Askari Wilderness Conservation Programme
At Pidwa, wilderness is not merely a marketing tool; for us, it is a way of life.
Askari needs volunteers to actively contribute to and participate in the daily management, wildlife research and monitoring activities taking place on a game reserve in Africa. The programme fosters the conservation of wilderness and is based on Pidwa Wilderness Reserve in 25 500 hectares of untamed beauty.
Have you always wanted to visit Africa?
Do you have a passion for African wildlife and its environment?
Do you want to make a genuine contribution to conservation?
Would you like to see lions, elephants and many more species in their natural environment?
Then Askari is for you!
Pidwa is well on its way to becoming a benchmark wilderness reserve as it has based all its ideals on mimicking the natural system as much as possible. Unfortunately humans have taken their toll on many wild areas of Africa and natural processes have been affected. The goal of Pidwa is to restore the balance that existed prior to human interference and this requires a little assistance. Askari volunteers are hands on members of the team responsible for all aspects of this assistance from varied reserve management projects to the research and monitoring of the reserve’s flora and fauna.
Volunteers at Askari will experience life on an active game reserve, enjoy world class wildlife viewing, while making a real contribution to conservation and the establishment of a benchmark wilderness area.
Once you have completed your training, you will be immersed into a huge variety of reserve and conservation activities such as anti-poaching patrols, brown hyaena research, cheetah monitoring and habitat improvement to name a few. You will also spend a night under the African stars during sleep-out.Each day brings a new variety of things to see and do, and at any moment Askari volunteers can be called upon to assist with certain situations and emergencies that arise. The work at Askari is divided into 2 main categories:
Reserve management, and Wildlife conservation & research.
A typical day starts around 6.00 am with a morning work session perhaps removing alien plants, repairing an eroded site or removing bush encroachment. After a mid morning breakfast the team heads out again, this time maybe to track cheetah or brown hyaena with the radio telemetry equipment. After lunch the team departs on another activity such as an herbivore age and sex ratio research drive.
Volunteers also take it in turns to carry out various duties on a daily basis at Askari. These include meal preparation, data collection, vehicle checks and fence checks. All ingredients are provided for cooking along with easy to follow recipes so don’t worry if you’re not a master chef!
Depending on the season, events such as prescribed burns and game capture and release take place. Both emergency and planned veterinary dartings also occur and volunteers are involved in all of these if they coincide with the period of their stay.
Our activities are not only essential but also aimed at being educational, inspirational and fun. We are proud that we are valuable participants in the running of an active wilderness reserve.
Reserve management activities
- Prescribed burns
- Road & fence maintenance and clearing
- Game capture and release
- Veterinary dartings & relocations of game
- Reed relocation and improvement of habitats
- Anti-poaching and fence patrols
- Rare antelope breeding project
- Reserve clean-up and alien plant eradication
- Bush encroachment control and erosion rehabilitation
- Building and renovation projectsVegetable garden
- Sleep outs in the bush
Wildlife Conservation & Research
- Predator demography
- Elephant and rhino monitoring
- Cheetah re-introduction and tracking
- Nocturnal mammal surveys
- ‘Project Impisi' Brown hyanea research / hyaena call up surveys
- Rare antelope (nyala, reedbuck, sable) breeding project
- Herbivore age & sex ratio analysis
- Monitoring of spatial demography
- Predator/prey dynamic monitoring
- Bird of prey and migratory bird surveys
- Ground hornbill conservation
Askari is based on Pidwa Wilderness Reserve in the Limpopo province and North Eastern part of South Africa. It is about 70 kilometres from each of the towns of Phalaborwa, Tzaneen and Hoedspruit, and is about an hour’s drive from the famous Kruger National Park. This area is known as the Lowveld, and is rich in wildlife habitat and reserves.
Pidwa is 14 000 hectares in size and is the northern half of the 25 500 hectare Greater Makalali Conservancy. The Selati river flows through Pidwa and carries its most water in the summer months, the rainy season in the Lowveld. The river supports beautiful indigenous trees, and is a favourite haunt of all game, and especially lions and elephants. Pidwa runs breeding programmes of rare and endangered species, including sable, reedbuck and nyala antelope. Brown hyaena, rescued from farmers’ traps have been introduced. Cheetah, eland, African wild cats, and tsessebe are among the different species also brought in.
Volunteers stay in a large and spacious, attractively furnished house in the heart of the reserve. The house is set in a very large garden with lovely big trees, protected from the wildlife all around by an electric fence. The accommodation at Askari offers:
- Each room is en-suite, sleeping up to a maximum of 4 people.
- There is a double room for couples.
- All linen, except towels, is provided.
- There is ample cupboard space for all your bush gear.
- Mosquito nets are provided above each bed.
- The house has electricity, so hot showers and air conditioning are available as well as power points for the charging of those over worked camera batteries!
- All water at the house is safe to drink.
- There is an attractive open plan lounge with big comfy sofas and a dining table for evening meals.
- The kitchen is large and has a breakfast table and benches.
- There is a library and study area where you can work at big tables.
- In the office you can check the schedule for the day, find information on all the reserve’s wildlife, and make your contribution to the data collection.
- Bongani, your “African mother”, keeps the house, rooms and bathrooms clean for us. She will also do your washing … and even ironing twice a week.
- Outside there is a pleasant barbeque area where we spend many happy evenings.
- There are plenty of outside areas where you can write your diary, take an afternoon siesta or watch the animals stroll by. Herds of impala, giraffe, rhino, elephant and lion regularly visit. The rare antelope breeding camps border the Askari garden, so there is always something to watch.
- The garden has a splash pool to cool off after a day in the hot African sun, and ample space on the lawns for frisbee, cricket, football and rugby games.
- A small attractive waterhole, built by previous volunteers, attracts plenty of bird, insect and amphibian life.
- Askari even has its own vegetable garden. Volunteers assist with its up keep so we can have fresh organic veggies with our meals.
- And last but not least, we have finally been able to establish internet connection! Unfortunately mobile phone signal at the house is poor but there are a few 'hotspots' where you can find a bar or two to send an sms.
We encourage you to spend at least 4 weeks with Askari to get the most out of your experience. Longer stays (up to 4 months) are very welcome but the minimum period is 2 weeks. For stays of 4 weeks or longer, your first week will be an orientation period which includes an introduction to important bush skills such as first aid, 4x4 driving, fence maintenance, rifle shooting etc. You will be introduced to research and monitoring programmes and learn the various techniques forrecording and capturing data.
Specific start dates are set throughout the year.