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Kruger Big 5 Wildlife Research Volunteer

Kruger Conservation Area, South Africa
from £1,695 (2 weeks)

Ref: AV113

A fantastic opportunity to join the field guides and research team on safari drives through South African game reserves to monitor and study the African Big 5 - lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo.  The data collected on these wild but vulnerable and at-risk animals will help local wildlife foundations in protecting and conserving them.  Volunteers will live at a lodge in this wildlife haven and as well as practically contributing to conservation, they will learn more from the team of experts about the issues facing African wildlife. 

This project is based in the world-famous Greater Kruger area - famous for the Big 5 and amazing scenery.  The 'Big 5' (lion, elephant, rhino, leopard and buffalo) while now thought of as the top animals to see on safari, were originally referred to as the five most dangerous animals to hunt on foot.  The area is world-renowned for its protection efforts to save these species and preserve their natural habitat.  Research volunteers will be part of the action - helping to monitor the region's wild animals and assisting in vital conservation efforts that support the long-term objectives of internationally recognised wildlife trusts and foundations.

Who can join: 16 years and over
Accommodation: Comfortable shared accommodation
Transfer time: approx. 3 hours
Pick up Point: Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (In Nelspruit)
Meals: Meals included
Volunteer numbers: Approx 14

Duration & Fees

2 weeks£1,695
3 weeks£1,945
4 weeks£2,195
5 weeks£2,445
6 weeks£2,695
7 weeks£2,945
8 weeks£3,195

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Please note: The currency conversion is an estimate based on today's exchange rates and is to be used as a guide only. All payments to Amanzi Travel have to be made in Pounds Sterling (GBP)

Start Dates

2021 Start Dates:

18 Apr | 2 May | 16 May | 30 May | 13 Jun | 27 Jun | 4 Jul | 11 Jul | 18 Jul | 25 Jul | 1 Aug | 8 Aug | 15 Aug | 22 Aug | 29 Aug | 5 Sep | 19 Sep | 3 Oct | 17 Oct | 31 Oct | 14 Nov | 28 Nov | 12 Dec | 26 Dec


£180 deposit at time of booking – balance payment of project fee due 12 weeks before departure

What's Included

  • Shared accommodation - private upgrades are available for an extra supplement
  • Airport pickup and drop off on selected Sundays
  • All daily project transport
  • Three meals a day, freshly cooked from a team of great chefs
  • A full time housekeeping services and 24 hour onsite support
  • Wifi is available for an additional fee but volunteer will need their own WiFi compatible device.  Cost is approximately R350 for 2 weeks or R600 for 4 weeks.

What's not included

  • Travel insurance (to include cover for repatriation)
  • All transport by air or bus to and from Nelspruit or Hoedspruit Airports
  • Personal items eg clothes, travel goods
  • Email, internet and telephone calls
  • Soft drinks, beers, wines and spirits
  • Visas for border crossings if required
  • Any excursions undertaken other than in the planned programme
  • A small cost for laundry service
  • Airport pick ups and transfers outside of allocated times
  • A small additional cost for laundry 
  • Wifi costs (using your own laptop) 

Project Highlights

  • Go on daily game drives in some of South Africa's finest game reserves, including those neighbouring the iconic Kruger National Park.  Volunteers will help to collect data on the Big 5 and other iconic species, providing critical information that can protect them from poaching, starvation and misinformed culling.
  • Join the team in tracking the movements and monitoring the behaviour of elephant herds and prides of lions. Better understanding will lead to better conservation efforts.
  • Live in the heart of the world renowned Greater Kruger area on a private reserve
  • Once a week camp out at an overnight research camp - a truly African experience spending a night in the middle of the bush
  • Become a Night-Owl and watch the nocturnal animals in their own environment on night drives
  • Assist in ongoing practical conservation initiatives including removing invasive giant species or conducting snare sweeps.  This directly preserves the habitat and lives of the animals who call this area home.
  • Experience real life wildlife conservation in action and learn more from the team of experts,
  • Be part of local anti=poaching efforts, leaning more about the issues facing this region, as well as what is being done to prevent it.
  • During downtime explore the Blyde River Canyon, take in the sights of the Panorama Route, go for a hike, take a swim in the pool or put another stamp in the passport by visiting the intriguing land-locked country of Swaziland

This project is based in the Greater Kruger area in South Africa which is home to the Big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino), as well as a diverse array of other wildlife, and more than 400 species of birds.

The focus of this project is to monitor the endangered Big Five African animals (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo) and to assist in vital conservation within the area.

How Volunteers Help to Make an Impact

The Rhino Project
In the face of the current rhino-poaching crisis there has never been a bigger need for the monioring of this majestic species.  Over 1000 rhinos were poached in South Africa last year so the help of volunteers is key as they actively search for individual rhinos on daily research drives.  By tracking and identifying individuals, and then documenting the observations, the necessary information will be provided for their protection and for the deterrence of poachers in the area.

The Elephant Project
Elephants are greatly misunderstood and sometimes seen as a nuisance due to a lack of information on their numbers and migratory patterns.  These beautiful creatures are being culled unecessarily often due to this lack of insight.  Volunteers will play a critical role in their protection by providing partner organisations with data collected on elephant population estimates and movements in the area. 

The Leopard Project
The leopard population in South Africs is declining quickly due to persecution by humans.  Decisions on their protection are misinformed because of outdated population numbers, with hunting permits still being issued.  On daily research drives volunteers will be collecting vital information on this species and creating ID kits on each individual, helping authorities to better protect them in the future.  Volunteers will also be detecting snares and removing them - playing a direct role in saving this iconic species.

The Lion Project
Africa's iconic species is continuing to disappear at an alarming rate.  With a 43% drop in the lion population in the past 20 years and a total eradication of lions in 14 African countries, hands are needed on the ground to save these amazing animals.  Volunteers will be instrumental in collecting data on specfic lion prides during the daily research drives.  This contributes to detailed statistics on their pride dynamics, social structures and the effect of human conflict which are all invaluable in the protection of lions.  
The Buffalo Project
The stability of the buffalo herds (also called obstinacies) is key information for management of conservation in the area.  They are often misunderstood but are fundamental to reserve management and predator and prey relationships.  Game counts and daily research drives will show why they need respect and hold the deserved place in the Big 5.

Ecosystem Management
By conducting research on how ecosystems work together we can be better informed as we work to conserve and protect our valuable endangered and threatened species in Africa.  This ranges from the effect of the changing climate with drought and flash floods often destrying huge land areas and the disappearance of insect life, reptiles and birdlife all absolutely needed for a healthy and balanced protected wildlife.

Key Volunteer Work

Daily Game Drives
Volunteers will join qualified guides and research team members on daily game drives in search of the Big 5 and more of Africa's wildlife.  They will be supplied with the tools and support needed to collect data on comprehensive data sheets, using GPS, camera traps and mapping softward and help to identify individual animals using ID kits.  The observations and data collection will form part of a large picture to provide key information for better understanding and ultimately critical decisions made on protecting the wildlife in the Greater Kruger area.

Conservation Work
This dirty work is so much fun and key to the srurvival of wildlife in the area.  Help from volunteers is needed to remove invastive plants and encroaching species in order to transford the land back into a habitat where wildlife can flourish.  Volunteers will also join snare sweeps where traps are discarded that often cost the lives of leopard and other animals.  Don't worry about physical ability - there is a role for everyone and many hands are needed.

Devil in the Detail
Volunteers will learn how to compile and collect data as this needs to be analysed and used to create reports, maps and up-to-date profiles of the animals being observed.  Using whisker patterns, scars and ear notches volunteers will learn how to distinguish individuals in order to create and update the ID kits which will monitor their movements and their health in the years to come.

What Else Will Volunteers Be Involved In

Reptile Centre
During their time at the project volunteers will get involved in different and exciting activities.  Partnering with a local Reptile Centre volunteers will clean their cages, assist with the reptile food garden, and maybe overcome any fears they may have of spiders and snakes by learning about them and even holding them if they wish!

Overnight Camping in the Bush
Ever fancied camping under the stars?  No sleeping bag required!  In a Big Five Private Game Reserve volunteers will have the chance to monitor all the wildlife, record data on them and just simply enjoy what the bush has to offer.  There will be day and night drives and an amazing dinner in the tented glamorousn campsite.

Community Development Work
Volunteers will get the chance to help in a variety of community projects, perhaps a fun reading club where in an exciting and interactive manner the volunteers will help to improve the English reading and comprehension skills of local children - a crucial skill for their futures.  As part of the Farmers of the Future initiative volunteers will help to maintain vegetable gardens at the local schools which provide additions to the meals of the children and the community.

Educational Presentations
Last but not least, the knowledgeable Field Guides and on-site staff will hold presentations to enhance the understanding of volunteers on topics such as rhino poaching, giraffes, lion conservation, bio indicators, beetles, bugs and much more.

A week in the life of a Big 5 Volunteer

This is a rough example of how a week as a research volunteer could look.  However, due to the nature of the project, these activities may change on a daily basis.

  Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri
AM Research - Game Count

Conservation - Invasive Plant Removal

Research - Game Drive Research - Bush Walk or Bird Survey Research -  Game Drive
Mid -Morning Rhino Poaching Presentation followed by Team Meeing Project Work – data entry/camera traps Break Up Camp and Return to Lodge Giraffe Presentation Project work – ID kits / data entry
PM Research - Game Drive/Data Sheet Handling  Research - Game research drive Conservation - Reptile Centre Community - Reading Club Optional Town Trip
Evening   Night Research Drive/Overnight Camp Chill by the fire  African Sundowners  Braai Night


Sat Sun
Weekend Trips – Optional - Panorama Trip Weekend Trips – Optional - Kruger National Park

Extra Information

 Free Time Suggestions for Evenings and Weekends

  • Go on the famous Panorama Route, a scenic route along the Mpumalanga Escarpment with Blyde River Canyon, the second largest canyon in Africa
  • Go on an adventure in the Blyde River Canyon that includes extreme hiking, a boat trip or micro light flight
  • Go on a day safari with an experienced guide in the famous Kruger National Park, South Africa's largest game reserve
  • Enjoy a fantastic day learning about the Shangaan culture, language and history through dance and music
  • Go on an afternoon town trip into Hoedspruit, enjoy an ice cream, do some souvenir shopping, pick up some snacks for next week
  • Get an extra stamp in the passport and explore Swaziland, and thewonderful Mlilwane Game Reserve full of many animal species and stunning flowers
  • Relax by the pool, watch a film or challenge fellow volunteers and staff to a game of touch rugby

Getting There

Volunteers should arrange their flight to fly into Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport, Nelspruit, South Africa.  Their flight should arrive before 1300 hours on your start date.  They will be met at the airport and transferred to the project location, a 3 hour drive. Alternatively, volunteers can fly into Hoedspruit Eastgate Airport on their Sunday arrival date.  This airport is a short 30 minute drive from Dumela Lodge and volunteers will be met at the airport and transferred to the Lodge.  However, flights into Hoedspruit cost more than flights to Nelspruit.

Amanzi Travel holds an ATOL licence and can make any flight arrangements required upon request. Please ask when making your booking.

A perfect way to explore more of Africa

Before heading straight back home, why not take an Overland Journey through Africa to explore more of the wonderful sights and experiences that this beautiful continent has to offer.  You can take a trip that starts and finishes in the same city (eg Windhoek to Windhoek) or you can use it as an opportunity to get your from one city to another (eg Cape Town to Nairobi).

“This has got to be the best way to see Africa in a short period of time ... brilliant. The guides were fantastic, the campsites great, and the food excellent. The overland trip was excellent - really well run”
Southern Sun 21 days, Cape Town to Victoria Falls - Jennie and Stuart, Sweden, aged 32 and 34.

“I didn’t know I could become such close friends with people in just a week. The trip attracts a great group of people who are so easy to get along with. My group ranged from 20 to 70 and we all sat down with a drink, played cards together and just gathered around the campfire.  It was an experience of a lifetime and I will definitely recommend this to my friends and family”
Tanzanian Game Parks and Zanzibar, 10 Days and Masai Mara Safari, 3 Days - Sara, Canada/Malaysia, aged 20.

 From 3 days to 56 days, take a look at the exciting Overland Trips here.

Support and Orientation

Support and advice is available from Amanzi Travel office staff and project/trip leaders. Upon booking, you will receive a comprehensive pre-departure pack that provides all the details you will need to prepare for your trip.  This document includes information on accommodation, staff, visas, optional activities, packing checklist and medical advice and if you have any questions that are not answered in the pack we are always on hand to help and advise. We will do all we can to ensure that you are well prepared and looking forward to your trip. You will also receive an in country orientation on arrival.

A 24 hours a day, 7 days a week emergency contact number is provided for everyone who travels with us.

Amanzi Travel holds an ATOL licence (9401) and is able to arrange your flights on request giving you financial protection for your flight and trip costs. We also offer advice on personal travel insurance for your trip.

Kruger Conservation Area, South Africa, Kruger Big 5 Wildlife Research VolunteerKruger Conservation Area, South Africa, Kruger Big 5 Wildlife Research VolunteerKruger Conservation Area, South Africa, Kruger Big 5 Wildlife Research VolunteerKruger Conservation Area, South Africa, Kruger Big 5 Wildlife Research VolunteerKruger Conservation Area, South Africa, Kruger Big 5 Wildlife Research VolunteerVolunteers stay at a lodge within the Greater Kruger Area - a spacious lodge lwith a large swimming pool all situated on 18 hectares of land which is home to impala, warthog, bush pig, nyala and a great diversity of bird life. Here volunteers will dine, relax and socialise - no better place to sit around a camp fire and admire the stars!

A full-time housekeeping service is provided.  Wi-fi is available for an additional fee, but volunteers will need their own compatible device.

The nearest town is Hoedspruit which is a 30-minute drive from the lodge and a great place to spend some relaxing downtime.  There is an optional weekly town trip on Fridays to visit supermarkets and sourvenir shops or simply relax with a coffee or an ice cream.

The team will stay with the volunteers and can offer guidance and advice whenever it is needed.  They will help volunteers to plan their days so that they get as much out of their work as possible.  They are also there to make sure the volunteers have fun!

Three meals a day are provided, prepared by the team of great chefs.  

Click here to view the full interactive mapSouth Africa - Help Local Communities Get Started

Why visit South Africa?

Every country in the world displays some diversity, but South Africa, stretching from the hippos in the Limpopo River to the penguins waddling on the Cape, takes some beating. There’s the deserted Kalahari, Namakwa’s springtime symphony of wildflowers, iconic Table Mountain and Cape Point, Africa’s biggest game reserve - Kruger National Park - boasting the most mammal species of any game reserve, and the magnificent peaks and plunging valleys of the escarpment of Drakensberg.

Cape Town is widely described as one of the world's most beautiful cities. Some of its more famous landmarks include Table Mountain, Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for decades), Cape Point, Chapman’s Peak, Kirstenbosch Gardens and the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. A combination of historical coastal charm and urbane sophistication, Cape Town has some of the finest beaches and is also the gateway to the lush Cape Winelands, famous for world-renowned wines. From here, it is an easy journey to the Whale Route, where Southern Right whales can be seen (June - November) and humpback whales, Bryde's whales, Minke whales and bottlenose dolpins can be viewed year round.

The Garden Route is renowned for its beaches, indigenous forests, nature reserves, lakes, mountain ranges, adventure opportunities and hiking trails. Plettenberg Bay is a relaxed beach paradise with spectacular walks and hikes where one can watch dolphins and whales on eco-marine cruises. With some of the world's finest beaches, the Eastern Cape's untouched and pristine coastline also has a rich social, cultural and political history. Port Elizabeth is the gateway to the Eastern Cape, and the perfect complement to the Garden Route. Cape St Francis is situated on the Indian Ocean coastline, in and around Africa's largest man made web of canals and waterways, and is renowned for its long, sandy beaches, surfing, rock fishing and tranquil lifestyle.

Kruger National Park is the flagship of South Africa's game reserves, offering an unrivalled wildlife experience over two million-hectares. Private concessions operating within and alongside Kruger National Park feature luxurious, exclusive game lodges with many exciting safari activities. Some of these lodges are unfenced, allowing for the free movement of wildlife. Madikwe Game Reserve, in the North West province, is one of South Africa's largest private Big Five game reserves and features numerous lodges and camps. The Waterberg area in the northwest is also malaria-free and is aptly named for its strong streams that flow even in dry seasons, making for excellent game viewing. Both reserves are great for those seeking an accessible malaria-free wilderness experience.

Durban is a sub-tropical city and the gateway to KwaZulu-Natal. It offers a unique mix of Zulu, Indian and colonial cultures. Visit the Anglo-Zulu battlefields, take a fascinating glimpse into Zulu culture, hike in the beautiful Drakensberg Mountains, dive the reefs, marine and coastal reserves of Maputaland, as well as experience Big Five game reserves. The Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve is renowned for saving the white rhino from the brink of extinction, and Phinda Private Game Reserve is well known for its award-winning lodges and conservation initiatives.

Johannesburg meaning "Place of Gold", is South Africa's economic powerhouse. This vibrant and cosmopolitan city is home to many attractions including the Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill, and also offers shopping from world-class to atmospheric curio markets. Known as the "Jacaranda City", the state capital of Pretoria features beautiful blossoming trees, significant old buildings and fascinating museums, including the Transvaal Museum, home of Mrs Ples, the australopithecine fossil found at the Cradle of Humankind.

Highlights of South Africa

  • Breathtaking scenery, quaint coastal villages, cosmopolitan cities, wine routes and exclusive bush lodges.
  • Exciting Big Five safaris in unspoilt wilderness areas.
  • Malaria-free game viewing and sunshine all year round.
  • See Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was held in prison for 27 years.
  • Go up Table Mountain by cable car for stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and beautiful Cape Town.
  • Whale watching and great white shark cage diving.
  • Beautiful, pristine beaches perfect for swimming and sunbathing.
  • The Cradle of Humankind: Sterkfontein is one of the world's most productive and important palaeoanthropological sites.


For Johannesburg:

Seasons Max Min
Summer (September - April) 25 °C 10 °C
Winter (May - August) 19 °C 4 °C
Rainfall: October to March, with November to January heaviest

South Africa has typical seasons of weather for the southern hemisphere, with the coldest days in July-August. The Benguela Current, a cold motion that moves from the lower South Atlantic Ocean, causes moderate temperatures on the West Coast. On the central plateau, which includes Free State and Gauteng provinces, the altitude keeps the average temperatures below 30 °C.In winter, also due to altitude, temperatures drop to freezing point, and in some places, even lower. Heavy snows have fallen recently for the first time in decades in Johannesburg. During winter, it is warmest in the coastal regions, especially on the Eastern Indian Ocean coast and Garden Route, where it has year round mild weather with occasional rain. As winter is cooler and drier, it is more suitable for hiking and outdoor pursuits, and is also a good time for game viewing as vegetation is less dense and thirsty animals congregate around rivers and other permanent water sources.

In summer, South Africa experiences the hottest temperatures and this is generally when most rain falls, October – March. However, there is one exception -  the Western Cape, which is a winter-rain area that enjoys a Mediterranean climate (average 26°C).

Christmas to mid-January, and Easter are the height of the peak season for visitors.
Autumn (April/May) and Spring (mid-Sept to November) are ideal almost everywhere.

Key Facts

Population – 50 million

Capital – Pretoria (executive), Bloemfontein (judicial), Cape Town (legislative)
Currency – Rand (ZAR)

Official Language(s) – Afrikaans, English (South African English), Southern Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, Zulu
Time difference – GMT +2 hours

Telephone – country code 27, international access code 00

Kruger Big 5 Wildlife Research Volunteer

Thank you. I had such an amazing time I didn't want to leave by the end. It was an incredible experience. Would definitely recommend Amanzi Travel to anyone.

Harriet, UK, aged 26 (African Wildlife Photography and Conservation Project, Kruger Big 5 Wildlife Research Volunteer)

Kruger Big 5 Wildlife Research Volunteer

From drives and data collection, to hacking away at bamboo with machetes in a crocodile enclosure or sicklebush; from endless hours of project work to camping out in a big five game reserve, there really is an endless list of things to do here and surrounded by such amazing people in one of the most amazing and beautiful countries in the world, volunteering here has been the experience of a lifetime.

Alex, UK (Kruger Big 5 Wildlife Research Volunteer)

Kruger Big 5 Wildlife Research Volunteer

It's changed everything. It has made me want to travel more and come back to Africa. I thought I had my whole life figured out but this showed me that there is so much more that I can do. I've met amazing people from all over the world that I want to see again, and I'm a much more confident, adventurous, and positive person.

Stephanie, USA (Kruger Big 5 Wildlife Research Volunteer)

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