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South Africa - Big Cats Research and Conservation in the Greater Kruger Area

Experience life in the African bush while contributing to conservation efforts of Africa's fierce predators - lions and leopards. Participate in research and monitoring of these intriguing big cats to better understand their behaviors and how we can help ensure their future in the area.



Fast Facts

Location of ProjectThe Greater Kruger Area, South Africa
Project LengthMin 2 weeks – Max 12 weeks
Arrival AirportKruger Mpumalanga International airport
Volunteer WorkConservation, animal research and monitoring
Number of ParticipantsUp to 8 international volunteers
Age18 - 70
Age Exceptions This project accepts volunteers who are 16 years old with signed documentation from a parent or guardian.

What's Included

AccommodationShared room in volunteer lodge
Food3 meals a day
SupportLocal in-country team and 24hr emergency support
Airport TransfersIncluded on arrival and departure day
Transportation Daily transfers between accommodations and project site
Pre-Departure Kit Full project details will be sent following registration
Orientation All necessary training and introductions provided upon arrival
Insurance Comprehensive travel health insurance with volunteer abroad coverage

What's Not Included

Flights, personal expenses, visa (if required)


This project is based in the Greater Kruger Area close to the famous Kruger National Park – one of the largest game reserves in Africa and home to Africa's 'Big 5' species. The park stretches across the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces in northeastern South Africa. With over 500 bird species, 100 reptiles, 150 mammal species, multiple archaeological sites, and an equally diverse array of trees and flowers, Kruger truly exemplifies the majesty of Africa. 015. 


About the Project

As recently as 1975, over 200,000 lions may have roamed the African continent. In 2002, estimates put the population between 23,000 and 39,000, representing an 80 – 90% decline in less than 30 years. This program specifically focuses on the conservation of lions and leopards, both of which have experienced decreased populations due to hunting and poaching.

The research, monitoring, tracking and data collection carried out throughout this project is aimed at understanding the reproductive, territorial, hunting, and social behaviors of the lion and leopard populations, and plays a vital role in the ongoing conservation and protection of Africa’s big cats.


Volunteer Work and Contribution

You will have the opportunity to work side-by-side with researchers to assist them in data collection and observations of the animals. Your daily duties will include:

  • Collate and record research data on the lions and leopards. This will involve being in the bush to observe hunting, social, breeding and territorial behaviour at various times of the day
  • Collate and record research data during night drives to monitor nocturnal predator activity
  • Capture data as required by the reserve management team for their on-going endangered species work
  • Carry out physical work to help regenerate natural bush from reclaimed farmland, including prevention of further soil erosion and the removal of old fences to avoid injuries to wildlife
  • Contribute to the long-term strategy of removal of alien plants from the reserveYou may also be given the opportunity to help use your existing and new found knowledge by discussing conservation education 

Your time will be divided approximately as follows: 

  • Research and monitoring: 40-50%
  • Conservation work: 30-40%
  • Data recording: 10-20%


Living Arrangements

Accommodations: During your placement, you will stay in comfortable shared accommodation in the volunteer lodge located within the Greater Kruger Area.  Standard rooms are spacious with up to four people per room and en-suite bathrooms. 

Food: Three meals a day are provided. Breakfast is self-serve and includes cereals, toast, coffee, and tea. Lunch and dinner are full meals and are prepared by the on-site cooks. 

Internet: WIFI is available for a small fee.

Laundry: Laundry services are available for a small fee.


Travel Extras

There is  an abundance of places to go and sights to see during your free time in South Africa. The following activities are available for an additional fee: 

Day Tours:

  • Panorama Route: Enjoy a scenic route along Mpumalanga Escarpment and Blyde River Canyon, the third largest canyon in the world
  • Blyde River Adventures: Head to the Blyde River Canyon and try out kloofing, extreme hiking, white river rafting, tubing, or micro light flying
  • Boat Trip: Explore the Kadishi Tufa waterfall and The Three Rondawels and see if you can spot the hippos, crocodiles or
  • Paintball: Try out paintballing in the natural bush environment!
  • Aerial Cable Trail and Elephant Interaction: Go on the longest trail cable in Africa and stop to see South Africa's largest land mammal along the way
  • Full Day in Kruger National Park: Spend a day exploring the vast reserve with an experienced tour guide 
  • Nyani Cultural Village and Roots of Rhythm Show: Learn about the origins, journeys and lifestyles of the tribes that settled in the Limpopo through song and dance
  • Kapama Sunset Safari: Check out nocturnal animals you wouldn't be able to see in the daylight!

Weekend Trips:

  • Tremisana Lodge, Balule Big 5 Reserve
  • Swaziland
  • Mozambique


Minimum Requirements

  • Minimum age 18
  • Basic English
  • Genuine passion and concern for animals and the environment
  • Good physical fitness
  • Ability to work in a team
  • National police clearance form

Here's an excerpt of Tim's experience:


"The sights are of course the thing I will always remember, but there was something that was even more important, the sense of community. It was a project for the animals, but we always worked with people. For me, that was the biggest surprise, all the great people I met there. The staff members were amazing and they were like the other volunteers just great and we all became such fast friends."

Read the rest of his story on the GoEco blog!

Here's an excerpt of Matthew's experience:


"My involvement allowed me to avoid being the one-dimensional tourist, but rather to provide meaningful work in the further advancement of research done on the wildlife in Africa. Seeing and working with these beautiful animals has been eye-opening, especially the black and white rhinos. The next 5 years will be critical for the survival of these magnificent creatures. Conservation becomes vital for the survival of the rhino as well as all the species that live in a very unpredictable part of the world."

Read the rest of his story on the GoEco blog!

Here's an excerpt of Rebecca's experience:


"In South Africa, I was greeted with an abundance of visual inspiration. Drawings of elephants, rhinos and lions now fill my sketchbook, and I have a growing list of ideas I can’t wait to get on paper! Listening to our guides as they interpret the behavior and traits of the animals and plants was immensely helpful as I illustrated my surroundings. Our work in the Research program was a refreshing change of pace and an incredible learning experience."

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog!


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