Wildlife conservation, community and environmental volunteer projects and internships worldwide

Shamwari Big Five Game Reserve Volunteer Programme, South Africa

1 - 12 weeks from

minimum age

  • Become part of the team at Shamwari Game Reserve and work amongst Africa's Big Five.
  • Receive one to one training with a world renowned Wildlife Vet when you join our Vet or Pre-Vet programme
  • Track and monitor predators (Lions and Leopards) and large herbivores (Rhinos and Elephants)
  • Visit the Born Free Big Cat Sanctuary and the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre as part of your programme

"An unbelievable experience in the bush"

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An unbelievable experience in the bush with great people from all over the world and such a warm welcome in the lodge that we will never forget our time at Shamwari!

"I can proudly say I have seen the Big 5 now after numerous trips to Africa"

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I had done a voluntary project two years ago, and thought that nothing could compare. This was a totally different and just as amazing experience that I could have ever hoped for. I had booked a three week placement, and finding that during week two I wish I had booked longer, I don’t think three weeks was enough to appreciate the full extent of the work that goes on there.

I was privileged to be involved in a community day, weighing recycled plastic and converting the weight to points for the owner to spend in the shop. This was a very humbling moment being involved in such an important project for the community. The manual work was from taking a machete to indigenous plant life, digging metre holes for the anti-poaching unit, pulling up prickly pear cacti and brush-packing large acacia branches onto roads. I witnessed a 7 month old jackal being released back into the wild which was amazing to see. I can proudly say I have seen the Big 5 now after numerous trips to Africa.

Great accommodation, great friendly staff and great food. All in all, an amazing (too short) three weeks at the Shamwari Game Reserve project.

"Every day we had overwhelming moments"

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We did have the most wonderful time at Shamwari! It was the best experience and the best decision to do this! Every day we had overwhelming moments, very often we were very touched because of  the animals. Also the work we had to do we really liked! Sometimes it was quite hard because of the very high temperature during the day– other times not too hard and lots of fun. Working in the communities always left a good feeling. We were just happy with everything – what we saw, what we did, what we got, etc. We feel like doing such a thing again!

"An incredible opportunity and one that I have learnt so much from"

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I was part of the veterinary and conservation experience at Shamwari Game Reserve. Being able to spend one-on-one time with Johan and Megan (Shamwari’s vet and vet nurse) was an incredible opportunity and one that I have learnt so much from. All the staff at Shamwari (wildlife team, rangers etc) were all so friendly and great to work alongside.

During the time I was at Shamwari I was able to help in the capture of animals for relocation purposes. Animals that were required to be relocated included Springbok, Gemsbok, Eland, Buffalo, Hippo and Lion. Each of these species were caught using different capture techniques to minimise injury and risk to the animals and people involved. The techniques used included chemical (darting), mass capture and passive capture. It was great to see how much everyone cared for the animals and to be part of it all.

I was also able to be involved in treating a lion at the Born-Free Foundation, which was an amazing experience to get up close and understand more about potential health problems in these incredible animals.

As a veterinary nurse in the UK it was an eye-opening experience to take part in a community day for dog owners in one of the local towns. It was able to help Megan vaccinate 150 dogs against Rabies, provide worming treatment and good quality food to the dogs. Dealing with frightened and some aggressive dogs has further improved my handling skills of these types of dogs and given me more confidence. This community day also showed me common health problems that dogs in these areas often have and made me think about things that could be done to prevent these problems, like owner education and having the resources available.

I would certainly recommend a trip to Shamwari and I would love to go back.

"The staff and rangers are great to work with"

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Fantastic project and you can see they are really making a difference, very well structured and the staff and rangers are great to work with. It was a fantastic experience and I’d happily go back!

"The environments were amazing, the Rangers are very kind and their knowledge unsurpassed"

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We would like to thank you for your help and for arranging for us to join the Shamwari volunteer team. The environments were amazing, the Rangers are very kind and their knowledge unsurpassed. The organisation and implementation was perfect and the meals were delicious. We have learnt a lot about the animals and would like to continue the volunteering in future.

"If you are interested in doing your bit for conservation, animals, vet work, don’t hesitate"

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My 16-year-old daughter and I travelled from the UK through Workingabroad.  Thank you Vicky for keeping me right with travel documents.  We loved Capetown, a weekend crammed with fun.  A 1-hour flight had us in Port Elizabeth with our shared transfer waiting. Shamwari exceeded any of my expectations.  The staff are 100 per cent committed to educating us on conservation, but allowing us to have so much fun in the process that we want to return. The labour was enjoyable and for a worthwhile cause.

If you are interested in doing your bit for conservation, animals, vet work, don’t hesitate.  Julie Ward from born Free foundation was an added value. My daughter would like to return next year with a school friend and I shall encourage them to do that.  We were in a group of mostly students, some school age, travelling alone.

My focus when I wanted to visit Shamwari was elephants, because I would like to help finish the ivory trade and hoped to understand it better.  Although we had signed up to the Conservation Experience, not vet practice, we happened to be on site when an injured White Rhino needed vet treatment for an injured foot.  Our co-ordinator (Simone) explained that because dusk was approaching they needed to work quickly to treat the Rhino in the open and have it on its feet by dark.  The vehicles were needed as a corral, to keep the Rhino he was with, back, simply to avoid him injuring us.

He obliged by giving in to the sedation in a nice open spot, he was surrounded by vehicles and the vet worked quickly to treat a foot injury.  We were all blown away by the experience.  We helped push the Rhino  on his side and hold him there and realised how completely different he was to our expectations. He was a very soft a warm body, like a massive puppy. When he was brought round, he and his friend found each other in the dusk by quietly blowing down their noses.  When they were back together his friend snuffled down his side, exactly where our hands had been.

"It was even more fantastic to get hands-on experience at the reserve"

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The experience was incredible! It was fantastic to be able to observe the conservation measures being taken to preserve South Africa’s most iconic animal species! It was even more fantastic to get hands-on experience at the reserve, participating in erosion control, invasive species removal, and habitat restoration through planting of native species. I definitely recommend the Shamwari Game Reserve project!

"An unforgettable experience… especially for families with children!"

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We are all very pleased with the experience. Very rewarding on many levels.

The directions to the reserve, the availability of all the people we met and the information was very detailed.

Lodging was better than a hotel. Very spacious rooms (for 2 people) but perfectly acceptable for 3 or 4 (in the case of a family like us). The cleanliness of the whole, common areas and rooms is very good. The various activities, table tennis, billiards, TV, internet access and books means you can be entertained and interact with the other volunteers.

The variety of meals, preparation and consideration of the culinary requirements of each (allergies, vegetarian …) was really good – we were pleasantly surprised. The meals were very good and properly dosed. Access to the dining room is great for evenings.

We dispel all your fears about the physical activities we have done. They are easily accessible to children, with Emmy 11 years. It did not hurt and our son Thomas was delighted by the activities in the community. The monitoring was our favourite. In addition, comments, notes and information by rangers are perfect. They are also extremely professional and very adaptable to each person.

A big thank you to all your staff, cooks, laundresses, cleaners, rangers responsible. All were very friendly and helpful.

I would advise this to all those who want to discover wildlife and enjoy being close to nature.

The SHAMWARI spirit is really very important in this modern society that loses its bearings.

An unforgettable experience… especially for families with children!

We would gladly have stayed longer!

"So amazing that it is difficult to put into words"

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So amazing that it is difficult to put into words really, if you have been on a safari holiday in Africa and feel you want to give something back to the amazing wildlife of this great place then volunteering is a must. Working hands-on alongside with all the rangers and vets without any formal qualifications is a real privilege and an experience I shall never forget, after all how many people can say they have shared the same air as a wild lion? After my first circuit tour safari, I left my heart out in Africa and knew I just had to return however, I was very apprehensive about volunteering at my age – my fears were ill founded, as the team never force you to engage in something that is out of your comfort zone. The experience surpassed all my expectations and I can’t wait to return – actually I would happily give up my day job and be part of the Shamwari team at the drop of a hat! The expanse of Africa’s wild is difficult to describe and Shamwari more than delivers on that account, so the accommodation area is ideally situated as it allows you to become part of the flora and fauna in the heart of the reserve without sacrificing your day to day luxuries as the rooms are clean, bug free with hot running water and showers are ensuite which beats running across the normal camp site facilities to a communal wash area and sleeping in a tent as experienced on most circuit tour safaris which are actually more expensive. I celebrate the dedication and commitment of all staff at this true conservation facility, as without such places Africa’s true beauty – it’s amazing wildlife will be silenced and that is a very depressing thought. I cannot thank everyone at Shamwari and Born Free enough as I thought I would get Africa out of my system this visit. Alas, not only have I left my heart there this time but my whole body and soul and the blame lies entirely with you!!!!

Shamwari Big Five Game Reserve Volunteer Programme, South Africa

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