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Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game Reserve

Limpopo Province, South Africa
from £595 (1 week)

Ref: AV059

Volunteers have the opportunity to work with experienced rangers and conservationists on the stunning Big 5 Makalali Game Reserve. They will experience and learn all about the African Bush and its wildlife whist tracking and monitoring the wildlife - sometimes on foot! Get back to nature, experience some incredible wildlife sightings and be part of valuable research activities to help the Africa's Endangered Species and wildlife. 

Who can join: 18 years and over
Accommodation: Dedicated volunteer house/Safari Tents
Transfer time: approx. 1 hour
Pick up Point: Hoedspruit (Eastgate) Airport or Town
Meals: Meals included
Volunteer numbers: approx. 10

Duration & Fees

1 week£595
2 weeks£1,085
3 weeks£1,495
4 weeks£1,945
6 weeks£2,855
8 weeks£3,845

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Start Dates

Volunteers can join on any Monday throughout the year.

This project is open over Christmas and New Year.


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

What's Included

  • Transfers for arrivals and departures on Mondays to/from Hoedspruit
  • All food (except snacks, soft drinks and alcohol)
  • Accommodation
  • All linen (except towels)
  • Monday to Friday housekeeping service
  • All training for assistance with the research activities
  • All travel within the reserve
  • Assistance to organise travel in the local area if you would like
  • An outing every two weeks to interesting local attractions outside of the reserve (entrance fees to be paid by volunteers)

What's not included

  • Flights
  • Travel insurance to include cover for repatriation
  • All items of a personal nature, gifts, clothing and towels
  • Internet use (small fee payable for access at camp)
  • Telephone calls 
  • Softs drinks and alcohol
  • Any excursions over and above the project itinerary and entracnce fee to local attractions


  • Tracking Wildlife from open 4x4 vehicles using radio telemetry
  • Learning all about the African Bush and its wildlife 
  • Bush Walks through the reserve - approaching Wildlife on foot and learning the skills essential for surviving in the bush!
  • The opportunity to track and get up close to the endangered Rhino
  • Falling asleep with the sound of the lions roaring!
  • Watch the Beautiful Sunsets from vantage points on the reserve overlooking the Drakensburg Mountains with sundowners!
  • Being part of valuble reserch team who provide data to organisations like the Endangered Wildlife Trust

Volunteers will be actively involved with all research, monitoring and wildlife habitat work on the Makalali Game Reserve, which is home to to over one thousand wild animals including Africa's "Big Five".  Makalali Game Reserve, with its stunning and diverse landscape covering an area of 25000 hectares, is located close to the mighty Drakensberg mountain range and is a stone's throw from the Kruger National Park in the west.

Volunteers work with expert guides and conservationists to observe and monitor the wildlife on the Reserve, maybe from a safari vehicle or with qualified rangers tracking the animals on foot - an incredible experience!   Activities will include recording the behaviour of the 'Big 5'  (Elephant, Rhino, Lion Leopard and Buffalo) and other mammals such as: African Civets, Black Backed Jackals, Large spotted Genets, Porcupines and Aardvarks.  Each day is filled with new and exciting opportunities and volunteers learn so much about the African bush,  its wildlife and the latest research techniques as the staff enthusiastically tell them all about what they are doing, seeing and experiencing.  During their stay volunteers will participate in elephant, lion and other predator behavioural monitoring and at the end of a rewarding day in the reserve, volunteers return to the camp to share their experiences over dinner around the open fire and then fall asleep to the sounds of the bush. 

The data collected by volunteers whilst on this project is extremely valuable and is made available to students and researchers that come to the reserve, as well as a number of national conservation projects, including the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT). 

There is a unique opportunity on this project (for those who want to take advantage of it)  to spend half of their time or perhaps one week as a volunteer at the Endangered Species Project where there is the chance to really get back to nature and stay in the heart of the African Bush in safari style tents.  During this time - where anything can happen - from elephants walking through the camp to the cold winter nights snuggled up in a sleeping bag, listening to the lion roar outside - volunteers will learn so much about the African Bush and its wildlife from first hand experience with expert staff.   Volunteers who really want to enjoy a very "wild" experience can join this project only for the duration of their stay or alternativley split their time between the two camps. 

Research Project at Makalali

Monitoring forms the basis for the majority of the research assistance on the Greater Makalali Game Reserve. We conduct monitoring drives in the mornings and afternoons. The monitoring coincides with times of increased activity of the specific animals we are observing. We also spend time on foot tracking the more alusive animals, which is an amazing way to experience the bush. During the drier winter months, we have several hides based at waterholes which allow you to observe the various animals and their interactions at close quarters. Volunteers are also involved in habitat management activities on the greater reserve.

Elephant Monitoring

Makalali introduced elephants in 1994 and 1996 and was the first reserve to have intact family groups relocated to it. The reserve was also the first to take part in the Elephant Contraception Program, headed by Audrey Delsink, in order to regulate its total elephant population. Makalali understands the importance of alternative population controls other than culling and translocation. The program started in 2000 and is the longest running of its kind; it is the benchmark on which all other similar projects are based. This is a pioneering study and it is important that we continue to monitor the elephant herds as Makalali has the most extensive and longest continuing database of elephants on contraception in the world. The monitoring of the elephants involves recording their movements to determine daily and seasonal ranging patterns. We also observe and record long term behavioural aspects, focusing primarily on herd/bull associations and sexual behaviours. Elephants are a key-stone species and require constant information collection for effective management decision making.

Lions Monitoring

The monitoring of our lion population is done to assess their movements, behaviour and predator-prey interactions. Lions, like elephants, are key-stone species and, within restricted wild environments, require constant monitoring to assist with management interventions when required. Interventions are done to vary genetic diversity within the population and to control population size. Makalali has participated with various population control methods and research. Contraception of lions has been used and studied within this reserve. 

Breeding Animals Monitoring

A 400 hectare, enclosed area of the reserve is home to our current breeding initiatives; buffalo, Livingstone Eland and Nyala. The first 6 buffalos, 2 males and 4 females, were reintroduced to Makalali in 2008 – the first to have been on this land for 80 years or more. The buffalo are disease free so do not carry diseases such as foot and mouth and TB and are a substantial investment. They will be released into the greater reserve once the herd size is big enough to sustain itself. We monitor their progress within the enclosure, checking health, possible pregnancies and any new births. Livingstone Eland are the largest antelope. Along with Nyala, numbers are in decline due to encroachment on habitat by humans, as well as poaching. We also monitor their progress in the enclosure.

Hyena Monitoring

Makakali reserve is host to both species of Hyena; brown and spotted. The Spotted hyena are superior in numbers and are a very important species for the effective functioning of this eco-system. They provide the cleaning up of carcasses, as well as being effective hunters. We monitor den sites and activity and ID specific individuals to track interaction and behaviour. We also monitor the ratio of scavenging to hunting and how this impacts on the prey species. The brown hyena are very rare and sightings of them are met with great excitement.


Volunteers also closely monitor the locations of leopards to determine territory extent as well as creating and updating ID kits to monitor individuals and determine total population size. As with all predators, we also monitor prey selection and reproductive behaviour to effectively assist the reserve management. In 2014 the project teamed up with the Panthera Leopard Research Project, who are monitoring and determining the leopard population in the area. This project is planned to continue for the next 10 years. Working in conjunction with the Endangered Species Project volunteers may also assist with the setting and monitoring of camera traps . 

Small Mammal Survey

Sightings of the reserves small mammal population are also monitored and recorded. This data allows us to determine species density, habitat, home range and territory utilisation of these animals. This includes animals such as aardvarks, jackal, honey badgers, caracals and, of course, the elusive pangolin!

General Game

Volunteers monitor and record locations, demographic composition and any significant behavioural displays of general game on the reserve such as impala, giraffe, and wildebeest. This is to determine trends in habitat utilization and correlate animal population sizes determined during helicopter game counts conducted every 2 years with set-route drive game counting we do throughout the year.

Birds and Raptors

Each week we monitor the different species of birds seen in the area. This is to determine any seasonal correlations and observe migratory patterns as part of a larger country wide initiative – Ndlovu birding project. Positions of birds of prey and vultures are recorded and this information is recorded and sent to the Endangered Wildlife Trust who constantly monitor the vulnerability status of these birds. Many of these birds are threatened due to persecution by people who believe they threaten live stock and for traditional medicine and beliefs.

Habitat Conservation

Alien Vegetation Control: Under the guidance of Working for Water (WFW), volunteers will assist with identifying and monitoring stands of alien and invasive vegetation within the river and across the reserve. Volunteers will participate in the mechanical removal and chemical control of these species as well as the follow-up monitoring of problem areas. This is an important project as alien invasive plants have the ability to encroach on areas and prevent other indigenous plants from growing, as well as using up large amounts of moisture from the soil. This has a detrimental effect on your ecosystem and therefore requires constant monitoring and removal.

Habitat Rehabilitation: Volunteers will have the opportunity to assist in ongoing habitat rehabilitation initiatives in the reserve, including erosion control, the construction of rock gabions, brush-packing and re-seeding.

Reserve Management: Volunteers will have the opportunity to take part in assisting with reserve duties such as road maintenance to prevent erosion problems, encroachment of vegetation over the roads and fence clearing when needed.

Endangered Species Project at Makalali

The Endangered Species Project will allow volunteers to participate with on the ground, hands on monitoring of some of Africa’s endangered species: Rhino, Cheetah and Southern Ground Hornbill. It is ideal if you want to truly experience the “wild” side of Africa. Our camp is based in a Limpopo game reserve which is home to the 'Big 5'. This means you will get to encounter, and live with, elephant, lion, leopard and buffalo while working with us. You will also learn basic bush survival skills and how to navigate your way through the African bush! During your stay, your days will be spent mostly on foot walking through the reserve, learning how to track the animals. You will be approaching endangered species on foot and recording their behaviour, location and condition. You will, quite literally, be walking in their footsteps! The information collected is then used by the reserve management and anti-poaching teams, as well as national conservation efforts to help save these species. You will also take part in vehicle based monitoring to see the amazing Big 5, as well as habitat work to help with the monitoring process. This is a unique experience for people who want to get more out of visiting a game reserve in South Africa. Everyone who joins on this exciting program will get to experience the African bush in its extremes, from elephants strolling through camp to the tropical heat or the surprisingly cold winter nights. If you have a love of nature and want to participate in helping to save Africa's endangered species, this is the project for you. 

Rhino Monitoring

With the ever present threat from poaching, close monitoring of these animals is crucial for the future of the species. The rhinos are monitored to ascertain their movement around the reserve and interaction with each other. This is done mostly on foot due to their secretive nature. This also forms part of the anti-poaching measures in place, working closely with the reserve management and anti-poaching teams on the reserve to ensure 100% sighting and safeguarding of our rhino. The project also work closely with The Rhino Protection Trust to raise awareness and funds to support the efforts to save these magnificent but vulnerable animals.

Cheetah Monitoring

As cheetah are one of Africa's most endangered large predators, the entire population is monitored on the reserve. By tracking the cheetah on foot, we can observe their utilisation of the area, prey selection and reproductive behaviour. By combining this with data collected on other predators we can track the effects on distribution patterns of the cheetah by the presence of lions, hyena and leopards. With dedicated, long term monitoring we can be sure to effectively understand their lives and better protect them for future generations.

Ground Hornbills

With less than 1500 of these birds left in the wild, the reserve is lucky to have a family of Southern ground hornbills. The majority of the monitoring takes place during their breeding season from late October to February. The ground hornbills are very slow breeders , fledging only one chick every 9 years. The female will lay two eggs, but days apart from each other, meaning only one chick usually survives. We observe their nests regularly in order to determine the dates that eggs are laid. This enables us to harvest the second chick around hatching time to be sent to a hand rearing facility to ensure its survival. We also work with the Ground Hornbill Research and Conservation Project to gather any information about this rare species.


Volunteers closely monitor the locations of leopards to determine territory extent as well as creating and updating ID kits to monitor individuals and determine total population size. As with all predators, we also monitor prey selection and reproductive behaviour to effectively assist the reserve management. In 2014, the projct teamed up with the Panthera Leopard Research Project, who are monitoring and determining the leopard population in the area. This project is planned to continue for the next 10 years.

Game Drives & Walks

Game drives are a great way of covering distance within the reserve in order to see the larger African wildlife, observing their behaviour, movements and habits along the way. After dark, they also enable the possibility of sighting the nocturnal animals such as African civet, black-backed jackal, large spotted genet, porcupine and aardvark to name but a few. Monitoring walks also allow you to walk, quite literally, in the footsteps of the animals you are tracking. Volunteers will learn how to identify the tracks of the animals that they are monitoring. By determining age and direction of the tracks you will be able to help determine territory and, with any luck, current location.

Bush Skills

As well as monitoring the endangered species, volunteers will also be taught basic survival techniques and how to navigate your way through the bush. The experienced rangers will show volunteers some practical bush skills, like how to use a sling shot, build bird traps and set snares, as well as identifying the myriad tree and plant species. Volunteers will also get the opportunity to drive a Land Rover, learning about 4 x 4 vehicle skills, and participate in a Zulu lesson. Volunteers may also get to enjoy a sleep out under the stars while setting up camp in the bush and cooking over an open fire - nothing beats falling asleep under the stars while listening to the distant lion roar!

Volunteers are also involved in Habitat Conservation in the same way as the reserch camp volunteers.

Community work at the Local Orphanage

The project also supports a local orphanage and crèche, which is normally visited every two to three weeks.   Volunteers may have the chance, if they wish, to visit these local children if the dates of their volunteer placement coincide with a planned visit.  The children always love to see the volunteers who spend time giving them much needed love and attention and playing games with them.

Free Time

Every other Sunday is a free day when volunteers can rest at camp or perhaps hire a car together and take a trip to the Kruger National Park or another local attraction.  On the other Sundays project staff try to arrange for volunteers to explore the local area with one of the activities below or perhaps go for a lazy Sunday lunch in the local restaurant.   

Some of the local attractions include:

  • Blyde River Canyon
  • Kruger National Park
  • Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre
  • Hoedspruit Endangered Species Cheetah Breeding Project
  • Lekgalameetse Nature Reserve
  • Get close to elephants at Elephant Whispers
  • Thabi-Metsi Adventures (quad-biking, canyoning, abseiling, fly-fishing, paintballing, horse riding, mountain biking etc.

Typical Project Schedule (Guide only)

Project start day. Town trip to pick up volunteers and restock supplies

Early start setting out on a set route drive as part of the game counting program to determine populations of general game.

In the afternoon volunteers depart for a monitoring drive to locate one of our key species of interest; lion, elephant, leopards or hyena.

Waterhole monitoring in the morning to determine species utilisation of the area.

During the afternoon volunteers set off for a drive to the breeding boma to monitor the buffalo, Livingstone eland and nyala.

Habitat work; volunteers might be involved with exotic plant removal, erosion control or bush clearing.

During the afternoon or evening, volunteers head out on hyena monitoring and night patrol

Early morning start where volunteers will be out locating the elephants as part of the ongoing research into the elephant contraception program

During the afternoon volunteers set out to monitor bird species on our way to a camping under the stars with the Endangered Species project

Habitat work in the morning, followed by an afternoon monitoring drive focussing on our lion population.

On return in the evening, volunteers may head out to the local pub or have a typical South African braai (BBQ)

Either an outing will be planned or it will be a free day for volunteers to relax or head out on their own tour.

In between activities, volunteers will receive a series of presentations on the work of the project, or how to approach dangerous game on foot, or possibly even a Zulu lesson. This time will also be used to transfer all data collected onto the computers and compile the weekly research report, as well as helping out with vehicle checks and cleaning.

Getting There

Volunteers will need to fly into Johannesburg (OR Tambo International airport) and then take a connecting flight to Hoedspruit (Eastgate).  Volunteers can be picked up at any time at the airport or in Hoedspruit Town on the Monday start dates.

Amanzi Travel holds an ATOL licence and we can arrange any flight requirements that you have 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.

Limpopo Province, South Africa, Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game ReserveLimpopo Province, South Africa, Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game ReserveLimpopo Province, South Africa, Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game ReserveLimpopo Province, South Africa, Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game ReserveLimpopo Province, South Africa, Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game ReserveLimpopo Province, South Africa, Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game ReserveThere are two camps - the Research Camp with an emphasis on wildlife and conservation research and the Rare and Endangered Species Camp (formerly called the Bush Tracking-Camp) which gives you a practical experience and knowledge about the bush, offering a unique experience.

The Research Camp is based on the heart of the game reserve and is a comfortable volunteer base with electricity and shared twin rooms with beds and bedding provided and shared bathrooms with hot water.   The main building has a lounge area and a separate kitchen. It also has a book and movie library where volunteers can spend their free time reading field guide and other books or watching documentaries in the evening.   Couples can be roomed together on request;  otherwise accommodation is in single sex rooms.

There is a really nice outside camp fire area where volunteers can sit around, eat dinner and socialise in the evenings listening to the sounds of the wildlife at night.  The camp has no fence around it so free-roaming animals and birdlife can be seen in and around the camp during the day and often the elephant herds can be seen coming to drink at the water hole.  There is also a small pool for volunteers to cool off after a day in the bush and a volleyball court. 

In the evenings volunteers spend most of the time under the South African stars and light up the fire in the boma.  We sit around enjoying a well earned drink and an amazing dinner, telling stories of the day's adventures.

The Endangered Species Camp is a rustic and comfortable camping experience (duvets & pillows with linen are provided).   There are four double comfotable and spacious walk in tents with twin beds.  They are all built on wooden decks in the heart of the bush where you enjoy a beautiful view.

Each tent has its own ablution facility with flushing toilet and a bush shower. To heat your shower you will find large kettles to heat over the fire, making even a shower an adventure on its own.

The communal area next to the fireplace is made up of wooden decks, one which has the kitchen. The other has a tented roof where you can sit to enjoy your meal in a open air dining area, playing cards or just reading your book while you are listen to the African wild life. There is also a raised platform to relax on during the day.

There is no electricity at the camp, but plenty of paraffin lamps are used for all lighting in and around the camp and it gives a true African romantic feeling in the bush.

The kitchen offers cooking facilities for volunteers to prepare their breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

Volunteers prepare their own meals or as a group, food is provided for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. There is cereal, toast, yoghurt, fruit and the typical South African biscuit and tea and coffee for breakfast. For lunch, volunteers tend to have sandwiches or salads or a tasty fry up and the evening meal is cooked by all the volunteers together or volunteers have a braai (bbq) in the Boma, which is lite up after sunset. The fridge is always filled up with fresh vegetables, cheese and a variety of meat.

Cordial fruit drink, tea and coffee are provided. However, soft drinks, alcoholic beverages (beers & ciders) and snacks such as chocolate are not available in camp but volunteers can buy these items on the weekly town trips.

Fresh, drinkable water is available from the taps and is safe to drink – the camp has its own borehole. However, bottled water is also available for purchase from Hoedspruit when we do weekly town trips if volunteers prefer.

Please let us Amanzi Travel know if you have any specific dietary requirements so that we can accommodate these.

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

Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game Reserve

If you are thinking about going on a project then stop thinking and just book it. If you have a love for animals and want to meet like minded people of all ages and backgrounds then just do it. I had the best experience at all 3 projects in Africa. Gemma was fantastic at listening to what I wanted and got it spot on. Book it and go and have a brilliant experience!

Shelly, UK, Aged 41 (Naankuse Big Cat, Wild Dog and Elephant Conservation Project , Volunteer Living with Big Cats , Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game Reserve)

Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game Reserve

I wanted to say thanks for helping me with this trip. I have so many memories. I did so much there in 3 weeks and have hundreds of photos and videos to remember it by…  This program has made such an impact on me…  This has been massive for me, a life changer …

Jazz, UK aged 37 (Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game Reserve)

Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game Reserve

The first week with elephant and rhino in Zimbabwe was amazing. It is a very beautiful setting with very friendly staff who looked after all our needs. I felt very safe in Zimbabwe and 1 week was not long enough. Visiting the school and learning about the local culture was very interesting and a lot had gone into ensuring that our stay was enjoyable. I cant think of anything negative at all. Makalali in South Africa was very different. it has a natural wildness to it and you never know what is round the corner. The rangers were lovely and went above and beyond… I can totally recommend this project if you want to get close to real wildlife, The tents are large and comfortable and if you like camping then this is a great holiday and not having fences round the camp adds to the excitement as you don't know what may be round the next corner. It was my second visit there as so much to see

Ana, UK aged 52 (Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary, Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game Reserve)

Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game Reserve

Thank you for all your help and support in what turned out to be an excellent trip that was fun, fulfilling and informative.

Ruth and Richard, UK (Field Guide Experience (EcoQuest) - 1 or 2 Weeks, Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game Reserve)

Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game Reserve

I spent a month at the Makalali reserve and it was truly a life-changing experience. I missed out on the whole back-packing thing when I was younger, so although have travelled a lot in my twenties, this was actually my first lengthy solo trip so was feeling a bit apprehensive! I needn't have been as everything was organised so well in terms of transfers, logistics and communication - it was super easy and felt very safe at all times. If it's being immersed in the wild, observing incredible animals (really up close sometimes!) and learning a tonne at the same time then you'll love this place. The knowledge I now have about all the animals, insects, trees, rocks, environment and conservation issues is far greater than I ever expected. And everyone I met there was awesome - huge range of ages and nationalities which I think makes it even better. I was hanging out with gap year types as well as people who were living their dream in their retirement (and all ages in between which is where I fell). You get to know people so well as you're all living, cooking, cleaning together each day - as well as hours bumping around together in the 4x4s! Absolutely loved it and will definitely go back one day. My biggest recommendation? Definitely go to Bush Camp! I was so undecided before I went whether I'd want to go full blown 'no electricity/hot water/buildings' wild but I loved it. Where else can you have an outdoor shower looking out on pure wilderness with an elephant sauntering past?! Spent my last 2 weeks there but would have done the full month. Thank you Gemma for all your help!

Eleanor, UK Aged 29 (Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game Reserve)

Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game Reserve

My trip in South Africa was my first travel-alone experience. The moment I booked with Amanzi travel I really felt safe and secure about my decision about what I will get. My experience with the Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game Reserve was just amazing ! The organisation of the program itself was very good and every day was just a new experience for me ! I learnt A LOT about the wildlife animals and not only. The field guides were more than knowledgable !! They were always there to tell us incredible stories about the animals, the way they hunt, their habits , their behaviours within the prides and the interactions between other predators. I had a very good time and I would definetely go back !

Nikolas, aged 25, UK (Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game Reserve)

Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game Reserve

Volunteering at Makalali Game Reserve was an incredible experience! Prior to the program, I had never volunteered abroad or been to Africa, so I was quite nervous and unsure whether it was 'right for me', but I am so pleased I decided to go for 3 weeks. It really is an amazing place, with very knowledgeable rangers and a huge variety of wildlife. I highly recommend the program to everyone!

Georgia, UK, aged 23 (Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game Reserve)

Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game Reserve

I had an amazing time in Africa and i already miss it. I will try to go back next year.

Before going to Africa, the promptness and response after a question was very quick, sometimes within 60 min and that is excellent. You helped me a lot, even with adresses from hostels in Hoedspruit. Your responses was always very friendly, clear and explicit.  The pre- departure information was good and it was nice to receive an email before departure confirming all the details of my trip.

It was interesting to start the project with a power point presentation because it makes clear what you have to do and what the purpose and mission is. The daily volunteer activities were amazing. It was nice to drive around and look for animals during the day. Data collecting was interesting and necessary, so nice to do. Bush clearing and erosion control was hard work, but you make a different and it's nice to do something good for the enviroment. The accomodation was very good.  

The guidance and support by staff was EXCELLENT. The rangers are very professional, well educated, driven, motivated, willing to help and friendly!  

Makalali is a beautiful reserve in the middle of the African bush, were you get a real wildlife experience. It's beautiful to watch the sunset from one of the hills. It's amazing to see Rhino's and lion's on foot. The data collection is interesting and important to do. Bush clearing and erosion control is hard work but very nice to do and good to see the difference and a good result. The staff is very professional, well educated, motivated, willing to help and friendly! Volunteering at Makalali is just fantastic.  

Charlene, Netherlands aged 21 (Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game Reserve)

Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game Reserve

Makalali is a beautiful and relaxed reserve. The people are friendly and the Project is run sensibly and makes for a fantastic volunteer experience.

Jim, UK, aged 50 (Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game Reserve)

Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game Reserve

Here is the feedback form as requested.  And I have lots of photos I'd love to enter into your competition!  On a personal note I'd like to say how fantastic you and your team were through the booking process.  I had a lot of doubts and worries as it was my first time travelling alone but you put my mind at rest.  Also the information you gave me about the project was so in depth (which I can confirm with hindsight!) as many people there had been told something completely different whereas I was very prepared.  I would definitely book with you again and have already made recommendations.  Cannot wait for my next venture, Africa really does get under your skin.  As for the trip, I had the most incredible time and it has changed my whole outlook on life.  I have the travel bug now and felt incredibly lucky to see what I did.  I hope the feedback comments on the form are ok.  Again, thank you Gemma and Pat for your support and helping me have the time of my life!  I hope I will be in contact with you again next year.

Project Feedback: South Africa is a special place and you are really at the heart of this on this project.  It was a privelege to observe animals in their environment and learn so much about the ecosystem and animal behaviour.  It is a life changing experience and the rangers / staff are great and so knowledgable.  Volunteers are a vital part of the project's running and not only will you have the time of your life, your money goes to a fantastic cause.  I've never been happier then going out on a drive watching elephants drink in the sunset, lions playing in the grass, rhinos blocking the road home and many more experiences.  If you're in doubt about whether to go, don't.  Just do it! It will be one of the best things you ever do!!

Lisa, UK, aged 22 (Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game Reserve)

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