Witness nature in its simplest form, from watching a lion take down its prey or newborn cheetah cubs playing, to a stand-off between two elephants. In the African bush you can never tell what you will find just around the corner…
Travel to the home of the Big Five in the South African bush, assisting our team’s important conservation research.
This project gives you a real and unfiltered look into Africa’s incredible iconic wildlife. But unlike a tourist safari, you play an active and meaningful role in the research and long term conservation of South Africa’s natural resources in this stunning region of the world.
You will volunteer alongside an international team to collect vital behavioural data on reintroduced predators and large herbivores on a private game reserve. In order to assist with this vital conservation work you will be trained to use research equipment to help locate predators in the reserve and you will receive invaluable training in large animal identification, tracking and behavioural study skills.
No special skills or qualifications are required to join this program, as all training will be provided by our fully qualified field teams. All we ask is an enthusiasm to learn and become fully involved and immersed in this unique opportunity.
Please note, this program offers durations up to 24 weeks. Speak to your Country Expert for more details of extending your stay in-country
My favourite moments were on the drives collecting data and observing the animals, improving my knowledge and understanding of the environment and working with young people who were committing time to help understand and improve the world in which they live. It was most reassuring to see young adults working together. The project gives one a more intimate knowledge of the environment and the animals, than it would seeing them as a tourist.
Experiencing a unique African bush adventure at the heart of a spectacular game reserve; be woken by a dawn chorus and sent to sleep by the roar of lions; mastering radio telemetry techniques and learning to track animals through the bush; getting acquainted with big game and all the main predators, including lion, cheetah, leopard, elephant and rhino; exploring nearby regions to experience such breathtaking views as from the Blyde River Canyon in the Drakensberg Mountains; living and working alongside FGASA qualified South African Guides getting constant learning and inspiration; having the chance to sleep out in the bush under the spectacular African stars and wake up to a beautiful sunrise.
24-hour emergency phone
24-hour in-country support
Access to Alumni Services and Discounts
Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
All necessary project equipment and materials
All necessary project training by experienced staff
Long term experienced staff
Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)
Reserve fees and permits
Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
Telemetry training as relevant
Wildlife identification techniques
So what does Life on the Project actually involve? See below for an idea of what to expect on a day to day basis…
Before getting fully involved in the inner workings of our research, you will undergo training that will cover how to carry out extensive radio tracking and monitoring of all the collared predators on the reserve, all while learning a variety of new skills, including mammal and bird identification, ecology and bush first aid. This training will allow you to effectively contribute to the overall program, as you get to know animals on the reserve individually and following their progress and monitor behaviour.
A typical day involves spending time out in the reserve tracking the wildlife and conducting research from the game vehicles. This usually happens during the cooler weather at dawn and dusk when the wildlife is more active. Most of the research is on predators such as lions, leopards, cheetahs and hyena but we also monitor other wildlife, including elephants. There is a daily schedule and if not assisting on game drives then you may be working on data entry or helping with camp and cooking duties.
We can spend up to 12 hours a day collecting data, so you should expect some long days. All this will do is develop a baseline and holistic understanding of all aspects of the bush.
Another aspect is our community work, where you will be expected to participate in educational days with local communities, highlighting the importance of conservation.
You will have opportunities to enjoy the surrounding areas and activities, including visits to local reptile parks and animal sanctuaries, as well as mountain trails.
Camp is basic but comfortable, the old fashioned African way. Situated deep within the game reserves, you will be in dormitory-style sleeping arrangements, with shared bathrooms, a kitchen and outdoor social areas.
As well as being prepared for changes in what is an evolving project, exact project details are also always subject to change due to weather conditions, time of year and game movements.
Overall, we have regular contact with our partners, the reserve managers and other members of the broader conservation and research community to determine our areas of focus.
A typical expedition may involve the detailed monitoring of predators (lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena); herbivore sex/age ratio and its effect on predator movement; elephant impact vegetation surveys to monitor impact on sensitive areas of the reserve; community projects that teach the importance of conservation.
Other activities and ecological studies can also include darting/fitting radio collars to predators or invasive vegetation species eradication.
From a personal perspective, you will increase your knowledge of the South African environment, its importance and the threats to it, and help to increase both local and global knowledge and awareness, while contributing to our overall goals and objectives.
We also try to assist where required with off-site studies or mini-projects that may focus on different biota if we believe them to be relevant in the conservation context of the region. Such studies allow staff and volunteers to get a broader knowledge of conservation research across more than one ecosystem. Examples could include documenting bird of prey nesting sites and celebrating environmental calendar days. Any such mini-projects will only be available to volunteers staying longer than 4 works and would make up the minority of your time on this program.
How this project makes a difference
JCR spends up to 12 hours a day collecting data on large predators such as lions, leopards and cheetah. The information gathered is used to give an accurate picture of the predators impact on prey populations, determine social structure, genetics, and spatial movement. This vital information helps maintain a healthy balance of these natural resources and ultimately conserve some of Africa’s important ecosystems.
By our research teams normally bring the first to locate the focus animals we monitor, we are able to call in their locations to the commercial safari guides at the nearby lodges. By improving the quality of wildlife viewing for the tourists, we help to ensure that the lodges remain competitive in an already saturated market. This in turn this contributes to the sustainability of the reserve by bringing in the much-needed capital to keep it up and running.
Limpopo’s short, mid, and long-term objectives
All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualize their contribution to the UN SDGs.
Upon arrival to base, you will be educated about the history of the UN SDGs. You will learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these goals on a global level.
Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to act as active global citizens after your program, helping to fulfill our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.
Learn about the long-term objectives you will be contributing to in Limpopo:
1. To provide long term and consistant data for Karongwe Reserve Management to assist with Reserve Management decisions based on scientific data
2. Increase local awareness of GVI’s purpose and impact on Karongwe PGR
3. Increase scientific output
4. Contribute to three large scale reserve management projects alongside the Warden in accordance with the Reserve’s Management Plan
5. Increase our in-country capacity by providing environmental and conservation education and training
6. Increase our in-country capacity through community upliftment projects
Participating with JCR program partners not only allows you to work on programs assisting disadvantaged communities or endangered ecosystems but it also offers wonderful opportunities to travel in the local area in your down time or further afield either before or after your program. Below is some information on trips and travel options in South Africa.
Side Trips Included
While at the Karongwe Base, volunteers will visit the renowned Khamai Reptile Park as part of the training. Later on during the phase, volunteers are also taken to a local curio market where a variety of quality carvings and other gifts are sold.
Optional Side Trips
Volunteers at base have one day off per week. For longer duration volunteers, at the end of each 4 week cycle there may be the opportunity to take 3 or 4 consecutive days off. Independent travel from Karongwe is best done by renting a car, something volunteers usually do in groups to make more economical. Bear in mind there is additional cost associated with pick-ups or drop-offs at the reserve gate. Hoedspruit, the nearest town is about 45 mins drive away. In the area around Karongwe Game Reserve you can visit the Kruger National Park, with entry gates no more than an hour drive away. There’s also the ‘panoramic route’ which takes you on various scenic drives along the edge of the Drakensberg escarpment, the Blyde River Canyon and to the historic towns of Pilgrims Rest, Graskop (where Harry’s Pancakes will serve you the best pancake on the planet!) and Sabie, where you can also book onto a variety of adventure activities such as zip-lining, quadbiking, canyoning and hiking, or just chill out with a picnic lunch at one of the many nearby waterfalls.
Further Travel Opportunities
South Africa has such a wealth of fantastic opportunities for further travel. Possibilities include the spectacular Drakensberg Mountains, the beauty of the Kalahari Desert, historic Zululand, the vibrancy of Cape Town (check outJCR program partners Cape Town volunteer programs!), the fantastic Garden Route along the Southern Coast , the world-renowned National Parks of Kruger and Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, and many more highlights that will leave you wanting more of this amazing country
2 – 12 weeks
Karongwe Nature Reserve
Wildlife Research in South Africa Expedition
2 WEEKS FROM$ 2,375
2 weeks $2,375
4 WEEKS $3,345
6 WEEKS $4,315
At JCR we have successfully been organising and sending young Australians on overseas placements for over 15 years. We think JCR has some great programs and we sincerely believe that cultural travel is a wonderful experience, an amazing learning curve and can help to positively prepare you for life’s rewards and challenges.
JCR have one goal and that is to make your volunteer experience the most amazing it can be. We work together to ensure that you are matched with the right program, we discuss your options and answer any questions you may have.
It is the reason JCR Volunteer overseas was created: to create lasting memories from amazing cultural exchanges.
Learn more about this volunteer program