Volunteer on the Endangered Wildlife Monitoring and Conservation project and be part of a team of dedicated conservationists, researchers and wildlife experts working on five wildlife reserves in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province monitoring and tracking endangered and priority species with a focus on African Wild Dog, Cheetah, Rhino, Elephant, Leopard, Lion and Vultures. Wildlife reserves are rotated every two weeks so depending on how long you volunteer, depends on how many reserves you will be volunteering in. This is a very exciting and popular project for which you need no experience as all volunteers will be practically trained up and supervised in their research, monitoring and tracking duties, but you must have a real love of the African bush and the fascinating animals who inhabit it and be aware that you are far from the fast pace of the city. A truly once in a lifetime unforgettable experience

Starting daysStarting days are on set Mondays through the year (please dates below)
Minimum Requirements2 weeks and longer subject to visa requirements. A minimum age of 18 years old and older.
Cost£1400 for 2 weeks and £900 for each additional two weeks
What is included3 meals a day, accommodation, meeting you at the airport, airport collection and drop-off, pre-departure support, in-country staff, 24- emergency help and more.
What is not includedFlights, visas, travel insurance, spending money
Best forGappers, career breakers, families, post-retirement gappers, animal lovers, conservation students, nature lovers, couples, those who love the African bush and its wildlife

Project Description

Numerous wildlife reserves within South Africa cannot afford to fund a dedicated monitoring team due to finances which affect staff numbers. Volunteer and be part of a small dedicated team providing a monitoring service in order to ensure the safety of these endangered species and filling this much needed gap

Please be aware that as these are all truly wild animals that are not human-habituated, no hands-on contact takes place unless under exceptional situations when the animals are sedated and strict supervision of the monitors, other conservation experts and veterinary supervision. The animals are free roaming over large tracts of land to live a natural life and breed as nature intended. You will need to be physically in good health for this conservation project as sometimes tracking is done on foot.

Your daily duties for which you will be practically trained by your wildlife monitors may include:

• The daily tracking and locating of priority species wildlife in the wild, seated on an open 4×4 vehicle, using radio telemetry equipment.

• Mapping the sightings using GPS equipment. You will be taught how to use the equipment.

• Observing animal behaviour (e.g. wild dog pack dynamics) for research purposes.

• Photographing and creating identity kits (for recently reintroduced relocated animals).

• Periodically setting up camera traps at watering holes and game trails.

• Assisting with ongoing game counts if needed.

Occasionally through out the year other activities take place in which volunteers can take part in but this is not guaranteed:

• Radio collaring of animals.

• Notching (identity marking) of animals such as Rhino.

• Night tracking excursions – for example Hyaenas.

• Animal Call-Ups (for example Lion)

• Relocation or re-introduction of endangered species.

• Vulture counts and nest surveys.

• Bird ringing & alien plant control

As you will be volunteering with free-roaming wild animals, it is very difficult to predict what you may be asked to assist with and every wildlife reserve has a specific need and animal that needs extra monitoring and tracking needed by reserve management. Working with wildlife is also unpredictable and volunteers need to realise this and try and be flexible. This also means that sometimes there are very early starts and late endings to the duties of the day, but you will have plenty time at midday when the sun is at its hottest, to have a break to relax.

Each Reserve has a different focus in terms of the work being done. While the project does plan and follow basic schedules, the nature of the work being done dictates that the animals and their environment are our number-one priority, and therefore our schedules may at times have to be altered due to unforeseen circumstances or incidents within this wild and dynamic environment.

The primary function of the volunteer teams with their wildlife monitor, is to provide the vital monitoring service for these reserves, and that does take up most of the time as tracking wildlife can be a time-consuming task!

The opportunity to work on multiple Reserves depends on the length of your stay. If you stay for only 2 weeks, you will work on 1 Reserve, but for every additional 2 weeks you stay, the better your chance of experiencing another Reserve. This is a popular project and only 5 volunteers per wildlife monitor per reserve, so please book early.

Starting dates for 2024

  • 15 or 29 April
  • 13 or 27 May
  • 10 or 24 June
  • 08 or 22 July
  • 05 or 19 August
  • 02, 16 or 30 September
  • 14 or 28 October
  • 11 or 25 November
  • 09 or 23 December

Starting dates for 2025

  • 06 or 20 January
  • 03 or 17 February
  • 3, 17 or 31 March
  • 14 or 28 April
  • 12 or 26 May
  • 09 to 23 June
  • 07 or 21 July
  • 04 to 18 August
  • 01, 15 or 29 September
  • 13 or 27 October
  • 10 or 24 November
  • 08 to 22 December

Accommodation

The volunteer accommodation is shared onsite camps within each reserve. It is basic but comfortable with essential amenities. Bedding is provided but please bring your own towels. Bathrooms are also shared as is the kitchen and dining area and most of the camps have a barbecue area. Couples, families (if family members are over 18 years old) and friends can be accommodated

Food

Food is provided for 3 meals a day and volunteers take turns to cook in the communal kitchen. Vegetarians can be accommodated for. Please let us know if you have any other dietary requirements when booking.

Location

You will need to fly into Richards Bay Airport in the province of KwaZulu-Natal province (known locally as KZN) on the set Monday dates where you join the other volunteers to be collected and taken to your specific reserve. Richards Bay Airport is also your departure point at the end of your placement. There are set arrival and departure times which will be elaborated on in the volunteer project pack once booked.

This amazing conservation and wildlife monitoring project spans across five wildlife reserves in the diverse ecosystems of the untouched Zululand bush. The area is lush, green, and teaming with wildlife with diverse cultures with age old traditions. It is a favourable habitat for many types of wildlife species, flora and fauna and the main focus is on protection and conservation. Most of the wildlife reserves have the Big 5.

The protected reserves

These are the protected reserves and the priority and endangered species being monitored and researched:

• Hluhluwe Section of HiP includes the monitoring of the African Wild Dogs, Lion, Elephant and Rhino populations. During these monitoring sessions, any incidental sightings of other priority species including Cheetah, Vultures and Leopard, will also be recorded.

• iMfolozi Section of HiP includes the monitoring of the African Wild Dogs, as well as Lion, Elephant and Cheetah. During these monitoring sessions, any incidental sightings of other priority species including Rhino, Vultures and Leopard, will also be recorded.

• uMkhuze includes the monitoring of African Wild Dogs, Cheetah, Lion and Elephant. During these monitoring sessions, any potential incidental sightings of other priority species including Vultures and Leopard, would also be recorded.

• Tembe is the monitoring of the Lion and African Wild Dog populations, as well as incidental monitoring of the rare Suni (if elephants are of the most interest to you, this would be the obvious choice as the Tembe elephants are well renowned for their long tuskers). In addition to this, there will generally be 10 sessions of Elephant monitoring during a 14-day cycle. During these monitoring sessions, any potential incidental sightings of other priority species including Rhino, Leopard and Vultures would also be recorded.

• Somkhanda includes the monitoring of African Wild Dogs, Lion and Elephant. In addition to this, the team will assist with Rhino & Buffalo monitoring, as well as conducting camera trapping surveys across the reserve. During these monitoring sessions, any potential incidental sightings of other priority species including Vultures and Leopard, would also be recorded.

• Manyoni is the monitoring of the African Wild Dogs, Cheetah, Elephant and Lion. During these monitoring sessions, any incidental sightings of other priority species including Rhino, Vultures and Leopard, will also be recorded. The monitoring team also occasionally assists with game counts or vegetation assessments on Manyoni.

For more information or to book, either fill in the contact form or please email info@volunteerinternationaladventures.com

“I have absolutely loved my experience in South Africa volunteering with Endangered Wildlife Monitoring and Research, and I am sad that I have to leave in a few days. By the time I leave I will have spent six weeks in South Africa, so I’ve been lucky enough to volunteer at all three of the reserves that take volunteers. My first reserve was Imfolozi, where I saw my first wild elephant before we had even been through the gate! We also saw a lot of cheetahs which was very special. The camp itself was lovely and I especially loved the rock where you could see all sorts of amazing animals including elephants and rhinos. However, my highlight was seeing wild giraffes for the first time and I couldn’t stop smiling all day! My second reserve was Manyoni, and on the first day we saw an impressive male lion lying mere inches away from the car! What I loved about Manyoni was the fact that the animals had never had a bad experience with a car, so you could get very close sightings. My favourite place in Manyoni was the Fever Tree Forest, because it felt magical and was alive with all sorts of incredible sounds and the trees there were breathtaking! I also loved the camp itself with it being a spacious farmhouse boasting a beautiful garden and a lovely terrace. My third and final reserve was Hluhluwe which had absolutely stunning scenery with its rolling hills and glistening rivers. Seeing animals there was a challenge, but that made it very special when you saw them. The camp there was nice, and I liked that the bedrooms had a wardrobe and a desk. I couldn’t choose one highlight, so I’ll tell you my two highlights, the first one was seeing a leopard twice and the second one was seeing the pack of eleven wild dogs! The staff and volunteers alike have been extremely friendly, and I felt like I was part of a family. I would definitely recommend volunteering with Endangered Wildlife Monitoring and Research because they make a positive impact on the world and hugely contribute to the conservation of South Africa’s animals. I just want to say an enormous thank you to everyone involved, it has been an absolute privilege to volunteer with Endangered Wildlife Monitoring and Research, and I can’t wait to be back soon!”

Amy Doherty, British (January 2024)

“I had the most amazing time with a wonderful group of fellow volunteers and wildlife monitors. The monitors were full of knowledge and happy to share. With their help I added 70 new birds to my life list. I saw so many species of Wildlife I had never thought I would see in the wild. Gareth and Chris were kind and caring individuals, extremely well organized and had wonderful dispositions and personalities. I considered it an honor to work with such dedicated individuals. Sharon my volunteer coordinator answered every question I had quickly and thoroughly, most importantly I felt I had a friend in Africa who was always there to support me. She checked in with me often to see if I was enjoying the experience. The experience was way beyond my expectations”

Deborah Simon, American (August 2023)

“What is the best thing about your placement so far?

Being able to see the dogs every day and just being surrounded by nature. 

Your biggest achievement so far?

Proving to myself that I could be happy living a life out in the bush, surrounded by animals and like-minded people.

In your time there so far, has anything happened that has stood out, or touched your heart, or made you laugh?

Meeting awesome people and a lot of self-reflection. 

What experience do you feel you are gaining?

Information from people with more experience in the field and also experiences that I wouldn’t normally have if I didn’t go on these projects. 

Any other relevant comments?

The monitors work so hard to give the best experiences, please be kind to them and honestly just look at the positive parts of the trip and let go of the things you can’t control. 

Please write a short case study to help future volunteers:

Enjoy your time there, take in the animals, sunrises, and terrain of it all. Listen to your monitors and just be kind to them. Bring some good bug spray, after-bite, and books for those afternoons at camp”

Keerthani Rajanderan, Dubai (November 2022)

“What is the best thing about your placement so far?

Being out in true nature, breathing fresh air and surrounded by megafauna.

Your biggest achievement so far?

 Spotting a cheetah over 1km away with my naked eye.

In your time there so far, has anything happened that has stood out, or touched your heart, or made you laugh?

The close up contact with bull elephants and how calm they are, regardless of how potentially dangerous.

What experience do you feel you are gaining?

A greater understanding of wildlife conservation within a nature reserve setting.

Any other relevant comments?

Bring the monitors gifts and tip the cleaner, they deserve it!

Please write a short case study to help future volunteers:

Wake up early before dawn to scan for awesome predators like wild dog, lion, cheetah, hyena and if you’re lucky maybe even a leopard. We saw 4 of the big five pretty regularly, hopefully you will too!”

Skott Pye, United Kingdom (November 2022)

If you are interested in this volunteer project with Endangered Species Conservation, you may be interested in our Wildlife Rescue, Rehabilitation and Veterinary Clinic volunteer project.