South Africa – African Elephant Conservation and Research

Please Note: This program is temporarily unavailable. Check out our alternative programs in Africa or schedule a one-on-one call with one of our expert volunteer advisors.


This project is an interesting, informative and fun, educational program that is made up of learning and research tasks through wildlife volunteering along the stunning Garden Route of South Africa. This four week program provides ample opportunity for volunteers to engage in a host of different conservation efforts and research initiatives, working closely with African Elephants. Volunteers on this project will be able to learn about elephant conservation in South Africa, be involved with regional elephant conservation projects and research initiatives and learn about the perpetual threats to ecosystems and the environment.


Location icon Location of the Project: The Garden Route, South Africa

Project length Project length: Minimum 2 weeks – Maximum 4 weeks

Arrival Airport Arrival Airport: George Airport (GRJ)

Age Age: 18-60

Number of Volunteers Number of Volunteers: Up to 12 International volunteers

Important Note Important Note: Some start dates are only valid for a two-week duration  and other start dates are only valid for a four-week duration. Please check with a placement advisor before selecting your start date.


What’s Included

Accommodations Accommodations: Shared rooms in volunteer house

Food Food: Three meals per day are included

Airport Transfers Airport Transfers: Included on arrival and departure days

Orientation Orientation: Full project details will be sent following registration and all necessary training and introductions provided upon arrival.

Support Support: Comprehensive and professional pre-departure travel guidance, 24/7 GoEco emergency hotline, experienced local field team.


What’s not Included

Flights, visas (if required), travel health insurance, personal expenses

The Garden Route is a stretch of land on the South Eastern coast of South Africa. It is located between the seaside town of Mossel Bay in the Western Cape to the famous Storms River in the Eastern Cape. The area is well known for its lush and environmentally varied vegetation as well as the many lagoons and lakes scattered along its coast. It includes towns such as Knysna, Plettenberg Bay and George – the Garden Route’s largest city.

The varied ecosystems of the region fill up to ten nature reserves, including a variety of distinctive marine reserves, home to soft coral reefs, dolphins, seals and a host of other marine life. Due to its diversity of habitat and endemic species accounts, this region is a favored research zone.


This project consits of four weeks that involve different volunteer tasks.


Week 1: Elephant Husbandry, Care, Welfare and Management: This first week will involve learning about various elements of elephant care. Volunteers will become familiar with every facet of an elephant’s life, becoming involved in various management functions, including the repair and maintenance of the grounds. Throughout the four-week program volunteers will be required to report back on their experiences and provide feedback to the other volunteers. Each day volunteers will be tasked with individual and group research assignments.

Week 2: Elephant Behavior Research, Monitoring and Observation and Interpretation: During this week volunteers will be guided through the use of various tools, techniques and mechanisms to record, monitor and note interesting behavioral observations and features pertaining to each of the elephants. As well as providing feedback, volunteers will also be required to compile their own account of the elephants through photographic accounts, written accounts and recorded research data.

Week 3: Wild Elephant Behavior and Ecological Adaptability Wilderness Safari: During this week volunteers will be taken to the world renowned Addo Elephant National Park near Port Elizabeth for a five-day elephant observation, interpretive and facilitated safari experience. During this week wild elephant behavior is observed and monitored. During this week volunteers will also observe all the other animals in Addo and how they relate to one another.

Week 4: Elephant Behavior, Adaptations and Observations and Conservation Research Projects: The final week is an culmination of all the knowledge and practical experience volunteers have acquired over the past three weeks. Individual experiences and interesting facts pertaining to elephant life, ecology, behavior and adaptability are collated by the group in presentation format. The document is copied, bound and presented to each participant when the program concludes.

Internet icon Internet: There is no WiFi available

Laundry icon Laundry: There is a washing machine available

Accommodations icon Accommodations: Weeks 1, 2 and 4 are based exclusively at the sanctuary. Week 3 is an outward bound extension module where volunteers are based at the world renowned Addo Elephant National Park for five days. Volunteers will be accommodated 20 kilometers from Plettenberg Bay. All accommodations are comfortable and up-to-date with necessary amenities. The rooms are shared and single-gender, with two volunteers per room and separate bathrooms.

Food icon Food: Three meals per day are provided. Breakfast consists of cereals, fruit, yogurt, toast, and spreads and is available on a self-serve basis. Lunch is will be in the form of a packed lunch on excursion days or a buffet of breads, fruit, cold meats and spreads for sandwiches. A hot meal will be served every night for dinner and includes a meat, a starch and vegetables.



Please take note of this project’s minimum requirements:

  • CV/Resume
  • Good level of physical fitness
  • Basic level of English
  • Prepared to get dirty
  • Passion for wild animals (especially elephants)

For an additional fee the following activities may be available. Please enquire about availability and cost after registration.

  • Bungy Jumping off Bloukrantz Bridge
  • Canyoneering
  • Cage Swimming with Great White Sharks in Mossel Bay
  • Animal Sanctuary Visit in Crags – Monkeyland, Birds of Eden and Jukani Predator Park
  • Guided Walks and guided canoeing at different spots in the area
  • Guided Interpretive Bush Walk Experiences
  • Various Experiential Bush Eco-Adventures and an Overnight Bush Survival Adventures just outside Plettenberg Bay
  • Skydiving in Plettenberg Bay and Tandem Paragliding in Wilderness or Sedgefield
  • Diving in Plettenberg Bay or Knysna or Jeffreys Bay
  • Learn to kite surf or sail in Knysna
  • Swim with seals in Plettenberg Bay
  • Oudsthoorn Full Day Adventure – Wildlife Ranch, Ostrich Farm and Cango Caves Wild Adventure
  • Horse Riding in the Forests in the Crags or at Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve

Volunteer Experiences

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