Have a once in a lifetime experience by working behind the scenes in one of Africa’s finest game reserves situated in the beautiful Eastern Cape. Your efforts will aid the true conservation work that goes on at the 25,000 hectare reserve and you will help play a vital role in preserving the Big 5 family along with all types of flora and fauna.
You will be exposed to all of the short and long term projects the reserve are currently undertaking, which are intended to create sustainability for generations to come. Your time on the reserve will be diverse and structured, giving you the opportunity to personally experience life as a budding conservationist while adding incomparable value to the project.
Over the past 23 years, a dedicated team of conservationists has returned the once derelict farmland back to its former glory of vibrant lands, where some of the worlds most iconic wildlife now wonder. Thanks to their inspirational conservation efforts and expertise, Shamwari is now a globally recognised and an award winning game reserve.
With a vast selection of tasks to experience first hand, including the Born Free Big Cat Foundation, Shamwari Animal Rehabilitation Centre, Animal Hospital and the Rhino Awareness Centre you can be sure that no day will ever be the same.
You will be working alongside the dedicated wildlife team who will give you the opportunity to track and monitor rare and endangered species such as rhinos, elephants, lions and other predators and you might even get to witness some veterinary procedures should the need occur. You may get to observe game capture, assist in night patrols along with the anti-poaching unit, sleep out under the stars within the Big 5 reserve and liaise with ecologists that are experts in wildlife breeding.
What’s more, you will be able to partake on enriching lectures from an extensive range of experienced conservation specialists, be involved with the local community projects, as well as contribute to the continued restoration and upkeep of the reserve.
Not only do you get to work in one of the best places in the world, but you will also get to stay there! The highly rated accommodation is situated within the reserve where zebra, kudu, waterbuck and other wildlife roam freely. You will get to relax and unwind in the spacious living accommodation, go for splash in the luxurious swimming pool and listen to the wonderful night sounds of the African wilderness.
This busy yet highly rewarding programme will ensure your efforts help to make the reserve a safe and suitable environment for the wildlife to thrive. At the end of each day will be immensely satisfied, knowing that you have helped to save this precious wildlife and environment, protecting it for future generations.
Game count and monitoring – Regular monitoring of the animals, including rhino, elephants, lions, leopards and antelope are carried out to compile information about family structures and to determine feeding and special ecology data. Annual game counts are conducted to establish the carrying capacity of the reserve, the movement of animals to and from the area, as well as predator to prey ratios. All of the data collected is used to assist in the managing decisions for the reserve.
Telemetry tracking and research – Tracking some more of the elusive animals like cheetahs and leopards is done by using remote sources such as wire or radio. The information acquired can then be used to help avoid human-elephant conflict with neighbouring properties that house livestock.
Born Free Big Cat Sanctuary – Throughout the week you will be given the amazing opportunity to help with the lions and leopards at the Born Free Big Cat Sanctuary. Your time here may involve a personalised behind the scenes tour, assisting with maintenance and cleaning of enclosures and at times even feeding and other tasks required to ensure that the cats enjoy the peaceful existence they deserve.
Animal Rehabilitation Centre – Setup to aid in the rehabilitation of injured animals found on the reserve and surrounding areas, where you may get to assist with any work that needs doing. The aim of the centre is to provide short-term care for the animals until they are healthy enough to be released back into the wild. Depending on the needs of the centre, you may gain different types of exposure such as assisting through to observation, to a more hands on animal care and husbandry.
Management of the breeding centre – The reserve is an important natural breeding centre, which therefore requires a lot of management and data collection on the health of the surrounding environment. Information gathered on veld (open country or grassland) conditions assessment, mapping of the breeding areas, mapping of alien vegetation, monitoring animal numbers and managing water points all contribute to the conservation of the animals.
Restoration of the reserve – To continue the success of reviving the once pristine lands with help to reintroduce all types of flora and fauna and restore the flourishing ecosystems. Duties will include collecting and removing old fence lines and rehabilitating degraded and overgrazed land.
Alien plant control – Introduced to the land by previous famers, these invasive plants are hampering the efforts of the reserve. Controlling this vegetation increases the natural biodiversity, removes potentially poisonous plants and decreases the risk of fires.
Community projects – An important step to ensuring the conservation efforts continue well into the future is through educating the local communities about the benefits of conserving biodiversity and preserving natural habitats. Weekly trips are made into the local communities to assist in various projects that range from creating and maintaining vegetable gardens, recycling projects, painting classrooms and building jungle gyms.
Research projects – Often undertaken in conjunction with both local and foreign research and academic institutions, the information gathered provides vital understandings of the most appropriate ways to preserve the wildlife. These exciting projects may range from elephant fertility testing through to capturing data on the lesser-known species such as the brown hyena.
Weekends are free days where we actively encourage you to go and explore this beautiful country. We can help arrange all kinds of trips to game reserves, beaches and more.
You will be staying within the game reserve where zebra, kudu, waterbuck and other wildlife roam freely. You will get to relax and unwind in the spacious living accommodation, go for a splash in the luxurious swimming pool and listen to the wonderful night sounds of the African wilderness.
This highly rated accommodation will allow you to comfortably relax after a hard days work. You will be sleeping in one of fifteen spacious en-suite bedrooms, sharing with one other volunteer. There is plenty of cupboards to store all of your belongings and also a safe for your valuables. There are western style bathrooms that provide hot water.
There are several communal areas where you will get to unwind and socialise with other volunteers. There is a TV with a DVD player, a pool table, table tennis table and lots of other things to do during the evenings such as volleyball. You can sunbath around the pool or sit and watch the sun go down in one of the many outdoor areas.
You are also more than welcome to travel to the nearby town to eat out or to visit a bar, although transport costs will need to be covered by you.
There is a weekly laundry service provided on-site.
Wifi – Yes (small fee)
People per room – Up to 2
Single sex rooms – Yes
Nearest ATM & shops – 20 minute drive
Airport Transfers – 90 minutes
Three meals are provided on a daily basis and will either be served at the facility or taken as a pre-packed serving – depending on the days plan. If notified in advance, vegetarians and other dietary requirements can be catered for. There are no facilities to service Kosher or Halaal requirements, but these meals can be supplied at an extra cost.
Once a week, usually on Fridays, a cooked breakfast is served.
Meals are prepared with the intention of exposing participants to an array of local dishes and are generally taken on a self-service basis with the option of juice, tea and coffee. Still water, spring water and soft drinks are available on site and with greater selection available from local trading stores.
You can expect some of the following meals:
Breakfast – cereal and toast, muesli and yoghurt, muffins and toast, cooked breakfast
Lunch – sandwiches, wraps and potato salad, quiche and pasta salad, burgers and chips
Dinner – macaroni cheese with green salad, roast chicken with vegetables, traditional meals eg braai and potjie
We can cater for:
- Gluten Free
What are the requirements to join?
We welcome all volunteers from any background, religion and nationality, as long as you have no criminal convictions and are able to supply a clean criminal background check. In order to join the programme you need to be at least 18 years old on the programme start date.
Individuals need to have a good level / understanding of English but it dose not need to be your first language. As some programmes can be quite strenuous, we recommend that you should be physically fit.
What date should I arrive and leave?
You should arrive to Port Elizabeth Airport (PLZ) on your selected start date, being any Monday. You will be met by one of our local team members who will be holding a named sign and will then transport you to the project site.
On the last day of your programme you will be taken back to Port Elizabeth Airport. Please note, that neither airport transfer is included within the programme fee.
Are there any age restrictions for solo travellers?
The only age restriction in place is that you have to be at least 17 years old before your programme start date. Anyone over this age is welcome. Generally the average age range for our programmes is 18 – 25, although this is by no means definitive and we regularly have volunteers of all ages.
What is the minimum age for travelling with my family?
If you are travelling with family and at least one member is aged 18 years old or over, then we welcome anyone from 15 years and up.
When should I apply for the programme?
You can apply for this programme at anytime, however we advise all volunteers to apply as soon as possible to have the best chances of securing your placement on your selected dates.
Generally speaking, you need to book at least 60 days before your programme start date, although if you are wanting to apply after this, please contact us and we will do our best.
What duration would you recommend?
On gaining feedback, we believe 4 – 6 weeks is the ideal time to get settled in and really involved in the placement. This also allows you to make the most of free time and explore the local areas and participate in any activities.
Can I volunteer if I live outside of the UK?
Yes of course. We welcome volunteers from around the world, no matter how far away from the programmes you are.
The majority of volunteers that we host, come from the UK, US, Canada and Australia.
Can I go with my friend / partner?
You can travel and volunteer with friends, family and / or your partner.
If you are wanting to request to stay in the same accommodation please outline this in the special requirements section within the application form.
Is it safe to travel to these destinations?
We regularly visit and participate in each and every one of the programmes we offer to rigorously check all aspects of the project and accommodation are safe and that all procedures are being followed. These include but are not limited to checking the living conditions within the volunteer accommodations, checking the neighbourhoods you’ll be staying in, tasting the food you’ll be eating and going on any weekend trips recommended by us or our local team.
We monitor the stability of all of our volunteer destinations on a daily basis and have constant contact with our overseas teams to ensure that our volunteers are safe.
All volunteers will receive a comprehensive volunteer handbook when you choose to join us on one of our programmes. This detailed document addresses a large range of issues such as health, safety, visas, as well as going into details about local cultures and traditions.
When you arrive in-country, you will be given a safety briefing during your orientation that will cover things like emergency procedures, how to use local transport and any cultural differences.
Our in-country team are on hand to help with any issues or to answer any questions and please do not forget that our UK office is available 24/7 in case of any rare emergencies.
While we can never guarantee your volunteer experience will be 100% trouble free, we have taken all of the necessary precautions to minimise all risks and to ensure the programme is as safe as possible.
Before You Depart
When do I pay?
To confirm and guarantee your placement on one of our programmes, you need to pay the registration fee of $129 within 7 days of receiving confirmation that your application was successful. The remaining balance is then due to less than 60 days prior to your programme start date.
Payments can be done all at once or be spread out over several months and can be paid via BACS (bank transfer). We do accept additional payments methods, such as debit and credit cards, although there may be additional fees.
Do I need any vaccinations and / or malaria tablets?
As we are not trained medical experts we cannot tell you exactly what vaccinations or other medication you may need for your trip. You will need to consult with your local doctors or travel clinic.
You can also find additional information on the NHS Fit For Travel website.
How do I arrange my flights?
All flights need to be booked by you, although we can point you in the right direction on where you may be able to find the best prices.
Before booking any flights, we strongly recommend that you wait to have confirmation that your application was successful.
How do I arrange my travel insurance?
We have teamed up with Endsleigh to create an affordable and comprehensive travel insurance policy that is suitable for all of the programmes we offer. You will receive information about this policy along with your volunteer handbook.
If you decide to purchase your travel insurance from an alternative provider, please ensure it covers you for everything you will be doing. Adequate travel insurance must be in place no less than 60 days before your programme start date. Without proof of this insurance, we will not be able to accept you onto the programme.
When will I receive my volunteer handbook?
You will receive a welcome email from us as soon as you have paid the registration fee and your placement has been confirmed. The welcome email will include the volunteer handbook that provides a wealth of information that will help you better understand all aspects of your upcoming trip as well as details about our insurance policy.
Please note, that all material is sent via email and hard copies cannot be sent.
On Your Trip
Can I arrange a private room?
The majority of our accommodation only offers shared rooms that are usually same-sex. However, if you would prefer a private room please let us know and we will at least try for you.
Can you cater for my dietary requirements?
We will try are best to cater for any dietary requirements. When you submit your application please include any required details within the dietary section and we will liaise with our local coordinators.
Are there any public holidays that would effect the project?
Although we try to be as clear as possible of all holidays that effect project availability, due to the nature of some countries, holidays can often be sporadic or prone to change.
If such a holiday falls when you are on your placement, this is generally a good time to experience unique festivities where you can join in with the locals.
What is the dress code at the projects?
We ask that all volunteers take the approach of a smart and responsible image during your time in the communities and on projects. It is best to also take some older clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty.
Generally, it is best to avoid tight and very short clothing and anything that may have offensive slogans on it. Its recommended that you take some nicer clothes for weekends or any free time you may have.
We do not wish to impose strict regulations, however we do ask that you respect the local culture and do your best to adhere to the clothing guidelines within the volunteer handbook.
How much spending money will I need?
For general expenses and some travelling, you should find that $50 – $100 per week is sufficient. However, this can vary greatly depending on the amount of activities or trips you do and if you are eating out during the week..
Will I be able to travel whilst on the programme?
There should be plenty of time to travel while on your placement and we actively encourage that you do! The local coordinators will be able to give you lots of travel tips and provide any help needed for your independent adventure.
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