Samantha Croxford – England….click here

SamA month I will never forget! I can’t recommend the Askari conservation programme highly enough! From day one I loved every moment and Ed and Katie go out of their way to ensure you have the most amazing trip! The programme is really well organised so that there is a balance between the wow of seeing an elephant pass right by the vehicle and the conservation work involved to ensure their natural habitat remains. I have learnt so much in my time at Askari and feel incredibly lucky to have been part of this world and the fantastic work the whole team carry out on a daily basis. I am so happy I was able to contribute to this unique programme. Askari is a very special place and I think it’s safe to say it’s stolen a piece of my heart forever.

Wendy Cutting – England….click here

WendyA month in a true wilderness with enthusiastic guides and everything from elephants to dung beetles to discover – what could be more amazing. I am closer to the top of the age range of volunteers and not that fit and I would say do NOT let age put you off – all the tasks and activities are manageable and give such a sense of achievement as you can see the benefits. Katie and Ed are both so enthusiastic and all the staff at Pidwa/Askari went out of their way to make the experience as great as possible for us. Book, come and enjoy – you will not regret this and you will leave a much happier person. This is true conservation, with real wild animals in the most incredible private place.

Sofie Banister – England….click here

SofieI have greatly enjoyed my 2 weeks here at Askari. The team was very welcoming and friendly and I would definitely consider returning as 2 weeks simply isn’t enough time to experience the beauty of Pidwa and all it has to offer. I have seen some amazing things which I will look back on with the fondest of memories from experiencing the elephant darting, not once but twice, to watching young hyaenas run around with flowers in their mouths and identifying some incredible wildlife. These are just a few of the things that have made the past 2 weeks truly special. Thank you.

Dario Piovesana – England….click here

As someone who has been involved in quite a few volunteer projects, I can honestly say Askari is one of the best. Fun, interesting and you leave feeling you have done good with your time. The staff are awesome and make your experience here fun and rewarding.

John Key Powell – USA….click here

KeyAskari was a more than satisfying experience for someone looking to see a great part of South Africa. I think you all do an excellent job of maintaining the reserve and properly teaching the important and current values of wildlife conservation. I will recommend Askari to anyone trying to visit South Africa for its wildlife.

Kate Hewitt – Canada….click here

KateThis experience has been extremely life-changing. The knowledge and experiences I gained here have helped me learn a lot more about myself. The small group sizes allow for a more intimate experience with the wildlife.

Richard Goetz – Canada….click here

RichardI very much enjoyed my time here in the African bush and was so happy to return as the intern. It just goes to show that hard work and commitment really pays off. It was almost 5 years ago since I was last here, so I’m really pleased this opportunity came to fruition. I enjoyed every sighting, big or small. Seeing the big 5 was just the icing on the cake.

Anna McNeillie – England….click here

Absolutely loved my time here at Askari! Complete mixture of learning about the conservation work that is done here. Physical, but rewarding tasks like fence clearing, and incredible wildlife encounters alongside sleep outs and braai’s! Ed and Katie are awesome and so much fun – would definitely recommend anyone to volunteer at Askari.

John Young, United Kingdom………….Click Here

Presentation1At 56 years old, I am the oldest person on the project, but fit in very well. A great bunch of volunteers. The project was very well planned and the day itinerary was also varied and interesting. The knowledge of the staff was excellent and the games at the house and one drive made it fun whilst learning. I would urge anyone young or old with a passion to make a difference for African wildlife to sign up!

PS. This may well be my last trip to Africa as a volunteer. I would just like to say thank you for making it the best.

Luke Harris, United Kingdom……………Click Here

Presentation1Really enjoyed my time here, the staff are great and very knowledgeable. I’ve learnt so much in the short time I was here. The drives have left me with some amazing experiences that I will remember for the rest of my life. They are very personal and exciting. One highlight for myself was the sleep out. What an experience in the open at one with the wildlife. Just a bit upset we didn’t see an animal come into camp :).

Mark Harris, United Kingdom…………Click Here

Presentation1Spent two weeks at Askari. Made you feel very welcome by the staff. I can honestly say I have enjoyed every minute of it. We learnt a lot, had some great sightings and very hot weather!! Would certainly come again and will take away good memories.

Susan van Rijn – The Netherlands….click here

susanI had a great time at Askari! I came to do conservation work but did not realise I would go home with so much knowledge of the bush and many new friends.

Rocks, aliens and wilderness

This day started at 7:15, aiming first for protecting trees. So we went to the old Mica mine, where volunteers, Katie and our brave Norman dig into the little hill, searching for the biggest rocks possible. As Katie said “the bigger the better “, especially when it comes to elephants. On our way, we were lucky to see the only ostrich of the whole reserve. Too clever and quick for leopards, this giant bird is definitely a lonely soldier, but a happy soldier. Newbies had first aid lecture with Ed, concerning all venomous and poisonous animals in Africa. Some weren’t so confident after it ! Old volunteers went for alien plant monitoring. And, at lunch, we had those amazing burgers, YUMMY !! In the afternoon, we went for this lovely wilderness lecture, consisting on watching an amazing scenery at a really good place on the reserve. We have heard lion calling tonight, was near the house, at 9.

Natasha Eastwood – England….click here

Slide3This programme far exceeded all expectations. I learnt an incredible amount about a wide range of conservation areas whilst getting up close and personal with the animals. The team are impressively knowledgeable and passionate about what they do. They warmly welcomed me into the Askari family and I can honestly say I’ve has the best time of my life. I will definitely be coming back to Askari and strongly recommend this place to anyone who loves wildlife, is prepared to get their hands dirty and has a keen interest in conservation.

Shirley Coopman – The Netherlands….click here

Slide2My time at Askari was incredible. We do so many different activities, one day seems like two days. You can’t imagine what is happening in the bush until you see it for yourself. We participate in each task and choice about the bush. You become part of an awesome team where you make new friends. People who share the passion and who want to make a difference. Do not hesitate, just do it. This is adventure!

Jordan Gledhill – England….click here

Slide1Having been at Askari 3 years ago I have been following it’s progress on facebook with Katie’s great picture. 3 years later I am back in South Africa and it would have been rude to not pop into Askari for 2 weeks. It was just as much fun as I remembered , if not even better with the additions of the pool, sable station and the bird loving South African bloke. So cheers guys.

Mike Oldridge – England….click here

This was my second stay at Askari and the only time I’ve gone back to a holiday destination which tells you all you need to know. Different people, different activities and the same result; an incredible experience full of amazing sightings, laughs and excitement and you come away feeling that you’ve actually made a difference. Would recommend to everyone.

Zachary Bogar – Canada….click here

To my dearest Katie and Ed, where to begin? My time at Askari has been much better that I ever could have imagined and that is thanks to you two. The knowledge and experience you’ve given me is incredible, and it’s inspiring to see the Pidwa family work so hard for conservation. I never thought I would have come away with all the amazing wildlife memories I have and that’s thanks to the hard work Pidwa puts into protecting their animals. I will forever remember and be thankful for my time here at Askari, and for having Katie and Ed.

Anouk van den Bosch – The Netherlands…..click here

I wish I could stay at Askari. It was truly amazing. There were only highlights, but there are some that jump out. The herds of elephants, spotting 2 male lions, seeing lots of cheetah and noticing how tall a giraffe actually is. It was an experience I will never forget. Thank you Katie & Ed and all the others that made it fantastic.

Iris Jonker – The Netherlands….click here

It has been a life changing experience to me which I will never forget. I never imagined learning so much in such a short period of time and being able to have amazing sightings and meeting people that made me feel so at home during my stay. “Nature is not a place to visit, it’s home” and Askari has definitely felt like a home to me over the past three weeks. Thank you for that!

Mathis Drapeau -France……… Click Here

mathisWhere to start, and where to end after 4 amazing weeks here?!

Maybe saying it was too short, but that I have enjoyed every minute, every activity, every sighting and moment shared with the Askari family.

I was expecting something good, but it was more than just good. The time I have spent here is one of the best times of my life. Waking up here was a pleasure, and feeling that you are doing something for the wilderness which is today struggling unbelievably.

Ed and Katie are always here to teach you new things about every type of life or vegetation you could be able to see. For that, I wanted to thank them so much.

I will always miss my time here, thank you again for everything Katie and Ed.

Janneke van Kraglingen – The Netherlands ……… Click Here

Slide2I got picked up at the airport not really knowing what to expect and immediately we were Askarians!

Within no time we new arrivals were part of the team. Everybody helped each other. I learnt so much about animals and conservation and the idea of Pidwa. I am so happy that I have been able to contribute to this idea.

The balance between work and relaxing was really great. Even though I am not that sporty, I enjoyed the Volleyball! I also loved the sleep out, the games we did together and the space we gave each other to do their own things. I never saw the animals so up close and in such a relaxed way: Amazing! I learned a lot of new birds and bird calls! Loved it!

This was an adventure, an experience I will never ever forget. I loved being here!

Olga Pozos Alexandre – Australia/Spain ……… Click Here

Slide3I really enjoyed my 2 week stay at Askari. I loved the respect and care the staff has for all animals. It was also fun participating in games and combining chores and fun. I think it is great how Askari not only cares and looks after the animals but also care and looks after the habitat. Askari also teaches the procedures and therefore allows you to feel part of the projet, even if it is checking the fences, monitoring weather, it makes you feel like your participation is also making a difference.

I highly recommend it to any animal lovers, the experience has been awesome.

Askari made me feel like I was contributing to the survival and success of the conservation programme and that surpassed all my expectations. I would repeat it again and again!

Sleeping under the stars

image
This week the whole team to sleep out in the wild with only a camp fire illuminating the surrounding darkness. With the clearest blue sky and not a cloud in sight we knew we were in for a treat come nightfall.

We chose to head towards the Selati River where water has not flown all dry season, leaving only soft sand and rocky boulders.The team set up camp and built a fire for us all to sit around in the evening. We then paired up and played some ‘beach cricket’ and soon discovered the team had some spider-man like reactions when it came to catching in the field! After Ed and I claimed a convincing victory we all set up around the fire whilst we Braai’d (South African BBQ) into the night.

image

Eventually the fire settled and everyone returned to their sleeping bags leaving an incredible night sky, illuminated entirely by stars, satellites and planets. I lost count as to how many shooting stars flew by whilst I laid in the sand facing into the abyss above, simply spectacular.

To ensure we didn’t have any unwanted visitors in the night, each person was randomly assigned an hours watch to walk the camp and keep the fire alight. Fortunately for the second month running I landed the final shift between 0500 and 0600 during sunrise whilst everyone usually stirs. Little did I know that just like last month we would be visited by another pair of curious Spotted Hyaenas who scampered and cackled around the perimeters of the camp site!

Miranda Coobs- The Netherlands……Click Here

Slide1It was an amazing, wonderful informative but most of all a time I will never forget!
Katie and Ed are two amazing people and do an amazing job at Askari. I am thankful to be a member of the Askari family!

Iris Wisse – The Netherlands………Click Here

Slide1Had an amazing 6 weeks at Askari, made a lot of new friends and had some awesome sightings. Don’t want to leave now!
The staff are amazing and always friendly and are always so much fun. I will miss everything about Askari.
Thank You so much for everything!

Morning Lion drive

image

“Lions have been sighted, 60 seconds and we’re off”

We were fortunate enough to recieve a call to a lion sighting not to far from Askari house and we all managed to drop our morning routines at get there in time. We found 2 lionnesses sitting in beautiful sunrise lighting that illuminated their golden coated fur.

A sudden shift in wind direction and a blanket of cloud over the rising sun caused a change in the lions mood, they had a kill in sight. Just 50 metres away from where they both lay were a zeal of zebra moving towards them. Only until what seemed the dying seconds before they were going to pounce did the zebra sense danger and gallop away into the bush. The tension was absolutely incredible!

Victoria Williams – England………click here

IMG_4873My experience at Askari has been invaluable. I have learnt so much from Katie and Ed, although I didn’t realise it at the time.

The message from Askari isn’t just about conservation and respect for the wild bush of Africa, but to have a bloody fun time while doing it. We worked hard, we played hard and i cannot thank them enough for a time I will never forget.

Jake Kitchiner – England……… click here

jakeExcellent programme with the right balance of learning and work contributing to the reserve. Askari probably doesn’t give itself the credit that it deserves.

It opened my eyes to so many new things, Askari and South Africa will always have a special place in my heart.

Fabian Mausbeck – Germany………click here

DSCN3337It has been a really nice experience to live and work next to wild animals. To see them in their natural environment was one of my best experiences I have ever had.

Our group was so pleasant and it was a pleasure to meet every single one. We had a mad time and did a lot of things together like playing cards which made us grow together as a group.

I learnt a lot of interesting things on the game drives. The cheerful atmosphere between the volunteers were to savour from the whole stay at Askari. To be honest I had never thought that I could be interested in birds, but you guys made me like them so birding was a welcome change to all the mammals.

What I enjoyed the most was the unpredictable sightings of lions, elephants etc. I like the spontaneous changes of the schedule when we came along a rare animal. It was nice that we rather enjoyed the sightings than to do the scheduled activity.

All staff members were so pleasent and helpful, especially Katie and Ed. You two mdae my stay so special. It has been a pleasure to meet you and to stay at Askari and to learn so much about the South African nature.

Alastair Thornton – England………click Here

IMG_4869Askari conservation programme was awesome. The staff that work there are a credit to Pidwa. The accomodation is awesome. All I can say is that Askari is lovely and will always stay with me forever, so I thank all parties invloved. 100%.

Mckenzie Brocker – USA …………click Here

mckenzieAskari is a unique volunteer project that has real conservation goals. Whilst volunteering I learned so much you would never learn in another safari type experience. At the same time staying in a beautiful place with wonderful people, made great friends, had lots of fun, and contributed to the real conservation of South African ecosystems. The staff are friendly and knowledgable and the accomodation is beautiful and comfortable. Overall, definitely an amazing experience.

Impromptu Elephant encounter

1.1444216976.elephants-delicate-eye

This mornings plan for the team was to collect hundreds of rocks from the dried up river bed to repair roads throughout the reserve. Once we had filled up a whole bucky (car with an open back) of rocks we drove to the damaged sites. Roads often form tyre channels during the wet seasons due to the water loosening the surrounding earth. So whilst the ground is dry, we fill the tyre channels with rocks so that vehicles can continue to use the roads safely without ruining their steering columns!

1.1444216976.elephant-breeding-herd

After one bucky load of rocks and countless numbers of trees removed from the roads we received a message from the radio that Elephants had been spotted crossing a region of open grassland not too far from our locations. We set off and made it to the open plains where we were treated to a fantastic sighting of not one, but two different breeding herds! With over 40 individuals counted and 2 big bulls located at the rear of them we speculated that their may even have been 3 sets of herds that happened to be moving towards the river at the same time. As photographed and attached to this blog entry, there were multiple calves within the herds, some no older than a year old. At a safe distance and minimal levels of noise, the herds passed straight by us down towards one of the few regions along the riverbed where water still remains.

1.1443973358.elephant-grazing

The African Elephant is the largest land mammal on the planet and can weigh up to 6.5 tonnes and stand 4 metres from the ground. The male elephants, known as Bulls are either solitary or found within a bachelor herd of roughly 2 to 12 individuals. Female elephants, known as Cows form nursery herds. These contain a dominant female known as the Matriarch and any related cows or calves. Cows stay with their original natal herd, whereas males tend to move out when they become sexually mature from 14 years onwards.

Due to the drought, there are now limited sites on the reserve with large masses of water. This often results in a higher density of wildlife within the region and more frequent incredible encounters like this morning.

What a week!

Spotted hyena, cheetah and lion were all encountered this week with each giving an incredibly unique sighting.
041
Our first lion encounter occurred along a dried river bed where a male and female seemed to be relaxing after what looked like a large meal they’d devoured not that long before we discovered them.
DSCN0186
Similar to that of our cheetah encounter who was mid way through devouring its kill. Due to their low level status as predators, after every mouthful the cheetah lifted its head out of the carcass to check if any intruders were planning on stealing its food. Cheetahs use a large amount of energy when hunting and can easily suffer from exhaustion and eventually death unless monitored. Therefore they are prone to giving up their kills when forced upon by larger predators such as lions and hyaena.
189
Finally on Saturday morning we came across a spotted hyaena cooling its body in the rising African climate by submerging itself in a lake. Relative pound for pound in force, the hyaena have the strongest jaw in the African bush. Although we were well and truly within a comfort zone view point, this still prompted our tracker seat volunteer to lift his legs onto the bonnet of the Land Rover!

Hopefully this coming week is filled with more incredible encounters and lots of work towards ongoing conservation projects.

Jess Wood – England………….click here

Picture2Having never done anything like this before I didn’t know what to expect. Nothing disappointed me though we did a variety of different activites but always allowed time to watch the animals. My first day here, on our way to move some fencing, we came across 3 lions in the river. We got close to them and sat and watched them for an hour or so. It was amazing! And slightly nerve wrecking! We were involved with trying to relocate Nyalas, which invvolved having them darted and having to pick them up and move them. It was very hands on and exciting but with a serious element to it., ensuring the animals were okay as they got a little stressed. Something I don’t think I’ll get to do again. The sleep out was initially worrying the hell out of me, but as soon as we got there I felt fine. Whilst we were setting up, I could not believe it, but 2 cheetahs just came trotting up to us and sat with us for a while! A memory I will always be very fond of.
Overall a great visit, lots of wildlife was seen and I found it fun and educational.

Just one of those drives!

Our new group of volunteers arrived this Monday and were extremely lucky with their first venture into the bush! We set off on a drive out into the bush for an obligatory sundowner where we all certainly did not expect to have such an eventful little trip!

Our reserve fence patroller called us because he was ‘blocked by the lions’ as he uses a motor bike to get around the perimeter. Fortunately the lions moved on by themselves by the time we arrived and we were treated to a fantastic sighting accompanied by some picture perfect low level light. Once we had a lovely look at the lion and lioness from a comfortable distance we parked up on the grassland opening and enjoyed an ice cold drink watching the sun go down behind the Drakensburg mountains. Just as we finished our drink we drove beyond the grassland and out popped 2 adult elephants stood beside a juvenile that was a little over 1 years old! The reason you can identify the age of a young elephant is that they are no longer able to pass under the stomach of their mothers beyond the age of 1. Pulling away from the opening we came across an incredibly unexpected visitor, one that we had moments ago expressed our love for them, the Honey Badger! Unfortunately at this point the light had completely gone so we were unable to take a picture and was testament to the team for spotting it in such difficult conditions!

Needless to say the new arrivals were treated to one hell of a first journey into the bush at Pidwa! Hopefully this luck will continue in the coming weeks when we shall be cracking on with some of the ongoing conservation projects

Cheetahs on Sleep out!

Slide1 So this week we had our sleep out session, as some of you may know this involves setting up camp at a nice spot somewhere in the bush before building a fire which we then sleep around. On this occasion we chose the river which is all dried up at the moment as we are coming towards the end of the dry season. The sun was on the verge of setting when one of the volunteers spotted two figures walking close to camp, as they got closer we identified them as the cheetahs ‘Kusala’ and her cub, which is yet to be named.Slide2 What an amazing sighting it was, as both Cheetahs seemed relaxed around us and came within the gas lantern perimeter of the camp, at one point coming as close as 5 meters away. They stayed with us for about 20 minutes before wandering back off down the river, leaving all of us absolutely awe struck for the rest of the evening!

Jess Wood 10th September 2015

Today we set out on the first of our 2 day Nyala moving! The first two males went down without a glitch, however the 3rd male wasn’t too happy… He jumped the fence, well more through the fence, into a different camp where he was unfortunately assaulted by another pretty fierce male. Not to worry though, the vet sorted him out, as well as covering the majority of people in blue stuff. Oh and I (Jess) very cleverly and not so spectacularly walked into an electric fence. I was only checking they were definitely working! Which they are…

We moved 14 Nyalas, all happy in a new home! After that we had a well-deserved lunch break then set out to carry on making the pizza oven. We needed supplies so headed off to get some stones and sand. The stones was a relatively simple affair, however the sand… We headed down to the river where we knew the lions had been chilling out there for a few days. After a quick scan, we were in the clear. We headed down the river maybe about 100metres and started digging. Then we had to turn back around to get off. But oh no, that was not to be. We got stuck in the dry sand, after relentless efforts from Ed and pushing from us guys, Ed had to give in and call in the boys to pull us out. Which naturally subjected him to a bit of stick!
We arrive back at the house with our sand, and start unloading it. Then we tried to work out what we were actually going to do with sand and stones and the whole making a pizza oven. Soon a plan formed, but we were all so pooped, we called it a day and headed for water and well needed showers. Just before dinner we could here elephants casually ripping a few trees apart down near the river, and could see some lightning storms happening in the distance, a storm on the way maybe? We will see…

Esther Cowen – Australia…….click here

estherVolunteering at Askari put me right in the middle of the reserve management experience. I learnt so much about what conservation means today and i could clearly see how our activities were contributing to that. Though it was sometimes hard work, everyday out in the bush with friendly, smart people was a joy. As well as feeling very useful for conservation, Askari was an incredible place for animal sightings. I had some spectacular sightings over my time at Askari. I had fun everyday and saw a side of conservation and the wild that not many people get to see. It was awesome.

The snakes are returning!

SAM_0999With Summer just around the corner we have had a few snake encounters in the last week, as they begin to come out of hibernation for the warmer weather. Firstly, we had a call recently to one of the hay stores by a staff member who had discovered a young Rock Python amongst the bales, these stores tend to attract a few rodents so it is likely that the Python was hanging around to catch a meal after its long Winter hibernation.
A new snake species for the reserve was also discovered recently, a Marbled Tree Snake, this species is SAM_1044mildly venomous, but not known to be dangerous to man, which is good seen as though it was discovered by one of the staff whilst in the shower! This species is known to actively seek out geckos for prey, which are frequently seen on the walls around the buildings trying to catch insects that are attracted by the porch lights. A couple of cool sightings so looks like we may have a big snake season ahead of us!

1 2 3 4 5 8 9