Volunteer in South Africa at the Kariega Big Five Game Reserve

The Kariega Big Five Game Reserve Volunteer Programme offers a once in a lifetime chance to get behind the scenes and involved with the conservation efforts of the Game Reserve. Wildlife conservation volunteers take part in lion prey selection monitoring, rhino surveys, elephant impact monitoring and local community projects.  The Reserve is located in a malaria-free environment. Wildlife Research Internship opportunities also available.

Volunteers can join from 1 to 12 weeks in duration. We have places throughout the year available.

Individuals, groups and students doing research all welcome.

Cost includes comfortable accommodation on the reserve, food, training & supervision, use of BBQ, plunge pool, laundry; starts at £520.

Giraffe highway!Mother zebra and babyOnce in a lifetime experience for volunteers to take part in lion captureVolunteers take part in rhino captureVolunteers placing camera trapsCamping in the bushEnvironmental volunteers around the camp fireConservation volunteers assisting in a rhino health-checkA giraffe being aided by volunteersGiraffes on the horizon!Volunteers hiking in their free timeElephant monitoring programmeVolunteers helping with trail buildingBaby impalaVolunteers at the community schoolBaby zebraLioness at KariegaRemoving fencesTelemetry trackingVolunteers during giraffe captureAttending to a darted nyala eweFrances the Volunteer Coordinator, checking fresh tracksVolunteers horse riding on the beach at Kenton-on-SeaVolunteers admiring the view from the land cruiserMale giraffe saying helloMales fight with their necksWeaverGlossy starling

Work with giraffes as a conservation volunteer in South Africa's Kariega Reserve

About the 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 utilized 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: Research, Conservation Management, Education and Community Development.

Environmental volunteers will help to study elephants

Research Projects

Elephant Impact Monitoring
Conservation volunteers will help monitor elephant movement patterns, range utilization 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. 

Study lions in South Africa as an environmental volunteer

Lion 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 MonitoringThe 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.

Birds 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.

Conservation Management

Buzzard in Kariega Game Reserve 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:

Capturing of Wild Animals

Help with rehabilitating wild animals as a conservation volunteer

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)

Education / Theory

Giraffe eating Acacia

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

Community Development

Volunteer to teach school children about the importance of wildlife

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 take many of the classes themselves and 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.

Volunteer 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.

Dates & Costs

A warthog in Kariega, South Africa

7th to 21st January 2019
21st January to 4th February 2019 - Fully Booked
4th to 18th February 2019 
- Fully Booked
18th February to 4th March 2019
4th to 18th March 2019
11th to 25th March 2019
25th March to 7th April 2019 - Fully Booked
7th to 22nd April 2019
15th to 29th April 2019

29th April to 13th May 2019 - Fully Booked
13th to 27th May 2019
27th May to 10th June 2019
10th to 24th June 2019
24th June to 8th July 2019
8th to 22nd July 2019
22nd July to 5th August 2019
5th to 19 August 2019
19th August to 2nd September 2019
2nd to 16th September 2019
16th to 30th September 2019
7th to 21st October 2019
21st October to 4th November 2019
4th to 18th November 2019
18th November to 2nd December 2019
2nd to 16th December 2019 

All volunteers should start on a Monday and you can join for a minimum of 1 week up to 12 weeks in duration, though at least 4 weeks is ideal. If you want to start on a Monday that is not listed above, that will be fine, all Monday starts are accepted throughout the year - please just note this on your application form. 

The project costs are as follows: 1 week is £575, 2 weeks is £950, 3 weeks is £1325, 4 weeks is £1705, 5 weeks is £2025, 6 weeks is £2385, 7 weeks is £2750 and 8 weeks is £2945 and 12 weeks is £4325. This cost includes all food, accommodation within the Game Reserve (use of plunge pool, BBQ), linen (bedding), laundry and cleaning, all on-reserve conservation activities and training, WorkingAbroad backup and support. What is not included is your flights and travel to and from the Game Reserve, visa costs, personal expenses, and your own health and travel insurance.

Lodging, Travel, Free Time

Volunteer house in South Africa

You will be lodged in a fully furnished house on the reserve (shared bedrooms and bathrooms). Volunteers are divided into teams and are responsible for the preparation of meals on a rotational basis. There are plenty of opportunities for braai’s (BBQ’s) under the night skies and socializing around a fire. There is a lovely plunge-pool for volunteers to cool off in after a hard day’s work and a pool table in the house. Please bear in mind that the house is in the middle of a "Big Five" game reserve, so therefore one cannot walk outside the boundaries of the
garden fence.

Volunteer dining areaWorking Hours & Free Time

The working week at Kariega is from Monday to Friday. Working hours depend on the season and may vary from 7 – 9 hours per day. The evenings are at your leisure. Saturdays are reserved for a town trip (either to Kenton-On-Sea, Port Alfred or Grahamstown) where volunteers can do their shopping, eat out, visit all the sites of the local towns. Sundays are off time.

Volunteer BedroomsKenton-On-Sea is a beautiful small coastal town only 15 minutes drive from the reserve. The beaches are absolutely breath taking and pristine. Your local "hang-out" is a pub / restaurant overlooking this stunning beach! After your Saturday morning shopping in Kenton (volunteers can stock up on everyday essentials), volunteers often laze around on the beach, swim in the waves or sit in the beach bar while sipping away on a cold drink and taking in the scenery. There are also additional activities that can be organised for you on a Saturday (at your own cost and on condition that a few others in the group also want to partake in the activity), including:

Horseback riding on the beach or in a game reserve
Sky diving – tandem (that means you are strapped to an instructor!)
Deep sea fishing
Volunteers can take a break from wildlife conservation at the beachTwo day canoe trail on the Kowie river (this is a hit with many of our volunteer groups)
Addo Elephant National Park field trip
eekend trips away can include bungee jumping, canopy tours and shark cage diving

Conservation volunteer requirements:

  • Volunteers should be 17 to 40 years old (18 to 24 yrs being the average).   Volunteers under 16 years old are only considered when accompanied by a parent/guardian.  Anyone over 35 yrs will be asked to complete a mature volunteers questionnaire, to assess suitability in terms of group dynamics and age ranges for the dates in question.
  • Interest/field of study: conservation, environmental science, wildlife management, ecology or wildlife biology, wildlife journalism, wildlife photography, veterinary science, animal behavior studies.
  • Personal qualities of flexibility and adaptability.
  • Self-motivated: a carefully structured full programme is provided each week, but volunteers need to be adaptable to some programme changes depending on variables in the running of the project. Free time is also factored in, and volunteers need to be independent and mature enough to make constructive use of such recreational time.

Zebra mother and baby

How to get there
You need to arrange to fly to Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape of South Africa - connecting flights from Johannesburg.  The Game Reserve is a two hours drive from Port Elizabeth (140 kms) and you can get collected and dropped off at the Reserve at an extra cost. 

Passport and visa
A valid passport with at least 2 blank pages in it, is necessary to enter South Africa. Since visa requirements vary from country to country, please check with your local embassy as to whether a visa is required to enter South Africa.

Videos, Interactive Map & Background

A video showcasing the work of volunteers on the project

A lioness rests amongst the tall grasses in KariegaBackground
Kariega Game Reserve is situated in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, only two hours drive from Port Elizabeth. This area historically had an abundance of wild game roaming free with one of the richest wildlife areas on the African continent.  The Eastern Cape is famous for a number of other game reserves.

Cultural information
The area like many in South Africa is steeped in cultural diversity and history. The first inhabitants of the area were hunter gatherers, the Khoi Khoi and San people (commonly known as Bushmen or Strandlopers (beach walkers). The Khoi Khoi and San people mixed over time and eventually became the Khoisan. Unfortunately all that remains of the true Khoisan people in the area, is their rock art and remnants of there bloodline in the Afrikaans speaking Cape coloured people.

Kariega Game Reserve takes its name from the river forming its eastern boundary, the Kariega River, which is the Khoisan word for Steenbuck (a small antelope). The reserves western boundary is formed by the aptly named Bushmans river.

Interactive Map

A short documentary on the project

A longer documentary on the project, featuring interviews with park rangers and past volunteers

Volunteer Testimonials

Amy Beale, from the UK, joined the project as a volunteer for 3 weeks in August 2018:

I spent 3 weeks on the Kariega Volunteers project and had the most amazing time. The volunteer house was big, clean and well kept. Much nicer than I expected. Jarrett the project coordinator was welcoming,  knowledgeable and enthusiastic. We learnt lots about the different species on the reserve. Every day we were out in the truck around the reserve - sometimes tracking animal movements, but even the days where we were working on for example, removing alien plant species we often had great animal encounters. We saw all the big species close up - lions, elephants, giraffe, rhino and much more. This was peppered with other fun activities night drives, canoeing down Kariega river, a visit to the main hotel lodge for dinner...

I picked this project in particular as Wednesdays involved volunteering away from the reserve in the local township and local schools. These were great days where we got to experience the local communities and are very rewarding.

I also chose Kariega as it was close to the coast and it sounded like there would be a range of fun activities to do at the weekends. I managed to go horse riding on the beach, paint balling and skydiving during my time and there was more I could have done, Transport at weekends was limited as we lived inside the reserve so only certain companies could pick us up. One firm in particular were basically at our beck and call every weekend - this was slightly more expensive but having them at our disposal they could be flexible on times so I did not mind this at all. It was also amazing to be living within the reserve seeing elephants outside the window in the morning through the fence and knowing how close we were to them. We regularly got woken my vervet monkeys dive bombing onto the roof.  The local town was a 20 minute taxi ride away but we could buy our own supplies at the weekend and on Wednesdays too. The house had food supplies dropped in every Monday - although described as basic I was happy with the range of food supplied and we ate well.

There were not too many volunteers - I think the house and truck held 10 maximum - and it was nice to mix with volunteers from France, Germany,  Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, the USA and more.  I was the oldest - only just on one week and by a long shot on another - but I expected to be. This was not a problem though and everyone slotted in. In the evenings we had a tv, films, pool table, table football and card games to amuse us, a fair amount of alcohol and beer games were played and a huge roaring log fire to keep us warm. The weather was a mixed bad as it is winter - but it was really nice most of the time - if a little chilly on the truck in the wind and VERY cold when it was cloudy. But other days you could spend a few hours in your bikini on the beach. I had a fantastic time! It was an experience of a lifetime - so far, and I will definitely look into doing something similar again. The animal encounters I have never been on a safari holiday but I feel like we had more animal encounters because we were out and about on thee ground around the reserve.

Alastair Munro, from the UK, joined as a volunteer at the project for 4 weeks from January-February 2018: 

Elephant of Kariega

My time at Kariega was wonderful. The lodge where we stayed was much better than I expected, with twin rooms, most with en suites. There was a spacious lounge, dining area and kitchen, with plenty of things to occupy us. The garden area had a small pool for cooling off and a BBQ / Braai area, which we used each Friday evening.

Lioness of Kariega Game ReserveThe work programme itself was varied and enjoyable. Some physical work involving chopping down bushes, trees etc and planting, but mainly it was data monitoring of animals and their behaviour. In my time there, I learned so much about each animal type and their behaviour. This was very enriching. The reserve itself is beautiful with many rolling hills, valleys, rivers, bush thicket and plains. Seeing all types of animal including 4 of the big 5 (no leopard unfortunately) in a natural environment with different behaviour patterns each day was an awesome experience.

Finally a word for Jarret, our coordinator, who was with us each week day and organised all activities. His enthusiasm for the area, the wildlife and conservation activities certainly rubbed off on us all. His knowledge of the animals and environment was brilliant and so helpful and educational for me. It made the whole experience unforgettable and I sincerely hope I can return there one day for another voluntary programme.

Megan Waring, from the UK, joined as a volunteer for 2 weeks in August 2017: 

I had a wonderful time from start to finish. From Working Abroad side, the process was simple and easy to follow and the paperwork provided was helpful.

Whilst at Kariega I was always made to feel safe and welcome the two guides I had were amazing and made sure you understood all aspects of the reserve. The volunteer house had recently been renovated to a high standard. The only downside was that the cooked door did not shut properly, so when cooking for 10, it took a lot longer than normal. 

We visited a local lodge called intaka lodge one night for homemade pizza I would highly recommend they make this a weekly thing as it was a good insight into the local people and a great chilled out atmosphere. The programme was very well thought off and each day was enjoyable. I can honestly say there was not one day that I did not enjoy.

Louise Redfern, from the UK, volunteered at the project for 2 weeks in August 2017: 

I had a great time, we spent so much time watching the animals. It was a truly amazing experience, which you can't put into words. One day we had lunch watching hippos sleeping on a beach. Jarrett was great and his knowledge immense. 

Michael Guerreri and Beatrix Tan from the UK and Malaysia volunteered at Kariega in May 2017:

I just wanted to write to say a massive thank you from Michael and I for all your help, advice and giving us this amazing opportunity to join the Kariega program. We had an amazing experience! Jarrett is an amazing person to learn from, we were very blessed.

I am looking forward to doing another volunteer project in the future

Kariega Volunteers

David Booth from the UK  joined the project in March 2015:

This is my 4th volunteering project and it fully met my expectations.  The volunteers from all over the world were great company, Frances our guide is exceptional, the location is fabulous and the accommodation the best of all 4 projects.  Activities were varied and good fun.  The game drives offered some wonderful moments;  a lioness attempting to catch an impala, a lion pride over a kill, elephants wallowing in the mud etc. Top of the list – the interaction between Thandi and her calf in a mid wallow.  Thanks to all the staff at Kariega who were wonderful and great fun to work with and thanks to all the other volunteers and new friendships.

Some brilliant feedback from Roland Pitts, one of our volunteers from our Kariega Big Five Game Reserve Programme in South Africa - and a great read for anyone considering joining:

Darting of a female rhino at Kariega Game Reserve"I had a fantastic time at Kariega. I was very lucky to be able to take part in the darting of a young female rhino from a helicopter. No, boo, hiss, they didn't let me fly the helicopter or even go up in it or use the dart gun, but we watched as the vet went up in it and then after he had darted the rhino we helped get her into a trailer and then to release her in a different part of the reserve. Also with the release of a young male from a different reserve to keep her company.

On another occasion a large lorry with about 10 new elephants arrived and we watched as they were released.

The best though was when we spent 2 days capturing female nyala (a medium-sized antelope). The vet was in a land cruiser darting them and we took it in turns to be in the land cruiser with him watching, or following around in a second land cruiser. When he had darted one we followed it into the bushes, located it (the darts had tracking devices) and then blindfolded them, stretchered them out and into pick-up trucks and back to the holding trailer. It was hard and sometimes bruising work but good fun!

Most days we did a combination of work and game drives, and we had fantastic and up-close sightings of all the game. It was good to see all the various antelopes, zebra and giraffe but we were always particularly excited when we came across elephants, rhinos and especially the lions.

One day, just as we had got out of the land cruiser to plant Spekboom, Frances, our coordinator, held up the telemetry to check for the lions. There was immediately a loud beeping and Frances said "They seem to be quite close, ..., very close, ...GET BACK IN THE CAR!". We had hardly got into the car when a small face appeared around the corner of the road in front, then another and another and soon we had all 5 lions in front of and around the car. After sitting on the grass near to us they walked slowly by (no volunteers were eaten...) and away.

Volunteers watching elephants at Kariega game reserve

We also had some of the largest elephants walk past so close that you could have reached out and touched them.

We saw the white rhinos quite often (although the ones on the dangerous side of the reserve kept a low profile after the young female had been darted and moved) but I only saw the black rhinos once, they spend most of their time in the bushes. 

Our accommodation was on the 'dangerous' side of the reserve where the lion, elephant and black rhinos lived so we were not allowed out of the compound alone. On several occasions we had elephant and lions right outside the compound. Big Bull, the largest male elephant, visited a few times and ripped huge branches from the tree outside.  The same tree where we had a tree house and where I often sat at weekends bird-watching!

The staff from Kariega were all helpful and friendly, but  the Jewel in the Kariega Crown was Frances. She is a lovely young woman, extremely focused on her job, well-organised and I really cannot imagine anyone doing her job better. She has a very positive attitude to life and her work, she is only a slip of a lass but strong and fit! I mentioned that we removed some old fencing posts. I remember one young fit farmer volunteer who had unsuccessfully tried to remove a stubborn fence post. Frances grabbed it, shook it like a dog with a rat and loosened it up!

So definitely a fun and worthwhile experience... I hope I will be able to go back!"

Hannah Jackson, a Biology student from the UK spent 6 weeks at Kariega from July to September 2014:
Newborn White Rhino at KariegaThe six weeks I spent at Kariega was without a doubt, the best six weeks of my life. It is an incredible, life changing experience, one which I would repeat over and over again if I could. Each day, the programme brings new surprises, and each day is as unforgettable as the last. Nothing will ever compare to sitting in the cruiser watching a beautiful South African sunset surrounded by friends, and nothing will ever compare to the elephants including us in their dust bath, or to turning a corner to see the entire pride of lions just watching us.

At Kariega, you will work hard and play hard - the manual work is SO rewarding (I for one never thought I would be able to chop down a pine tree armed only with a machete), the sights you see are incredible, and the other volunteers (who will become some of the best friends you've ever had) make all of these experiences that much more exciting. You will share amazing moments and outstanding memories with these people, memories which will never leave you. You will spend each day smiling, laughing and forming many happy memories of Kariega and it's beautiful wildlife, and will return a different person... a better person.

Volunteer Hannah at KariegaSaving the best 'til last - Frances the volunteer coordinator. It was a privilege to meet and get to know Frances, she greets you every day with a smile, and works her hardest to ensure each and every volunteer has the best possible experience. She never puts her needs before those of the volunteers, even taking us out for a drive in a crazy hailstorm as she did not want me to miss anything on my last day. Frances is a real asset to the programme, and I owe much of how much I enjoyed my stay to her. Thanks Frances, you're amazing!

There are not enough words to express how grateful I am to everyone who helped make this experience as amazing and unforgettable as it was - each and every person I met played a role in shaping my time at Kariega, a time that I would not change for the world. It is an amazing experience, one which I would repeat over and over and over given the chance. Partaking in the volunteer programme is a once in a life time experience, and one not to be missed. If you have the opportunity to come and do something as incredible as this, do not let it pass you by, you'll regret it for the rest of your life. I can't recommend the programme highly enough, but experience it for yourselves and book now!! (before I decide I want to come back and take all of the places!!)

 Volunteer at a lion darting/capture in South Africa

Yipei Ye, from China and his friend Chengyan Tang, were lucky enough to be present for a lion darting/capture. Read their feedback below:

“Kariega is a fantastic experience.  It is like one big family here – everyone helping each other and having fun.  I’m so sad having to leave now – Kariega has truly been one of the most exciting places that I have been to.  I really hope to come here again.  Thanks everyone for my amazing experience.”  Yipei Ye

“Kariega feels like home to me now.  I met loads of nice people, saw so many different animals and had many amazing days and nights – it felt like paradise. I can still remember how exciting I was when I took the first glance at a rhino, how breathtaking the moment was touching lions (we were involved in a lion capture).  Sometimes something only happens once in a life time.  Well that ‘something’, happens here. Kariega is where the amazing happens!”  Chengyan Tang

Marja Malvila from Sweden volunteered for 2 weeks in April 2014: 

Kariega in three words . fun, beautiful and personal.  This is the perfect way of traveling - you will see and learn a lot.  I really enjoyed my time here.  One of my highlights was seeing Thandi - I so hope she gets her happy ending.  Many thanks to Frances and the great volunteers."  

Katie Burke, volunteered from February-March 2014: 

What a magnificent experience!  I have enjoyed absolutely every moment of my time here!  Every time we pulled up to the elephants, or they “pulled up” to us, my heart skipped beats and I instantly remembered how good my life is and how lucky I am to be right here, right now with these majestic creatures.  A big thank you to Frances for her infinite patience and friendly demeanor!  Thanks to the other volunteers from whom I have learned so much about how to move forward with my life.  And thank you to the extraordinary animals and plants of Kariega for sharing with me your healing energy and for guiding me back to light.

Our conservation volunteers in South Africa

Adam Howson, from the UK:

I joined Kariega Game Reserve’s volunteer programme for a month.  I left the UK and headed to South Africa not knowing what the road ahead had in store. However, I can honestly say that it was the experience of a lifetime. My reason for joining Kariega’s volunteer programme was to collect data and information for my third year university project. On my arrival, the Kariega team provided me with a wealth of information, time and support in helping me complete my tasks. The team here are so talented and working in the field with such people was awe inspiring!

I was really shocked at how much I was involved in during my short stay. I remember thinking back in the UK – “come on, as if I’ll get to do that” The next thing you know I’m in the back of a truck with a sedated zebra! I was actually involved in all the research and conservation projects the web site advertised – no joke. However, they always made time for my individual needs – sorry for all the questions guys! The team have great personalities too and play just as hard as they work! They allowed me to explore local towns, visit the beach, party (oh!) and skydive from a plane at 10 000 feet. Yes people, I have video evidence – what a day that was! This has been so much more than a uni trip for me. The memories I brought back to the UK, I will keep with me for the rest of my life.

Jane Scott, Scotland: 

Some places come into our hearts and quickly go, but Kariega stayed leaving footprints in my heart. Being a volunteer on Kariega Game Reserve was an experience that I will never forget. I learned so much in my six weeks out there. My personal favourite work activity was tracking and studying the elephants. The work we did was satisfying and rewarding and I really felt that my contribution helped improved the reserve. This is definitely an experience that I would recommend to anyone.

Maeve O’Sullivan

I had a blast on Kariega Game Reserve! Honestly, there are so many of these programs to choose from on the internet and I feel like the luckiest person in the world to have found myself here. All the staff on Kariega is so passionate and I was blessed to have experienced working and living with great people in the volunteer house. My Kariega Game Reserve experience will be unforgettable!

Elephants in the Kariega Game ReserveJake Dove, from the UK, volunteered at the project in August 2013: 

Like a couple of the other who came here with me, I had visited South Africa before on a similar conservation placement at a different reserve in the Eastern Cape, so of course I thought I knew what to expect. How wrong was I?! Kariega has surpassed ALL of my expectations and I can honestly say that these two weeks have been the best two weeks of my life! Why? Simply for three main reasons:

1.Kariega’s awesome wildlife
2.The people that I have lived and worked with
3.Our coordinator, Azel

My top memories of my trip are:
•Being surrounded by the entire elephant herd and coming within an inch (literally) of two young bulls
•Seeing not one, but THREE hippos out of the water during the day on different game drives
•Canoeing the Kariega river and having an awesome sighting of elephants (surreal but incredible!)
•An amazing night drive on which we saw caracal, jackal and then followed the lion pride hunting for a number of hours
•Seeing Black Rhino on our last game drive before camping in style on Harvestvale at Flycamp.
•Diving with Great White Sharks at Mossel Bay.
•Ziplining over the Tsitsikamma waterfalls
•Bungee jumping off the Bloukrans bridge
•Skydiving in Grahamstown

I would implore each and every person visiting Kariega to make the effort the experience some of the country’s incredible cultures and scenery. This trip has sealed in my mind my decision to come back and train for my field guide qualification and follow my childhood dream of working in wildlife conservation in Africa. Your experience here at Kariega will be what you make it – work hard and play hard and you will be rewarded with lifelong memories. Thank you to all whom I met and worked and lived with for these past two weeks. Goodbye Kariega … you will be sorely missed and fondly remembered forever!”

Phoebe Cole, from the UK, volunteered at the project in 2013: 

Having stayed at Kariega Game Reserve for 6 weeks, I now consider this place my home. I take away with me a deeper knowledge of conservation issues as well as environmental adaptations relating to animals and plants. Every moment I will cherish; capturing lion, having elephant walk around the garden fence (and within touching distance past the Cruiser!) and crazy pizza nights with the rest of the gang. Everybody I have met in SA has been so friendly, helpful and open. Having been a part of Thandi’s operations (skin graft), and also the de-horning procedure of another white rhino was amazing. I am going to put together a presentation for my college class to highlight the issues surrounding rhino poaching. Thanks to everyone at Kariega … you certainly won’t be forgotten!

John Ingraham: 

While I had high expectations coming to Kariega Game Reserve, the experience that I shared here really exceeded them in every way. The coordinator does a tremendous job balancing work, naturalism and fun – it really is a great and well run program in an ideal setting. I am so thankful for what I have learned and experienced with the other volunteers on Kariega Game Reserve.

Male weaver birdSally Milner, from the UK, voluntered in July 2012:

Words are not able to describe just how incredible Kariega Game Reserve is! Since I was tiny I have wanted to go to Africa and work with animals and now that I’ve been here I want to live here! These past 3 weeks on Kariega have been beyond amazing and have confirmed that I want to work with animals and be involved in conservation for the rest of my life. Everything about this place makes you want to smile, the wildlife and the people. I have not met a single person on the reserve or in the local town who has not smiled and waved at me – there is a huge community and family spirit that I have not seen in any other country I have visited. No two days are the same here. The elephants are brilliant and I feel like I’ve got to know them and their personalities in my time here. Love the little one who came up and kicked the front of our vehicle! Seeing the rhinos just takes your breath away and the close encounter with the black rhino was amazing. I owe a big thank you to Justine who found so many giraffe for me, you have fulfilled my childhood dream of seeing them in the wild. Justine is the greatest volunteer leader and will make even the rainiest day a memorable one. Thank you to everyone here in South African and on Kariega Game Reserve – you have given me memories I will cherish forever. I will definitely be back … very very soon.

Lindsay Bainbridge, from the UK, volunteered in July 2012: 

Where do I start … I can definitely say I have had the best four weeks ever! I wish I could stay for longer. Kariega Game Reserve is a beautiful place and I am so glad I chose this for my first voluntary programme. I have met some amazing people and hopefully I’ll be friends with them for a long time. I came to Kariega shy and unconfident but by the second week my shyness had gone away and my confidence was growing. I never thought I could do half the things I could before coming here. So thank you to everyone who has had part in that. My visits to the local school, Farmerfield, were definitely an experience! The children there made me smile because you can see how much they enjoy meeting you, taking part in your lessons, but also they were just happy to be there even though they don’t actually have a lot. I want to say a HUGE thank you to the Kariega volunteer coordinator, Justine. She has been brilliant! Thank you again for the best experience yet!

A baboon running Gonzalo Remacha, from Spain, volunteered in August 2012: 

Kariega Game Reserve is a brilliant place and being here has been the best experience in my life. I saw so many great sightings and found every plant beautiful and every road a new world to discover. It was amazing seeing the elephants getting so near our vehicle, hearing the lions roar, seeing monkeys climb trees around our house, buffalos staring at us, etc. etc! Apart from the wildlife, the other volunteers were fantastic. They made me feel so at home and we could laugh everyday until we went to bed at night. I loved working outside, chopping wattles was great fun and I loved the game counts. Justine, the coordinator, really helps the volunteers the take advantage of everything here. She arranged fantastic weekends in Kenton and Grahamstown for us. I hope that future volunteers enjoy Kariega Game Reserve as much as I did and I hope to be back at Kariega soon!

Elephant Bull

How to Join this Project

If you are interested in joining this project to volunteer in South Africa as a wildlife conservation volunteer, you will need to fill out the online application form (you can also print it out and send it to us by post) – 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 would reimburse this payment fully. However for those who are accepted, 25% of the full amount needs to be paid 14 days after you have been confirmed on the project, with the remainder (75%) to be paid two months before the start date. Once your place is confirmed, you will receive a pre-departure package with all detailed information on your project, the region, suggested items to bring etc. including waiver/indemnity documents.

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