set routes to count and determine the age and sex of all the herbivores we could see. We collected data on it all, which was then inputted and relayed to the reserve manager.

Alien plant eradication: Plants that were not native to the area were the target of poisoning and physical removal. We injected the succulents with a poison and sprayed another alien plant – lantana. We also tried a biological measure in the form of a microscopic beetle (it looks like a white paste).

Road clearing: We took pangas (a little like machetes) and hacked away at the vegetation that was overgrowing the roads. We had saws and clippers, too, but I found they were not nearly as satisfying!

Random sightings: We would never pass by a lion or a rhino just because we were on the way somewhere. We would stop and record data as well as sit and admire the beauty, grace and power before us. Most of the larger animals have identification kits, so we would know exactly who we were looking at. There were also plenty of opportunities for pictures – I came home with well over 1000! Because we were out an about so much, these sightings were quite frequent and sometimes we got some relatively rare sightings. We saw lions, rhinos, cheetahs and more rarely, leopards, servals and other small cats.

There are many other things that I have neglected to
mention, but just listing the activities does very little justice to
the overall experience of volunteering at Askari. I loved being an
hour away from a major town and living in a house that was surrounded
by a game reserve so we could hear the lions roaring and the elephants
cracking trees at night. The light pollution was so low that the stars
were the most incredible I’ve ever seen. I learned to find true south
from the Southern Cross, and we were also able to see the Milky Way
due to clearness of the sky.



The whole place was so well organized – the days were planned out with
everyone having different duties each day (nothing too demanding) and
usually three major activities per day. All the people were great and
I never felt looked down upon for being a volunteer. From Katie and
Joe who ran Askari to Pierre and Sue who ran Pidwa to the students, we
were made to feel welcome and valued by everyone. I would recommend
going for at least two months because the one month goes by before you
even realized you started.

It isn’t one of those volunteer programs where the project is running and the volunteers are extras. Here the volunteers are vital for the functioning of the program. We were always doing something important and were always aware of the rationale behind every activity. I felt like I was somewhere I was needed;
I was making a noticeable contribution and was respected at the same
time. I have participated in other volunteer opportunities in the past and
only realized when I got there that they were more interested in the
money than the cause or the experience. Askari is vastly different
from that. They have an entire orientation series to make sure that
you know why you are doing each and every activity you do. No two days
are the same, so no matter how long you choose to stay, there’s no
risk of getting bored or feeling undervalued.


Everyone there believes in the cause and is dedicated to imparting
that belief upon each volunteer. The volunteers are embraced as an essential asset to the ongoing work at Pidwa and to keeping the dream
alive.
There’s no need to exaggerate what Askari has to offer, because I’m
not sure there’s anything else they could do. If you want to make a
valuable contribution to South Africa’s wildlife preservation, Pidwa
is the perfect opportunity.

  • Stayed July 2010, traveled solo
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Helpful?
Thank wheather86
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cardiff, United Kingdom
1 review
Reviewed December 2, 2010

The time I had at Askari, Pidwas reserve, was the best time I have had. My month stay was jam packed with lots of new experiances that could only be enjoyed while working in a wild game reserve. My experiance of the whole month was the amount of sites of wild game that was seen on the reserve, truley breath taking sites that could only be experianced first hand on the reserve. You will learn a lot about working and staying on a game reserve, and you would know more information by being there to witness it! Amazing. Could not reccoment this more to anyone with the love of wild animals and being there to experiance them up close and personal!

  • Stayed July 2010, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
Thank AB24_10
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Dublin, Ireland
1 review
Reviewed May 29, 2010

I could not reccommend The Askari WCP more. The two months I spent on the reserve were the most unique an satisfying of my life. If you have even the slightest interest in animals then this is the place for you. You will be blown away by the professional set up and complete dedication and enthusiasm of all involved in the project. From day one you will become a valuable member of the team and when your time comes to head home you will look back and see all of the ways in which you have made a difference. Not only that, with your fellow volunteers you are garunteed to have an amazing time and after all of your hard work you will have plenty of opportunity to let your hair down. However, without doubt, the stars of the show are the animals. I could not believe how easy it was to sit and watch them in action. More often than not you would have to drag yourself away. Even the most mundane of animal behaviours became mindblowing and would leave you wanting more. The breathtaking scenery didn't hurt either.
I have experienced other volunteer projects but this was far and away the best. You will become a valuable member of a working team, helping to run the reserve doing everything from tracking and counting the animals to maintaining the game drive vehicle. The accommodation is also excellent. you will have plenty of personal space and all of your home comforts. If you get the opportunity you have to go!! I am already planning a return visit.

  • Stayed July 2009, traveled solo
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Helpful?
Thank neadnan
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Askari Wilderness Conservation Programme

Property: Askari Wilderness Conservation Programme
Address: Pidwa Wilderness Reserve, Gravelotte 0895, South Africa
Location: South Africa > Limpopo Province > Gravelotte
Amenities:
Free Breakfast Free Parking Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 6 Specialty Lodging in Gravelotte
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Number of rooms: 4
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Askari is set within the 25000 ha of Pidwa Wilderness reserve in the heart of South Africa. Volunteers live in a fantastic house accommodating up to 10 volunteers. There are two spacious rooms with shared, dormitory-style sleeping arrangements and a double room available for couples. Rooms have their own bathrooms and the house has a lounge, dining room, office, kitchen and outside area with barbeque facilities. All linen and a laundry service is provided. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Askari Wilderness Conservation Programme South Africa/Gravelotte

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