Wildlife conservation and community volunteer projects and internships worldwide

Kariega Big Five Game Reserve Volunteer Programme, South Africa

1 - 12 weeks from

minimum age

  • Volunteers in a Big Five Game Reserve in South Africa
  • Help to research and track elephants, rhinos and lions
  • Live and work in the middle of a stunning game reserve
  • Spend one day a week in the local township doing community work

Elephant bull walking towards us in Kariega

About the Kariega Game Reserve Project

Come and join Kariega Game Reserve as a wildlife conservation volunteer or wildlife research intern. Make a real difference, grow your skills in conservation and have the experience of a lifetime! Kariega is an extraordinary and exciting conservation project, at the forefront of numerous species reintroductions and conservation initiatives, working in collaboration with a renowned academic institution.

Joining this programme offers the ultimate Big Five experience, where volunteers and interns from across the world, get the opportunity to get hands-on involved in conservation management on the reserve. During your stay with us, you may see yourselves as “Assistant Conservation Managers”, as all the work done and data collected by you will be utilised by Kariega for conservation on the reserve.

Wildlife Conservation Volunteer Programme 

Wildlife conservation volunteers will be provided with stimulating practical experience in the following four areas: ResearchConservation Management, Education and Community Development.

Volunteering with elephants in South Africa

Research Projects

Elephant Impact Monitoring
Conservation volunteers will help monitor elephant movement patterns, range utilisation and vegetation impact with the aid of telemetry (certain individuals are fitted with radio collars). A part of this research project that volunteers are very involved with, is recording the unique ear markings of each elephant for management purposes. Elephant identification sheets are given to each volunteer, who in turn will assist the conservation department in this regard.

Male lion at Kariega in South AfricaLion Prey Selection Monitoring
One of the conservation volunteer programme’s responsibilities is to record as many lion kills as possible. This data provides the conservation department at Kariega with valuable information regarding prey selection. Certain lions on the reserve are fitted with radio collars, so volunteers will learn how to use telemetry tracking whilst out on night drives.

Rhino Monitoring
The estimated number of rhino poached during 2012 in South Africa is 633. This crisis is the most significant conservation issue that South Africa has faced. Kariega conservation volunteers help monitor and account for rhinos on the property on a regular basis.

Volunteering with rhinos in South AfricaBirds in Reserve Project (BIRP)
This project involves preparing a catalogue of the birds, bird numbers and their breeding status in the reserve as part of a project headed by the University of Cape Town’s Avian Demography Unit.

Wildlife Conservation Internships
For any of the above programmes, you may also join as a Wildlife Conservation Intern or a Wildlife Research Intern as part of a University or dissertation topic of study.  Please enquire for more details.

Male giraffes fighting and bashing necks together in South Africa

Conservation Management

Conservation management activities form a large part of the wildlife volunteer programme. Some of these activities involve physical work and therefore a certain level of determination from the volunteer’s side is required. Keep in mind that the “reserve needs” are always taken into account and you will help to fulfil those needs as a volunteer. Daily activities are interesting and varied, and could include assistance with some of the following:

  • Game Counts Sex and age ratios recordings of specific species like eland and giraffe
  • Alien Vegetation Control and bush encroachment control within the reserve.
  • Soil Erosion Control
  • Clean-Up Operations
  • Road maintenance and repairing of river crossings
  • Parasite control

Conservation volunteers may also have the opportunity to experience the following additional conservation activities:

Roland volunteer at Kariega Game reserveCapturing of Wild Animals

Our recent wildlife conservation volunteers had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to assist with the capture of the following species on the reserve: elephant, lion, rhino, hyena, giraffe, wildebeest, zebra and impala.  Please remember that captures only occur when required by the reserve and not for the sake of the volunteers.

Game Introduction
There is an ongoing programme for the introduction of additional game, especially as the reserve has acquired more land that will need to be stocked with various different African mammal species.

Fire Management
An important driving force in savannah ecosystems (depending on the time of year and fire regimes)

Checking animal tracks at Kariega Game ReserveEducation / Theory

Each volunteer will be given a field booklet, which can be taken home at the end of the placement. Before you start with each practical task, the relative theoretical background on the subject will be discussed in the form of informal lectures. The theory provides insight into the value of the practical activities in which you may participate. Mammal, plant and bird checklists are included in the booklet and will help you to identify different species at Kariega.

Practical education will be provided throughout your stay:

  • Bush Walks, Game Drives and night drives – identification and discussion of various mammals, plants and birds
  • Sleep Outs – Camping out in the bush around a campfire under the African sky (weather dependent)
  • Coastal ecology outings

Volunteers in the township in South AfricaCommunity Development

We have identified an under-funded farm school near the reserve where our volunteer programme can make a real difference. The school is small, yet very under-staffed and local kids aged 4 to 15 years attend the school. Volunteers visit the school one day a week (not during school holidays or rainy days (most of the children walk about 10 km to attend school so if it rains, no one goes to school!), and make valuable contributions to the children’s education. Our volunteers teach 6-12 year olds subjects like English, Maths and Science. You might also help with the maintenance of the school’s facilities or by giving sport lessons to the kids. A recent group of volunteers renovated a classroom (with a completely collapsed ceiling and floorboards!) for the pre-primary school kids. Your contribution here is real, and both the children and the headmistress are very appreciative.

Volunteers with injured giraffe at Kariega Game reserveVolunteer Supervision

Your dedicated volunteer coordinator will endeavour to ensure that you have a wonderful learning experience and leave with a stronger understanding of conservation issues feeling like you made an important contribution. Our volunteers also get the opportunity to explore South Africa’s amazing coastline as Kariega is a mere 16 km from the sea… the beautiful Indian Ocean is literally on your doorstep! This coastline has particularly rich marine fauna and flora as well as endless sand dunes and beautiful beaches.

“More than our words, it is our actions that set us apart and aid the world around us. When doing conservation work as a Kariega volunteer, we too grow into stronger better versions of ourselves. We find our lives enriched not only by our actions but also a new understanding of our natural environment. And when sharing this journey with others, lifelong friendships are forged. Volunteering at Kariega Game Reserve is about serving nature and learning her ways.” – quote from the Project Manager

Kariega Big Five Game Reserve Volunteer Programme, South Africa

You may also be interested in these projects

  • Nature’s Valley Internship Programme, South Africa

    • Duration 8 to 12 weeks
    • Prices from £1795

    Gain hands on Conservation, Education and Ecological Research experience in South Africa and help protect Nature’s Valley.

  • Shamwari Big Five Game Reserve Volunteer Programme, South Africa

    • Duration 1 - 12 weeks
    • Prices from £1215

    Join an award-winning conservation team in a Big Five Game Reserve in South Africa, boasting a huge variety of game over a vast 23,000 hectares.

  • Big Cat Sanctuary Volunteer Project, South Africa

    • Duration 2-12 Weeks
    • Prices from £1065

    Volunteer at an ethical big cat Sanctuary in South Africa. Contribute towards animal welfare whilst learning about the conditions big cats face in captivity.

  • Looking for a Volunteer Project Abroad?
    Try our Project Finder

    WorkingAbroad is the Go-To Website for Ethical & Responsible Volunteer & Internship Opportunities Abroad

    We run volunteer programmes in over 30 countries across the world focusing on wildlife conservation and community development projects and every project we offer adheres to our ethical standards.