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!
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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
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
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!
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!
Dates, Availability & Price
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!
Updates & Outcomes
The Amakhala Game Reserve was founded back in 1999 after 6 local reserves joined forces in an attempt to reintroduce the region's once-abundant flora and fauna back into its natural habitat. Since then the reserve has grown into a huge 7,500-hectare area and is now home to many African animals including lions, rhinos, and elephants. As well as its commitment to wildlife conservation, this game reserve is also home to the Amakhala Foundation which was started in 2009 on the reserves 10th anniversary. The foundation commits to numerous projects including its Environmental Education Programme, which offers local children the chance to learn about conservation from within the reserve and the Isipho Charity Trust which supports over 300 children through preschool classes, feeding schemes, HIV/AIDS education and providing materials for schooling.
As a volunteer on this project, you will have the opportunity to visit the school where the Isipho Charity Trust works. This is something volunteers (and indeed the children) love and during this time you can play with the children, help in their computer classes or maybe just sit and have a conversation to allow them to practice their English.
- posted on 02/10/2018
- by Leanne Sturrock
This World Animal Day 2018, we'll be focusing on South Africa - one of the most conflicted countries with regard to animal protection, conservation and trading. As we discuss why, we look into whether or not unity can ever become widespread across Africa. With a global spotlight on the continent and pressure to improve, maybe there is hope yet for South Africa's most at-risk species to survive.
- posted on 21/09/2018
- by Leanne Sturrock
This World Rhino Day (22nd September), learn about the plight of one of Africa’s most famous and at-risk species. But while white rhinos are something of a poster-child for conservation, it’s important that their Asian cousins are not forgotten - in fact, it is the continents own Javan species which is the most endangered rhino of all.
Are your holiday snaps causing harm to Thailand's wildlife? Read on to see how you can help.
Is this trip for you?
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.
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.
While there are no specific skills required to take part on 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!
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.
When is the best time to volunteer?
On this project nearly all the activities take part all year round, meaning the only factor that may affect your decision of when to volunteer is the weather.
In the coastal region where this project is situated there is not a big difference in daytime temperatures throughout the year. These can reach 35°C (74°F) but average 20 – 25°C (68-77°F). Night-time temperatures, however, are much colder in June, July, and August. During this period, which is winter in South Africa, they can drop to between 5 and 10°C (41-50°F). The rest of the year they average between 13 and 18°C (55-64°F). Whilst it does not rain heavily for long periods of time, February and March are definitely the wettest months, with October and November being extremely dry.
Community work, however, is the one activity that is affected as schools are closed between mid-December and approximately the 7th of January. Therefore, if you are keen to get involved with the community projects you should avoid volunteering during this time.
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 2pm, meaning you would need a flight that arrives into the airport by 1pm 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 $70 each way and the private transfer costs $140 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.
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.
What's included in the price of the project?
- 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?
- Travel insurance
- Airport transfers to and from the project site (available at an additional cost)
- Weekend excursions
- Alcoholic beverages, personal snacks, etc.