Volunteer at Limpopo Lipadi Game Reserve in Botswana

An opportunity for wildlife volunteers and interns to get involved in conserving and researching the endangered African Wild Dog, monitoring Leopards, Elephants and other important species within a beautiful 20,000 hectare game reserve in Botswana on the banks of the famous Limpopo River.

Volunteers and interns can join from 2 to 12 weeks in duration. We have places available all throughout the year.

Individuals, groups, and students doing research all welcome.

Cost includes farmhouse accommodation, 3 meals a day, training & supervision, transport around the reserve; starts at £945.

Two male lionsLeopard at Limpopo LipadiOne of the wild dogs at the ReserveChameleonAerial shot of zebras in the ReserveClimbing rocks in free time is an optionSunset on a game driveSpotted hyena

Panorama of Limpopo Lipadi game reserve

About the Project

Set on the banks of the famous, beautiful Limpopo River, and one of the most beautiful wilderness locations in the world, Limpopo-Lipadi Game Reserve is easily accessible and remote at the same time. Botswana has a strong conservation imperative, and is working to improve the livelihood of the peoples who live alongside the wildlife. You can play a part in that journey….

Limpopo Lipadi is 20,500 hectares in size and contains 40 different mammal species and 372 birds with only 10 volunteers at a time making it a meaningful small group experience.

Wildlife at the Limpopo Lipadi Reserve

5 African Lions
The game reserve has five resident lions. Volunteers help out with monitoring their movements, social interactions and diet.

35 African ElephantsPack of African Wild Dogs
With a breeding herd and several bull elephants on the reserve, Limpopo Lipadi is able to better preserve the natural eco-system.

16 African Wild Dogs
The game reserve is home to a healthy pack of the incredibly endangered African Wild Dogs. The pack is continuously monitored by volunteers.

20+ Leopards
With more than 20 identified individual leopards, volunteers will learn how we identify each one and aid in monitoring their behaviour.

** IMPORTANT ** - There are many unscrupulous ‘volunteer’ experiences in Africa, usually allowing touching of orphaned animals, which seem like great experiences, but contribute little to conservation and can be ethically and morally dubious. Our animals are wild, and we like them that way.

Roaring lion in Limpopo Lipadi game reserve

Volunteer Activities

Volunteers can expect to see plenty of game on the work drives, and we offer regular extra drives, rhino walks and night spotlighting.

Listed below are some of the activities that you may take part in as a volunteer.

In addition, we can also devise a research internship for anyone wanting to carry out research for their University, for example on carnivore counts. If you are interested in joining the project as an intern, please email us.

Scientific Volunteer Projects

  • Wild Dog tracking, identifying individuals and other observations.
  • Introduction to the on-going Leopard Research and lecture on identifying big cats, taking photographs of lion, leopard and cheetah for research purposes.
  • In house lecture on field data collection, using the cybertracker and other systems, early morning vehicle trip using the cybertracker unit to collect tracks of animals on the road spoor survey.
  • Night spotlight drives.
  • Day trip to collect vegetation data on trees and grasses, with emphasis on bush encroachment management techniques.
  • Birds survey sighting vs calling survey.Volunteers at Limpopo Lipadi Game Reserve

Reserve Management and farm to wild rehabilitation

  • Field trip with the anti-poaching unit, large animal tracking.
  • Fieldwork on the construction of burms to slow erosion.
  • Weed control (seasonal :queen of the night, prickly pear, thorn apple, water hyacinth, grass by electric fences).
  • Inspection of beehives and other measures to protect infrastructure from elephants.
  • Repair of infrastructures such as game fences and waterholes.
  • Removal of fence posts, wire and farm ruins and repair of damaged roads.

Community Volunteer Projects

  • Lecture on Community conservation and poaching, identifying weeds
  • Village cultural and school visit – Tsetsebjwe or Mathathane. Education programme.Community project at Limpopo Game Reserve


Coming soon

  • San Bushman experience, walk and spoor tracking introduction and lighting a fire etc.
  • Lecture on elephant monitoring – focus ethology and feeding ecology, elephant monitoring exercise.

Day to Day Schedule
Volunteers can expect to work 7 days a week from 07:30am –05:00pm, or upon the demand of the reserve with a break from 12:30am to 14:30pm. Activities are planned for the weekend, but tend to be of a less arduous nature, including lectures, visits to the local village, a rhino walk and game drives for general observation of wildlife. You will be allocated assignments/jobs to do during the time period that you are here. The most arduous tasks will be similar to about four hours of gardening per day. The work can range from observing rare and endangered species, farm to wild rehabilitation, noxious weed control, collecting data for scientific projects, community work, manual labour and maintenance work. At the end of your stay, we would request that you submit a written report outlining the work done whilst here as well as a short one-page letter outlining your volunteer/student experience with Limpopo-Lipadi. This is to help us make the programme better and to ensure that both students/volunteers and Limpopo-Lipadi benefit the most from your time in the Reserve. 

Dates & Costs

Leopard at Limpopo Lipadi Garme Reserve

5th to 18th November 2018
19th November to 2nd December 2018
3rd to 16th December 2018
17th to 30th December 2018

14th to 27th January 2019** (Discounted offer available)
28th January to 10th February 2019 ** 
(Discounted offer available)
11th to 24th February 2019 ** (Discounted offer available)
25th February to 3rd March 2019 ** (Discounted offer available)
5 to 12 March 2019 - fully booked

12th to 24th March 2019 
25th March to 7th April 2019
8th to 21st April 2019
22nd April to 5th May 2019
6th to 19th May 2019
20th May to 2nd June 2019
3rd to 16th June 2019
17th to 30th June 2019
1st to 14th July 2019
15th to 28th July 2019
29th July to 11th August 2019
12th to 25th August 2019
26th August to 8th September 2019
9th to 22nd September 2019

All volunteers should arrive on the Monday afternoon of the project start date and leave on the Sunday, 2, 3, 4 or more weeks later (except for special dates 13 to 27 August). You should plan to arrive in Johannesburg very early on the Monday morning for travel (takes 5-6 hours to the Reserve), or stay overnight in Johannesburg on the Sunday and depart for the reserve the following day. There are several options available for overnight stays in Johannesburg which are safe and cheap and that we can recommend.   If you have any questions about the dates, please email the Volunteer Coordinator at:  victoria.mcneil@workingabroad.com

A group of banded mongoose at Limpopo Lipadi game reserve

Costs
The cost for 2 weeks is £1203 GB pounds, 3 weeks is £1805, 4 weeks is £2286, 5 weeks is £2858, 6 weeks is £3430 and 12 weeks is £6859.  This fee includes everything whilst you are the game reserve, including transport around the reserve, accommodation in a spacious comfortable farmhouse including linen, but not a towel (maximum of two people to a room), 3 meals a day, all training and lectures and research work alongside scientists, plus WorkingAbroad Projects backup and support. **Discounts available on some dates as £1034 GB pounds for 2 weeks and £2024 for 4 weeks, see above.**

The airfare to Johannesburg, transfers to and from the Reserve, vaccinations, travel/medical insurance and personal expenses are not included within this price.  It is mandatory for you to take out travel and medical insurance for the duration of the project.

Volunteers at Limpopo Lipadi

Lodging, Food, Travel & Medical

Volunteers are provided with 3 prepared meals per day; a packed breakfast to be eaten on the journey or at the start of the first activity; a light lunch usually eaten at the volunteers’ house, and a cooked dinner, after the return of the evening activity. We can make special meals for those with special food considerations. Snacks, drinks and extra food items can be ordered prior to your arrival with a shopping list we can email to you, and paid for on your arrival.  Food is purchased from Selebi-Phikwe, on Thursdays, when extra snacks and drinks, included alcoholic beverages can be purchased by pre-ordering with a shopping list, similary to before your arrival. 

Accommodation

The large house can accommodate 8 volunteers comfortably, and includes communal bathroom, shared bedrooms with 2 single beds (or 2 single bunk beds), linen provided but no towels, a fan, cupboards, drawers and power outlets. There is a communal kitchen (table with chairs) and a large social lounge area with a television and plans to get tennis table set with board games too. The house is surrounded by an electric fence, so it is safe to relax outside without fear of bumping into wildlife. Personal laundry can be done once a week. 

Volunteer vehicle at Limpopo Lipadi

Internet is available in the house, but is not very reliable.  In an emergency, volunteers have access to the reserve office which is 15 kms away and has better and more reliable internet.

Volunteers are not required to clean up the volunteer house, there is staff to cook and clean, but are expected to ma

intain their personal areas in a tidy state befitting shared accommodation, and to clean up after they use the kitchen facilities. Each volunteer is assigned one cupboard and one set of drawers in their room, but no food may be kept here as it encourages pests. 

The area surrounding Limpopo-Lipadi is rural and it does offer a special opportunity to live and work with local people and to experience the everyday hardships of living in rural Africa. Limpopo-Lipadi has a strong connection with the two local towns of Tsetsebjwe and Moletomane and the volunteer programme is a key way of maintaining this link.

Conservation Volunteer Requirements

If you are 18 years or older and are able to speak English, you can join the programme.  You must be in good physical condition and be willing and able to tolerate temperature extremes and the minor difficulties of field life i.e. insects, lizards and other small creatures. While every attempt will be made to make your stay as comfortable as possible, it will be rustic compared to what you are used to.   You must be prepared to sign an indemnity form prior to arrival. This relieves the project of any legal responsibility should anything happen to you in the course of duty. You should have a positive attitude towards working and living within a multicultural group and respect the views and ways of others. We require our volunteers to be hard working and self motivated, but also patient and self-entertaining as the camp is isolated from the nearest town and there is little external entertainment. Mostly we require a flexibility and sense of humour as fieldwork in Africa can often be a little frustrating.

Travel

Volunteers need to fly into Johannesburg and transfer by a 3rd party shuttle, not included in the price. Its about a 5-6 hour drive. Because of the distance and the programme is structured with safety and introductory talks, we have fixed start dates every second Monday.  Transfers from Johannesburg to Limpopo-Lipadi can be arranged with Waterberg Taxi services - www.waterbergtransfers.com. They are a very reliable, door-to-door service from Johannesburg that many of our volunteers and tourists to the reserve use, and will split the fare if more volunteers book later. So if one volunteer alone books they will be liable to pay the full amount, but if anymore book, the fare will come down for all of them (Waterberg will realise this, the second volunteer doesn’t have to know, or be in touch with the first.)

Volunteers walking along the perimeter of the reserveClimate

Summertime is from September until May. The temperatures rise easily up to in the forties during the day. At night the temperature will be in the lower twenties. Winter starts in April and will last until August. The temperatures will be about 18 –27 degrees. And at night the temperature can drop to below freezing. The rainy season is from November until April. At any time of year you should be prepared for very cold and and very hot sunny conditions. 

Health

It is recommended that you obtain some vaccinations and medication before coming to Botswana. You should see your GP or visit a travel clinic at a suitable time before arrival - you can also check here: www.mdtravelhealth.com. Tell them where you are going and they can tell you what vaccinations are required and what medical precautions you need to take. 

The medical facilities around Limpopo-Lipadi are basic and not capable of dealing with serious trauma or illness. In the unlikely event of either of the above you will need to be evacuated to Polokwane and/or Johannesburgin South Africa. During the wet season (from October to April), it is strongly recommended that volunteers/students protect themselves against ticks as some tick-borne diseases can be quite severe by wearing long sleeves, long pants, hats and shoes (rather than sandals). DEET may also be applied to clothing.

Limpopo-Lipadi is in a low risk malaria area. However, if you plan on travelling in lower altitude areas around Southern Africa, we want to reiterate that malaria is a very real and serious risk and advise you to take prophylaxis as advised by your medical practitioneras well as using insect repellents, preferably those containing DEET.  If you are planning to travel to the North of Botswana you should bring the necessary anti-malaria treatments with you. Please bring sufficient supplies of all other medication you may require, as not all drugs may be available in Botswana.

Impala at Limpop LipadiFree Time

In your free time, you may want to do any of the following:

  • Hiking - long walks along the Limpopo river offer great views, a chance to observe crocodile, hippo and impressive bird life.
  • Safari - volunteers can expect to see lion, wild dogs, giraffe, hippo, crocodile, zebra and much more on safari and while working on the reserve. Volunteers will also have the opportunity to go on night drives, spotlighting for rare creatures such as bush babies, aardvarks and bat eared foxes.
  • Climbing - Lipadi Hill for which the reserve is named towers about 300m above the reserve, offering breathtaking views and a good workout to climb. No climbing gear required.
  • Nearby village visits can also be arranged.

Passport and Visas

Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after the time of arrival. Visitor’s visas are issued at Botswana’s international borders, including airports and are valid for up to 90 days. Please ensure that you ask for the correct number of days or even ask for extra days if you are unsure of your plans. They will often only give you a 30 day visa at the airport or border, unless you specify how long you wish to stay. If you are staying longer make sure you get the days you need.

Interactive Map, Video & Background

Below is a video showcasing life as a volunteer at Limpopo-Lipadi Game Reserve

Below is a video 'When baby elephants discover water'

Below is an interactive map showing the location of the project

Botswana's Geography and Climate

Botswana is bordered by Zambia and Zimbabwe to the northeast, Namibia to the north and west, and South Africa to the south and southeast. At Kazungula, four countries - Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia - meet at a single point mid-stream in the Zambezi River. The area of Botswana is approximately 581,730 square kilometres and is about the size of France or Kenya.

Botswana's climate is semi-arid. Though it is hot and dry for much of the year, there is a rainy season, which runs through the summer months. Summer days are hot, especially in the weeks that precede the coming of the cooling rains, and shade temperatures rise to the 38°C mark and higher, reaching a blistering 44°C on rare occasions. Winters are clear-skied and bone-dry, the air seductively warm during the daylight hours but, because there is no cloud cover, cold at night and in the early mornings. Sometimes bitterly so - frost is common and small quantities of water can freeze.

Volunteer Testimonials


Helen Clarkson joined as a volunteer on the project for 2 weeks in August 2018:

Leopard in a tree Botswana

Limpopo-Lipadi was my third voluntary project working in African game reserves/National Parks and I went there really hoping it would be 3rd time lucky for seeing a leopard as I had never seen one before.One morning our guide found a very fresh track of a leopard dragging an impala. We followed it through the bush and all that time I could hardly contain my excitement and was thinking we were going to see a leopard at any moment. But when we got to the end of the track we found the dead impala at the bottom of a tree but the leopard had gone. Honestly, I was so gutted I could have cried!

Leopard in tree BotswanaHowever, later on that day we were in a different area of the reserve and guess what our guide spotted?! A leopard laying on a branch in the sunshine! He looked right at us for a brief moment and then went straight back to relaxing, with his legs dangling each side of the branch. A perfect end to the day.

I absolutely loved my time volunteering at the project and would highly recommend it to any animal lovers or people interested in research and conservation.
 


Lucas Güetli joined the project as a volunteer in May 2018: 

I really enjoyed my stay at the Limpopo-Lipadi Game Reserve project in Botswana because it exceeded all my expectations. The accommodation and the food were very nice to start with. I also liked all the work we did because we really did work that mattered and that was appreciated. I really felt like I did make a difference which is the most important thing for me. It isn’t a program where go and pet some wild animals, it is a program where you can make an impact in conservation. Which is how I think volunteer programs should work but more often than not do not work.


Research volunteer in Botswana

Andreas Lundgren, a Swedish student, joined as a research intern for 3 weeks in March 2018 to do his research project: 

I had an absolutely great time in Limpopo! Everyone were very nice and showed concern about my wellbeing! I got great help with my work at the same time as I was free to do what I needed. People couldn't have been more welcoming and specially Gabri and Kevin helped me alot with everything. I'm afraid I don't have much of constructive critic to give because everything was better than I expected. South Africa and Botswana are deifinitely countries I will return to!

 


Bérengère Godde from France, joined as a volunteer for 2 weeks in January 2018: Tracking Wild dogs at reserve in Botswana

I really enjoyed being involved in the everyday life of the reserve : monitoring the boreholes; reinforcing and repairing the fence; gardening as pulling out non-autochthon plants as thorn-apple or cleaning and designing the rock garden near the office for example etc.

We were involved in different projects like creation of a rock line in front of the fence to protect the tortoises (for them not get stuck); Wild Dog tracking with the antenna to help the vet to know more about their behavior; Elephant deterrent tests (to keep them away from foods and infrastructures) with camera monitoring + analyze of the pictures.

Each work drive is an adventure in itself, you can see unexpected things like a giraffe lying down on the road, wild dogs walking in front of your car, a horde of zebras crossing the road, and much more if you’re lucky! We also went to the village located 15 minutes drive away from the reserve to visit the school, to buy eggs and Mopane warms and make our hair braids, a funny moment!

The house is clean and comfortable, it’s nice to share it with the driver and the cooker (who cooks very very well!). At the hottest hours of the day it was nice to stay at home to work on the pictures analyze, on the house inventory, on documents translation in French etc.

What an amazing experience in Limpopo Lipadi!


Volunteer hiking up to a lookout point in Limpopo Lipadi reserve

"A remarkable experience and memories I will keep with me forever! Limpopo Lipadi is a beautiful reserve and we were spoiled to see lions, leopards, eland, cheetah, elephants, antelope and of course the famous wild (painted) dogs during my stay. We performed our conservation duties daily amongst wildebeest, abundant bird life and even a lazy rhino! It was a privilege to be so welcomed by the lovely staff. Daily life always carried a surprise and the other volunteers I stayed with are stuck with my friendship for life."

Claire, Australia


"I absolutely loved my time at Limpopo-Lipadi. It is extremely difficult to put it into words how amazing it was to experience the African bush each day and how lovely the local people were. I can honestly say that I will never forget my time there, from the things I got to experience, the people I met and got to work with and importantly the lessons I learned. I still can't believe some activities I was fortunate to be a part of and experience from the community visits, the incredible game sightings, tracking animals, watching the sunset numerous times behind a magnificent baobab and listening to hyenas whoop and lions roar while I tried to fall asleep. Truly unforgettable. Limpopo-Lipadi is such special place in the African bush, once in a life-time experience which I wish I could do again."

Kim, RSA

Volunteers researching wild dogs in Botswana

How to Join this Project

If you are interested in joining this project, you will need to fill out the online application form  – to secure a placement on the project, please complete and submit the form including your application payment of £195. If for some reason, your application is not accepted, we will reimburse this payment fully. However for those who are accepted, the full amount needs to be paid as 20% of the final payment within 14 days of booking and the balance of 80% within one month before arrival. Once you have been accepted into the programme, you will receive a Volunteer Information Package with all detailed information on your project, suggested items to bring, transfer details etc.

 

Apply Now


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