During your time on the project, you could be placed on any of the five stunning wildlife reserves with the option to experience another reserve if you volunteer for three weeks or more. Each of the reserves are home to the ‘Big 5’ but all have a slightly different conservation focus. Below you will find activities that take place across all the reserves and you can find more information about each within the project guide.
Wildlife Tracking & Monitoring
Africa has over 400 known species of endangered animals, and the monitoring of these species is a critical component in their conservation. Monitoring can tell us all about an animal’s movement patterns, habitat utilisation, population demographics, and any snare or poaching incidents. As a volunteer, you will head out in search of priority species, tracking certain animals using radio telemetry. During your time on the project, you may find yourself monitoring wild dogs, lions, elephants, rhinos and more!
Data Collection & Analysis
Whilst monitoring the wildlife, you’ll learn how to collect vital data using various methods. Depending on the species you are tracking that day, you may record information on group composition, behaviour, feeding patterns, territorial ranges, predator vs prey ratios and more. Once a week, a day is allocated to inputting and analysing the data collected. All recorded information is used for research purposes, as well as aiding conservation management decisions such as whether an animal needs to be relocated. To record such data, you’ll be out in the field daily and truly immersed in Zululand’s wildlife!
Identikits & Wildlife Photography
This is your chance to show off your photography skills! A hugely beneficial conservation tool for any reserve are identikits, these help to identify individual animals and allow them to monitor how the animal is doing overtime. They are particularly useful if an animal has been moved or reintroduced to a new area. As a volunteer, you’ll help to create or update identikits by photographing animals, making sure to capture any unique markings or unusual features. By doing so, you’ll be able to see any health differences, such as recent injuries.
Occasionally, you may be invited to help with additional activities such as alien plant control, animal releases, collaring, and notching (a form of identity marking on species’ such as rhinos). These activities are entirely dependent on necessity so we cannot guarantee they will form part of your itinerary, but if you are lucky enough to take part, it will come as a real privilege, offering a unique insight into true hands-on conservation work.
Please note itineraries are subject to change and what follows is simply a rough guideline.
Day 1 - The Adventure Begins:
You will need to arrive into Richards Bay Airport before 12:50pm to make the transfer to the project site. Once you have been met by a project representative at the airport, you will transfer to one of the five reserves. You’ll then have time to settle in, meet your fellow volunteers and get an early night ready for the big day ahead!
Day 2-14 - Project Days:
Each of your project days will follow a similar format - you will head out into the field every morning at sunrise to track and locate collared animals on the reserve, observing them and recording data as you go. When the animals are inactive at the hottest part of the day, you’ll return for a long lunch break and then later in the afternoon, you’ll head back out for more observation. You'll be back in time to watch a spectacular sunset, prepare dinner and relax around the fire.
Day 15 - Final Day:
If today is your last day on the project, you’ll be transferred back to Richards Bay Airport by a member of staff in time for your return flight home or to commence your onwards travel plans! For those staying longer than 2 weeks, you will have the opportunity to transfer to another of the five reserves to experience a different conservation focus.
Dates, Availability & Price
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
This project experience is unmatched in terms of the diversity of species. The efforts made on a daily basis by both the project staff and volunteers are indispensable in the continued protection and ongoing conservation of all manner of iconic and crucial species in South Africa (including the conservation of the critically endangered black rhino).
The project has achieved a number of milestones since its inception, including 9 different species monitored 365 days a year. Over 3,500 volunteers have aided in the project's mission, 815 tracking devices have been fitted, over 800 animals have been relocated, 145 animals have been rescued and treated as a result of wounds (including snare wounds and rescues) and finally, 209,508 monitoring and field hours have been logged from vehicles, in the air and on foot!
A main focal point for all the reserves is the conservation of African wild dogs. Due to their endangered status, it is estimated that there are between 3000-5000 wild dogs left in the wild and around 550 of these are living in South Africa. This project is currently monitoring one-third of the South African population every day to ensure their survival.
The monitoring team of the Zululand Wildlife Conservation Project made an exciting discovery whilst monitoring a wild dog pack at the Tembe Elephant Park. The pack is soon to grow in numbers and here’s what’s to follow in the next few months…
- 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.
Is this trip for you?
No matter which of the reserves you are based at, you can rest assured that your accommodation will be comfortable and surrounded by beautiful African scenery. Rooms are generally shared on a same-sex twin basis (or on occasion three to a room) and your bed linens and pillows are provided. Each accommodation has western-style toilets, warm showers, communal kitchens and lounge areas, as well as lovely outside barbecue areas for you to dine and relax in. They are also located within the reserves themselves, so you can expect stunning views and wandering wildlife!
Food is provided for you on this project, though you will need to prepare your meals yourself. All reserve accommodation comes with a fully equipped kitchen with an oven, stove, microwave and solar cooker available for you to use. You may wish to prepare meals as a group, which can be the perfect opportunity to learn a new dish or show off your cooking skills. Every week the project staff will take you into town to stock up on food supplies. Dietary requirements can be catered for, though we politely ask you to let us know of any in advance of travel.
The majority of the work is undertaken from a tracking vehicle, however, at least a moderate level of fitness is advised as you may need to walk for periods of time in order to track certain species and may need to assist with manual tasks in the hot weather. No specific skills are needed – all we ask is that you’re enthusiastic and 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 doctor/GP regarding your own vaccination needs as this will ensure you are protected and prepared to travel. In conjunction with this, we also recommend that you take a look at the Fit for Travel website for more helpful information on how best to prepare for your experience.
When Is The Best Time To Volunteer?
The monitoring of wildlife on this project happens 365 days a year, meaning the only factor that may affect your decision of when to volunteer is the weather. Zululand has a subtropical climate, as it is situated in the northern part of the KwaZulu-Natal province, bordering Mozambique.
The summer season is considered October to April where temperatures average 30°C (86°F), and overnight temperatures remain at around 25°C (77°F). Summer is usually considered Zululand’s rainy season which may cause afternoon/evening thunderstorms – something that is truly incredible to experience in Africa! With the rains, wildflowers start to bloom and new grass emerges in a brilliant display of green.
May to September is the winter season which is mild and dry with temperatures sitting around 25°C (77°F) and as vegetation isn’t as dense, visibility of animals can be better!
You will need to fly into Richards Bay Airport (RCB) on your project start date, and there are daily flights that connect via Johannesburg. You will need to book a flight that lands before 12:50pm to make your transfer time, as unfortunately, transfers for flights arriving after this time are not available. If you are unable to arrive by 12:50pm, we recommend arriving a day early and staying in a local hotel.
On your final day, your departure flight should be booked to depart no earlier than 1:10pm, to allow you enough time to get back to Richards Bay Airport.
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
- Airport transfers
- Full orientation and support from the project managers
- A monetary contribution to the project itself
What's not included?
- Travel insurance
- Alcoholic beverages, personal snacks etc.