South Africa – Big 5 and Endangered Species Reserve

Experience life in the African bush! Live close to the animals in their natural habitats and will learn about wildlife conservation first-hand! Gain experience in data collection and wildlife monitoring, which will then be passed on to conservationists in the field to be used in their work.


Program Highlights:

  • Get the authentic African bush experience
  • Gain experience in wildlife conservation
  • Observe Africa’s Big 5 species up-close through safari drives
  • Collect valuable data to assist in conservation efforts
  • Enjoy a city and cultural tour of Johannesburg


Your Schedule at a Glance (Minimum two-week commitment, plus two-day orientation):

Arrival Day, Saturday: Arrive at Johannesburg Airport (JNB). You will be picked up from the airport and begin your experience by meeting your fellow volunteers.

Day 1, Sunday: Volunteers will embark on a city and cultural tour of Johannesburg.

Day 2, Monday: Volunteers will transfer to the reserve base and get settled in to their new home.

Days 3-7, Tuesday-Saturday: Rewarding volunteer work days at either the Big 5 or Endangered Species Reserve project. See “Volunteer Work” below for explanations of both placements and tasks.

Day 8, Sunday: Free day for volunteers.

Remaining Weeks: The remaining weeks will follow the schedule of exciting volunteer work Monday-Saturday and having Sundays free. (Check out “Travel Highlights” below for suggestions!) Departures are on Mondays.


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Location icon Location of the Project: Hoedspruit, South Africa

Project length Project length: Min 2 weeks – Max 12 weeks

Arrival Airport Arrival Airport: Johannesburg Airport (JNB)

Volunteer Work Volunteer Work:  Depending on your placement choice: Monitoring, observation, tracking, attending to habitat management, data collection and entry

Age Age:  18 years of age or older

Important Note Important Note: Please note that availability may be subject to change.


What’s Included

Accommodations Accommodations: Shared dorm-style room or tented accommodations

Food Food: Food is provided for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and volunteers prepare their own meals. Food is only re-stocked once a week.

Airport Transfers Airport Transfers:  Airport transfers are provided on both arrival and departure days

Orientation Orientation: Two-day orientation in Johannesburg provided upon arrival.(Minimum stay is 16 days)

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

Hoedspruit, or “Hat Creek,” lies at the foot of the Klein Drakensberg mountain range in the Limpopo province of South Africa. This province is situated along the country’s northern border, in close proximity to Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Botswana. This area is home to Kruger National Park and many other private game reserves, making it an ideal spot for conservationists around the world to gather for research initiatives. The local population mainly lives in rural areas, and volunteers will have the opportunity to experience a taste of this traditional life in the African bush.

If you are passionate about wild animals and want to experience life in the bush, this is the program for you! There are two project placements you can choose from: the Big 5 Reserve placement or the Endangered Species Reserve placement.

Both options involve the following tasks:
• Monitoring animals
• Tracking of elusive species
• Waterhole observations
• Night patrols
• Habitat management
• Data collection and entry
• Key species of interest; rhinos, lion, elephant, leopard, hyena, elephants, buffalo, Southern Ground Hornbill
• Exotic plant removal, erosion control or bush clearing
• Lectures are given 2-3 times per week
• Once a month there is an opportunity to help in a local school


This volunteer project will give you an incredible wildlife experience while you learn about conservation efforts, bush tracking, how to approach wild animals and more! The difference between the two placements is the accommodations.

A typical day: The project runs 6 days a week from Monday to Saturday. In summer we start at 5:30am and are out for 4-5 hours. In the afternoon we leave at 16:00 for another 3-4 hours. In winter we leave at 6:30am and are out for 4 to 5 hours. In the afternoon we leave at 15:00 for another 3-4 hours. We also give lectures and presentations 2- times during the week over the lunch period. For the remainder of the time between monitoring sessions, volunteers are required to enter all the data that they have collected into our databases.

Program Schedule: 2-day orientation is Saturday-Sunday. On Day 3, transportation will be provided to the project site.

Holidays: Please note that the Endangered Species progam is closed yearly, from early December through January. The Big Five program is open year-round. Please enquire for exact holiday dates.

Internet icon Internet: WiFi is available for a small fee in the volunteer house, but there is no WiFi in the tented area.

Laundry icon Laundry: Laundry services are available at a small fee. There are lines for drying; there are no dryers.

Accommodations icon Accommodations: Depending on the availability of your placement choice, you have the following two options: 1. Big 5 Reserve – Volunteer House: The volunteer house has a mix of dorm type sleeping arrangements with bunk beds or twin rooms for couples and/or volunteers travelling together. Bathrooms have a shower with hot running water provided by eco-friendly solar heaters and flushing toilets. Next door is the kitchen with an outside eating area. 2. Endangered Species Reserve – Tented Area: More remote with furnished tents and camping beds. There is no Wi-Fi, but there is a gas kitchen and outdoor solar showers with regular toilets. A great way to enjoy the surrounding nature in comfort! There are no private room options available.

Food icon Food: The kitchen is stocked for three meals per day. Preparation of lunch and dinner is shared by volunteers on a rotating basis.The refrigerator is re-stocked once a week. Stocked food includes cereals, fruit, yogurts, toast, spreads, breads and deli meats.


Please take note of this project’s minimum requirements:

  • Minimum age of 18
  • Basic level of competency in English
  • Medium level of fitness

Orientation (Included):
On Day 1 of orientation volunteers will be picked up from JNB airport and will meet their volunteer rep. Here volunteers will be able to meet each other and get settled into a hostel and be briefed about the program. On the second day of orientation volunteers will be tour around Johannesburg and will get the chance to see major landmarks such as Soccer City and the Orland Towers. The tour will end with a stroll through Zoo Lake Park.

On Day 3 the volunteers will be taken to the project site to begin their work. The program is 6 out of 7 days per week, allowing for two days of free time.

Note: The orientation is required and is not a part of the 2 weeks designated for volunteer work. Therefore, the minimum stay is 16 days for the 2-week option, 24 days for 3 weeks, and so on. All prices include orientation. Your orientation will take place Sat-Sun, and then you will transfer to the project location either by shuttle (included) or flight (not included) on Monday to begin volunteering.

Additional Travel Options (not included):
South Africa is a beautiful country with plenty to offer tourists. Hoedspruit is mainly a conservation area, however such places have plenty to offer. Reptile lovers shouldn’t miss a trip to the IKinyonga Reptile Park and cultured tourists have the option of touring around several local villages. There are walking day tours of Blyde Canyon or white water rafting experiences for the more active visitors as well.

Volunteer Experiences

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