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South Africa - The Big 5 Wildlife Reserve in the Greater Kruger Area

Participate in research initiatives on Africa's "Big 5" wildlife species – lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, and buffalo. Contribute to research and conservation work and play a part in vital conservation activities.



Fast Facts

Location of ProjectGreater Kruger Area, South Africa
Project LengthMin 2 weeks - Max 12 weeks
Arrival AirportKruger Mpumalanga International Airport
Volunteer WorkAnimal conservation, research and observations
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 TransfersAirport pickup upon arrival
Transport 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, and 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. 


About the Project

This project aims to both study and conserve some of Africa's most unique and beautiful wild animals and the land they roam on. It is a joint effort which collaborates with local and distant communities, universities, and other reserves to learn as much as possible about these animals and their behaviors to better provide them with a suitable environment in which to thrive. 

This reserve is home to a wide range of wildlife, and therefore has many different initiatives with each one. The main work is being done on Black Rhinos, elephants, and lions.

Their work with Black Rhinos focuses on providing these animals with a safe place to reestablish their population after a recent huge devastation due to hunting and poaching in the area. Today, there are fewer than 3,600 Black Rhinos left but after introduction into the reserve in 2009, the population has begun to see a slow but steady rise. 

Elephant research is done on the reserve to better understand their roaming behaviors in order to provide the best environment in which they can thrive. Elephants in Africa often have conflicts with humans, so the aim of the work with elephants is to decrease these types of conflicts and let them free to roam in their own environments. 

In the past 30 years, Africa has seen a decrease in its lion population of about 80-90%. Initiatives here focus on the reproductive, territorial, hunting, and social behaviors of the lions. 


Volunteer Work and Contribution

Volunteers will be carrying out research on endangered wildlife within the reserve. This research provides critical information to the organizations dedicated to conservation of these unique and beautiful animals. 

As a volunteer, there are a wide variety of tasks you will be involved with:

  • Monitor the behavior, feeding patterns and movement of elephants.
  • Collate and record data on a pride of lions. This entails being in the bush to observe hunting, social, breeding and territorial behavior at various times of the day (this may involve night drives).
  • Monitor the rhino population to support data recorded by the anti-poaching team. This helps the reserve managers better understand the health of the rhinos. 
  • Capture data as requested by the reserve management team for their ongoing endangered species work.
  • Carry out the physical work required to regenerate a natural environment for the animals. This includes prevention of further soil erosion and removal of old structures that may be harmful to the animals. 
  • Contribute to long term efforts of removing alien plants from the park. 
  • You may also be given the opportunity to help use your existing and new found knowledge by discussing conservation education 

Volunteers' time at the reserve will be split between the focuses of the program in approximately the following way:

  • Big 5 monitoring: 40-50%
  • Conservation work within the park: 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 an 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 prepared by the on-site cooks. 

InternetWiFi 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 fish eagles that roam the area
  • 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 years
  • Good level of English
  • Genuine love and concern for animals and the environment
  • Immunizations (please consult your local travel clinic)
  • Volunteers must be in good physical condition, as they will be expected to walk long distances and participate in intense physical activities
  • Ability to work as part of a team, be flexible and cooperative
  • National police clearance form



Here's an excerpt of Katie's experience:

  "We also saw many impala, steenbok, buffalo, zebra, and other animals. We were lucky enough to see two leopards, one of which was from a distance relaxing in a tree, but the other we lucked into seeing prowling around and hunting."

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog

Here's an excerpt of Christine's experience:

  "Our purpose there was to assist in the data collection of a variety of species, including elephants, rhino, lions, leopards, birds of prey, and many others, to give to conservation organizations that protect these animals and their environments.  Without the help of volunteers, the staff wouldn’t be able to collect and maintain all of the information that they need."

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog

Here's an excerpt of Lisa's experience:

  "Every week, we went on at least five game drives to conduct data collection on wildlife. This experience alone was worth the cost of the program. The Kruger area and surrounding private reserves are incredible. Seeing animals in a zoo is not even close to how amazing it is to see animals in the wild. We had close encounters with elephants, rhinos, lions, giraffes, and countless other animals. I learned so many interesting facts about these animals and now have such a greater understanding of how they behave and the threats they face for survival in the wild."

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog!

Here's an excerpt of Erica's experience:

  "One of the highlights was us watching an animal birth. A few of the researchers spotted strange blue legs sticking out from one of the pregnant buffaloes.Everyone quickly whipped out their binoculars and cameras to zoom in on what was happening. Then came out the legs of a buffalo calf, still in its amniotic sac. We were actually witnessing the birth of a baby buffalo! The mother moaned and walked around for a bit before giving the last push where the calf literally dropped onto the ground."

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog

Here's an excerpt of Susan's experience:

  "Our guide showed us how to track her and to be wary of her as an injured Lion is a dangerous Lion. I immediately wanted to know all about her so I took on the responsibility of making an identity kit for “KF5 Unknown Lioness.” We made a total of 4 game drives in less than 24 hours. Our second drive took us upon a Cape Buffalo kill that the Ross Breakaway Pride had taken down."

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog!

Here's an excerpt of Heather's experience:

  "Upon arriving, I was terrified. I was 18 years old and had never traveled anywhere alone before, let alone engaged in transcontinental travel alone. I had no idea what to expect for the next three weeks. Almost immediately, I learned that nothing could have enriched me more than traveling and volunteering, the abrupt thrust into the unknown that mandates meeting new people, understanding new cultures, trusting, collaborating, listening, and learning."

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog!

Here's an excerpt of Ryan's experience:

  "There was a wide variety of tasks to be completed, including research, conservation work, community involvement, camping, and social events. On the weekend, everyone got to sign up for a fun excursion. My trip to Swaziland proved to be memorable."

Read the rest of his story on the GoEco blog!

Check out GoEco volunteer Dane's video log of his amazing month in South Afica!

Check out our Volunteer Blog at blog.goeco.org to read experiences written by GoEco volunteers from all over the world!


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