As a volunteer with the Greater Kruger Conservation Project you will experience the African bush first hand and become part of a small team with a very important job.
Field work experience on various research projects, elephant & rhino identification, camera trap monitoring, clearing alien vegetation, assisting with reserve maintenance and assisting with the Bush Babies Environmental Education Project.
Volunteer duties vary thoughout the year and are dictated by the team’s daily priorities, seasonal changes, and the time of year. You could be assisting with on-going projects that are conducted on a day to day basis as well as annual research projects that are conducted at specific times of the year. You will be assigned to research projects on a rotational basis to provide and ensure exposure to as many of the projects running during your stay. During this time, interns and staff will educate you in their area of study. You will assist them with data collection, data entry, research and reports.
Being in a Big 5 area within the Greater Kruger National Park means you are very likely to encounter African wildlife including lion, elephant, rhino, giraffe, zebra, impala, buffalo, vervet monkeys, baboons, eagles, snakes, spiders, reptiles and much more.
You will stay in a rustic bush camp within the reserve with cold running water and some solar power. The camp is unfenced, so wildlife can pass through at any time.
Your participation in this project also helps to support the 'Black Mambas', an anti-rhino poaching unit that relies heavily on donations and fees generated from this volunteer project. The Black Mambas have received praise in the South African media as a poverty alleviation initiative which trains women from disadvantaged communities to become members of an effective deterrent to poaching, helping them to support their families.
To join this project, you will need to be in good physical condition and aged 18 years or older by the time you arrive. Good social skills are an advantage and a willingness to help where needed is vital as you will be part of a small team of staff and volunteers. Personal characteristics like commitment, flexibility and the ability to cope with very basic living conditions will also be key. To ensure effective communication between all team members, a good understanding of the English language is also required.
You do not need experience in the African bush, but you will need to have a real affinity and respect for nature conservation, wildlife and research work. This project is not for the faint-hearted.
|Arrival Airport||Johannesburg (JNB)|
|Arrival Day||Sunday or earlier|
|Join Project On||Monday|
|Duration||You can volunteer with this project for 2 weeks or more|
|Volunteering Hours||Variable hours, 6 days each week|
|Main Activities||Field work experience on various research projects, elephant & rhino identification, camera trap monitoring, clearing alien vegetation, assisting with reserve maintenance and assisting with the Bush Babies Environmental Education Project|
|Fly Home On||Thursday or later|
|Minimum Age||You must be aged 18 years or older when you arrive|
|Availability||Available dates for each duration are shown on the top-right of this page with the option to select from several currencies.|
|Pre-arrival Support||Our experienced Cape Town team is on hand with expert advice and assistance to ensure you are fully prepared for your trip to South Africa|
|Airport Transfer||We provide an escorted transfer from Johannesburg Airport to your pre-project accommodation|
|Accommodation||For your first night (Sunday night) you will stay at Brown Sugar Backpackers in Johannesburg. At the project you will stay in a basic thatched chalet at the volunteer camp|
|Food||All your meals are included during your stay at the project|
|Transport||Return transfers between Johannesburg and the project are provided|
|Orientation||On your first day at the project you will have a full orientation|
|In-country Support||Our Cape Town based volunteer coordinators are available 24/7 for emergencies, and are on hand to help you make the most of your stay|
|Certificate||On completion of your placement we will send you a special thank you certificate to accompany your CV or resume.|
|Visas||Citizens from most countries can arrive in South Africa and stay for up to 90 days without a Visa. Please refer to our FAQ section for more details if you are unsure|
|Flights||Please refer to our FAQ section for recommendations about keeping your flight costs to a minimum|
|Insurance||We have partnered with World Nomads Insurance to give you access to great value insurance for volunteers. Please check out our Insurance page under the FAQ tab for more details.|
Soon after you arrive at camp, the project team will help you to settle in with an orientation session that will include a tour of the camp, responsible camp living (fire wood collection and usage, solar power usage, water usage, leaving chalets after dark, noise levels, etc.), project overview, wildlife you can expect to see, behavior around wild animals, camp rules and an introduction to savanna ecology.
Life on the reserve is rarely routine, and there is no typical day. On a 'normal' day, you will be up with the sun for coffee and breakfast before heading out into the bush. You can expect to be out and about for around 6 hours each day, with a rest stop for a light lunch.
Along with helping out with camp duties like cooking and cleaning, you could find yourself assisting with repairs after heavy rains, fixing damage after elephants have passed through the camp, or mucking in to get a stranded Landover back on the road. The team are often involved with darting wildlife, working alongside vets and assisting with a variety of other related tasks.
Conditions on the reserve can vary wildly with very high temperatures, long dry spells, torrential downpours during the wet season, and long days in the sun being regular features.
With so much time spent in the fresh air you will feel tired at the end of each day, which makes the evening meal even more delicious. Evenings around the campfire are perfect for catching up on the day's events, planning ahead, and for retelling stories and jokes as the Milky Way drifts overhead. The frequent night calls of hyena and lion all add to the excitement, and will join many other wonderful memories of your days in the African bush.
At least once a week you can join a shopping trip to the nearest town to stock up on personal supplies like extra snacks, drinks and washing powder.
Research Projects & Activities
Assisting Interns, Students & Professors
The project hosts several University students, Professors and Doctors throughout the year to conduct a variety of research projects within the reserve. You will assist with preparations as well as data collection in the field.
Elephant Identification and Population Dynamics
The project assists Elephants Alive in its elephant identification study. Whilst in the field, features as external ear patterns, tusks and wrinkle-patterns above the trunk are collected by photographic identification. We also record information such as herd dynamics, age, and gender. On return to camp, this information is logged into the Elephant Identification database which is then submitted to Elephants Alive.
Camera Trap Monitoring & Photo Collection
Camera traps have been positioned throughout the reserve. All cameras must be checked and downloaded at least once a week. Back at camp, the images are sorted, recorded and filed into various databases. All sightings of rhinos are logged daily to assist in our anti-poaching efforts. Sightings and body conditions are recorded and entered into the security database. A map is then produced containing their locations and sent to anti-poaching rangers daily.
Search and destroy! One of the most problematic invasive alien plant species in South Africa is the Prickly Pear cactus. We use biological (Cochineal beetle) and chemical (MSMA) treatments to eradicate this species as well as Queen of the Night (another alien cacti found here) for the reserve. Our Cochineal nursery must also be maintained, ensuring our biological ‘weapons’ have plenty of food and space to breed to ensure a continuous supply to use in the field.
The project team is also responsible for the maintenance of the reserve, including all aspects of road and fence maintenance, management of the waste site and emergency response.
Bush Babies Environmental Education Project
Environmental education lessons are conducted at 10 local schools surrounding the reserve from Monday to Friday, excluding school holidays. Lessons involve teaching children about nature and conservation as part of our anti-poaching initiative. You will be required to teach the children about your home country, its wildlife and conservation struggles. Outside of the school term, 5-day holiday programs are held for all children of staff working within the reserve. You will assist with lessons preparation, teaching and supervision of the children.
Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit
Founded by the project, the Black Mambas are a majority female anti-poaching unit that focuses on visual policing and community upliftment. Snares are wire traps set by poachers in the hopes of catching antelope for their meat, however this is a very non-selective way of poaching and all wildlife, including the big 5 can become injured by these traps. The Black Mambas conduct regular sweeps to find and destroy these traps. When possible, volunteers will join the ladies on these sweeps.
January to March
August to September
October to November
Pre-Project accommodation (For your Sunday night arrival in Johannesburg):
As one of Johannesburg's best backpackers, Brown Sugar has a great range of facilities and is well positioned in the Observatory suburb of Johannesburg to provide the perfect place for you to relax and explore during your first weekend in South Africa.
While you’re at Brown Sugar you can enjoy all of the facilities below. Whether you’re having a dip in the pool, or booking an adventurous activity at the Travel Desk, you will find that Brown Sugar have plenty to keep you busy:
At the Greater Kruger Conservation Project:
You will stay at a rustic bush camp with basic facilities that include:
Please note that the camp is solar powered which is suitable for basic lighting, operating the water pump, and recharging mobile phones and laptops. The solar power cannot cope with heavy duty items like hairdryers. There are no electrical power points in the accommodation units.
Each chalet has a large outside sink for hand washing your laundry and you will be able to buy washing powder locally.
The project is located on a large game reserve which forms part of the Greater Kruger National Park in Limpopo Province.
We have arrival dates for this project most Sundays throughout the year.
It’s easy to add extra nights to your stay, so if you find a cheaper flight that arrives earlier than your Sunday arrival date just let us know. You can also add extra nights after your placement for the same reason.