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

This program is open to international volunteers!

Volunteers looking to gain experience doing research and conservation work while living in the heart of the South African wildlife hotspot, look no further! This project prides itself in having a positive impact on all the Big 5 animals as well as contributing to better ecosystem management.


Program Highlights:

  • Be part of daily research on the endangered Big 5, providing information for local wildlife management teams
  • Learn how to monitor the movements and behaviour of herds of elephants, lion prides, and many other species
  • See nocturnal animals in their environment on night drives
  • Ethical wildlife volunteer tasks and interactions
  • Live in the heart of the world famous Greater Kruger Area, on a private reserve.


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

Arrival Day, Sunday: Arrive at Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (MQP). You will be picked up from the airport and taken to your accommodation in the Greater Kruger Area. Take the time to get settled and meet other volunteers.

Day 1, Monday: Start your day with a team meeting, learning about the project. You’ll have an important orientation on your first day to ensure you’re well prepared for all your upcoming work on the project. Afterwards, get straight into volunteering, spending the afternoon doing research and going on a game drive through the reserve. In the evening you will experience a cultural presentation where you will learn more about South Africa.

Day 2, Tuesday: In the morning you will survey insects and birds and spend your afternoon doing data entry as well as setting up camera traps. In the evening you will go on a night drive, in search for nocturnal animals.

Day 3, Wednesday: Before returning to your accommodation, you will go on a drive through the private reserve and then continue with more research. Evenings can be spent relaxing by the fire.

Day 4, Thursday: This day will be spent working with the community, doing conservation work as well as going on another research drive. Thursday evenings are for fun with African Sundowners.

Day 5, Friday: Finish up the week with another game drive and also process the data that has been collected over the week. You can also enjoy a trip into town in the afternoon. Friday evenings are usually spent hanging out and enjoying an authentic South African Braai (barbecue).

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. Departures are on a Sunday.

Check out what our past volunteers had to say!



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

Project length Project length: Minimum 2 weeks – Maximum 12 weeks

Arrival Airport Arrival Airport: Eastgate Airport (HDS), Hoedspruit

Volunteer Work Volunteer Work: Animal conservation, research and observations

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 30 international volunteers

Important Note Important Note: Transport: daily transfers between accommodations and project site are provided.


What’s Included

Accommodations Accommodations: Shared room in volunteer lodge

Food Food: Three meals per day

Airport Transfers Airport Transfers:Airport transfers are provided upon arrival and departure

Orientation Orientation: 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

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.


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.

The 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.

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.


Some of your tasks may include:

  • Monitoring the behavior, feeding patterns and movement of elephants.
  • Collecting 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).
  • Monitoring the rhino population to support data recorded by the anti-poaching team. This helps the reserve managers better understand the health of the rhinos.
  • Capturing data as requested by the reserve management team for their ongoing endangered species work.
  • Carrying 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.
  • Contributing 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%

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 six 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 prepared by the on-site cooks.

Please take note of this project’s minimum requirements:

  • Minimum age of 18 years
  • Police clearance
  • 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

Travel Extras (Not Included):
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

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

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