Wildlife Act Volunteer Projects in South Africa

Provider: Wildlife Act

Wildlife Act offers wildlife conservation volunteer projects in South Africa! This is your opportunity to get real experience in endangered wildlife conservation in Zululand, and have the ultimate South African wildlife experience while volunteering abroad. Volunteers work at game reserves alongside wildlife monitors tracking animals as part of larger conservation projects. Volunteer teams are small with, there are no more than 4 volunteers per reserve, so you have one-on-one time with the monitors, gaining true conservation experience.

Program Info

Location: 
  • South Africa
Volunteer Types: 
Conservation
Program Length: 
1-2 weeks
2-4 weeks
Cost: 
See site for details.
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Languages: 
English
Housing: 
Volunteer House
Application: 
Online Application

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Program Reviews (24)

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  • Impact
    93%
  • Support
    94%
  • Fun
    90%
  • Value
    94%
  • Safety
    92%
  • Sheran Lee
    Age: 51 or older
    Female
    Ipswich, England, UK
    Other
    AMAZING TIME!
    07/18/2012

    I had the most amazing timevolunteering with Wildlife ACT. I spent 8 weeks working in 3 different Game Reserves, each very different in habitat. I found the accommodation comfortable and plenty of hot water for showers! The monitors were so enthusiastic and friendly and keen to share their knowledge to make my stay invaluable and to feel that I could definately make a difference whilst I was there. Maximum of 5 volunteers on each project meant that you could be involved with what was happening and sharing stories and tales over dinner in the evening was very enjoyable. Being out in the bush everyday monitoring the wildlife is fantastic, following the Wild dogs, cheetahs, lions and elephants was magical. If I had to the chance to return I would go back without hesitation and have already been recommending Wildlife ACT to everyone I meet! Can't rate the project, people and the passion they have highly enough! If you're reading this pack your bags you'll have an experience of a lifetime working with incredible wildlife, saving a species, making a difference and of course lots of fun!

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  • Sonja
    Age: 25-30
    Female
    Johannesburg
    Other
    Most amazing time!!
    07/16/2012

    I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the program, but I was pleasantly surprised with how organised and professional the team and the program was.

    We arrived at the meeting point, went to go get our food and supplies before we headed off to the reserve. Once there we had a briefing on the rules and procedures to follow when in the park (for ours and the animal safety).

    Once we arrived at the camp we had a fair amount of time to settle in to the accommodation and then there was another briefing to explain the requirements of the work we'd be doing and how this work would impact on wildlife conservation.

    It was fantastic as we all knew what was expected and what we were going to be doing at all times. On our trips out monitoring for the african painted dogs we made numerous stops to view and observe other animals that crossed our paths. The monitors were always fountains of knowledge and shared all of their amazing adventures in the bush. I am a south african and have had many trips to the bush, but the knowledge I gained in priceless and I will never forget my time at this volunteering program.

    I loved every second I was there and was very sad to have to leave, but love being able to follow what is happening with "our" pack of african wild dogs in the park on facebook.

    I would recommend this to anyone and everyone!

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  • Haley
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    North Carolina
    Elon University
    Gain Experience in the Field and Make A Difference!
    07/10/2012

    I had been to South Africa the previous year during a biology study abroad program and I enjoyed my time there so much that I had to come back! I found Wildlife ACT after much research and finally settled on coming to volunteer with them a year later to gain additional experience in the field, help make a difference, and be able to enjoy the beautiful bush and all the wildlife. It ended up being a great idea and choice for me, even though our days started very early! Depending on which park I was in, I got up between 3:45 and 4:30am. At the beginning it was hard to make myself get up, but after the first few days knowing that we would experience some amazing sights and animals that many people only get to dream about, the "getting up" part got much easier. It was great, because we got to spend the majority of our time out in the field trying to locate animals like the wild dogs in the park and monitor them. Some days it was frustrating if you did not get the chance to see what you were hoping for, but that too was all part of the experience. The parks were not like zoos; the animals govern themselves and are free to roam from one end of the park to the other and in between, as the pack of wild dogs did in my case at Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park. Changing cheetah camera traps, tracking lions, participating in elephant monitoring, and doing administrative duties were additional components to the program, which all made for rich experiences. Ultimately, I really enjoyed my month spent in 2 of the parks and I do feel that I really contributed to the overall goal of wildlife conservation.

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  • David-Malta
    Age: 25-30
    Male
    Malta
    Other
    Wildlife Act offers a real unforgettable experience!
    07/10/2012

    Me and my girlfriend have served as volunteers for 2 weeks in Tembe reserve with wildlife act.
    The experience was fantasic and most of all the real thing!
    The staff are amazing and they do a great job from their heart.
    You should list this experience in your to-do list before you die.
    Thank you wildlife act for this opportunity!

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  • Kayla Saccoccio
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    North Providence, Rhode Island
    Western State University College of Law
    Amazing Opportunity
    07/10/2012

    I volunteered for two weeks in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park and had an amazing time but wish I could have stayed longer. I never wanted to leave! If you want to help make a difference, love nature and animals and want to feel like you are contributing to a good cause I would highly recommend Wildlife Act. The staff is great- very knowledgable, fun, passionate and hard working. I researched awhile before volunteering because I wanted to make sure I picked the right volunteer program. I truly feel like all my money went towards a great conservation practice and was very please with the decision I made volunteering through Wildlife Act. It was absolutely beautiful there and you really see some amazing wildlife on an every day basis. Overall, I feel like I learned a lot from the whole experience and would like to come back one day, hopefully soon!

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  • anna_j
    Age: 18 or younger
    Female
    Cleveland, Ohio
    Incredible Experience!
    04/17/2012

    I cannot describe the Global Leadership Adventures: Dominican Republic program in any way other than the best experience of my life. Being really into community service and helping others, I loved our work at the Haitian refugee camp. The people welcomed us with wide smiles and open arms, and I learned so much from their modest yet joyous way of living. In terms of the adventures, 27 Charcos (hiking and jumping off waterfalls) was one of the scariest and most awesome things I have ever done! The home base was like a resort, with a great pool and hot tub, and it was right on the beach. After a long day working, it was great to swim in the waves and lay out by the pool. Dave and Jane were fantastic staff, and we always managed to have a great time. I would absolutely recommend this program to anyone who wants to give back while having a great time. The people you meet and the experiences you have will be priceless.

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  • Marleen
    Age: 25-30
    Female
    Netherlands, Limmen
    Other
    Magical experiences with Wildlife Act
    01/13/2012

    Ok, I find it quite hard to write a review about something so special when you're not there anymore, but I will do it because I want to do this...

    Our time at wildlife act was really special, the people who were there, the things we saw, all the experiences we had, it is all so much and so difficult to explain... You have to go there yourself!

    As a photographer I thought it would be somehow hard for me to join the project, because I figured we would not always be able to make pictures all the time... And when something happens you have to be ready!
    But ok, I told myself that my main focus would be the voluntary work and not my photography...

    You can imagine that when you are out in nature every day, you'll see lots of photogenic things! And trust me even when you are not really a photographer, you want to make pictures! The Wildlife Act program is so nice because you have lots of time to enjoy those special moments and to take pictures or write about it even...

    It is really nice to go out every day with nice people who know a lot about the animals and nature in particular and to be able to really help them with the conservation work they are doing. As a tourist you would never see the things we saw or experience the things we did. It is also great that you are with a small group of people, so that it really feels exclusive...

    When I was joining the project it was winter in Holland and summer in South Africa and I am not really a winter person, so this was perfect. Everything just became really nice and green when we arrived in Thembe, also still a lot of young animals. The only thing that was a little bit hard was getting up at 3:30, but after a few days you get used to that and you also WANT to get up, because you know you will miss everything if you don't.... And you really don't want to miss a thing while you are there!

    The reason why you get up so early is because the African Wild dogs are waking up at sunrise, so you have to make sure you will find them before they wake up. They move so fast that it is hard to catch up when they are already gone. The purpose of finding the dogs and follow them is to know what they are up to; Are they all ok, is every single one of them still there, did they eat? Hunt? etc. Wildlife Act uses all that information for conservation purposes. And at the time you are there, you are part of it all... Also; if a dog, or lion or cheetah (etc.) needs to be darted you are there to help them...

    While you are out looking for wild dogs, cheetah's, lions, elephants, rhino's (depends on where your monitor is focusing on) you obviously see a lot of different other wildlife, like us, we also saw a leopard, Python, cobra, giraffes, hyena's and lots of different birds of prey... And I was really happy not to see any mosquito's, or black mamba's :>)

    I could go one about my experiences, but it is just so much... First of all for me it was a really inspirational experience and second, I was happy to meet some really special people.

    But the most important thing... There in the South African bush, with all those beautiful animals and breathtaking nature I found something really important:

    Myself...

    Thanks Wildlife Act for all the special memories!

    And for people who are thinking about joining one of the projects; don't think... Go, GO, GO!

    Want to see my photography?

    www.marleen-bos.com (south africa, wildlife act)

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  • Maya von Dach
    Age: 31-50
    Female
    Switzerland
    Other
    4 perfect weeks!
    12/22/2011

    Every day some surprises - nature and wildlife amazing, Tembe Elephant Park and Hluhluwe-Imfolozi are great and we spent adventures days with the expereinced staffmembers and learnt a lot. The challenges of wild dog protection and conservtion was obvious, the dogs are here and there, have troubles with lions and hyaenas - to collar them seems easier, than it really is. It was a great experience recommendable to everybody!

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  • John Francis
    Age: 51 or older
    Male
    Sussex, UK
    A month to remember with Wildlife ACT
    12/01/2011

    I have just returned from my third visit to Wildlife ACT as a volunteer and still totally hooked on it.
    My first two weeks were spent at Thanda a private reserve of 15000 hectares set in beautiful undulating bush. Within the first week whilst we were monitoring the pack of Wild Dogs we had seen almost all the main species i.e.cheetah,Lion,Leopard,Giraffe,Cape Buffalow,White Rhino in fact a total of 14 mammal species,except the elusive Elephant Herd. During the second week we were asked to assist with locating and the capture of two male lions one morning.They were being relocated to another reserve to avoid inbreeding within the pride.We found the two Lions with a Lioness. The Vet darted them and we helped load them into a truck whilst the lioness watched us from a distance of about 40 meters.All in a days work with Wildlife ACT !!
    My second fortnight was spent at Tenby Reserve which is known for its Elephants.There are over 240 of them. Tenby (30000 hectares)is a different Habitat from Thanda it has rare Sand forest, reed beds,and a swamp in addition to Savanna and bush so the species are varied. I was lucky ,in addition to monitoring the Wild Dogs and Elephants on a daily basis we were asked to assist with Lion ,Wild Dog and Elephant capture for the purpose of fitting radio collars. The latter had not been done at that reserve for five years and involved the vet darting them from a helicopter and we were the ground team fitting the actual collars.Very exciting.However with Wild life you cannot guarantee seeing everthing its not a Zoo.
    The team at Wildlife Act are very proffessional and fun to be with and will doubtless keep you busy.

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  • Becky
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Essex, England
    Other
    Out of this world!
    11/27/2011

    I have visited this project twice now and both experiences were inspiring and educational.
    I was amazed at how close you can get to some of the worlds most amazing animals and you really do feel like you are contributing to the brilliant work that Wildlife Act does to protect these amazing creatures.
    I have had the pleasure of working with nearly all of Wildlife Acts project leaders and found their knowledge and enthusiasm for their work truley inspiring.
    Wildlife Act made it very easy to contact them before my trip and I was given enough information to know what was needed for this kind of work.
    My accommodation was clean and cozy and the view from my room was even better!
    I enjoyed every moment of my 2 month adventure with Wildlife Act and would suggest this project to anyone who wants to get back to nature and see these animals how they should be seen....in the wild!!

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  • AmandaC
    Age: 25-30
    Female
    Perth, Australia.
    Other
    A Fantastic Experience
    11/24/2011

    Wildlife Act is a great comapany to go through. Helping the "painted dog" was really exciting. Just spending time out in Zuland was fantastic. I definitely recommend this program!

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  • DavidT
    Age: 31-50
    Male
    Menlo Park, CA
    Other
    An Amazing Experience
    11/16/2011

    I spent a month volunteering this year with the Wildlife ACT team. They work on 4 different parks in South Africa, and I spent a week at each park. It is an amazing experience, and you get much, much closer to the animals than on any safari. We were out at dawn every morning tracking African Wild Dogs, Cheetahs, and Lions. Because you are working on an official conservation project, you get to go where no tourists are allowed. You work in a small team of 4 people, led by a professional wildlife monitor. The monitors have great knowledge and enthusiasm, and they really enhance the experience. I very much recommend this program to anyone with a love of wildlife.

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  • Sue (UK)
    Age: 31-50
    Female
    UK
    Other
    A life time experience
    11/14/2011

    We stayed at Mkhuze Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal which was just beautiful. The accommodation was good, and better than expected with a shower and hot running water. Seeing the sun rise and set over the reserve, was just something else. We went in August and the cold mornings and evenings, sat in the back of the truck was a surprise, and we were wearing layers and fleeces - do take a wooly hats and gloves!

    I can not recommend more highly the wonderful support you get from the staff. Bronwen is just so helpful, and even made a cake for my stepson's birthday! Cilla, our monitor was so knowledgeable and made a real difference to our understanding of conservation and Africa.

    WildlifeAct are special. We've made lifelong friends and developed a love of the African Bush. It really isn't a safari, it's far deeper than that, it get's under your skin.

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  • Linda Cockburn
    Age: 31-50
    Female
    Leeds, UK
    Other
    Unforgettable!
    11/13/2011

    I have taken part in programmes with Wildlife ACT on two reserves - Thanda and Mkhuze - and hope to return to one of the other reserves at some point. This is a wonderful opportunity for anyone interested in South African wildlife to get involved in useful research and conservation and to see an amazing variety of creatures up close. We were tracking mainly wild dog and cheetah and I will never forget looking into the eyes of those beautiful cats from just a few metres away, as well as spending almost two hours watching two cheetah brothers devour an impala. How often do you get the chance to do that? It also gives you the opportunity to meet other people with similar interests. I have such wonderful memories of the sights and sounds of the bush and can't wait to get back there as soon as I can.

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  • Hannah M
    Age: 18 or younger
    Female
    Vancouver, British Columbia
    Other
    Incredible Experience!
    11/11/2011

    I had a really great time with Wildlife Act. I was Mkhuze for two weeks, and wish I could have stayed longer! The staff is very friendly, and the wildlife monitor I had was fantastic. He was really fun and taught me so much!
    The best part of Wildlife Act is how hands-on it is. You're with the animals everyday and I really felt like we were helping them! The highlight of my two weeks was darting a young cheetah, who we fitted with her first collar so we could monitor her.
    I recommended Wildlife Act to anybody who wants an exciting, hands-on experience with African animals.
    I can't wait to come back!

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Alumni Interviews

  • Sonja volunteered to monitor these wild dogs in South Africa
    Sonja volunteered to monitor these wild dogs in South Africa

    Morning: Most mornings we woke up before the bird did, and I expected that as I don't usually get up easily in the morning that this would be a problem for me, but I was wrong, as every day was so exciting we all couldn't wait to get on the back of the bakkie/ute/van and go to experience another adventure. We usually started the day at 4:30am to leave the camp by 5am (sometimes for special events we left earlier) and started our monitoring of the African Wild Dog Pack to try and locate where they were and what they were getting up to.

    We'd drive around the park and use the telemetry equipment to locate the collars around the alpha females neck. In between looking for the pack, we had the most amazing encounters of all of the african wildlife rhinos, giraffes, zebra, many many impalas, lions, elephants - you name it we probably saw it! The monitors were so wonderful in telling us their stories about their animal encounters and sharing their knowledge about these wonderful creatures. Their love for nature and the environment was clearly visible in all the monitors we had as they would tell us about the different vegetation that we came across and what their medicinal uses were (if any) and we were taught about the different animal dropping and spoor. It was really amazing how each individual monitor had so much to share with us.

    Wildlife Act volunteers in the field
    Wildlife Act volunteers in the field

    When we found the pack, we would sit and observe their behavior in the pack. We were lucky enough to spot them sleeping alongside the road so we could see them perfectly and observe their beauty. We were trying to see who the alpha male was in the pack as it was a newly formed pack and the roles hadn't been clearly defined and as it was mating season this would now become evident. To the monitors' surprise, the female they had suspected was the alpha female (lead hunter), wasn't and the youngest female in the pack was the alpha and the oldest male was the alpha male, the strangest combination.

    It was truly a magical experience getting to follow this pack around. On the days that we didn't monitor the pack we got to change the batteries and the SD cards in the stationary cameras that were disbursed in the park for a specific cheetah census that was being done. It was exciting being able to step out into the bush, knowing that wild animals were not far from you, and knowing that by what we were doing we were contributing in a tiny way to research and conservation.

    When we returned to camp we could then either catch up on a little sleep, wonder around the camp or spend some time going through photo's or whatever our hearts desired. We were however also give the task to consolidate the data capture on the various camera's for the previous leopard census, that we had to complete as a team at the end of our stay at HIP, so we did that in our own time at our own pace.

    Afternoon: Usually the afternoons started at about 2pm when we got back into the bakkie/ute/van and continued monitoring for the wild dogs. If we were changing the cameras that day, we would cover the entire park and would set out early in the morning to be able to get across the park to all the cameras. Generally, we would not monitor during those days as our Pack (Crossroads Pack) generally resided in the HluHluwe side of the Park. On one occasion though we were asked to monitor for the other packs in the park on one of our camera days. We would generally return to camp by about 5pm to start preparing supper and lunches for the next day.

    Beautiful sunset in South Africa
    Beautiful sunset in South Africa

    Evening: The evenings were spent preparing food for the night and the next day and making sure we were ready for the early wake up the next morning, but also we got to socialise and chat to all the other researchers in the camp, as they too were preparing food in the communal kitchen. It was so interesting learning about all of their research and the projects that they were doing and what they were finding out. These are all such passionate people and all so willing and open to share their stories.

    The people that reside at the Research camp have built up a great little community and invited us into their community with open arms and we were invited to braai's (bbq) and any other social gathering or event that they had organised. It was really awesome. Some nights were also used for us to be informed about things that we were going to be doing the next day so that we knew exactly why we were doing what we were doing and how it impacted the research and what exactly we were doing, what to look out for etc so we knew exactly what to do and why.

    Sonja spotted a variety of wildlife while volunteering
    Sonja spotted a variety of wildlife while volunteering

    Highlights: For me, the whole experience was one big highlight - the people were warm, friendly, helpful, informative and caring. There are too many wonderful experience that I will never forget, learning so much about the African painted dogs, seeing a few month old baby rhino, being so close to nature and just having my appreciation for nature and the wonder of it reinforced again and again. My love for nature has just grown in leaps and bounds and I will truely never forget my experience in HIP.

    Also it was great to meet other wonderful people from all around the world, and hear their stories and get to know them and befriend them. The whole packaged experience is just one not to miss out on. I will definitely return to the HIP Park any chance I get!! I miss the stillness in the morning before the sun comes up and the bird start waking up and the quiet in the evening when nature goes to rest, the unbelievable sun rises and sun set. It is just spectacular!

  • Elephant in South Africa
    Discover South Africa's wildlife!

    Morning: During my time with Wildlife ACT, mornings consisted of waking early, somewhere between 3:30 - 4:30 am and grabbing a quick breakfast or snack before hitting the road in the open-topped vehicles for around 4-6 hours. These times varied depended on which park I worked in or the distance we needed to go that day to locate the wild dogs.

    While this was extremely difficult at first, I grew accustomed to those early mornings and soon looked forward to waking up, having the chance to be in the park before any of the tourists, and to watch the sun rise over the mountains or woodlands - something many people rarely get to witness. There is just something extremely special about African sunrises and sunsets that is impossible to put into words - it has to be experienced. Those early mornings, as hard as they might be were never taken for granted!

    Afternoon: After the early morning drives, we usually were able to take a short break. Volunteers would then either make breakfast if they hadn't already eaten, read, take a nap, or just relax with the volunteers and staff.

    On some occasions these breaks didn't last long or would be cut out completely. Instead, we would go on other game viewing/monitoring drives for elephants (Tembe National Park) or cheetahs (Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park). The elephant drives would take around 3 - 4 hours usually and we were able to see some of the most amazing elephants in Southern Africa. For instance, one of the first elephant monitoring drives, we saw the largest tusked elephant in Southern Africa - 2.9m long each!

    Once a week at Hluhluwe iMfolozi, we left early in the morning and traveled around the entire park to check on the cheetah cameras, replace batteries, and collect the camera chips so that the images caught on film could be viewed and identified. This usually took the majority of the morning and afternoon. On occasion cheetahs were seen in person, while other times they were only seen from the captured photographs. Either way, it was very rewarding! Returning from these afternoon drives between 2 and 3pm, we usually had a couple hours of relaxation to eat, etc. before heading out for the night drives.

    Evening: Evenings as a volunteer were typically similar no matter what park you were in. We would leave the camp at around 4pm and head out to locate the dogs again returning around 7 or 8pm. Since they are most active during the dawn and dusk, this is why early morning and late night drives are so important for locating them. Often times in the evening the dogs could be seen on a hunt! They would stroll out into the middle of the road where we could see them clearly before darting back into the thicket after locating prey.

    While in the vehicles, we were in constantly in charge of using the radio telemetry devices, swapping around so that everyone had a chance to use them and learn how exactly they worked. We would hold the devices above our heads and carefully listen for the unmistakable "beep...beep...beep" of the telemetry signal once the dogs were found in close proximity to the vehicle.

    Highlights: The highlight of my experience while with Wildlife ACT was being able to get unbelievable up-close and personal with the wild dogs in Tembe Elephant Park. On several occasions, the dogs would come lay out in the middle of the road relaxing until the scout of the pack would inform the others of a located prey animal.

    They were so beautiful to watch and as they are basically harmless to people and exceptionally inquisitive, you quickly form an attachment to them and become emotionally invested in their survival. One instance specifically, I witnessed an entire wild dog hunt, from the time they located the prey and heard the scream of the animal being taken down, to the feasting and settling down for the night after a great meal!

  • South African elephant Lindsay encountered
    South African elephant Lindsay encountered

    Highlights: In terms of time spent volunteering, it's hard to narrow down one single highlight. Sleeping out at one of the hides, seeing the painted dogs for the first time, being mock charged by a black rhino, and being only a few metres away from a lion stand out. I was also lucky enough to be part of a collaring and release of the painted dogs, which was incredible to see and help out with. It was great to be so close to the dogs and really feel like we were helping out with some of the conservation efforts to save them.

    The overall highlight for me was just time spent with the people - both the volunteers and the monitors were amazing, and it was great to be around such friendly, welcoming, passionate people. My best memory in particular was a day trip to St. Lucia, where we got to swim in the Indian Ocean and relax on the sand dunes discussing the trip.

    Morning: We generally woke up and headed out in the back of the truck around 5AM to track the painted dogs via their radio collars. We'd spend the morning driving around to locate the dogs, who were often far away, but we'd always stop to check out other animals on the side of the road as well! Once we either found the dogs, or had an idea of their location, we had the rest of the morning to view other wildlife, perform any important tasks (ie. investigate cheetah sightings), or just head back to camp to relax.

    Volunteer in South Africa
    Lindsay with other volunteers

    Afternoon: Depending on the reserve, afternoons were spent doing different things. Generally, volunteers had time back at camp to relax, read a book, cook up lunch, and do some chores around the house. This ranged from anything to painting the walls to cutting up firewood. There was plenty of time left over to relax in the sun, or play a round of cards. Occasionally we'd spend an afternoon at a hide overlooking a waterhole, where we always saw plenty of animals and had great photo opportunities. We usually headed back out to do evening monitoring around 3PM, however we would sometimes leave early if something came up (for example, trying to locate a specific pack of painted dogs, or feed the dogs in the boma).

    Evening: Evening monitoring was primarily spent locating the painted dogs to ensure their health. We'd also head out once a week to change the batteries and memory cards on the camera traps, and we'd spend the night going through captured photos. We would often stay out to view the sunset, and drive back to camp in the dark, which gave us a great opportunity to see nocturnal animals (leopards, hyenas, and plenty of genets!). Once back at camp around 18:30, everyone pitched in to help prepare dinner. We often sat around the fire talking, or took a night to play poker or other card games.

  • Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with Wildlife Act in South Africa?

    1. To travel responsibly and to support a local which was making a real difference
    2. To educate our sons, be involved and close to the animals
    3. Safety for ourselves as lesbian parents, and our sons.

    Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

    Sue: Getting up at 4.30, off at 5am to monitor the African Wild Dogs in the back of the truck (very cold). Monitoring the dogs by radio frequency and then trying to get a visual siting. This meant either waiting for a "visual" of the dogs, seeing the sunrise over the reserve (just beautiful). One of our sons took a book to read, as this could take a couple of hours. If we couldn't get a reading, then we would try to find them. This was great fun, off road, stopping to see other wildlife including Rhino, Giraffe, Wildebeest, Eagles (we saw 5 different varieties on our 2 week trip). Back to camp for lunch and rest, then off again doing the same thing until nightfall.

    How has this experience impacted your future?

    Sue: It was a lifetime experience, and we all felt we got as close as we could to African wildlife during our 2 week stay. I think it has impacted on our sons personal development and given them a different way to view things and to connect with their environment, responsibly.

    I can not praise enough the people who work for WildlifeAct. I was in contact with Bronwen on a regular basis for nearly 6 months with various questions about clothing, costs, and food. They are totally professional, care for the animals they are trying to protect. They deserve our support to make a real difference.

  • Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with Wildlife Act in South Africa?

    Gale: I had always wanted to visit S. Africa, primarily to see the environment and animals. I like unconventional travel experiences and feeling like I'm more than a casual observer/tourist. Partly because of that, I found I would be making the trip alone. For myself and my family/friends back home, I needed to find an opportunity that would provide some structure, was affordable and put me up close and personal with the animals. About 10 yrs ago I volunteered abroad and decided to check on working with a conservation project in Southern Africa. After much research and comparisons, I selected Wildlife Act based on the type of project (wildlife monitoring in 4 reserves), location (transportation, health concerns, safety), review of their website & Facebook for information on mission, goals, stability, affiliations, volunteer program and recommendations. After contacting them with some additional questions, I was confident it was the right choice for me.

    Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

    Gale: I spent two weeks at the Thanda Reserve where we used radio equipment to monitor black rhino, cheetah and Wild African Dogs. During my stay, the focus was on the African Dog pack. The very first day included an informal yet conscientious discussion about what we would be doing, expectations, how to use equipment and safety.

    Each day we conducted morning and evening drives (0500 or so in the AM and 1630 or so in the PM - I was there in April). Just as it sounds, we drove areas of the reserve doing radio monitoring and observations. The first day we encountered a herd of rhino which we photographed, identified with a reserve field guide to the specific rhinos on Thanda, took GPS coordinates, generally watched and enjoyed. The Wildlife Act Monitor, Michelle, was very knowledgeable about the animals and the bush environment, so she was able to explain what we saw and did as well.

    We also had responsibilities in the camp and did small jobs as needed. I watered the garden and planted a few things as well as repaired a small window pane in the kitchen that had fallen out or been removed by monkeys (they took the bananas and apples one afternoon) and a gate among other things. Finally, we all pitched in on afternoon and evening meals. I was lucky as the guys in my group liked cooking. A couple of evenings we went to a small pub for dinner. We enjoyed our evenings together, but knew the alarm would be going off at 0415!

    How has this experience impacted your future?

    Gale: This trip reignited my passion for working in not-for-profit. My job situation was changing and I have decided to leave the corporate world, spend some time traveling (back to S. Africa with Wildlife Act in late March). I was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease about 6 yrs ago, but had pretty much been in denial about it. This trip helped me come to terms with my diagnosis and future. So much so that my goal is to encourage and facilitate volunteer travel for people in the early stages of a diagnosis, especially Parkinsons, MS, ALS, etc. It helps give perspective, makes you stretch and gain a sense of purpose and strength. I'm not sure exactly how, but I want others to feel energized and empowered as I did upon my return.

About the provider

Wildlife ACT actively advances wildlife conservation by conducting ongoing projects on reserves in South Africa. Wildlife ACT performs conservation services free and completely relies on volunteer support. Interested volunteers are encouraged to visit the Wildlife ACT site to learn more.