Volunteer Placement: Predator Research & Reserve Management in Kruger National Park

14+ days
  • Cheetah Tongue licking predator research conservation volunteering placement South Africa
  • Lion-South-Africa-Research
  • Megan Swan (1)
  • Toby Farman (55)
  • Jane Hardwick (789)
  • Nicholai Xuereb (24)
  • P1000077
  • Lioness-heading
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  • Stephen Miller (221) copy
  • Ben Carvin (415) copy

Description

Project Summary 

Step into South Africa’s Kruger National Park, one of the most famous game reserves in the world. We work with volunteers like you to monitor and protect the incredible species of this reserve alongside local NGOs and communities who care for South Africa’s unique wildlife. We are extremely grateful for your support in making these projects possible. 

In return, we promise you the experience of a lifetime, a letter of reference or certificate for your CV, and the opportunity to gain valuable skills to launch your career in conservation management. 

PLEASE CHECK ALL TABS ABOVE FOR FULL INFORMATION ON ACTIVITIES, COSTS, AND START DATES!

Based in the Balule Game Reserve within Kruger National Park (KNP), our volunteers will work with local partners WTSA Volunteering and Wildlife & Ecological Investments (WEI) to research and manage one of South Africa’s most ecologically important areas. WTSA works with hundreds of volunteers each year to collect data and support conservation efforts within South Africa’s top biodiversity hotspots. During this volunteer placement you won’t just see the African Big Five; you can help protect these spectacular animals.

Kruger National Park is one of Africa’s top safari destinations, encompassing nearly 2 million hectares of land that is home to an impressive number of species: 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds, and 147 mammals. The Balule Game Reserve comprises 30,000 hectares of private reserves that are contiguous with KNP; WTSA and WEI work with landowners to improve scientific knowledge about local species for conservation.

Volunteer roles in KNP run for 2-12 weeks, all in two-week increments. It is not possible to travel to KNP for an odd number of weeks. If you are interested in staying for 1+ months (after July 2021), you can combine your stay at KNP with an internship at our Dinokeng site to work on issues of human-wildlife conflict and experience a different biome.

Start dates begin on the 1st and 3rd Monday of every month (except January) and the price includes a return transfer to the nearest airport. Please see the ITINERARY tab above for a detailed description of dates, accommodation, and other logistical details. 

Volunteers will be allocated assignments and work responsibilities after their arrival at the camp upon completion of an initial introductory period. Volunteers will be involved in many different work activities, including tasks that are not animal or wildlife-related but are essential to conservation efforts. Examples of activities may include: predator monitoring and management, habitat assessment, road maintenance, invasive plant clearing, vulture nest monitoring, data input, and herbivore tracking. 

Specific activities cannot be guaranteed during any one volunteer’s stay as conservation management work depends on many uncontrollable factors such as weather, wildlife, and organizational needs. 

Please see the ACTIVITIES tab above for a detailed description of possible volunteering activities. 

Accommodation 

You will stay within shared bunk-style accommodation in the Rusermi Camp in Balule Game Reserve. The camp has beautiful views over the Olifants River and Drakensberg mountains with abundant game and birds near the site providing a true safari feel. The center has flushing toilets, warm showers, electricity, and a fully-equipped kitchen. Volunteers are expected to cook their own meals and participate in daily cleaning of the camp. You should expect to share a room with other volunteers, usually of the same sex. However, we cannot guarantee a same-sex roommate, so mixed rooms may occur. 

The camp is located in a rural area with the small town of Hoedspruit around 50 km away, which has some restaurants, shops, and supermarkets. However, expect a rural camp with satellite internet; this is not an ideal program for someone who needs to be in a big city! High speed WiFi is available on site for a cost of ZAR 100/week (approximately €7).

How to Book

Please indicate the number of weeks, start date, and any additional courses in the form to the right of this section. Please fill in the number of weeks in the box that currently lists “2”. You must pay the flat deposit fee of €100 to hold your place. We will contact you with a full invoice once we receive your deposit confirmation. Discounts will be applied to bookings longer than two weeks. Please see the PRICING tab above for detailed pricing information.

Itinerary

Volunteer placements in KNP run for 2-12 weeks, all in two-week increments. It is not possible to travel to KNP for an odd number of weeks. If you are interested in staying for 1+ months (after July 2021), you can combine your stay at KNP with an internship at our Dinokeng site to work on issues of human-wildlife conflict and experience a different biome.

Start dates begin on the 1st and 15th of every month (except January) and the price includes a return transfer to the nearest airport. Our program with WTSA will run from 1 February 2021 to 1 June 2021 and will open again on 15 August 2021 through the end of the year

You are responsible for booking your own flights to OR Tambo Airport (JNB) in Johannesburg and then onto a further domestic flight to Hoedspruit Airport (Airport Code – HDS), from where they are collected and transported to the camp. Volunteers have to arrange their local connecting flight on SA Express Airlines (www.flyexpress.aero) for arrival at HDS on set starting dates.

Volunteers are met on arrival at Hoedspruit Airport (HDS) just outside the town of Hoedspruit. Volunteers will be transferred to the reserve as one group departing at 15h00 on the 1st and 15th. Volunteers that have arrived on earlier flights are therefore required to wait at the airport for later arrivals. We advise volunteers to stay over in the town of Hoedspruit if their flight arrival is not on the 1st or 15th. If you stay in town you are required to report to the airport by 15h00 on the day of transfer to be transported to the reserve. A useful guide for accommodation in Hoedspruit – www.sa-venues.com It is approximately 50km from Hoedspruit Airport to the reserve, a 1.5 hours’ drive on reserve roads.

The return transfer from the reserve to HDS is on the 1st and 15th of each month, departing at 08h00 for arrival at HDS by 10h30. Flight departures only to be booked for travel after 11h30 to allow for road conditions and delays. International departures from Johannesburg only to be booked for travel after 16h00. 

Please check your local embassy for visa requirements. (Most western countries are issued tourist visas on arrival). On arrival at the airport volunteers have to declare they are visiting South Africa as tourists and state the period of their stay. Volunteers will be issued a standard 90 day tourist visa, which may be extended at a local Dept. of Home Affairs office (subject to certain conditions) for a further 90 days up to a maximum stay of 6 months. Check the validity of your passport as some countries are required to have a passport valid for at least 6 months after the end of your stay in SA.

Activities

Activities

Volunteers will be allocated assignments and work responsibilities after their arrival at the camp upon completion of an initial introductory period. The introductory period allows for volunteers to gain a better understanding of operations and reserve management practices and safety policies. During this time volunteers will receive training in basic bush ecology and how to safely conduct themselves in a big game environment. You can expect to work approximately 8 hours per day, between 5-6 days per week, depending on research requirements, weather, and data collection needs. 

You will be assessed in terms of your skills and interests, and the potential areas where you can make a valuable contribution during your stay. Volunteers will be involved with different types of work activities, including tasks that are not animal or wildlife-related but are critical in conserving the environment, i.e. erosion control measures, road maintenance, bush clearing, and hard manual labor.

Volunteers that are studying in relevant areas of interest may be assigned to specific tasks that could be related to practical components of their studies. Volunteers will work closely with field teams, reserve manager, and scientific coordinator of WEI throughout the project. We will make a best effort to balance wildlife activities with more mundane tasks; however, both are required and volunteers must remain flexible around the work they do based on what is needed to support WEI’s efforts. 

The volunteer stay is made up of four basic components and all volunteers will be integrated in these four components, irrespective of their length of stay. Longer stay volunteers will benefit from greater and more in-depth knowledge as well as increased practical experience, but all volunteers will essentially be involved in the same type of work across all components.

Part One: Orientation

During this orientation period, volunteers will adjust to local conditions, learn reserve regulations, safety rules, camp schedules, and any other important information about living in a wildlife reserve. 

Part Two: Bush Craft Training

Volunteers will be trained in identifying local birds, animals, reptiles, and trees, as well as learning useful bush skills. You will also learn navigation skills, how to deal with potentially dangerous wildlife, and animal behavior during game drives. There is a Bush Craft Training Manual on-site, as well as an extensive library of relevant literature.

The remainder of the volunteer stay is then divided between our WEI Predator Dynamics Project and Biodiversity Surveys which are ongoing around the reserve. The remaining time is spent on the daily practical game reserve management activities where volunteers assist the permanent staff with practical work on the reserve.

Part Three: WEI Predator Dynamics Project

The Balule Nature Reserve is a vital habitat for South Africa’s leopard population. WEI has been capable of identifying the numbers and individuals of leopards living in this reserve; the current project builds on this research to understand the dynamics and behavior of leopards in relation to other predators such as lion, African wild dog, and hyena, as well as herbivores. This knowledge enables us to monitor the success of predator populations in response to food availability.

This research depends on a systematic network of camera traps throughout the area, which are remotely triggered when animals walk by. As each leopard has a completely unique pattern on their coat (a bit like the human fingerprint), the photographs allow our researchers to learn about the number of different individuals in the reserve, in addition to the age and sex structure of the population.

Volunteers will go out daily to specific cameras within the network to collect SD cards and change batteries, then process the photos in camp using camera trapping software and ID kits to identify the species. You may also go into the field to track leopards by following tracks and signs, marking details about habitat, as well as any recorded kills. These skills are in high-demand within conservation projects in any area of the world. 

Part Four: Biodiversity Surveys

Beyond the predator studies, you will participate in numerous other biodiversity survey techniques such as habitat assessments, bird point counts, and herbivore transects. These surveys were developed by WEI in partnership with leading universities to help us monitor changes in habitat composition in response to climate change, elephant impact, and fire management practices. You will work closely with field coordinators to learn about data collection protocols, as well as inputting data into local databases. 

Within this portion of our program, you may also take part in game reserve management activities, essential to helping our partners care for the Balule Reserve. These activities may include road maintenance, location of injured animals, monitoring of rare species, clearing invasive plants, vulture nest monitoring, and other manual tasks that arise as needed at the center. 

Many activities are seasonal and therefore cannot be guaranteed during any one volunteer’s stay.

Pricing

Pricing

How to Book

Please indicate the number of weeks, start date, and any additional courses in the form to the right of this section. Please fill in the number of weeks in the box that currently lists “2”. You must pay the flat deposit fee of €100 to hold your place. We will contact you with a full invoice once we receive your deposit confirmation. Discounts will be applied to bookings longer than two weeks.

Please see the table below for weekly pricing at our KNP camp. Please note that during the high season (1 July – 1 November) there is a €40 weekly supplement cost added to the prices below. High speed WiFi is available on site for a cost of ZAR 100/week (approximately €7). 

Length in weeksCost per week in €Total cost in €
25201040
44551820
64322592
84223376
104154150
124104920

*ADDITIONAL COSTS*

Extra Transfers (not on 1st or 15th) Hoedspruit to KNP or KNP to Hoedspruit: €85

 

Excursions/Day Tours: €100

Full-Day Kruger National Park OR Panoramic Scenic Tour (departures every two weeks) 

 

Private Room Supplement Costs (weekly):

€85 – Two-person room weekly rate (Large Twin Room)

€170 – Single person room weekly rate (Small Single Room)

€310 – Single person room weekly rate (Large Twin Room)

 

Dietary Restrictions Supplement (weekly):

€30 – Vegan/Lactose/Gluten Intolerance

€20 – Vegetarian