Amakhala Conservation Project

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Volunteer in Africa on this 'Big 5' game reserve and help to protect a vast array of wildlife through some crucial conservation activities.

Situated in South Africa’ stunning Eastern Cape, the Amakhala Conservation Project is home to a wide range of spectacular wildlife species. Giraffes, zebras, hippos and wildebeest can be found across a sprawling 7500 hectares of reserve, although the main draw for many of Amakhala’s visitors has to be the ‘Big 5’ – elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards and buffalo.

As a volunteer on this project, you will have the opportunity to observe much of what makes South Africa such a special destination to visit as you embark on game drives across the reserve. Rolling hills serve as a backdrop to this beautiful location, whilst any number of exciting wildlife species can be found hiding in pockets of tall grass! In addition to exploring all that Amakhala has to offer, you will play your part by assisting the reserve management team in a range of important activities, from helping to count predator populations to conducting snare sweeps. Your efforts here will support Amakhala’s conservation efforts, ensuring that all the animals on the reserve are safe and well looked-after, and that the ecosystem remains in balance.

In addition to working towards the protection of the reserve and the animals which call it home, you will also have the opportunity to meet members of the local community when you visit schools and community centres! While your involvement with South Africa’s people and wildlife is sure to be rewarding, you can also look forward to a night at Amakhala’s luxury lodge, where you will receive a delicious three-course meal whilst looking out onto the open savannah. This is an ideal place in which to relax, unwind, and to take in all that you have experienced during the project – so why not begin your adventure today?

Situated in South Africa’ stunning Eastern Cape, the Amakhala Conservation Project is home to a wide range of spectacular wildlife species. Giraffes, zebras, hippos and wildebeest can be found across a sprawling 7500 hectares of reserve, although the main draw for many of Amakhala’s visitors has to be the ‘Big 5’ – elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards and buffalo.

As a volunteer on this project, you will have the opportunity to observe much of what makes South Africa such a special destination to visit as you embark on game drives across the reserve. Rolling hills serve as a backdrop to this beautiful location, whilst any number of exciting wildlife species can be found hiding in pockets of tall grass! In addition to exploring all that Amakhala has to offer, you will play your part by assisting the reserve management team in a range of important activities, from helping to count predator populations to conducting snare sweeps. Your efforts here will support Amakhala’s conservation efforts, ensuring that all the animals on the reserve are safe and well looked-after, and that the ecosystem remains in balance.

In addition to working towards the protection of the reserve and the animals which call it home, you will also have the opportunity to meet members of the local community when you visit schools and community centres! While your involvement with South Africa’s people and wildlife is sure to be rewarding, you can also look forward to a night at Amakhala’s luxury lodge, where you will receive a delicious three-course meal whilst looking out onto the open savannah. This is an ideal place in which to relax, unwind, and to take in all that you have experienced during the project – so why not begin your adventure today?

Game Drives at Amakhala
Game Drives
Prepare to explore Amakhala’s impressive reserve as you head out in search of wildlife! From springbok, zebras and giraffes to the iconic ‘Big 5’, this is your opportunity to see much of what makes South Africa such a fantastic destination to visit. Game drives allow you to learn more about the animals on the reserve, so feel free to ask your expert guide any questions which might come to mind – and don’t forget to bring your camera along!
Cheetahs at Amakhala
Wildlife Monitoring
In order to ensure that Amakhala’s ecosystem remains balanced, the reserve management team must carry out checks on each of their wildlife species. You may be invited to assist in the monitoring of Amakhala’s predators or herbivores, undertaking population counts and learning how to track the species’ territorial ranges through the use of telemetry. Any data you gather may assist the management team in making important decisions, such as whether to relocate certain animals in order to limit competition between species.
Cheetah Collaring at Amakhala
Game Capture
Occasionally, the animals on the reserve may need to be relocated or examined by a vet, and if you are onsite when either of these activities takes place then you may be invited to witness the reserve management team at work! Please note that this activity does not take place during the winter months and is at no time a guaranteed part of your itinerary.
Reserve Maintenance at Amakhala
Reserve Maintenance
The Amakhala reserve measures a massive 7,500 hectares, and as you can imagine a reserve of this size requires a lot of upkeep. As a volunteer, you will assist the reserve management team across an array of activities, such as re-burying an electrical wire that has been dug up by a roaming elephant or heading out on a fence patrol to ensure that the reserve remains a safe place for each of Amakhala’s animals. There is always work to be done so be prepared to get involved!
Alien Plant Control at Amakhala
Alien Plant Control
Alien plant species become a big problem on the reserve as they encroach on the local plants, meaning that the region's animals have fewer food sources. This has a knock-on effect through the whole food chain, so you will spend some of your time on the project helping to dig up, remove or cut back these invasive species. This is a fairly physical activity and will require a good work ethic to complete - we recommend packing a pair of gardening gloves to make the job that little bit easier!
Community Centre Visit at Amakhala
Community Outreach
As well as working towards conservation efforts in South Africa, the team at Amakhala also seek to positively impact the members of the community. From helping local artists to set up small businesses by selling their art at the on-site craft centre, to working with vulnerable children at the community centre, there are a number of ways in which you can improve the lives of some of the country’s most disenfranchised people. Depending on the time of year that you volunteer, you may also pay a visit to a local school to help teach and spend time with the children.
Luxury Lodge at Amakhala
Night at the Luxury Lodge
Volunteers will spend a night at the luxury lodge on the Amakhala Reserve. Here you will spend the night relaxing and enjoying an incredible dinner with your fellow volunteers before retiring to one of the beautiful rooms to enjoy a good night's sleep. This will help to ensure you are raring to get back to your volunteer activities the following morning! You will also have the chance to enjoy breakfast as you look out onto the nearby watering hole which has been known to attract a whole host of incredible wildlife, including Norman, Amakhala’s famous elephant! (This is included in the fee for those joining for a minimum of 2 weeks and can be provided for an additional cost if you only join for 1 week.)
Bush Camping and Night Drives  at Amakhala
Bush Camping and Night Drives
Remember to wrap up warm when you head out on night drives and maybe sleep out in the bush if the weather allows! This presents you with a fantastic opportunity to truly immerse yourself in the bush lifestyle, surrounded by nature at its most raw. Many of the animals on the reserve prefer to come out at night, under the cover of darkness, so keep your eyes peeled and you may be able to spot a lion stalking its way through the bush or a rhino crashing through the undergrowth!
Canoeing and Boating at Amakhala
Canoeing and Boating
If the river is high enough and conditions are favourable, you may get the opportunity to go canoeing down the reserve's river. This offers a great chance to see wildlife from a different viewpoint to the one you get from the game drive vehicles. This experience comes with yet another picture-perfect photo opportunity, so keep your camera at the ready and don't forget to make sure it's protected from the water!
Lion at Amakhala
Free Time
With weekends free, you will have time to relax at the volunteer house, take a swim in the pool or perhaps even visit Addo Elephant National Park. You can also take the chance to visit the Born Free Big Cat Rescue Sanctuary on the neighbouring Shamwari Game Reserve, where you have the chance to see lions and leopards that have been rescued from zoos, circuses and other captive facilities. Whilst any additional activities you choose to do will be at your own expense, the team will be happy to help book transport and assist where possible.
Day 1 - The Adventure Begins:
After arriving into Port Elizabeth, you will be transferred to the project site. Here, you will receive a welcome briefing and will also be shown to your accommodation, where you can get a good night’s rest ahead of the week’s activities!
Day 2 - 14 - Project Days:
These will be your project days. Each day begins at around 7am, as you rise for breakfast before undertaking your first activity at 7:30am. You will break for lunch at around 1pm before continuing with your project activities in the afternoon. Unless you are spending the night at the luxury lodge, your day will end at around 4pm and you are welcome to spend the evening at leisure. Since the working week will be rather busy, you’ll be glad to know that your weekends are free for you to explore the local and see more of what South Africa has to offer.
Day 15 - Return Home:
Unfortunately, today is your last day. After saying a fond farewell to your fellow volunteers and the team, you will be transferred back to the airport in order to fly home or to continue with your independent travel plans. Wherever you're headed, you can be sure to be walking away with a lifetime of unforgettable memories in tow!

You are able to join this project on any Monday throughout the year. To secure a place on this project, a deposit of $245 is required at the time of booking, with the remaining balance due any time up to 60 days prior to your start date.

Select a duration below to see the available start dates. All dates shown are currently available for you to join this project!

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Accommodation

Throughout your time on this project, you will stay in a renovated railway station building which is now the very comfortable and unique volunteer house. The house can hold up to 16 volunteers at a time with a mixture of twin-share and single rooms. Couples will be allocated a room together, otherwise rooms will be shared on a same-sex basis. The house has 5 bathrooms with western-style toilets and showers; a communal living area; and a kitchen/dining area, where volunteers can prepare all meals. Outdoors, you will find a braai (barbeque) area and a swimming pool. There is also a small shop and community pub located just next door which is a great place to relax of an evening.

Meals & Beverages

Whilst food is provided on this project, you are responsible for preparing your own meals. Generally, volunteers take it in turns to cook dinner on an evening, whereas breakfast and lunch are prepared by the individual. Once every week, your group will enjoy a braai night; this is a great opportunity to experience and enjoy the traditional South African style of cooking! Please note that if you have any dietary requirements (such as vegetarianism, veganism, lactose intolerance or gluten intolerance), you must let us know well in advance of your time on the project. This is to ensure that special requests can be made to ensure that you will have the appropriate food to eat during your time on the project.

When is the best time to volunteer?

Nearly all the activities take place year-round except for the community-based projects, as schools are closed in South Africa between mid-December and early January. Therefore, if you are keen to get involved with the community projects, you should avoid volunteering during this time. The only other factor that may impact your preference of when to volunteer is the weather.

Due to its position on the Eastern Cape, the reserve typically enjoys mild, pleasant weather throughout the year with occasional rain (but no distinct wet season). There are 2 seasons which are explained below:

Summer (November - April): During these months, daytime temperatures average 25–30°C (77-86°F), but can occasionally go up to 35°C (95°F) with January and February being the hottest months of the year. At night, it stays relatively warm, averaging 15°C (59°F).

Winter (May – October): This time of year is still very pleasant during the day with temperatures between 20–25°C (68-77°F), however, it can get very cold at night with temperatures falling to 5-10°C (41-50°F).

Average Monthly Weather in the Amakhala Game Reserve, South Africa

Getting There

For this project, you will need to arrive into Port Elizabeth Airport (PLZ) on your start date and transfer to the project site from there. The transfer from the airport to the project site takes approximately 1 hour and while it is not included, it can be provided for an additional cost. We offer two airport transfer options; the first is a shared transfer which departs at 3pm, meaning you would need a flight that arrives into the airport by 2pm to allow time for you to get through security and collect your luggage. The second is a private transfer which we can arrange for any time between 9am and 5pm. The shared transfer costs $60 each way and the private transfer costs $120 each way.

For your return journey back to Port Elizabeth Airport from the project site, the shared transfer departs at 7am and arrives at approximately 8am. If you take this transfer, we recommend booking a flight that departs Port Elizabeth no earlier than 10:30am. Alternatively, you can take a private transfer on your project end date at any time between 9am and 5pm.

If you are staying in Port Elizabeth before your project start date, please contact us and we may be able to arrange a pickup from your accommodation instead of the airport. If this is not possible, you will need to make your way to Port Elizabeth Airport in time for your transfer.

Visa Requirements

Citizens of most countries, including the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and most of those within the EU, do not need to obtain a visa to enter South Africa and are granted entry for up to 90 days upon arrival. You will, however, need at least 2 blank pages in your passport for the immigration officials to use and your passport must be valid for a period of at least 6 months from your date of entry.

If you are unsure of your individual visa requirements, we recommend speaking to your local South African embassy at least 2 months prior to travel.

Fitness and Skills

While there are no specific skills required to take part in this project, we do recommend that you arrive with a moderate level of fitness as your days can be long and some tasks (such as alien plant removal) can be quite physically demanding. Otherwise, all that we ask is that you arrive with a willingness to get involved with all activities and that you are willing to work as part of a team!

Vaccinations

The vaccinations required will depend on the individual medical history of each volunteer. We recommend that you consult with your GP regarding your own immunisation needs as this will ensure you are protected and prepared to travel. In conjunction with this, we would recommend that you check Fit for Travel’s website for more helpful information on what you need to do before your departure.

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What's Included

  • Accommodation
  • Three meals per day
  • Fruit juice, tea and coffee
  • All volunteer activities
  • 1 Night at the luxury lodge (if joining the project for a minimum of 2 weeks)
  • English-speaking project coordinator
  • A donation to the project

What's Not Included

  • Flights
  • Airport transfers to and from the project site (available at an additional cost)
  • Travel insurance
  • Alcoholic beverages, personal snacks, etc.
Where you can go
Contact Info
UK Office
The Great Traveller Ltd,
3 Dairy Yard
Star Street
Ware, Hertfordshire
SG12 7DX
United Kingdom

Opening hours:
   Mon-Fri 8:30am–5:30pm
   Sat 10am-4pm

T: +44(0) 208 885 4987