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LEO Africa

Big 5 Monitoring and Conservation Work

Thabazimbi, South Africa

Agency | LEO Africa

Give your contribution towards wildlife monitoring & conservation and learn a lot about nature, park management and anti-poaching while living a lifetime experience!

The aim of the LEO Africa research project is to provide park wardens and ecologists with detailed information about wildlife within the Marataba section. This information is used to evaluate the impact of re-introduced animals and to maintain balanced, stable, and sustainable ecosystems.

Your time at LEO Africa

At LEO Africa you will live a truly African Experience guided by expert field guides and rangers, all really passionate and active about conservation. Our commitment towards nature and animals is really serious and we are out on the field every day to make a difference. We wait for you, come joining us and give your hands on contribution to real conservation!

Our volunteer wildlife monitoring programme records and monitors the movements, behaviour, numbers, kills, and habituation of lions, white and black rhino, leopards, elephant, buffalo and hyena. This research will play a vital role in the management of reserves and conservancies throughout South Africa.

Broadly speaking, volunteers help on the two daily monitoring drives which are sent out to monitor the animal populations in the section, and may also help with management work such as bush clearing, road repair, or game capture. When on drives, volunteers help track and identify animals, and observe and record data about targetted animals. Volunteers can also take part in excursions to local attractions such as the Marakele National Park, Sun City or Pilansberg and activities in the park such as sleep out in the bush for anti-poaching purposes!

During the monitoring drives, LEO staff will also provide informative guiding about the local flora and fauna, identifying and explaining the wildlife encountered on drive. Longer-term volunteers will gain a significant insight into both practical conservation as well as the ecology of the Bushveld/Waterberg Biosphere.

Volunteer with LEO to gain wildlife management experience in your gap year or simply to have an amazing lifetime experience.

Doing volunteer work with LEO Africa in South Africa, you will:

  • Determine and monitor predator numbers in the section of the National Park including lions, leopards, hyenas, and cheetahs
  • Monitor the feeding behaviour, prey selection, kill frequencies, and the ecological impact of lion and other predators in the section
  • Monitor the social dynamics of the section's resident lion, leopard, hyena, rhino, elephant population
  • Monitor the spatial movements and territories of predators and mega herbivores in the section
  • Monitor elephants and develop their identification kits
  • Specifically monitor the condition and movements of white and black rhinos in the National Park Section
  • Monitor and habituate resident leopards
  • Collect and analyze data with the goal of creating monthly reports for the park managers to maintain the balance and general health of the section's ecosystem

Your volunteer work will have a significant positive impact on the conservation policies and practices in South Africa.

Work Focuses 

Our work focuses on collecting, analysing data and monitoring of the Big 5 and hyenas. We closely collaborate with the park  managers and veterinary, setting priorities for the benefit of fauna and flora. Our work on the Park Section is really important for different aspects: we monitor the animals and take care of other aspects such as the flora and the land itself, the base of the circle of life.  A balanced ecosystem grants a quality life to the animals. For this reason, you will also help the team with some reserve management activities such as bush clearing, road re-opening and alien plants removal. The section of the Marakele National Park on which we operate has a great biodiversity.  We have a great respect for the wild animals and their behavior; we try to avoid any interference with the animals’ lives when we monitor them and any sort of ‘hands on’ interaction is only done if completely unavoidable and usually only in medical emergencies. 

Field Conditions

As a conservation volunteer working with LEO Africa, your interests will be in wild animals, nature conservation, and research.

You must be reasonably fit and be prepared able to spend many hours tracking and observing animals behavior, taking photos to create ID kits and help with conservation work while enjoying breathless landscapes of the Marataba Section of the Marakele National Park.

Life revolves around the animals' movements and most activity takes place in the early mornings, late afternoons, and frequently well into the night. The middle day is usually spent at the base entering data, equipment maintenance, house duties, cooking and just relaxing, reading a book or chatting with your friend volunteers. (Note: those prone to heat exhaustion are recommended to plan their visit for cooler months, discuss their trip with their doctor, and take proper measures to avoid dehydration.)

As a LEO volunteer you will receive training on all aspects of the conservation and monitoring work that we do. Most days follow a similar pattern: morning and afternoon drives during which you track, spot, observe, and record the behaviour of the monitored animals and will take part into conservation activities.

While out in the bush, you will have the chance of seeing some of the park's resident wildlife population like giraffe, eland, kudu, zebra, nyala, impala, bushbucks, and many more.

The Bush

The bush gives us a lot of satisfactions and surprises, even if, of course, we can’t expect to see the Big 5 every day! There can be very intense and lucky days, others more quiet. Everything depends on a lot of variables which are outside our control (such as climate, animal interactions, water sources, and so on). Wild animals can’t be controlled! They are fascinating because of this unpredictability and it is fantastic to study them and their behaviour in their natural habitat!

Economically

LEO Africa is financially sustained only by the volunteers as we provide a free service to the National Park Section. All the money from the volunteers is used to run the entire project, namely to buy and maintain vehicles, petrol, monitoring and research tools, computer, camera traps, batteries, salaries, food and accommodation etc.

Typical day

Being a volunteer at LEO Africa means contributing towards wildlife monitoring and conservation, meeting new people, having a great time, learning about nature, conservation and having a lifetime experience!

The experience at LEO Africa is unique, special and exclusive, as we are located in the 24000 hectares Marataba section of the Marakele National Park in the Waterberg Biosphere, in the Limpopo Province, South Africa. LEO’s role on the section of the stunning National Park is very important as we are responsible of all the work on the field as well as data and ID kits of the key animals that we monitor. We provide a free service to the Marataba Section of the Marakele National Park and the operation is entirely funded by the volunteers, who have the privilege of being part of a very select group of people who can spend time in the reserve and work towards conservation, making the experience genuine and more valuable. 

The other people who can see Marataba are the guests of the 5 star lodge. Working for a National Park is a real privilege! The reserve is stunning and contains a high variety of fauna and flora... We work very hard towards conservation, our mission. We love our work and we are proud to be the monitors of the animals of the Park section, providing the management with valuable data and ID kits of the most important species.

Volunteers have an important role in our research, as they help us on different aspects:
On the field
  • collecting data on the species monitored and learn to use the gps; 
  • taking photos of the animals for ID purposes; 
  • bush clearing; 
  • animal tracking, 
  • spotting and recognition; 
  • see how we set up camera traps; game capture and veterinary actions such as animal darting (when requested by the Park Vet); 
  • observation. 
  • You will also take part in bush walk to ID animals, look for suspicious tracks, sleep out (organized according to the weather and need), and koppie climbing in order to perform observation of the Park Section. 
At base
  • inserting data, 
  • providing the photos for ID kits, 
  • see the camera trap processing to create ID kits; 
  • duty day on a rotation base with the other volunteers to assist with cooking and house duties.

Typical Day
Volunteering at LEO is an amazing experience, as you have the opportunity to actively contribute towards conservation, learn about animals, nature, reserve management and meet people that come from different part of the world.  A "normal day" at LEO consists of 2 game drives/activities per day (departure time in the morning 5.00/5.30 in the summer and 6.00 in winter, coming back around 11.00/12.00; the afternoon drive leaving at 15.00/15.30 and coming back around 20.00), or you can stay out the entire day, according to the work that needs to be done and the priorities set by the LEO and Park Section manager. Our monitoring work focuses especially on tracking and monitoring lions, white and black rhinos, elephants, leopards, buffalos spotted and brown hyenas, reserve management activities and anti-poaching.

All the data collected is used to write monthly reports for the Park Management and Vet. We also organise some activities in the central hours of the day such as FGASA lessons (on request by the volunteers), to learn more information about mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians and much more, data insert; each volunteer will stay back at base on a rotary basis to help with general maintenance work, cooking, cleaning, and analysis of the photos collected on drive with the staff members, that are used to produce ID kits as well as camera traps photos. The duty day can be also seen as a break to recover from the early wake up on a daily basis. Volunteers will also have some free time that can be used according to your needs; we have a library with some books and some board games to keep you company too!
 
LEO is very active in the anti-poaching and protection of our rhinos. That’s why we have a lot of camera traps placed in the bush that are used both for ID purposes of the key species but also for security reasons, to detect eventual suspicious activities. The LEO Team reports also on suspicious tracks, low flying helicopters and airplanes and we do some observation from strategic points as well as sleep out to support the work done by the anti-poaching teams.

Details on Arrival

Our weeks run from Tuesday to Tuesday, so we kindly ask volunteers to arrive in Johannesburg OR Tambo on Tuesday. You can start any Tuesday of the year according to availability. 

We provide airport pick-up in in Johannesburg at an additional cost for the volunteers.  No public transportation/internal flights available to reach the Marataba Section of the Marakele National Park. 

The transfer from Johannesburg to LEO Africa and viceversa is organized by us and we will wait for you at the international arrivals info desk. The pick-up and drop off time at the airport is at 11.00am and the trip to the base is about 3.5 hours. The price of the transfer is not included and it has a cost of R1500 per person each way on a tuesday.

Should you wish to self drive, this is possible but please consider that the rental car should be kept for the duration of the stay as the closest car rental place is Johannesburg OR Tambo itself.

Free-time activities

Activities for the free time: reading, data analysis/Camera Traps (in depth, at the volunteer discretion), see ID kits, educational FGASA Talks on request, excursions, relax, watching movies.

Volunteers also have the opportunity of visiting the surrounding areas taking part in some excursions that we are happy to organise for you accompanied by a LEO guide (all the excursions are not included in the price and are done on a week day as Sunday is the day off of both staff and volunteers). The excursions available are Marakele National Park and to Suncity (a theme park).

Climbing
Safari/Zoo
Hiking
Riding

Program Requirements

In order to join the program you need to be at least 18 years old on the program start date. There might be exemptions if you can provide the permission of your legal guardian(s).
Language Skills
You need to speak English (intermediate level)
Health Declaration
required
Required Documents
medical form and terms and condition form that will be sent to you within the application process
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
Enjoy Wildlife and nature, be patient (nature is not in a hurry and wild animals move where they want!), be willing to work and contribute towards our project; photography and video making, appreciate the bush for what it has to offer! We work really hard for conservation and we are very happy to share our knowledge and experience with you! It will be great to have you in our team!
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday

Suitable for

Singles
Couples
Groups
50+

Any questions? Just ask. We at LEO Africa are happy to help you.

Contact Project Coordinator
Contact & Reservation
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Included Services

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All program fees are charged directly by LEO Africa.
Services by LEO Africa

Volunteers represent the only income of our project as we provide a free service to the Marataba Section of the Marakele National Park. 

The money is used to run the project including 
  • vehicles purchase and maintenance 
  • petrol
  • food and accommodation
  • maintenance of the house
  • research material
  • salaries
  • solar panels
  • bills etc.

Accommodation

We are based in a spacious farm house among breeding camps of rare indigenous antelopes. The view is magnificent: every morning you can admire a new beautiful sunrise, antelopes eating just outside our garden while you are having breakfast! Volunteers sleep in shared rooms (usually male and females are separated); bathrooms are also shared.

Available on request is a couples/private room with a private bathroom at a small additional extra cost per week.

Bedroom (Double) Youth Hostel
Food & Beverages

Basic breakfast, lunch and dinner included. On the arrival day volunteers can also buy some extra food/snacks and cold drinks if they would like at a local supermarket. They can store them in a fridge available for volunteers.

Internet Access
Limited access at the project site
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees. An airport pickup isn't included within the program fees either.
Flight Tickets
The nearest airport is O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) in Johannesburg. We assist you to find cheap flights to South Africa.
Travel Insurance
Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for South Africa provides security and is a plus to have.
Vaccines
If you are intending to volunteer in South Africa you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for South Africa.
Costs (Prices in USD)
2 weeks (min. stay)
$990.00
3 weeks
$1,450.00
4 weeks
$1,870.00
5 weeks
$2,300.00
6 weeks
$2,699.00
7 weeks
$3,160.00
12 weeks (max. stay)
$5,100.00
Average fees
$460.00/week

You can volunteer at the project site in Thabazimbi/South Africa between 2 weeks and 12 weeks. Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. LEO Africa will let you know about the final price during your application process.
Crowdfunding Service
Generally, volunteering abroad involves certain costs. In case you need financial support, we will assist you to fundraise your volunteer program in South Africa.
Deposit (15%)
The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.
Final Payment (85%)
Your final payment will be agreed with LEO Africa during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.
Africa Southern Africa South Africa Thabazimbi, Thabazimbi Marakele National Park
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