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Kruger Big 5 Wildlife Research Volunteer

Kruger Conservation Area, South Africa
from £1,362 (2 weeks)

Ref: AV113

This project is based in the world-famous Greater Kruger area - famous for the Big 5 and amazing scenery.  Its focus is to monitor wildlife first-hand and to assist with vital conservation.  Volunteers will be on the front line in supporting these objectives and will join experienced field guides on daily research drives through the heart of this stunning South African Game Reserve to monitor and study Africa's Big 5 (Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhino). They will also assist local wildlife foundations protect endangered and at-risk species in this spectacular part of South Africa. No experience is necessary but patience and enthusiasm are essential and a laptop is highly recommended.

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£1,362
3 weeks£1,728
4 weeks£2,095
5 weeks£2,462
6 weeks£2,829
7 weeks£3,196
8 weeks£3,563

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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

2019 Start Dates:

6 Jan | 13 Jan | 27 Jan | 10 Feb | 24 Feb | 10 Mar | 24 Mar | 7 Apr | 21 Apr | 5 May | 19 May | 2 Jun | 16 Jun | 30 Jun | 14 Jul | 28 Jul | 11 Aug | 25 Aug | 8 Sep | 22 Sep | 6 Oct | 20 Oct | 3 Nov | 17 Nov | 1 Dec | 15 Dec | 29 Dec


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

What's Included

  • A contribution to the local partner which funds the conservation research initiatives
  • Funding for tools for conservation work
  • Return transfers between Kruger Mpumalanga International Aiport (Nelspruit) or Hoedspruit Eastgate Airport and the Dumela lodge
  • Orientation programme including a safety briefing and introduction to life in South Africa.
  • All game drives/transfers that are project related during the stay
  • All accommodation including 3 meals a day at the volunteer house
  • Assistance from the project staff and volunteer co-ordinators

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

  • Live in the heart of the world renowned Greater Kruger area on a private reserve
  • Once a week camp out - learning all about the stars and eating around the bush fire
  • Become a Night-Owl and watch the nocturnal animals in their own environment on night drives
  • Carry out research on endangered animals within a Big 5 reserve to provide information for the wildlife trusts we work with and reserve ecological/management teams.
  • Monitor the movements and behaviour of herds of elephants, lion prides, and many other species.
  • Assist the field team with conservation initiatives such as creating new water holes, alien plant control, soil erosion prevention and repair and conducting snare sweeps
  • Explore Blyde River Canyon, take in the sight of the Panorama Route, go for a hike or get another stamp in the passport by visiting Swaziland
  • Make new friends and share some amazing memories

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
The aim of this project is to monitor both the threatened white rhino and the critically endangered black rhino in order to keep track of their movements and health.. These observations are gathered during research drives where volunteers will spend time with an experienced guide in the research vehicle capturing information on the movements of the rhino, their favoured habitats, and general health.

The Elephant Project
 As elephants are migratory species and can cover vast distances, it is essential to have proper population estimates.  The goal of this project is to assist the partner organisation, Elephants Alive, by monitoring the movement of the elephant herds throughout the Greater Kruger Area.  ID kits are created to add to the growing database of individuals to better understand population dynamics.
The Leopard Project
Due to persecution by humans, the leopard population continues to decline in South Africa.  In order to determine population estimates of leopards across Africa, the collection of territory and corridor data is essential to ascertain threats to both protected and unprotected areas.  The aim is to understand the relationships between local communities and leopard populations.

The Lion Project
Africa's iconic species is continuing to disappear at an alarming rate.  Working with ALERT (The African Lion and Environmental Research Trust) pride dynamics are monitored as well as the social structure in order to assess the viability of releasting lions back into their natural environment.
Working in conjunction with reserve management and ecologists, buffalo herds (also known as Obstinacies) are monitored. . The herds are tracked to ensure they are stable and also work at aging and sexing each individual to determine the composition of the obstinacy. This important information is shared with ecologists to help assist with reserve management and to assess predator and prey relationship.

Ecosystem Management
By understanding the entire ecosystems through research, everyone can better work to conserve and protect the endangered and threatened species in Africa.

Volunteer Work

Research Drives
Volunteers will join qualified guides and research team members on game drives in search of the Big 5 and more of Africa's wildlife.  They will observe and collect data that ensures that vital records are maintained.  Using detailed ID kits volunteers will identify individuals in the field and monitor their behaviours and movements.  They will be recording data using comprehensive data sheets which help build the ongoing research database.

Conservation Work
Help from volunteers is needed to create waterholes, remove alien plants, clear fences, conduct snare sweeps and return the land into a habitat in which the wildlife can flourish.  Don't worry about physical ability - there is a role for everyone and many hands are needed.

Devil in the Detail
Volunteers will 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.

How it all comes together

  Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri
AM Team Meeting / Induction Insect /Bird Survey Klaserie Drive Conservation Buffaloland Game Drive
Mid -Morning Research Project work – data entry / camera traps Break Up Camp and Return to Lodge Community Project work – ID kits / data entry, camera trpas
PM Data Sheet Handling / Buffaloland Drive Klaserie Game and research drive Team meeting / photo collation for ID kits Project Work / Buffaloland Research drive Town Trip
Evening Cultural Presentation Night Drive Rhino poaching presentation    


Sat Sun
Weekend Trips – Optional  Weekend Trips – Optional 

Extra Information

The project is situated in the heart of the Greater Kruger Area surrounded by a number of world-renowned game reserves.  The nearest town is Hoedspruit which is a 30 minute drive from the Lodge.  There is an optional weekly trip into town on Fridays when there is time to visit the supermarkets and souvenir shops or perhaps just enjoy a coffee or an ice cream.  During their time at the project volunteers will get involved in different and exciting activities as follows:

Optional Exciting Activities

  • Go on the famous Panorama Route, a scenic route along the Mpumalanga Escarpment with Blyde River Canyon, the third largest canyon in the world
  • 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

The following longer optional excursions are also available:

Panorama Route - from R950
With one breath taking view after another participants will meander their way along the mountain tops to God's Window.  They will enjoy the sights of the world's third largest canyon, see three rondavels, explore African curio markets, admire the circular sculptures of Bourke's Luck Canyon and much more.

Horse Riding - from R950
Why not go for a magical leisurely ride into the African Bush.  This is a chance to experience the African Bush in a unique way and perhaps even get up close with plains game.  Experts or novices, anyone can join in the fun.

Bush Walk and Tracking Adventure - from R2250
Awaken the senses and join head guide Jason on a walk into the bush.  Spend the night camping in Klaserie, enjoying an amazing braai cooked by the braai master himself and learn more about the bush from an exciting new perspective.

Swaziland - from R3200
A small, land-locked country Swaziland is an exciting destination to visit.  It makes up for its small size with its diverse range of attractions and spectacular mountain landscapes.  The weekend can be spent on a plains game reserve, going for a hike, a horse ride or a guided mountain bike trail.

Kloofing/Extreme Hiking - from R750
Explore the Blyde River Canyon on foot and set the pulses racing with this unique form of hiking.  It gets the adrenaline pumping and is ideal for the adventurous.  Participants will hike their way down a small gorge and jump into deep crystal clear spring water.

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 base within the Greater Kruger Areqa, Dumela Lodge, a spacious thatched lodge with a large swimming pool and situated on 18 hectares of loand which is home to vervet monkeys, impala, bush pig, watrthog, nyala and a great diversity of bird life.  Here volunteers will dine, relax and socialise - there is no better place to sit around the campfire and admire the stars.  The accommodation is shared and comfortable and upgrades are available for an extra supplement subject to availability. All daily transport to the project sites is provided as well as three meals a day prepared by the team of great chefs.  A full-time housekeeping service is provided as well as 24 hour on site support.  Wi-fi is available for a small additional fee but volunteers should have their own compatible device.  A laundry service is provided at a small charge.

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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