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

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 Greater Kruger Area, on a private reserve.


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

Arrival Day, Sunday: Arrive at Hoedspruit Airport (HDS). 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 and setting up camera traps. In the evening you will go on a night drive, in a search of 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: Conservation work and 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 to 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.

*Please note that this schedule is an example and is subject to change.



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: Physical conservation work, research and observations

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

Number of Volunteers Number of Volunteers: Up to 45 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 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 initiatives with each species. The principal work is being done on elephants, and lions.

Volunteers will carry out research on endangered wildlife within the reserve. This provides critical information for dedicated organizations to improve and create wildlife conservation strategies.


Some of your tasks may include:

  • Taking part on wildlife research safari drives in order to monitor wildlife and collect data.
  • Monitoring the behavior, feeding patterns and movement of elephants. The primary goal is 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.
  • Collecting 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).
  • Capturing data as requested by the reserve management team for their ongoing endangered species work.
  • Practicing new research techniques, including analyzing whisker patterns, scars, and ear notches, to understand and distinguish individual animals.
  • Compiling data of animals into reports, maps and ID kits.
  • 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.


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

  • Big 5 monitoring: 40-50%
  • Physical conservation work within the park: 30-40%
  • Data recording: 10-20%

Internet icon Internet: Wi-Fi is available

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

Accommodations icon Accommodations: During your placement, you will stay in a private lodge on the banks of the Olifants River, overlooking Kruger National Park. The accommodation is comfortable and includes 7 large dorms rooms with AC and bathrooms. Facilities include a seasonal swimming pool, outdoor fire pit, common lounges and a small shop. Private rooms are available for an extra fee upon request, subject to availability.

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. They can cater for most dietary preferences, including vegetarians, vegans, and, where possible, lactose or wheat free.

  • 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


Click to see additional volunteering projects in South Africa

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