Askari provides volunteers with a lifetime opportunity that will never be forgotten; 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 17 500 hectares of untamed beauty. In a world where habitat loss is the biggest threat to species it is essential to secure, increase and improve these wild habitats.
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. As the old saying goes, “why reinvent the wheel?”
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; to regain and secure a functioning ecosystem in which wildlife can thrive. 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.
Katie, Stuart and Bronwyn organise and lead the Askari activities, and guide the volunteers around the reserve to experience the amazing array of wildlife.
Following a trip from the UK to Zimbabwe at 11 years old, Katie decided that the African bush was the only place for her. Fast forward 15 years, and following the completion of a BSc in Zoology and Marine Biology, she made the move to South Africa to live out her dream and start her bush career. At Bush Academy she qualified as a field guide with FGASA Level 1 (Field Guides Association of Southern Africa) and then went on to work at Entabeni Private Game Reserve. Here she happily took guests around and taught them about the bush. During this time she gained her theory Trails Guide qualification.
Moving to the Lowveld, Katie started working as a science officer with volunteers on a predator research programme. In 2008 she was offered a chance to move to Askari, and, in her own words, “I didn’t hesitate for a second!”
Katie has a real soft spot for hyaenas and completed her Masters in Biological Sciences incorporating brown hyaena research on Pidwa. Katie has since qualified as a Professional Natural Scientist with the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions. Her specialised field is Ecological Science. When not in the bushveld Katie loves travelling (50 countries on 6 continents so far), sport and snowboarding (although less of the latter in sunny South Africa).
Stuart has had a passion for the African bush since the age of five. This passion continued throughout high school and he went on to study a BSc in Ecology and later obtained a BSc Honours and Masters in Biological Sciences.
Having grown up in a coastal town in South Africa, Stuart also spent a lot of his free time in the ocean, exploring the great treasures that lie beneath. After completing his Masters, he decided to pursue a career in marine conservation. After 10 years of working as a marine biologist, Stuart and his wife decided to seek a job in conservation outside of the ‘normal’ realms of society. They were lucky enough to land a job on a remote island in the Indian Ocean where they worked as Conservation Managers for a few years. Stuart’s desire for terrestrial conservation was sparked in this time and he decided, with a little persuasion from his wife, it was time to return to South Africa.
Back in South Africa, Stuart worked as Project Manager for a long-term research programme on weaver birds in the Northern Cape Province, which housed numerous Masters and PhD students from all over the world. Shortly after this Stuart moved to a 5000ha game reserve in a semi-desert region known as the Great Karoo in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. Although he primarily was hired as the Conservation Manager on this unique reserve, his passion for teaching and guiding shone through and it was here where he decided it was time to get his FGASA Level 1 and move to the Limpopo Province, the epicentre of conservation in South Africa.
Stuart is a keen birder and is also very fond of fishing, which he believes takes you to the most amazing, off the beaten track areas: “there is something special about the sound of the ocean or a river and the peace it can bring to your mind”.
Bronwyn is from South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal coast and has a passion for animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Being fortunate enough to explore several wilderness areas in South Africa as a child, Bronwyn’s wildlife interests developed over the years and this lead her to study a BSc degree in Zoology and Human Kinetics and Ergonomics, continuing on to complete an MSc in Biological Sciences.
At first Bronwyn focussed on the human sports performance field where she was a lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and later worked at a sports performance institute training numerous interns and students. However, Bronwyn’s love for nature drew her back to conservation and she joined forces with her husband and relocated to a small isolated island in the Seychelles to work on endangered plant and animal species.
After a few years outside of South Africa, the pull to return to the ‘real’ African bush was too strong and she made the move back to South Africa to manage a long-term research programme on weaver birds in the Northern Cape Province, later moving to the semi-arid Karoo in the Western Cape to assist with managing a 5000ha game reserve specialising in meerkat/suricate and cheetah conservation.
Bronwyn always wanted to work in a big five reserve so when the Askari opportunity came up, she jumped in with both feet! She has now also completed her FGASA Level 1 training and has a passion for teaching people about nature. She is a very keen birder and enjoys immersing herself in wilderness areas. She also loves sport and even represented South Africa at several woman’s touch rugby tournaments around the world. When not in the bush, she enjoys spending time at the beach with a good book.
Lindiwe and Thandi will be your mum’s on the road. They do a fantastic job looking after the running of the houses for us, making sure we always have our comforts to return to after a day in the bush. Wellex is our gardener and maintenance number 1!…..always to be found in the garden with a smile on his face.