Two Chester University students have escaped uninjured after being robbed at knifepoint during a terrifying attack in South Africa.

The women, who are in their early 20s, were ambushed on Sunday while on a six-week work placement in Knynsa.

The unnamed pair – one from Flintshire and one from Gwynedd – who had only flown out to the country on Friday, were on a woodland eco-trail with a female project co-ordinator when they were robbed of their money, passports and phones by three men – one of whom was armed with a blade.

A spokesman for Edge of Africa volunteer project, which works alongside the university to co-ordinate the placement, said: “Two students from Chester University and one project co-ordinator currently volunteering on community and conservation projects in Knysna, South Africa, were victims of an aggravated robbery whilst working in the Kayalethu area of the township on Tuesday.

“The robbery was carried out by three men, one carrying a knife, which he threatened to use.

“The victims were involved in conservation work, clearing alien vegetation and were carrying pangas (large but blunt blades for cutting branches), which were snatched from them in the incident but which were not used against them.

“The victims lost valuable possessions, cash and documents but, fortunately, none of the victims was physically harmed in the incident.

“All the Edge of Africa team deeply regret that this should have happened to the students in our town and we are deeply concerned to prevent this very regrettable incident from affecting the overall quality of the students’ experience with us.”

The spokesman said full reports were made to the police on the evening of the robbery.

So far, one mobile phone has been recovered and two arrests have been made.

He continued: “We will, of course, provide full practical support to the victims in replacing their travel documents and possessions, and all the student volunteers, whether they were affected directly or not, have been offered trauma counselling and support on an ongoing basis through their stay as they individually feel is necessary.”

A University of Chester spokeswoman said safety briefings and risk assessments are carried out prior to the departure of students.

She added: “The students, both from North Wales, have been spoken to by a representative of the university and both have stated they wish to finish their placements in South Africa.

“They were told the university would fully support them in any decision they made and that if they want to come home we will help facilitate this.

“The girls are shaken up, but have had a fantastic few days prior to the incident in South Africa and want to continue with what they see as an opportunity of a lifetime.”

The particular project the women were undertaking in the woodland has now been suspended.