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Zululand Wildlife Conservation Volunteer

Zululand, South Africa
from £1,495 (2 weeks)

Ref: AV057

Getting involved with this very worthwhile project means that volunteers actively help endangered and priority wildlife species conservation.  The project works on five different game reserves performing critical and essential conservation work for these reserves at no cost to the reserves themselves.  The project work, which is 100% dependent on volunteer funding, mainly focuses on research into African Wild Dog, Cheetah, Black Rhino and Vultures, although Elephant, Lion, Leopard and White Rhino are also monitored.  The project works with very high profile organisations such as WWF, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and the Wildlands Conservation Trust.  The projects are Fair Trade Tourism certified and have received a silver award for a World Responsible Tourism Award in the category "Best for Wildlife" as well as a silver award for an African Responsible Tourism Award in the category "Best for Habitat and Species Conservation".

Who can join: 18 years and over
Accommodation: Volunteer Home on Game Reserve
Transfer time:
Pick up Point: Richards Bay Airport
Meals: Meals included
Volunteer numbers: maximum 5

Duration & Fees

2 weeks£1,495
4 weeks£2,390
6 weeks£3,400
8 weeks£4,300

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

Start Dates

2021 Start Dates:

11 Jan | 25 Jan | 8 Feb | 22 Feb | 8 Mar | 22 Mar | 5 Apr | 19 Apr | 3 May | 17 May | 31 May | 14 Jun | 28 Jun | 12 Jul | 26 Jul | 9 Aug | 23 Aug | 6 Sep | 20 Sep | 4 Oct | 18 Oct | 1 Nov | 15 Nov | 29 Nov | 27 Dec


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

What's Included

  • Accommmodation and meals
  • Airport transfers on arrival and departure from Richards Bay
  • A full orientation programme
  • Help and assistance from local project staff and the Amanzi Travel team
  • Transport into town once every two weeks

What's not included

  • Travel insurance that must include cover for repatriation
  • Flights to Richards Bay in South Africa
  • All items of a personal nature etc gifts, clothing etc
  • Snacks such as soft drinks and alcohol
  • Any excursions above and beyong the project itinerary

Volunteers choosing this project have a unique opportunity to work with a dedicated, professional team (supported by the WWF) on genuine conservation initiatives throughout Zululand in South Africa.  The main focus is on critical endangered wildlife species and volunteers will track and monitor animals like Cheetah, African Wild Dog, Rhino, Lion, Elephant and Leopard.  This vital conservation work is important across Zululand and the unique bonus in joining this project is that the work is conducted on a number of amazing National Parks and Game Reserves in the area, each with its own distinct eco-system, wildlife and landscape.  This project offers placments in multiples of two weeks which means volunteers can join for 2 / 4 / 6 / 8 / 10 or 12 weeks.  The opportunity to work on multiple reserves depends on the length of stay.  If a volunteer says for 2 weeks they will work on one Reserve, but for every additional 2 weeks they stay the better the chance of experiencing another Reserve. Since the naure of the work is dependent on the specific needs of the animals at any given time, specific placements are subject to change should the need arise.  It is hoped that volunteers will be understanding of this and will to help wherever there is a need.,The work is conducted in the stunning African bush and volunteers witness an ever-changing environment as they monitor these beautiful animals - this is a African wildlife experience of a lifetime!

This is not a safari: volunteers are out in the African bush with dedicated conservationists on planned and valuable wildlife tracking and monitoring activities.  It's not always pretty or easy but it is always exciting and wonderful to be out in the beautiful reserve, enjoying the sights and smells of the bush, and knowing that you are being part of something significant.  No prior skills are necessary, the most important thing for wildlife volunteering is the passion to make a difference, be in a reasonably good physical condition and of course, have a positive attitude. The days are full, the work is important and because only five volunteers are accepted on each of the reserves at any given time volunteers gain an insight into real conservation work.  

Project Locations 

  • The iMFOLOZI SECTION of Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park
  • The HLUHLUWE SECTION of Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park
  • Manyoni Private Game Reserve (previously known as Zululand Rhino Reserve (ZRR)
  • Mkhuze Game Reserve
  • Tembe Elephant Park

Each reserve has a different focus in terms of the work being done.  Whlle the project does plan and follow basic schedules, the nature of the work being done dictates that the animals and their environment are the number one priority and therefore schedules may at times have to be altered due to unforeseen circumstances or incidents within this wild and dynamic environment.

Daily Activities

Volunteers will assist the wildlife monitor in all day-to-day aspects of monitoring including (where necessary):

  • The daily tracking and locating of priority species wildlife in the wild, seated on qn open 4 x 4 vehicle, using radio telemetry equipment
  • Mapping the sightings using GPS equipment - volunteers will be taught how to use this equipment
  • Observing animal behaviour (eg wild dog pack dynamics) for research purposes
  • Photographing and creating identity kits (for recently reintroduced relocated animals)
  • Periodically setting up camera traps at watering holes and game trails
  • Assisting with ongoing game counts if needed

Depending on the length of time and time of year of the project placement, volunteers could be fortunate enough to take part in one of the following activities, which occur strictly as and when the need arises:

  • Radio collaring of animals
  • Notching (identity marking) of animals such as Rhino
  • Night tracking excursions - for example Hyenas
  • Animal Call-Ups - for example Lion
  • Relocation or re-introduction of endangered species
  • Vulture counts and nest surveys
  • Bird ringing and alien plant control

No activities can be guaranteed - volunteers help out wherever the Reserve Manager identifies a particular need.  The primary function is to provide vital monitoring on these reserves.

A Typical Day ...

Volunteers leave camp before sunrise, seated on bench seats on the back of the open 4 x 4 tracking vehicle.  The team will locate the endangered species animals that the wildlife monitor has earmarked for the morning using radio telemetry equipment that receives radio signals from the collars which are fitted onto the priority species animals.

Once the team has successfully sighted the animals, they will be observed for as long as necessary for volunteers to record the data and then move on to the next animal or species on the daily monitoring schedule.

Each day there will be free time during the midday period when it is hot and most animals are inactive (resting in the shade).  During these few hours over the midday period volunteers are welcome to read, sleep, eat, play cards or board games, or simply enjoy the animal and bird activity within and around the accommodation.

Volunteers head out again on the vehicle between 2 - 3 pm to follow up on those animals which were not located in the morning, arriving back in camp shortly after sunset to start preparing supper and sit around the fire listening to the sounds of the bush and discussing the day's events.

At least once a week there will be a day set aside for administrative work (data capture and analysis).  This is a vital part of the monitoring process, as this valuable information gathered by the team has numerous management applications, including the planning of successful introduction and removal strategies of priority wildlife species, as well as supplying information to the local conservation authorities.

Every day in the bush is different.  There is  saying;  "This is Zululand, not Disneyland"!  Some days it might be difficult to find certain animals and not see them - other days the team might see all the "Big Five" in one morning.  There are no guarantees.  Some days can be a stretch and even laborious at times, such as tracking one animal for a whole day, and covering large distances without success.  But it is important.


This project is officially contracted by the international wild cat organisation, Panthera. to conduct leopard population surveys within KwaZulu-Natal and a number of exciting, short-term surveys will be undertaken throughout the year, using remote camera trapping survey methods on various game reserves in the Zululand region.  This was started in response to the high hunting levels outside of the game reserves causing the leopard populations within protected areas to decline.  Legislation regulating the trophy hunting has been rewritten to allow Panthera and the provincial conservation authority Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife to enter local communities surrounding the protected areas to help to control the trophy hunting of leopards. This project continues to ensure that the new regulations are adhered to and are sustainable for years to come.

With the use of camera-trap surveys it is possible to estimate the density and gauge population trends over time.  At specifically chosen reserves the project sets up a minimum of 30 camera-trap stations, each of which has two camera traps (to capture the left and right hand side of the animal).  The stations are set up along the roads, animal paths and other areas (such as river beds or drainage lines) which leopards may frequest.  The surveys are spread across an area that covers 100 - 120 km squared and each survey runs for 50 days before moving to a different reserve.  Estimates of leopard population size in any given area are determined using capture-recapture models, hence this survey will run within KwaZulu-Natal for up to 5 years.

Volunteer Activities and Schedule

Volunteers will be involved in helping the local monitors with a variety of tasks depending on the stage of the survey at the time.  It may be helping with setting up or taking down the motion sensor cameras to move the project to a different reserve or location.  The work mainly will be aiding with the downloading of images from the cameras, recording the captured data, managing the camera-trap sites as well as helping with identikits for each animal if necessary.  Volunteers will also collate the photographs of non-target priority species that may be present on the reserve.- depending on the location of the survey at the time and what species occur on that particular reserve - (for example species like Black and White Rhino, Elephant, Lion, Cheetah, Wild Dog) to the Reserve Management for monitoring purposes.


Currently the survey is operating on various game reserves in Zululand including Somkhanda Game Reserve, the Eastern shores section of iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Ithala Game Reserve, Manyoni Private Game Reserve, Mkhuze Game Reserve and HluhluweiMfolozi Park.  Other sites are added annually for one off surveying. 

Free Time

Camera download days are usually only 4 days of the week.  The downloads take on average 4 - 7 hours on any given day.  Once the selected camera sites have been downloaded for the day, and the photographs have been correctly catalogued, there will still be some free time.  There will also be 2 days of the week that count as free time and during these periods volunteers can either do personal tasks such as laundry, catching up on some sleep, writing emails to family etc.  Depending on which reserve the survey is currently at it may be possible to visit a bird hide or engage in a community museum etc.

Most volunteers who spend more than 2 weeks on the conservation project will spend 2 weeks on the Leopard Census project and then complete their stay with 2 weeks or more on the other sites in Zululand.  

Volunteers can request to join the Leopard Conservation Census when booking as well as there preferred project locations. 

Optional Activities

The area in which volunteers will be working is within easy reach of the coast where there is a wide variety of optional activities.

As only the occasional Sunday is considered a free day during the placement, volunteers are recommended to allow extra time here before or after their placement if  they would like to take part in some of these activities.   Staff on the project may be able to offer advice on these activities but volunteers will need to make their own transfer and accommodation arrangements.

  • Whale & dolphin watching (seasonal)
  • Turtle tours (seasonal)
  • Deep sea fishing (all year)
  • Scuba diving (all year) or a 5-day Open Water course
  • Visit to local fossil sites
  • Hiking (all year)
  • Surfing lessons
  • Surf board hire
  • Horse riding
  • Kayaking
  • Tiger fishing
  • Birding/River cruise

Getting There

All volunteers are collected from Richards Bay Airport and they should book their international flight into Johannesburg (OR Tambo International Airport) and then take a short connecting flight to Richards Bay airport on the Monday start date.  There are several flights that arrive at Richards Bay each day.  There is an inclusive airport pick up at 12.50 pm and all volunteers must arrive by this time. Volunteers making their own way to the airport should be sure to arrive by 12.30 pm to ensure they can take advantage of the included airport pick up.  

Should anyone wish to arrive into Richards Bay on the Sunday, they can then overnight at a B & B close to the airport and book a taxi to get back to the airport on Monday morning in time no later than 12.30 pm.  Details of accommodation close to the airport that provides free transfers on Sunday afternoon and on Monday morning can be obtained from Amanzi Travel. Volunteers who choose different accommodation options will need to arrange and pay for ther own taxis to and from the Airport. 

For anyone who arrives on an early morning flight on the Monday there is a small coffee shop at Richards Bay Airport where volunteers will be comfortable and safe and were they can get a drink or a light meal or snack, and read or work on their laptop.

On departure volunteers are taken back to Richards Bay Airport for 11.30 am on their Monday departure date and are recommended to book one of the following flights departing from Richads Bay at 13.10 pm; 15.00 pm; 16.35 pm or 18,40 pm.  Earlier flights should not be booked.

Full details will be provided in your pre-departure pack and also options of overnight accommodation in Richards Bay for those who want to arrive the day before and depart the day after the transfers.

 Amanzi Travel holds an ATOL licence and can help with 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.

Zululand, South Africa, Zululand Wildlife Conservation VolunteerZululand, South Africa, Zululand Wildlife Conservation VolunteerZululand, South Africa, Zululand Wildlife Conservation VolunteerZululand, South Africa, Zululand Wildlife Conservation VolunteerZululand, South Africa, Zululand Wildlife Conservation VolunteerZululand, South Africa, Zululand Wildlife Conservation VolunteerEach reserve has its own accommodation which is basic but comfortable.  The camps generally have simple communal kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms or chalets.  Each room has two or three single beds and volunteers may have to share a room with other volunteers of the same gender.  The bathrooms uisually have a warm water shower and flushing toilet.  There is often an outside dining area and barbecue for a real South African outdoor dining experience. 

Tembe Research Camp - volunteers are based at a research camp within the natural sand forest.  The camp offers three wooden cabins nestled amongst the trees and thickets, with a separate toilet and shower block, and laundry facilities as well as a communal kitchen, dining, lounge and braai area that is shared with other scientists and researchers carrying out studies in the park.

Manyoni Private Game Reserve - (Zululand Rhino Reserve) - volunteers are housed in a large and secluded house within the reserve, and the camp offers twin rooms, an indoor bathroom, a large kitchen and a lovely patio seating area.  There is also an outside solar shower.

Mkhuze Research Camp - volunteers are based at a small research camp, which has two bedrooms with separate shower and toilet facilities, a kitchen with an outside dining room, and an outside lounge and braai area.  The camp is situated within walking distance of the main tourist camp "Mantuma Camp" which is open to the general public and has a small take-away/diner, a small curio shop and a swimming pool. 

Hluhluwe Research Camp - volunteers are based at the Hluhluwe research camp, affectionately known as "Dung Beetle", which is located on top of a hill, in a coastal scarp forest.  Volunteers stay in twin rooms and have shared toilet and laundry facilities.  There is a communal kitchen and a lively barbecue area that is shared with other scientists and researchers carrying out studies in the park.  The camp is situated within walking distance of the main tourist camp "Hilltop Camp" which is open to the general public and has a restaurant, small shop and swimming pool.  This camp does house some other research staff and visiting staff members to the park (although their rooms are separate from those of the volunteers).  However it does provide a great opportunity for socialising with these researchers in the evenings.

iMfolozi Research Camp - volunteers are based on top of a hill at a Section Ranger's outpost, in a new eco camp.  The camp offers twin rooms, separate toilet and shower facilities, a rustic kitchen, decked sitting area and barbecue area.  There is a spectacular view of the Black iMfolozi River from a lookout post below the camp, known locally as "the Rock".  The accommodation at this camp is basic, isolated and reliant on a generator and solar power for electricity. 

Each camp has a  communal kitchen where volunteers prepare their own meals. There is an oven, hob, microwave, solar cooker and of course a fire to cook on. Volunteers are encouraged to take turns preparing meals but can cook independently if desired. Volunteers are taken into town to shop for groceries every two weeks.   Basic food items are provided for within the volunteer food budget, enough for three healthy meals a day and the aim is to be environmentally friendly. Any additional ‘luxury’ items can be purchased by volunteers to take back to camp with them.   The drinking water at the camps is of good quality, but bottled water can be purchased if preferred.

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

Zululand Wildlife Conservation Volunteer

I really enjoyed this volunteer project as you got to meet lots of different people and learn a lot about the environment. As we were monitoring the wild dogs for the two weeks, you get to know them better and see them as individuals. Don't expect to be having a relaxing holiday with this project, expect long days with awesome unexpected wildlife sightings."

Karla, NZ aged 29 (Zululand Wildlife Conservation Volunteer)

Zululand Wildlife Conservation Volunteer

The Tembe researchers and preserve managers are aware of contemporary approaches to and the challenges of monitoring and conserving wild animal life. They are both professional and good-hearted, with difficult conservation decisions made in relation to the size of the preserve and the limits of wild animal breeding. They have healthy, disease free lions, much in demand by other preserves, and are passionate about their work with all wildlife there. The researchers and their approach to conservation were stellar.

Mary, UK (Zululand Wildlife Conservation Volunteer)

Zululand Wildlife Conservation Volunteer

Thanks. I had an amazing time in Africa! I hope to return back again sometime in the future. 

I highly recommend booking this trip if you love nature and animals and like making a difference. The staff was really nice, accommodation and meals were great and the trip was extremely easy to book. Everything ran very smoothly! I hope to return eventually some time in the near future. What a great experience!

I feel like my time in Zululand made a big contribution to conservation efforts.

Kayla, USA, aged 23 (Zululand Wildlife Conservation Volunteer)

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