The Great Rhino Rescue Mission

Join a dynamic rhino rescue mission where you'll rescue, translocate and release a rhino from a high-risk poaching area to the safety of the SanWild Sanctuary & Reserve!

Amidst escalating poaching attacks on a nearby intensive breeding farm, the SanWild Sanctuary and Reserve are spearheading a critical rhino rescue initiative. The Great Rhino Rescue Mission is a strategic and focused operation involving the translocation of a rhino from a high-risk, high-density environment to the safety of the expansive SanWild reserve. Here, there is lower rhino density, and the state-of-the-art security system provides a haven to all wildlife that call the reserve home. As the poaching incidents are becoming more frequent and severe, occurring almost monthly, translocations will significantly enhance the rhino's chance of survival, and higher genetic diversity in the SanWild Reserve aims to increase healthy rhino populations, increasing the species' chance of survival as a whole.

Throughout your time on the project, you'll stay in the stunning SanWild lodge, and will have the chance to participate in the many incredible daily activities that happen at the sanctuary, including tracking and monitoring cheetahs and elephants, caring for rescued lions and hyenas, helping out in the rehabilitation & rescue centre, and more. However, the main focus of this project will give you the unique opportunity of going behind the scenes on a rhino rescue mission, where you'll help to locate, rescue and release the rhino into the SanWild reserve - you'll be involved every step of the way and as a thank you for making this recovery possible, you and your group will even name the rhino you help to rescue! 

Speak To A Travel Expert

Lauren Mackinnon

Activities

Rhino Rescue & Translocation
Rhino Rescue & Translocation As a volunteer, you’ll learn how to capture the rhino, lead it to the translocation trailer and assist the veterinarian and team at every stage of the journey. After training, you’ll embark on a rescue mission of a lifetime. As part of the ground team, you’ll be part of the capture and help to undertake the necessary health checks, collaring and (potential) dehorning, before loading the rhino into a trailer. You’ll translocate the rhino from the smaller, unsafe farm to the refuge of the SanWild Sanctuary & Reserve. This unique and rewarding experience will be made even more special as you and your group will name the rhino you help to rescue and release on the reserve!
Rhino Dehorning & Collaring
Rhino Dehorning & Collar Fitting In the capture phase, you'll assist the veterinarian in health checks after darting and anaesthesia, ensuring the rhino is fit for relocation. Using Swedish technology, you'll help equip the rhino with a tracking collar ready for release in the SanWild reserve, where the rhino will be able to roam freely. While SanWild's 24/7 surveillance and high-tech fencing system will provide a secure life for the rhino, the sanctuary made the tough decision to dehorn its rhinos, lowering poaching attacks by over 95% since mid-2020. If the rescued rhino isn't dehorned, you'll help with this unique process, helping to protect the rhino you are helping to save for years to come.
Helicopter Flip
Helicopter Flip The rescue mission will be conducted with a helicopter, where the aerial team will locate the rhino, and the veterinarian will dart it from the sky. From here, they will radio you and the ground team the rhino’s coordinates. After the rhino has been successfully loaded into the translocation trailer, you’ll be given the incredible opportunity to take a 10-minute helicopter flight! Up in the air, you’ll gain an understanding of the aerial side of the rescue operation, while also seeing a different viewpoint of the beauty of South Africa.
Rhino Care
Rhino Care After translocation to the SanWild Sanctuary & Reserve, the rhino will kept in a temporary boma (holding pen) for up to a week. This is so it can adjust to its new environment before being released into the outer reserve - and so the sanctuary team can closely monitor the rhino's health and well-being after the translocation. During this period, you'll help with feeding the rhino, monitoring its behaviour, and ensuring it is comfortable and acclimatising to its new surroundings, ready for a whole new life on the reserve.
Rhino Release & Monitoring
Rhino Release & Monitoring While the rescue will be an exhilarating venture, opening the boma gate and releasing the rhino into the greater sanctuary is sure to be an emotional experience. In a world where every rhino counts, you'll be able to wear this very moment as a badge of honour, knowing you made a difference in rhino conservation efforts. However, a moment with the potential to rival release is over the next few days, when you'll head out onto the reserve, tracking the rhino and watching as it settles into its new home successfully!
SanWild Sanctuary & Reserve Activities
SanWild Sanctuary & Reserve Activities As your rescued rhino recovers and adjusts to its new environment, you'll have the chance to be a part of the incredible work that happens every day at SanWild. From feeding the majestic lions and hyenas within the sanctuary to tracking the graceful cheetahs, rhinos, and elephants out on the reserve, you will play a vital role in conserving the renowned 'Big 5' and other fascinating African wildlife! For more information on SanWild, including the reserve's history and general activities you could be involved in, head over to the SanWild Sanctuary & Reserve project page. 
Free Time
Free Time Discover endless opportunities for adventure around the sanctuary's location during your free time at the weekend! From hot air balloon rides to horseback riding and ziplining, there's something for everyone to enjoy during their free time. The on-site team are happy to assist you in arranging some exciting activities. Alternatively, relax and indulge in the luxurious amenities of the lodge, or take the time to explore the fascinating Elephant Graveyard and gold mines dating back over 130 years without ever leaving the SanWild property.

Itinerary

The following itinerary is a rough guideline, and all schedules and activities are subject to change depending on the rescue mission strategy and the project's needs.

Day 1 - The Adventure Begins: Upon your arrival at Hoedspruit Airport, a representative from the project will be there to greet you. Once your group has been collected, you will transfer to the project site, approximately 40 minutes away. Here, you will meet the team and get settled in before starting your rhino conservation adventure the following day!
Day 2 - Induction & Training: Today, you'll have an induction into sanctuary life and get better acquainted with the team. You may participate in a sanctuary activity, such as feeding the lions or checking the reserve camera traps. Then, in the afternoon, you'll receive training ready for the big rescue ahead. You'll cover the fundamentals of animal capture, collaring and leading the rhino to a translocation trailer.
Day 3 - Rescue & Relocation: It's time to embark on the rhino rescue mission! The rhino capture will take place with a helicopter, where the aerial team will locate the rhino from the sky and radio down to the ground team. From here, you'll head out in the land cruiser to collar, dehorn (if necessary) and translocate the rhino back to the sanctuary and its temporary boma. As a thank you for making the whole mission possible, you and your group will have the opportunity to name the rhino, which should make for a fun night of discussions ahead!
Day 4-10 - Rhino Care & Sanctuary Activities: The rhino will be kept in a holding pen for up to a week for monitoring. This will allow for a period of de-stressing after the translocation and help to assimilate the rhino to its new environment. During this time, you'll help feed and monitor the rhino, readying it for release into the greater reserve. You'll also participate in the many 'Big 5' and wildlife conservation activities that take place at SanWild daily, such as tracking and monitoring elephants and cheetahs, feeding the resident lions and hyenas in the sanctuary and help care for animals in the Rescue & Rehabilitation Centre.
Day 11 - Rhino Release: After spending a week in the holding pen, it is time to release the rhino into the vast expanse of the SanWild Reserve. This moment is significant not only for the rhino but for the entire team as it stands as a testament to the dedication and hard work of everyone involved in the recovery. Your rhino will now be free to safely explore and roam the reserve's wilderness. You will help to open the gate and watch as the rhino emerges from its temporary enclosure, which will be an exciting and emotional experience! Tonight, you can rest easy knowing that your efforts have contributed to protecting and preserving this endangered species for future generations.
Day 12-14 - Rhino Monitoring & Sanctuary Activities: Over the next few days, alongside participating in other sanctuary activities, you will be heading out to the reserve with telemetry equipment to look for your recently released rhino, ensuring it is adjusting well to its new surroundings. The SanWild Sanctuary & Reserve is home to several rhinos, and the release of this particular rhino is expected to encourage natural breeding. When the reserve's rhino population reaches capacity, the offspring will be relocated to other safe reserves across Africa to ensure genetic diversity and create a lasting legacy for rhino conservation for years to come!
Day 15 - Departure Day: Sadly, today is your final day, and while you're departing, you won't be leaving alone, as you'll depart with a whole host of incredible memories and friends you've met along the way. You'll say your goodbyes and transfer back to the airport to catch your flight home or continue your onward travel plans.

Start Dates & Prices

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Accommodation

Volunteer Accommodation

As a volunteer, you'll be staying at the SanWild Lodge in a luxury safari tent with an ensuite bathroom. The accommodation is provided on a twin-share, same-sex basis (except for couples who will be accommodated together), with a daily cleaning service. You'll also have full access to the lodge's stunning lounge, bar, dining room, lapa (fire-pit), pool, and a wooden deck that offers amazing views of a watering hole regularly visited by incredible wildlife!

Accommodation Upgrade

If you're looking for extra luxuries, you have the option to upgrade to a Deluxe safari tent that comes with plush furnishings, a spacious open-plan bathroom with a bathtub and separate shower, a bar fridge, a coffee/tea station, and covered outdoor seating. This project is an excellent opportunity to make a positive impact while enjoying some extra comforts!

Meals & Beverages

During your stay at the lodge, you will be provided with three meals per day, including traditional Bush braais (barbecues) and gatherings around the fire, where you can indulge in local delicacies such as potjiekos. The dining hall and deck overlooking the watering hole provide an amazing backdrop, making mealtimes even more magical. Please note that soft drinks and alcoholic beverages are not included in the package, but you can purchase them from the bar in the main building. If you want to treat yourself, you can explore some of the nearby restaurants such as Leydsdorp Hotel, Kalima Game Reserve, and Meranti Restaurant.


Project Details

GETTING THERE

You need to arrive at Hoedspruit in the afternoon on your project start date. Here, you will be met by a team member and taken to the project site. The best way to reach Hoedspruit is by air, as there are daily flights from Johannesburg or Cape Town to Hoedspruit Airport (HDS). The transfer from the airport to the project site takes about 40 minutes. Pick-up and drop-off services are available for free on Mondays only. If you need transport on any other day, you'll need to make special arrangements and pay an additional fee.

Alternatively, you can choose to arrange your own transport to SanWild, such as driving yourself, but this will be at your own cost. Johannesburg International Airport (OR Thambo) is about 400 km (248 mi) away and takes around 5 hours to reach by car.

VISA REQUIREMENTS

Most countries, including the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, and the majority of EU nations, do not require a visa to enter South Africa and are granted entry for up to 90 days upon arrival. To be allowed entry, you must have a passport with at least 2 blank pages for the immigration officials to use, and it must be valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry into the country.

If you're unsure about your specific visa requirements, we recommend contacting the South African embassy in your home country at least 2 months before your trip. It's important to note that obtaining a visa is your own responsibility.

FITNESS & SKILLS

Prior experience is not required to participate in the project. However, some tasks, like guiding the rhino into the translocation trailer, may be strenuous. Therefore, it is advisable to have a moderate level of fitness to contribute comfortably to the ongoing conservation efforts. The most important thing is to arrive with a positive attitude and a passion for the project's values.

VACCINATIONS

To ensure that you are fully protected and prepared for travel, we advise you to consult your GP/Doctor about your personal vaccination requirements, as this will vary depending on your medical history. We would also recommend checking Fit for Travel's website for helpful information regarding suggested vaccinations for South Africa.


Videos

The Great Rhino Rescue Mission
Rescuing Africa's Precious Rhinos

Didi brings you the details of this exciting rhino rescue operation at the SanWild Sanctuary & Reserve. Find out why these animals need your help, discover your role in their relocation and how your contribution will benefit rhino conservation efforts in the long term.



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What's Included

  • Accommodation
  • Three meals per day
  • Airport transfers
  • Orientation and training
  • Water, tea and coffee
  • Laundry and housekeeping
  • Wi-Fi
  • A donation to the project

What's Not Included

  • Flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Visas
  • Soft drinks and alcoholic beverages