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Made for Meaningful Travel

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Samara Private Game Reserve

Conservation Helper at Game Reserve

Discover the 'behind-the-scenes' of a game reserve and contribute to real conservation management in South Africa's Great Karoo. Come get your hands dirty with us!

Have you ever wanted to get involved in the daily running of a game reserve whilst doing meaningful conservation work? Then Samara’s Conservation Volunteer Programme could be for you!

About Samara

Samara is a 70,000 acre game reserve and a hub of conservation and animal reintroduction efforts in the Great Karoo. As a volunteer you will work on ongoing wildlife research and management projects as well as assist with community development and environmental education programmes. Come get your hands dirty in a unique South African bush experience!

Our conservation ethic over the past 20 years has been guided by professional advice and conservation best-practice, working with a number of NGOs and government bodies such as SANParks. Since 1997, we have achieved a lot, with some notable successes. However, much more remains to be done to achieve Samara’s potential. Our vision is nothing less than a fully-restored Great Karoo ecosystem, a haven for endangered species, a purveyor of ecosystem services and a tool for social upliftment in this hauntingly beautiful land. We are working with various stakeholders in the region to create the 1.3 million acre Great Karoo Mega-Reserve, and you can help contribute to this ongoing conservation journey.

About the Volunteer Programme

We started the Volunteer Programme in 2010 with the aim of engaging young people from around the world in the 'behind-the-scenes' running of a game reserve whilst doing work that actually contributes to the running of the reserve. This includes land rehabilitation, alien vegetation control, cheetah monitoring, rhino security and anti-poaching, community outreach and working with our other projects, from the Tracker Academy to the research projects on the reserve.

The volunteer programme also offers you the opportunity to contribute to an ambitious and worthy cause far bigger than ourselves - the creation of the 1.3 million acre Great Karoo Mega-Reserve. When you stay and volunteer with us, you join Samara's journey to preserve and revitalise this unique ecosystem.

You will leave Samara with a deeper understanding of the bush, as well as useful skills and techniques used in current scientific research, conservation and reserve management. We also hope you will leave energized by the experience of living so closely with nature. 

Suitable for


Typical day

On a typical day, you'll wake around 7am and get going with some of the following activities:

  • Cheetah monitoring and tracking on foot
  • Land rehabilitation: soil erosion control including digging hollows, brush-packing and vegetation re-establishment to rectify degradation through old farming methods
  • Alien vegetation control: removing various invasive plant species and testing the most effective methods
  • Vervet monkey research: helping to observe and collect data on Vervet monkeys with students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and others to explore how our monkeys survive in the harsh Karoo environment
  • Tracker Academy: accompanying the tracker students on their morning walk to learn about how they interpret animals’ tracks to follow them through the bush. The Tracker Academy was set up on Samara in 2010 and is run by one of South Africa's only Master Trackers, Pokkie Benadie.
  • Cape Mountain Zebra population research: evaluating sex and age ratios and population density
  • Rhino monitoring and tracking on foot (both black and white rhino)
  • Community outreach with the Vuyani Safe Haven, a centre for abused and neglected children in Graaff-Reinet
  • Ad hoc lectures from visiting academics or conservationists (subject to availability)
  • Other activities: hiking, game drives, night drives, camping (weather permitting), swimming in rivers (weather permitting). 
Sundays are for free time, and there will be opportunities for activities on the reserve like hiking and camping, visiting neighbouring reserves and traveling to Graaff-Reinet for the day. Tours of surrounding attractions (e.g. Valley of Desolation, Addo Elephant National Park, down to the coast for surfing) can be arranged on request and at extra cost.

Details on Arrival

The programme is open during the months of June, July and August. Open dates for 2017 are Friday 2nd June to Friday 1st September inclusive.

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 Documents
Motivational statement and Health insurance documents
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
This programme is open to people from all walks of life, the only requirements being passion, enthusiasm and a willingness to work hard and learn.
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 08:00 - 16:00

Any questions? Just ask. We at Samara Private Game Reserve are happy to help you.

Free-time activities

In your free time you'll have the chance to explore the beautiful landscape in which you are staying. Activities include hiking, walking, game drives, camping (weather permitting), swimming in the river (weather permitting). Trips to surrounding attractions such as the Valley of Desolation, Graaff-Reinet, national parks nearby or even the coast for some surfing can be arranged on request and at extra cost.


Included Services

What's included?
Rates include: Accommodation, all activities on the reserve, transport on the reserve, food, Wifi.

Rates exclude: Transport to and from the reserve, flights, travel insurance, optional weekend excursions to Graaff-Reinet or surrounding areas, curio shop purchases from Karoo Lodge, telephone calls, items of a personal nature, alcoholic beverages (over 18 only).

Accommodation is in basic single or double rooms. There are separate communal bathrooms for boys and girls. The maximum number of volunteers that can be accommodated is 10. Camp facilities include a kitchen, living room, braai area, outdoor seating, Wifi, telephone and laundry.

Bedroom (Single) Bedroom (Double)
Food & Beverages

Meals are cooked by volunteers and volunteer programme coordinators in teams. Menus are prepared each week to cater for any dietary requirements or preferences. 

Internet Access
Good 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.

No worries, Volunteer World supports you in raising funds, checking your visa regulations and travel insurance. We also assist you in finding the cheapest flights for your journey.
Costs (Prices in USD)
2 weeks (min. stay)
3 weeks
4 weeks
5 weeks
6 weeks
7 weeks
12 weeks (max. stay)
Average fees

You can volunteer at the project site in Near Graaff-Reinet/South Africa between 2 weeks and 12 weeks. Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. Samara Private Game Reserve will let you know about the final price during your application process.
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 Samara Private Game Reserve during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

Get ready to volunteer in South Africa

Check out first

Visa Regulations
Depending on your nationality, you have to arrange your visa for South Africa. Please check the visa regulations for South Africa.
Travel Seasons
Find out the best time to volunteer in South Africa and receive information on weather and climatic conditions.
Living Costs
Living costs vary with each destination. We give an overview of what you should plan as an estimated budget to volunteer in South Africa.
Generally, volunteering abroad involves certain costs. In case you need financial support, we will assist you to fundraise your volunteer program in South Africa.

What's next?

The nearest airport is Port Elizabeth (PLZ) in Port Elizabeth. 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.
Vaccine Checker
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.
What can you do in leisure-time in South Africa while you are not working at your volunteer opportunity?
Samara Private Game Reserve, Petersburg Road, off the R63 to Pearston, Eastern Cape 6280 Near Graaff-Reinet, South Africa
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