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

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.


Big cat lovers with an interest in research will be able to enjoy researching and volunteering with big cats in the Greater Kruger Area. Spend your days contributing to the conservation of these African animals and your nights stargazing as you spend your time in the wild.

Program Highlights:

  • Monitor wild leopard populations, collecting behavioral data that assists with wildlife conservation plans
  • Learn how to do camera trapping and identification databases, as well as gain other research skills
  • Go on night game drives and see nocturnal animals in their natural environment
  • Live in the world famous Greater Kruger Area, surrounded by wild animals and safari reserves
  • Learn more about the conservation efforts and the issues surrounding African wildlife and their habitat


Your Schedule at a Glance (Minimum four-week commitment):

Arrival Day, Sunday: Arrive at Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMI). You will be picked up at the airport and transferred to your new home in the Greater Kruger Area. Take some time to rest, your volunteering starts the next day!

Days 1-5, Monday-Friday: Upon your first work day,  you will have an important orientation on your first day to ensure you’re well prepared for all your upcoming work on the project. As a research volunteer, your days will be filled with all types of research projects. Tasks can include setting camera traps, collating predator data, identifying species and going on game drives. You will also participate in conservation projects such as invasive plant removal and community involvement activities. Your evenings will be spent socialising with other volunteers, enjoying BBQs and even going on an overnight camping trip.

Days 6-7, Saturday-Sunday: Your weekends are free for you to explore and enjoy your time in South Africa. Go on an organised trip to Kruger National Park or down the famous Panorama Route. If you’re looking for adventure then visiting the Blyde River Canyon is a must!

Remaining Weeks: The remaining weeks will follow a similar schedule of volunteering Monday-Friday and having Saturday-Sunday off. Spend your weekends resting or going on trips around the area. You can even hop over to Eswatini if you fancy visiting another country! Departures are on a Sunday


Click to see additional volunteering projects in South Africa.


Location icon Location of the Project: The Greater Kruger Area, South Africa

Project length Project length: Min 4 weeks – Max 12 weeks

Arrival Airport Arrival Airport: Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMI)

Volunteer Work Volunteer Work: Conservation, animal research and monitoring

Age Age: 18 – 70. Age Exceptions: this project accepts volunteers who are 17 years old with signed documentation from a parent or guardian.

Number of Volunteers Number of Volunteers: Up to 8 international volunteers

Important Note Important Note: Transportation: daily transfers between accommodations and project site. Orientation: all necessary training and introductions provided upon arrival.


What’s Included

Accommodations Accommodations: Shared room in volunteer lodge

Food Food: Three meals a day

Airport Transfers Airport Transfers: Included on arrival and departure day

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

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.


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

Some of your tasks may 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 behavior 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 reserve. You 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%

Internet icon Internet: WiFi is available for a small fee.

Laundry icon Laundry: Laundry services are available for a small fee.

Accommodations icon 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 icon 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.


Please take note of this project’s minimum requirements:

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

Travel Extras (Not Included):

Add on our eight-day Garden Route Road Trip to enhance your South Africa experience!

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

Volunteer Experiences

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