Experience a unique work & wildlife viewing experience in the heart of the South African bush, while being an active member of the reserve & wildlife management team!
The Wilderness Conservation Programme is based on a private game reserve in the Limpopo province of South Africa. Surrounded by 25,000ha of natural African bush, preserving this beautiful area takes work and dedication from the full-time management and conservation team. Whether it be for the restoration of damaged soil or the monitoring of the species who call the reserve home, this project needs enthusiastic, like-minded conservationists to assist in achieving their goal as a benchmark wilderness reserve. Encounter elephant, lion, rhino, cheetah, leopard, zebra, giraffe and many other animals!
Unfortunately humans have, and still are taking their toll on many wildlife areas of Africa and natural processes have been affected. The goal of the Wilderness Conservation Programme is to restore the balance that existed prior to human interference and this requires a little human assistance. Programme volunteers are hands on members of the team responsible for all aspects of this assistance from varied reserve management projects to the research and monitoring of the reserves flora and fauna. Volunteers at the programme will experience life on an active game reserve, enjoy world class wildlife viewing, while making a real contribution to conservation and the establishment of a benchmark wilderness area.
The work at the project is divided into two main categories. Activities are aimed at being educational, inspirational and also fun -besides being really necessary!!
The project carries out a huge range of reserve management activities and these vary depending on the season. Just a few include:
Wildlife and Conservation
The project is responsible for the monitoring and conservation of all animal species on the reserve. Work includes:
'Project Impisi’ is a new and important study being carried out by the staff and volunteers at the Wilderness Conservation Programme since mid 2011. It involves the translocation of Brown Hyena from farming areas, where they are at risk of being shot and killed, to a conservation area and safe environment for them. The translocation of Brown Hyena has never been explored before so this is ground breaking research of considerable conservation value to the species!
5 Brown Hyenas have been relocated to the reserve, each fitted with a GPS enabled collar to allow monitoring of their movements post release. The main focus of the research is to analyse habitat selection, feeding habits and the behaviour with relation to other predators (especially their 'cousin', the Spotted Hyena) of the rare and mysterious Brown Hyena.
Volunteers assist with all aspects of the study from tracking the hyena (with telemetry) for data collection, to habitat and scat analysis. The research encompasses a wide variety of field techniques providing the opportunity to learn lots of new skills and be involved with hands on scientific research.
The reserve runs breeding programmes of rare and endangered species including Sable, Reedbuck and Nyala antelope. Cheetah, Eland, African Wild Cats and Tsessebe are also among the species recently introduced back onto the reserve, having been eradicated from this part of their range in the past.
For stays of 4 weeks or longer, your first week will be an important orientation period during which you will learn the principles and goals of the reserve and be provided with a general knowledge of conservation in South Africa as well as its importance. You will learn important bush skills such as first aid, 4x4 driving, fence maintenance, rifle shooting, etc. You will be introduced to research and monitoring programmes and learn the correct methods for recording and capturing data.
A typical day:
06:00-06:30: Wake up with tea, coffee & rusks, before a morning work session. This could be removing alien plants, repairing an eroded site or removing bush encroachment.
10:00: After a mid morning breakfast (at the house or in the bush) the team heads out again, this could be to track Cheetah or Brown hyaena with the radio telemetry equipment.
12:00-13:00: Lunch, and sometimes the chance for a siesta.
13:00: Heading out for another activity such as a herbivore age and sex ratio research drive or a clean up of the breeding camp is planned and the herbivores need to be counted.
18:00-19:00: Back at base.
Each day brings a new variety of things to see and do, and at any moment volunteers can be called upon to assist with certain situations and emergencies that arise. A volunteer must understand that certain activities are seasonal and the project cannot guarantee that all the activities as mentioned above, will be carried out during the volunteers' stay.
No previous experience or specific skills are required to participate. However, due to the nature of the work volunteers need to be reasonably fit and have at least a basic knowledge of the English language.
Traditionally, Saturday afternoons are spent catching up on any outstanding duties. If all duties are up to date volunteers are off on a Saturday afternoon / evening and Sunday.
Volunteers may organise to leave the base (at their own expense and arrangement) for sight-seeing and excursions in the area, or stay at the Camp and relax. Staff will assist with planning and bookings.
Meals are included in the programme costs and are prepared by volunteers taking turns (Can't cook? Don't worry! There is an easy-to-follow recipe book). A tuck shop is available at the base (at own expense). A social outing to a restaurant/pub will be organised by the staff every 1-2 weeks (also at own expense).
Volunteers stay in a large and spacious, attractively furnished house in the heart of the reserve. Each bedroom is en-suite, sleeping up to a maximum of 4 people, with ample cupboard space. Mosquito nets are provided above each bed. Linen is provided, but bring your own towels. There is a double room for couples. Bongani, your "African mother", keeps the house clean, and does the washing and ironing twice a week. Bring your sleeping bag for the sleep-outs!
The house has electricity, so hot showers are available as well as power points for charging batteries.
In the office you can check the schedule for the day, find information on all the reserve's wildlife, and make your contribution to the data collection. Internet is available for a nominal fee. Mobile phone signal at the accommodation is poor, but there are a few 'hotspots' where you can find a bar or two to send an sms.
The house is set in a very large garden with lovely big trees, protected from the wildlife all around by an electric fence. There is a BBQ area, splash pool and vegetable garden.
Available spaces fill up quickly. We therefore advise to book well in advance (at least 9 months)! Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions!
Group size: upto 10 volunteers
Minimum stay: You can stay from 2 weeks up to 12 weeks. We encourage you to spend at least 4 weeks at the project to get the most out of your experience!
This project has specific start and departure dates.
PROJECT DATES 2017
09-01 / 06-02
06-02 / 06-03
06-03 / 03-04
10-04 / 08-05
08-05 / 05-06
05-06 / 03-07
03-07 / 31-07
21-08 / 18-09
18-09 / 16-10
16-10 / 13-11
13-11 / 11-12
PROJECT DATES 2017
23-01 / 06-02
20-02 / 06-03
20-03 / 03-04
24-04 / 08-05
22-05 / 05-06
19-06 / 03-07
17-07 / 31-07
04-09 / 18-09
02-10 / 16-10
30-10 / 13-11
27-11 / 11-12