PMGY’s Big 5 Wildlife Experience is a life-changing experience that allows you to work behind the scenes on a world-class wildlife reserve in South Africa!
PMGY’s Big 5 Wildlife Experience is a life-changing experience that allows you to work behind the scenes on a world-class wildlife reserve in South Africa! It is the ultimate wildlife programme, where volunteers get the opportunity to enjoy hands-on involvement and a rich education in Conservation Management. If you have a real passion for animals and the conservation of endangered species then this is the programme for you.
The programme is based on a 10,000 hectare reserve just outside the coastal town of Kenton-on-Sea…the Indian Ocean is literally on your doorstep. To ensure a worthwhile impact, volunteers work in a small team of a maximum of 10 participants. Working hours depend on the season and may vary from 7-9 hours per day, so it is a busy yet highly rewarding programme. A dedicated volunteer coordinator will ensure that you have a wonderful learning experience, make a real contribution to the reserve and leave with a stronger understanding of the conservation issues in South Africa.
Conservation Management activities form a large part of the volunteer programme. Some of these activities involve physical work and therefore a certain level of determination from the volunteer is required. Keep in mind that the “reserve needs” are always taken into account and you will help to fulfil those needs as a volunteer. Daily activities are interesting and varied, and could include assistance with some of the following – game counts, sex and age ratio recordings, soil erosion control, reserve clean-up operations, road maintenance and repairing of river crossings and parasite control.
Volunteers may also have the opportunity to experience a number of major conservation activities such as capturing of wildlife animals, game introduction and fire management activities. These activities take place on an ad-hoc basis but certainly provide volunteers with a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Each volunteer will receive a field booklet which can be taken home at the end of the programme. Before you start with each practical task, the relative theoretical background on the subject will be discussed in the form of informal lectures. The theory provides insight into the value of the practical activities in which you may participate. Mammal, plant and bird checklists are included in the booklet which will help you to identify different species on the reserve. Some examples of the education provided on the programme includes – bush walks, game drives, night drives, sleep outs (camping out in the bush), field skills and survival (how to look after yourself in the wild).
So, if you fancy rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty in a once in a lifetime setting then this is the programme for you!
You should arrive into Port Elizabeth International Airport on the selected Monday start date. You will be met at the airport by one of our local staff or an appointed driver who will be holding a named sign. They will take you to your accommodation where you will spend the rest of your day at leisure.
The programme ends on the Monday of your final week and you should depart the accommodation on this day.
Can I use this program as part of a university or college placement?
It is certainly possible to use one of PMGY’s programmes as part of your university or college placement. Project staff can sign off any paperwork required by your course tutors. PMGY regularly receives medical, childcare, psychology and nursing placement students at our projects around the world and we have ties with some of the leading universities.
If you’re a course tutor and would like further information about how one of PMGY’s programmes could meet the placement requirements for your degree course then please contact us.
Is it safe to travel to PMGY destinations?
Although our volunteers work in the developing world, we always ensure our host locations are safe. Each programme has been extensively researched and has passed our strict vetting process. Our UK team undergo an extensive routine when establishing our in-country infrastructures and we continue to monitor our safety procedures on a regular basis. Furthermore, we monitor the stability of our volunteer destinations on a daily basis. Through our constant contact with consulates and embassies and our reports from our overseas teams, we are able to ensure that our volunteers are never placed in unstable regions.
The PMGY team have visited and participated in every programme we offer and verified them based on our own independent criteria. We carefully inspect every little detail of our set-up. From inspecting the living conditions, checking out the neighbourhoods you’ll be staying in, to tasting the food you’ll be eating – each and every programme we establish has gone through a lengthy and rigorous vetting process. Risk assessments have been written for all areas in which PMGY operate and our experienced local coordinators are always on-hand to manage any emergencies that may occur. Our UK team are always on the road reviewing our risk management procedures in the field and monitoring local conditions.
In emergency situations we have the necessary protocols and equipment in place and we are able to evacuate our volunteers from potential dangers. Our local coordinators are trained to deal with emergency circumstances.
When you join PMGY we will send you a Volunteer Handbook. This document addresses a range of issues such as health, safety, visa issues etc. Furthermore, our UK team are only ever a phone call away should you wish to discuss any aspect of your upcoming programme. When you arrive in-country, you’ll be given a comprehensive safety briefing during your orientation course by our local coordinators. We will go through everything from emergency procedures, how to use local transport and cultural differences. You’ll also be given the opportunity to purchase a local SIM card, something we strongly suggest, so you’re contactable at all times. We will provide you with a full list of the important contact numbers that you’ll need to know.
All our local teams are experienced development professionals who have years of experience in hosting international volunteers. They are our representatives on the ground and will assist you 24/7 throughout your stay. Whether you need to call home, travel at the weekend or require urgent assistance – they are there to support you.
While we cannot guarantee your volunteer experience to be 100% trouble free we have taken all the necessary precautions to make sure each programme is as safe as possible.
Your efforts will help to make sure the reserve is a safe and suitable environment for these animals to not just survive but thrive. You will get the chance to get up close and personal with some of South Africa’s most famous residents. There will be the possibility to care for lions, elephants, rhinos and leopards. To top it all off, every Wednesday, volunteers get involved in a community outreach programme that works with rural schools teaching basic subjects. The school is small, with kids ages 4 to 15 but it is very under-staffed. Volunteers visit the school one day a week (not during school holidays or rainy days – most of the children walk about 10 km to attend school so, if it rains, no one goes to school!), and make valuable contributions to the children’s education. Our volunteers take many of the classes themselves and teach 6-12 year olds subjects like English, Maths and Science. You might also help with the maintenance of the school’s facilities or by giving sport lessons to the kids.
The activities for the rest of the week are extremely varied so no two days will be the same. Its not all work and no play as the programme is designed to provide a physical and fun experience every day. Saturdays are reserved for a town trip (either to Kenton-On-Sea, Port Alfred or Grahamstown) where volunteers can do their shopping, eat out, visit all the sites of the local towns. Sundays are days off. Here is just a small selection of the things you can expect to get involved in during the week;
Elephant Impact Monitoring – Volunteers will help monitor elephant movement patterns, range utilisation and vegetation impact with the aid of telemetry (certain elephants are fitted with radio collars). Volunteers will also use elephant identification sheets to record the unique ear markings of each elephant for reserve management purposes.
Population Status of Leopards – Leopards have been persecuted in the Eastern Cape for the last 300 years resulting in declined numbers and fragmented populations, and placing the local population at risk of extinction. Virtually the entire landscape was hostile to them, and leopards survived in only the most isolated areas. Recently attitudes towards large predators have shifted, and leopards are now legally protected. There has also been a recent shift in land use, with an increasing number of private nature reserves complementing the national parks in supporting conservation of biodiversity.
Lion Prey Selection Monitoring – An important responsibility of the volunteer programme is to record as many lion kills as possible. This data provides the conservation department at the reserve with valuable information regarding prey selection. Certain lions on the reserve are fitted with radio collars so volunteers will learn how to use telemetry tracking.
Rhino Monitoring – The estimated number of rhino poached during 2015 in South Africa is 633! This crisis is the most significant conservation issue that South Africa has faced. Conservation volunteers help monitor and account for rhinos on the property on a regular basis.
Birds in Reserve Project (BIRP) – This project involves cataloguing the species, numbers and breeding status of the birds at the reserve as part of a project headed by the University of Cape Town’s Avian Demography Unit.
IN & AROUND THE GAME RESERVE
PMGY volunteers are based on the Game Reserve situated along South Africa’s beautiful Garden Route, just 16km from the gorgeous Indian Ocean. This malaria-free game reserve incorporates 10,000 hectares of pristine African wilderness, as well as two abundant rivers – the Kariega and the Bushmans.
Relaxation time at the reserve includes an entertainment room with a pool table, a lounge with a TV, dining room and a fully equipped kitchen. A plunge pool is situated in the garden for volunteers to cool off in after a hard day’s work and there is also a “braai” (BBQ) area outside in the garden for volunteers to enjoy in the evenings.
Please bear in mind that the house is in the middle of a ‘Big 5’ game reserve, so therefore you cannot walk outside the boundaries of the garden fence or leave the property to go for an impromptu jog!
Most Wednesday evenings we arrange to take all our volunteers to a pizza evening at a beach pub in Kenton-On-Sea. There is a small fee for the transport but well worth it for the delicious pizzas at very reasonable prices and a lovely, chilled out evening by the beach.
WEEKENDS AROUND THE GAME RESERVE
Saturdays are generally reserved for a town trip to Kenton-On-Sea to allow volunteers to stock up on everyday essentials and to make use of internet and phone facilities.
Additional activities can be organised for you on a Saturday at your own cost – most of our volunteers make the most of this and choose a different activity every Saturday. Some of the activities include – Horse riding on the beach Kenton-On-Sea, horse riding outside port Alfred with picnic and sand boarding, sky-diving, deep sea fishing, quad biking, Addo Elephant National Park, canoe trip on the Bushmans river (sleep over in rustic hikers hut), elephant sanctuary (touch, feed and 15 min ride). Sundays are days off for both the volunteers and the volunteer coordinators.
Kenton-On-Sea is a beautiful small coastal town only 15 minutes drive from the reserve. The beaches are absolutely breathtaking and pristine set against green rolling hills with a nature reserve to boot.
After Saturday morning shopping in Kenton (volunteers can stock up on all everyday essentials), volunteers often laze around on the beach, swim in the waves or sit in a beach bar while sipping away on a cold drink and taking in the scenery.
30 mins drive from the reserve, Grahamstown is a viby student town famous for Rhodes University. This Eastern Cape town is where the early British settlers – craftspeople and builders in the main – produced some of the most remarkable architecture in South Africa. Just spend a day walking its streets, and you’ll find yourself back in the mid-1800s: follies, fancies and Victorian styles reminiscent of London.
During your time with PMGY in South Africa you will stay at our Volunteer House which is located right in the middle of the reserve. The house is basic but comfortable and offers a friendly and lively atmosphere. There is an electric fence around the outside grounds and it is not safe for you to go outside of the fence at night to go for a walk or jog.
Volunteers share bedrooms (single sex rooms) with up to 4 people per room. There are two bathrooms in the house to share with a shower and western style toilet. There is an entertainment room with a pool table, a lounge with a T.V (South African channels only), dining room and a fully equipped kitchen with a fridge, stove, microwave, cutlery, crockery and cooking utensils. A plunge pool is situated in the garden for volunteers to cool off in after a hard day’s work. There is also a “braai” (BBQ) area outside in the garden for volunteers to enjoy in the evenings.
There is free Wi-Fi at the Volunteer House and volunteers bringing their own phones, laptops or iPads/tablets along will be able to gain internet access. Please note that browsing only is allowed with the available limited data in the house – no downloading, no video Skype calls and no watching/streaming videos. Volunteers are able to communicate through emails, Facebook, blogging etc. There is a small safe for cash, passports and small valuables on site.
There are no telephone facilities at the Volunteer House for volunteers to use. Volunteers can make use of pay phones on town-trip days (once a week – normally Saturdays). Most volunteers however bring their own mobiles with them so that they are able to send text messages home – this however is not a necessity.
All the ingredients for 3 meals are day are provided within the Volunteer House. Volunteers are divided into cooking teams and all meals are made by the volunteers themselves at the house. Volunteers are also responsible for washing up and keeping the kitchen clean and tidy.
The meals are basic, for example cereals, porridge and toast for breakfast; sandwiches for lunch and lasagna/chicken stew, veggies and salad for supper. If volunteers wish to add ingredients to meals that are not available to them at the Volunteer House, they can buy it on town trip days at their own expense.
Note: Our team will do their best to cater for any dietary requirements but there may be instances where you may need to purchase alternative ingredients at your own expense.