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Shamwari Conservation Volunteer

Eastern Cape, South Africa
from £1,195 (2 weeks)

Ref: AV056

Make the most of this fantastic opportunity to be part of something amazing and lasting. Shamwari, meaning "my friend" in Shona, is a well-established and mature reserve. It is one of the largest Game Reserves in the Eastern Cape at approximately 25,000 hectares and one of the largest Private Conservation Initiatives in Southern Africa. It is home to the famous Big 5 and a host of other species, the goal of the reserve being to conserve these species and their environment with the aim of establishing long-term sustainable solutions to the conflict between the modern world and the natural environment of the region. Volunteers will have the opportunity to participate in and be a part of the ongoing success of this amazing project and that of the Born Free Foundation, two of the world's leading conservation organisations.

Who can join: 18 years and over
Accommodation: Dedicated volunteer complex
Transfer time: approx. 45 minutes
Pick up Point: Port Elizabeth Airport
Meals: Meals included
Volunteer numbers: approx 20

Duration & Fees

2 weeks£1,195
3 weeks£1,735
4 weeks£2,225
5 weeks£2,755
6 weeks£3,295
7 weeks£3,895
8 weeks£4,495

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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

Volunteers can join this project on any Monday throughout the year.

The project is closed over the Christmas period (mid Dec - start of Jan)


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

What's Included

  • Programme Fee - a large part of the cost which finances all aspects of the project
  • Return transfers to and from Port Elizabeth Airport 
  • Accommodation, food and housekeeping costs
  • Transportation and equipment required to carry out project work
  • Twenty-four hour support and guidance from the project management team
  • On site orientation

What's not included

  • Personal travel insurance to include cover for repatriation
  • International flights to Port Elizabeth airport
  • All items of a personal nature, travel goods, clothes
  • Internet access (this is available for an extra charge)
  • Soft drinks and snacks
  • Any visas required
  • Any extra excursions over and above planned itinerary

The 25,000 hectare malaria free reserve, based in the beautiful Eastern Cape is one of the largest in the area and is home to an incredible concentration of wildlife, meaning that volunteers will get to see and work with many of Africa's amazing animals. In the beautiful surroundings of South Africa's Eastern Cape they will have the chance to to view the Big 5 and many other species, such as cheetah, brown hyena, caracal, serval and African wild cat, in their natural habitat. There is a dedicated wildlife centre on the reserve staffed by veterinarians, ecologists and environmentalists. The reserve also features a breeding centre, a wildlife rehabilitation centre, an animal hospital, an education centre and an anti-poaching unit recognised by a Global Nature Fund Award for Best Conservation Practice. The project and reserve has also been recognised with many awards and offers volunteers a truly amazing experience.

Shamwari Beginnings

Conflict between man and wildlife first became an issue in the Eastern Cape in the early 1800s due to the convergence of Caucasians and the Xhosa people. Game numbers fell rapidly and the last lions disappeared in 1823, with most species being driven out or hunted to extinction. The last black rhino was shot in 1853 and even buffalo were eliminated by 1918. By 1930, there were only 11 elephant left in the region, all enclosed within the Addo Elephant National Park. 1990 saw the start of a reversal of fortune for the reserve when a 1,200 hectare farm was bought by the founder of the reserve. Subsequent drought caused land prices to tumble and in 1992 a 7,000 hectare game area was fenced with the introduction of general game species, black and white rhino and elephant accompanied by the opening of the first lodge. Over time, the reserve continued to expand with the first predator introductions occurring in 2001.

The Ultimate Volunteer Experience

The Shamwari Volunteer Expericene takes participants behind-the scenes and exposes them to the many daily activities involved in the conservation management of Shamwari Game Reserve. Participants are exposed to both the short and long-term projects that are intended to create sustainability for generations to come.

Tasks may vary from physical work to interesting and interactive lecture based activities. There are several monitoring projects which assist in capturing vital information used in the research and management of all species on reserve. 

Volunteers visit and learn about the activities of the on site Born Free Foundation, Big Cat Rescue and Education Centres and Shamwari Animal Rehabilitation Centre.  There may also be opportunties to get involved with the ground breaking work that is being done at these facilities where they rescue, care for and reahabilitate Big Cats and other animals in need. 

The Projects and Activities 

Game Monitoring
Regular monitoring allows individuals to be identified, information about their family structure compiled and feeding and special ecology determined.  Data collected is used to assist in making decisions for the reserve and to direct the conservation efforts of the project and of the wider community. Examples of the animals monitored include black and white rhino, elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah and buffalo. The general condition of animal groups and individuals is carried out as part of this work.  Rhino monitoring is especially a very important job at Shamwari and volunteers help the co-ordinators track and identify the black and white rhinos to check their general health, using GPS to log their position for later GPS mapping, and to ensure that the rhinos are safe and accounted for.  As rhino poaching is ever increasing in South Africa it is important to manage them well and know where they are at all times.

Game Counts
Game counts are conducted on an annual basis to establish the carrying capacity of the reserve and biomes. This allows evidence based decisions to be made on predator/prey ratios and the movement of animals on or off the reserve.

Telemetry & Tracking
Monitoring of some high profile animals, such as the cheetah and leopard, is needed using telemetry tracking equipment in order to inform the planning and management of the reserve and surrounding areas. Knowledge of the whereabouts and movements of these animals leads to a more peaceful coexistence with the neighbours. 

Landscape Restoration & Rehabilitation
The long history of farming in regions such as the Eastern Cape has left its mark on the landscape, even in well-established reserves such as Shamwari.  The desire to return the landscape to its original splendour involves the removal of redundant fence lines and the rehabilitation of over farmed and grazed areas thus allowing the best environment possible in which the inhabitants of the reserve can flourish. The work includes removing broken fences, clearing and maintaining water troughs and road maintenance to ensure continued access across the reserve.

Research Projects
Undertakings of research projects which are often undertaken in conjunction with both local and foreign research and academic, for example, capturing data on species such as the Brown Hyena.

Alien Plant Control
Alien plants were introduced to the land by farmers for a variety of reasons and uses. Sometimes these plants were introduced deliberately to achieve a specific purpose, for example to control other vegetation or to provide foodstuff for particular animals, sometimes they were introduced accidentally. To-day these invasive plants need to be removed in order to increase the natural biodiversity and decrease the risk of fire.  Examples of the alien vegetation currently being controlled include Australian Beefwood trees and Prickly Pears.

Born Free Foundation
Shamwari Game Reserve and the Born Free Foundation share the common goals of promoting the conservation of wildlife species and the protection of habitats. The reserve and foundation aim to do this by adopting, fostering and promoting a humane and compassionate approach to wildlife conservation and to raise awareness of the way in which wildlife is exploited in captivity around the world.  Volunteers will have the opportunity to work as volunteers at the Born Free Bit Cat Sanctuary on a weekly basis in in order to further these goals

Animal Rehabilitation Centre
Shamwari Animal Rehabilitation Centre was established to help to rehabilitate any injured wildlife found on the reserve or in the surrounding community. The centre provides short-term care and treatment to the animals to restore them to full health prior to releasing them back into their natural environment as soon as they are able to survive on their own. The aim is to give them a "second chance" of life back in the wild.  The centre has an avian, enclosures for large and small wildlife and volunteers work in this centre when and if help is required. The work involved is dependent on the needs and requirements at any time and may range from assistance through observation or to more hands-on animal care and husbandry. The Volunteers are involved in cleaning of cages and water troughs, feeding time and just keeping the smaller animals company during their stay. 

Community Projects
Part of the long-term goal of all conservation work is building the aims and work of the project into the minds and hearts of the local community. This responsibility includes education in the role and benefit of conserving the biodiversity and the local resources.  Weekly trips are made into the local community to help with various community projects that range from creating and maintaining vegetable gardens and recycling projects, painting classrooms to job creation projects. 

Other Activities
Other exciting activities in which volunteers may get the chance to participate include:

  • game capture
  • sleep out on the Big 5 reserve - weather and time permitting
  • reserve orientation and guided walks
  • assisting with night time anti-poaching patrols

Educational Lecture and Talks
Volunteers will have the chance to listen to some fascinating talks whilst on the reserve. These talks are delivered by experts in their fields and provide a fascinating insight into the work of the reserve and the environment in which the volunteers find themselves.

Free Time and Optional Excursions

Volunteer activities are generally scheduled between 08:00 and 17:00 Monday to Friday. Occasionally additional volunteer activities will occur outside these times dependenet upon the needs and activities of the projects at the time. Local activities that volunteers may participate in outside of these times (at additional cost) include seasonal whale watching in Algoa Bay, surfing J-Bay’s world-renowned Super Tubes, to bungy jumping at the Bloukrans Bridge and exploring the forests and coastline of the Tsitsikamma National Park. As part of your planning, should you wish to conduct any off-site or extra mural activities, the Shamwari team will gladly advise you as to best and most suitable options and contact information for local adventure and leisure operators.  Volunteers can also just enjoy the beautiful surrounds and relax at the reserve during the weekends

Group Experiences

Vet Eco Experience - this specialist course is offered for veterinary science and veterinary nurse students. The course focuses on ecological and other wildlife management issues beyond the scope of the volunteer project. Topical lectures are used to educate participants and the emphasis of these lectures can be adjusted to reflect the year of study of the group. Practical skill exposure is dependent upon the specific needs of the project at the time of the experience. The experience is usually run for 2 to 3 weeks.  Please contact Gemma at Amanzi Travel to find out more -

Tailor Made - the reserve has had the pleasure of hosting a number of groups from schools, colleges and universities as well as Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme challenges. Experiences can offer exposure to a range of wildlife, conservation, community and sports focused themes. Interactions can be offered to suit specific needs or outcome based requirements of the group including identifying tracks and signs, basic bush craft and survival, animal management and team building tasks.

Getting There

Volunteers should fly into Port Elizabeth Airport, where they will be met on arrival and transferred to the project. The project is approximately 45 minutes drive from Port Elizabeth airport. Flights should be arranged to arrive into Port Elizabeth Airport before 12.30pm on the start date and after 2.00pm on the departure date.

Amanzi Travel holds an ATOL licence and can arrange any flight requirements upon request.

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.

Eastern Cape, South Africa, Shamwari Conservation VolunteerEastern Cape, South Africa, Shamwari Conservation VolunteerEastern Cape, South Africa, Shamwari Conservation VolunteerEastern Cape, South Africa, Shamwari Conservation VolunteerEastern Cape, South Africa, Shamwari Conservation VolunteerEastern Cape, South Africa, Shamwari Conservation VolunteerVolunteer accommodtion is called the Madolos Retreat and is situated in the far Northern extent of the reserve and hosts a maximum of 20 guests. There are ten-twin rooms, which are scheduled on a same-sex shared basis, unless on special request as a couple. All rooms are en-suite, with shower, toilet and basin.

The lodge facilities include communal lounge, dining and swimming pool, with outside boma (enclosure), for enjoying a relaxing evening around the fire and under the stars.

Laundry services are provided on average once a week. It is advised that no delicate or high value clothing is brought or handed in at the laundry. Although every care is taken with this guest service.

There is a communal safe in each room for valuables and wi-fi vouchers can be bought on site to make use of he wireless network. 

Three meals are provided on a daily basis. Meals will either be served at the lodge or taken as a pre-packed serving, depending on planned or as result of unscheduled activities. Vegetarians and other dietary requirements can be catered for, if notified in advance. Cooked breakfasts are served once weekly – generally on Fridays.

Meals are prepared with exposing participants to an array of local dishes in mind and are generally taken on a selfservice basis with the option of juice, tea or coffee. Still and spring water and soft drinks are available on site and with greater selection, from local trading stores.

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

Shamwari Conservation Volunteer

Shamwari was amazing, absolutely loved every moment of it! Seeing all those amazing animals in their natural environment was truly memorable and I loved knowing I was helping towards conservation in South Africa. Thank you so much to you all at Amanzi Travel for enabling this experience. 

Sarah, UK, aged 20 (Shamwari Conservation Volunteer)

volunteer with lions

An amazing opportunity to get involved and see wildlife up close. During my 3 week stay the volunteers got involved in a wide range of activities, from physical tasks such as chopping down alien tree species & removing old wire fences to the darting of Buffalo & Lions for relocation / veterinary purposes. We also saw an amazing amount of wildlife including Leopards, Cheetahs and extremely close encounters with Elephants. All the staff and the other volunteers were great, making the experience a truly memorable one. 

Sharon, UK, aged 40 (Shamwari Conservation Volunteer)

Shamwari Conservation Volunteer

Thank you for the warm return greeting :) It's tough to be back home since the trip was absolutely amazing. Shamwari is definitely a special place.  

I really enjoyed my time at Shamwari.  It was my first trip to Africa and I felt like they had many projects to manage the reserve's eco-system, community outreach and conservation education.   I was living a dream for two weeks at Shamwari and was fortunate to do so many projects and meet amazing people.  I was gutted to leave, but I'll be back :)

Jillian, USA, aged 35 (Shamwari Conservation Volunteer)

Shamwari Conservation Volunteer

I had a wonderful time on the Shamwari project, it was exciting not knowing which animals we would see each day and being able to inject a rhino with antibiotics and seeing the first known plaster cast on a rhino's leg was incredible, moving and something that will always stay with me. As well as helping x-ray and plaster cast the rhino leg we also got to name the 2 month old baby elephant, Timothy, as he belongs to the T group, so cute!  It was such a wonderful 2 weeks, I feel so lucky to have experienced it!  

Thanks so much for all your help and guidance, you made it easy to organise and I felt very relaxed that I was in safe hands. I will be looking on your website again for something else, I hope my friends contact you also.

Lindsay, UK, aged 31 (Shamwari Conservation Volunteer)

Shamwari Conservation Volunteer

For me, this was an eye opening experience.  I came to Africa with certain preconceived notions of saving animals.  My takeaways, it is about land conservation and population control and running a private reserve is so much more complex than just buying some land and putting animals on that land.

I was looking for a rewarding, educational and enriching experience.  Over my two weeks I saw so many beautiful sunrises and sunsets, was able to get amazingly close to animals, had the opportunity to have real conversations with people who live in the place I was visiting, tracked rhinos on foot and learned the names of all the thorn bushes that hit me in the face when I wasn’t paying attention.   I was sad to leave (especially since I had not seen my leopard.)

Tammy, UK (Shamwari Conservation Volunteer)

Shamwari Conservation Volunteer

Great team, great animals, great scenery!  I want to return ...  best project we have been on ... thank you!

Peta, Spain (Shamwari Conservation Volunteer)

Shamwari Conservation Volunteer

Thank you so much to all the team for making this such a fantastic 4 week stay - a totally unforgettable experience.  Hopefully I shall be back again : )

Kate, UK (Shamwari Conservation Volunteer)

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