Volunteer with the 'Big Five' and the Born Free Big Cat Volunteer Foundation in one of South Africa's finest game reserves.
This incredible volunteer experience in South Africa for offers the chance to get involved with the conservation efforts of the world-renowned Shamwari Game Reserve. Volunteers on this project play a vital role in the numerous fascinating aspects of managing an award-winning game reserve which has claimed back more than 25,000 hectares of once derelict farmland.
About the project
Locally identified as Frontier Country, the Eastern Cape of South Africa enjoys unmatched biodiversity which unfortunately has suffered severely over past centuries as result of wildlife, fauna and flora being all but eradicated (with the exception of a few species). The impact of the early settlers in particular has left its mark on a district where several of the first encounters with wildlife in Southern Africa were documented. This project was established to return the land and the wildlife species which used to inhabit it, back to its former glory. Over the past twenty three years, a dedicated team of conservationists has not only been successful in the reintroduction of flora and fauna, but they have also taken responsibility to manage and care for the natural resources which they are now custodians of.
With an on-site, dedicated wildlife department, Animal Rehabilitation Centre, Animal Hospital and Rhino Awareness Centre, volunteers will gain first-hand experience and insight through a vast array of tasks. This may range from tracking and monitoring of rare and endangered species such as rhino, elephants and predators, working at the Born Free Foundation Big Cat Sanctuary, and possibly witnessing wildlife veterinary procedures.
Volunteers are also involved with local community projects, focusing on wildlife, environment and continued restoration and upkeep of the reserve. This project allows volunteers to personally experience and add value to a project which has been globally recognized for its conservation efforts and expertise.
Prior to Arrival
The easiest way to get here is to arrive into Johannesburg (O.R. Tambo International Airport), and then book a connecting domestic flight from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth. The project is approximately 1 hour (75 kilometres) from Port Elizabeth Airport. Please ensure that you book flights to arrive in Port Elizabeth before 11am on your project start date. You will be met at the airport by a member of staff at the transport service and will be transferred to Shamwari at 1pm. This service is not included in the program fees and will cost ZAR 450 each way, payable on arrival
Holders of UK, most other EU countries, 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.
Upon arrival into Port Elizabeth airport you will be transferred to the project site. Once you have arrived, you will have a welcome orientation and briefing. You will then have the rest of the day to settle in and meet the rest of the volunteers.
On your typical working days you will work from approximately 8 am to 4 or 5 pm and have the evenings off. The tasks can vary depending on the season and the number of volunteers on site.
You can expect to take part in the following activities:
Game count & monitoring
Annual game counts of species (including rhino, elephants, lions, leopards and antelope) are carried out in order to establish the carrying capacity of the reserve, the movement of animals to and from the area, as well as predator to prey ratios.
Telemetry tracking & research
Telemetry tracking (or tracking using remote sources such as wire or radio) is used - particularly with regards to the more elusive species like cheetah and leopards.
Restoration and rehabilitation of reserve landscapes and fencing
This is integral to the well-being of the reserve and ensures its long term revival as a pristine landscape suitable for an extensive collection of flora and fauna.
Maintenance of the reserve as a healthy breeding centre
Shamwari is an important breeding centre for a variety of species. Management here can refer to anything from veld (open country or grassland) conditions assessment, mapping of breeding area, mapping of alien vegetation, monitoring animal numbers and managing water points.
Alien plant control
An essential part of your volunteer duties here, alien plant control helps to get rid of unwanted (and potentially poisonous plants), increase the natural biodiversity of the reserve, as well as decrease fire risk.
Volunteering at Born Free Foundation
An opportunity will be given on a weekly basis for you to volunteer with big cats (lions and leopards) at the Born Free Big Cat Sanctuary - a world-renowned animal rehabilitation centre.
Volunteering at the Animal Rehabilitation Centre
Shamwari Animal Rehabilitation Centre was set up to aid in the rehabilitation of injured animals found on the reserve and surrounding community. The aim is to give the animals the short term care they need so that they can be successfully released back into the environment.
This responsibility involves the education of local communities in the benefits of conserving biodiversity and stresses the importance of conserving the natural habitats of Shamwari and the surrounding area. Weekly trips are made into the local community to assist in various community projects that range from creating and maintaining vegetable gardens, recycling projects, painting classrooms and building jungle gyms.
Restoration and Rehabilitation of Reserve Landscapes
The need to return the once pristine landscape to its original splendour includes the collecting and removal of old fence lines and rehabilitating degraded and overgrazed land.
These projects are often undertaken in conjunction with both local and foreign research and academic institutions and may range from elephant fertility testing to capturing data on lesser known species such as Brown Hyena.
Once you have said goodbye to your fellow volunteers and facilitators, you will transfer back to airport for you return flight home or you will commence onward independent travel plans.
You are free to explore the surrounding area, relax by the pool, read a book ect.
Accommodation is within a purpose built guest centre that contains 15 twin bedded en-suite rooms, a dining room area, plunge pool, common lounging area with cable TV and a DVD player. There is also tented accomodation, sleeping 3 per tent with en-suite facilities. The availability at the time will depend on which accomodation you will be staying in. Wireless internet is also available at a small fee and laundry service can also be provided once per week.
During your time here, you will be given three meals per day as part of the project price. Bottled water and soft drinks will need to be purchased from local trading stores open daily.
There are no facilities to service Kosher or Halal requirements but the supply of such meals can be serviced at extra cost with adequate warning.