Join critical conservation work in Africa with the iconic 'Big Five' species, with a focus on rhino conservation.
This project offers you the chance to participate in the vital conservation of endangered species, including endangered black rhinos and experience an unmatched diversity of South African wildlife. Volunteers here work closely with wildlife monitors at some of the country's top game reserves, tracking and monitoring all manner of endangered species. The project currently focuses its efforts on three priority species; the African wild dog, cheetah and critically endangered black rhinoceros, but also monitors the populations of elephant, buffalo, lion, hyena, leopard and white rhino.
The Zululand ecosystem is among the most diverse and productive wild -lands in the world, home to the 'Big Five', numerous antelope, carnivore and bird species. However, amid this myriad of wildlife, conservation efforts face tremendous challenges such as rapid encroachment and fragmentation of natural habitats from human intervention, poaching, and inadequate funding for monitoring and research - a trend this projects hopes to counter.
Whilst on this project volunteers operate in small teams of no more than five per reserve, which cultivates intimate relationships with expert monitors, gaining true conservation experience. It is the only wildlife volunteer programme in Africa supported by and working with high profile conservation organisations including WWF, Endangered Wildlife Trust and Wildlands Conservation Trust.
The reserves on which you will be working include the 96,000 hectare Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park and Mkhuze Game Reserve, a 40,000 hectare park (recently designated a 'Big 5' park).
You may also be able to join the Panthera LEOPARD SURVEY work being conducted within KwaZulu-Natal and which also include Wild Dog monitoring, in between performing camera trap work.
Lastly, you may work in the Tembe National Elephant Park on the border with Mozambique, where the 'world's biggest elephants' reside. Please note that visiting this park depends on your length of stay on the project. For example, if volunteering for two weeks, you will be based at one reserve. If volunteering for four weeks, you will visit two reserves etc.
Please note itineraries are subject to change and what follows is simply a rough guideline.
To secure a place on this project a deposit of £195 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!
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 on-going conservation of all manner of iconic and crucial species in South Africa (including the conservation of the critically endangered black rhino).
The work carried out by this project is cast over a number of reserves, which means that volunteers working on the project for more than two weeks will have the opportunity to experience a variety of conservation work (including rhino conservation), as well as have an impact on the continued existence of numerous Big Five and game species throughout the wider Zululand region.
What's more, this is also the only volunteer program in in Southern Africa that is supported by and works with high profile organisations including WWF, Endangered Wildlife Trust, Wildlands Conservation Trust, Wild Dog Action Group and Black Rhino Range Expansion Project to mention but a few. This really is an excellent project supporting incredibly worthwhile conservation work.
Read all about Tristans adventures in South Africa on the Zululand and Great White Shark Projects!
The project accommodation is situated inside the site and is based on rooms with two sharing. The accommodation includes running warm water, flushing toilets and electricity. A bed, mattress, bed linens and pillows are provided for each volunteer. There is also a shared kitchen area with cooking appliances and an outside seating, dining and BBQ area.
Food and drink for three meals a day is provided, and volunteers take turns preparing meals in the kitchen area.
This project does not involve a large amount of manual work, mainly data collection and tracking. However, there are regular walks during the programme, in order to track species and so a moderate level of fitness is necessary. No specific skills or experience are required, only a positive attitude and full commitment to the cause. You must be prepared to work as part of a team.
The vaccinations required will depend on your medical history. We recommend that you consult with your GP regarding your own immunisation needs. In conjunction with this, we would recommend that you check Fit for Travel’s website.
Zululand has a subtropical climate as it is situated in the Northern part of the KwaZulu-Natal province, bordering on Mozambique.
Between June and September the weather is generally mild and dry which means vegetation is less dense making animal sightings more frequent. In June and July temperatures very rarely drop below 10-15°C (50-59°F) overnight and by midday, the days are generally warm and sunny. By August/September temperatures are around 20-25°C (68-77°F) at midday and around 15-20°C (59-68°F) overnight.
October to March is summer which can get very hot with midday temperatures averaging 30°C. Overnight temperatures also remain at around 25°C (77°F).
Summer is also the rainy season, and afternoon/evening thunderstorms can occur, which is something incredible to experience in Africa. After the first rains (which usually start around November), the wild flowers then begin to bloom and the new grass emerges in a brilliant display of green. There are usually also plenty of young animals (impala lambs, warthog piglets, wildebeest calves, etc) around during these months.
Finally, April and May is autumn which has warm weather in both the day and at night. Wild Dogs are seen less frequently in May as they settle into den sites to have their pups. The pups will generally emerge from the dens about 4-6 weeks later.
The easiest way to get to the project is to book an international flight to Johannesburg (or Tambo International Airport), and then book a connecting domestic flight to Richards Bay.
Preferably you should fly into Richards Bay the day before and spend this night at a B&B close to the airport. We can provide you with recommendations that include both an airport pick up and a transfer back to the airport on Monday.
A project representative will meet you at the airport at 12:00pm on Monday and you will be transferred by road to whichever of the project sites (Tembe, Mhkuse or Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Parks) you will be working in. Please make sure that you arrive in time to meet the pick up so that you arrive into the reserve before nightfall. On departure, you will need to make sure that you book the 14.40pm, 15.05pm or 15.45pm flight back to Johannesburg. If earlier flights are booked you may run the risk of missing your flight!
If you would like help booking your flights, please visit our flights page and fill out the form. A member of our team will get back in touch as soon as possible with a suitable quote.
Holders of UK, most other EU counties, Australian, Canadian and USA passports do not require a Visa for South Africa. Upon entry you will be issued with a 3- month permit (at no cost). Make sure the correct date and length of stay in the country is entered onto your visa when at immigration. If you are travelling from Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Russian Federation, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Algeria, Angola, Comoros, China, Egypt, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mexico, Madagascar, Morocco, Mozambique, Paraguay, Rwanda, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia or Vietnam, you will require a Visa and should consult your South African embassy.
The currency in South Africa is the Rand. The exchange rate is around 1 ZAR = 0.06 GBP, 0.1 USD, 0.07 EUR. Please note exchange rates are subject to change.
If you have any questions about this project or would like help finding the perfect project for you then please feel free to give us a call or send us through your enquiry and we will be happy to help.
Nikita & team.
Every moment was meaningful - but getting to know the Wild African Dogs and seeing them engage and socialize close up was magical. It really hit home how vulnerable these priority species are and how important the work of the projects is.
Deborah High, 2017
The highlight of the trip my daughter and I took was on the last day. We watched an adult White Rhino challenge an adult Lion. The Rhino somehow knew this lion was not going to attack him, so the rhino stood his ground and even made the lion nervous enough to move to another shade tree. This particular lion had been injured late last fall while hunting a Water Buffalo. He is on the mend and looking a lot healthier than he did last October(according to our wildlife monitor).
Liza Eng, 2017
1 - the people - amazing and inspiring 2 - seeing an elephant suckling it's mother. Seeing two juvenile leopards. 3. Seeing a lion hunt from beginning to end. Discovering three sub-adult lions and a cub which they didn't know about. It was genuinely an experience of a lifetime for me and I can't wait to do something like this again.
Sonal Hirani, 2015
"The time I spent here was one of the most memorable and incredible experiences of my life. I had always dreamed of going to Africa to work on a game reserve and this is the real deal! Their motto, 'Real Africa, Real Conservation' absolutely sums up their project. As a volunteer you are put to good use and help with the vital conservation work the team are doing. I learned how to use the radio tracking equipment that is used to locate animals such as the African Wild Dog packs, Cheetahs and, on a night trip, Hyenas, and along with another volunteer, I picked out photos that would be used to identify the endangered black rhinos and elephants we saw in the future. You see some of the most amazing animals on our planet and know that you are genuinely helping to conserve them. One of the most unforgettable moments I had was watching two adult bull Elephants washing and playing in a water hole. Watching how the older Elephant interacted with the younger male was incredible and at one point the older Elephant came within 10 metres of our vehicle! If you are thinking about going, I would say go for it! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that you should not miss! I will never forget my time in Africa, and I am planning on returning soon".
Emma Ivenson, 2013
"I had a really great time on the Zululand project. I was Mkhuze for two weeks, and wish I could have stayed longer! The staff are very friendly, and the wildlife monitor I had was fantastic. He was really fun and taught me so much! The best part of it is how hands-on it is; you're with the animals everyday and I really felt like we were helping them! The highlight of my two weeks was darting a young cheetah, who we fitted with her first collar so we could monitor her. I recommend this project to anybody who wants an exciting, hands-on experience with African animals. I can't wait to come back!"
Hannah Margolis, 2013