Travel on the frontline of conservation

Hamba Africa

About

Travel on the frontline of conservation; We're and eco-tour operator that provides the thrill and personal reward of travel with the opportunity to get involved with over 12 important conservation projects.

Learn valuable skills, protect wildlife and have an incredible gap year or travel experience.

Reviews

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Luke
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing experience

The experience as a whole was one of the best times I've had in my life. I would recommend this to anyone that has any interest in animals, conservation, or just generally travelling - it is well worth the cost. We did work with rhinos, cheetahs, lions, and most of the other wildlife the reserve had to offer; sometimes we were able to get really close to them, which is just a surreal experience.
The staff that work at the reserve are extremely friendly and you get to know them really well throughout your time there. The Hamba Africa staff are also extremely helpful and very likeable, all around making the travelling, social and cooking aspect of the trip very streamlined and enjoyable.

Pros
  • Amazing wildlife
  • Friendly staff
  • Easy to book
Cons
  • Literally nothing
Default avatar
Sam
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Brilliant Trip!

Africa!
This was my first trip out of the UK alone and I picked the right people to do it with.
Harry is so down to earth and is very passionate about what he does - we were treated to a range of information on wildlife, the geology of the area and a whole lot of humour, and that was just on the drive from the airport! He has a lot of knowledge and experience and puts in a lot of time for volunteers! You can really see how much dedication he has for the projects he hosts.

You can be meters away from iconic African wildlife while carrying out your monitoring tasks and even though you have plans for the day, a call might come through where you’re then needed somewhere else to assist with an intervention. Or maybe the call comes through that there’s a special sighting, and then you’re in for a treat!
We also had some educational talks which were really interesting regarding conservation, management of predators and the issues surrounding wildlife’s decline.

The guides were super friendly and were always happy to answer questions and pause at animals and birds people might want to get a better look at or find more information about.
They taught us a lot while we were out working and you get to see first hand how much data and monitoring is needed to make a game reserve exist in harmony.

Travel with Hamba Africa and you will come home with expanded or completely new knowledge and great memories!
3 months later I still have new stories to tell from my time there and can’t wait to return for a future trip!

Pros
  • Lovely group of fellow volunteers
  • Great guides
  • Learning and insight into conservation
Default avatar
Max
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

An amazing experience

I cannot recommend Hamba Africa enough. Harry was incredible and knowledgeable. Our guides were just as amazing and able to answer just about any question anyone had on almost any subject about the reserve, and always got us front row seats to things that ordinarily you cannot come close to; such as lion and rhino interventions, game releases and so much more. I had a tent to myself, and got to meet a dozen other like-minded volunteers from around the world. All in all, a truly incredible month.

Pros
  • Incredible views and animals
  • Great company
  • cool bug :)
Cons
  • Gets quite cold in the winter at night
Default avatar
Toby
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

A wonderful experience

A wonderful experience.

I had a great time in South Africa and Harry was a fantastic, and very knowledgeable guide! He is truly passionate about wildlife and much more beside and I can't recommend this highly enough. I learned so much new information and interesting facts, his passion is infectious and really creates a great atmosphere and energy.

South Africa is beautiful country and I can't think of many better places to spend a month. Do yourself a favour and make the journey of a lifetime

Default avatar
Michael
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Experience of a lifetime

Can't fault the project! Very well organised, the whole adventure ran smoothly. Getting to see the natural beauty of the country was my personal highlight, and the wide range of activities kept us busy and always having a good time!

My guide was highly experienced, knowledgable and passionate - the most reliable person to teach you about the wildlife and natural environment out there. Getting involved with ecology and conservation work was a humbling and inspiring experience.

Big thank you to all involved and can't wait to come back again!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Go for it! It's truly a unique experience so make the most of it

Programs

Displaying 1 - 4 of 4

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Harry McGrath

Job Title
Director
Harry is an avid conservationist and all-round nature enthusiast. Following his animal behaviour, management and welfare studies in the UK, Harry traveled to South Africa where he lived and worked on and around the Kruger National Park for four years, qualifying as an FGASA (Field Guide Association of South Africa) guide at the Limpopo Field Guide Training Academy in 2014. Since then, he’s had the good fortune to work in the environmental sector in many different roles.

His passion for conservation is reflected in his life choices; as the senior environmental writer for a digital magazine, coordinating diving tours in Cyprus and helping to rehabilitate predatory birds in the UK, to name a few. Now you are likely to find him in the wilderness of Southern Africa developing environmental research projects, leading tours and generally staring in awe at elephants.
Harry McGrath

What is your favorite travel memory?

Now that is a very hard question...

I've been blessed to have had some absolutely incredible experiences, too numerous to count. But if I had to pick a specific moment it would have to be tracking leopard in the north of the Kruger National Park.

Myself and a couple of close friends (one of whom had never visited South Africa before) set off on a 4-day camping and safari adventure. Naturally, we were determined to get the very best sighting of every iconic African animal possible, even if that meant setting off at sunrise and returning to camp after sunset.

We were doing well, watching hippos on foot from the banks of a river, sipping our morning coffee, baby hyenas nibbling our tires, feasting our eyes on a near black, ancient-looking giraffe, herds of elephants complete with old bulls and their young, and more colorful and exotic birds than we could ever imagine. Good stuff!

But we were missing something, probably the one animal everyone wants to see the most... the elusive leopard.

There was plenty of evidence. We had been tracking them for days as we drove, hanging over the edge of the game viewer and scanning the dirt roads for footprints. We even found the remnants of a 12ft rock python (someone’s supper the night before)!

But still nothing...

On the final night as we drove back to camp we resigned ourselves to the fact that as the masters of stealth, spotting a big cat wasn’t to be... "We'll just have to come back!" we joked.
Then a radio call from a nearby guide... "Mother and cub Ingwe (Leopard), on the road towards the canyon".

It was dark now and the road in question was a good 20min drive away. It was a long shot but we took it. We drove as fast as we could through the dense bush, hyper-focused on the road, spotlight scanning ahead at all times to make sure we didn’t run into anything big and hairy and holding onto the bars of the game viewer so as not to fall out when we hit a bump or came round a corner.

The adrenaline was pumping.

We got to the site where the radio spoke of and we could smell blood. The mother leopard had obviously made a kill. We were close. We passed another vehicle but they hadn’t seen anything.

Another 30 minutes of searching, peering into the black brush with torches, but still nothing.
Anyone who has looked for leopard before will know trying to spot one in the day is one thing, searching for one at night is next to impossible. And with young cubs, even less so... We were about to call it. But before we did we thought we would try one last thing...

We pulled the car up next to the road, turned the engine and all the lights off and kept as quiet as we could. Pitch black in the bush with only the stars poking through the tree canopy and silence broken only by the odd cricket.

After 5 minutes of sitting silently and somehow in unison, almost unnaturally, we all instinctively turned our torches on and shone the light to the left of the car.

There she was. A beautiful mother leopard so close we could have reached out and touched her. It was almost a shock, to see nothing but blackness only for the veil of darkness to be lifted and be face-to-face with a big cat less than a metre away!

After staring us down for a bit and deciding we weren’t a threat, she turned to a bush and a young cub came out and joined her. They walked on ahead of the vehicle further down the road; we followed them for about 15 minutes, snapping a few photos as best we could until they finally disappeared again under a bush and into the night.

Sometimes nature does save the best for last but I can tell you it was cheers and beers all around the camp on that final night!

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

As director of Hamba Africa, I’ve become very much more aware of the opportunities and responsibilities I have open to me and how I can use both to make a positive difference in the natural world.

Ultimately creating my personal vision through Hamba Africa means I’ve been able to reflect on how my actions will impact both the environment and people, so it has been hugely rewarding setting goals with conservation projects, fulfilling life-changing experiences for our guests and ensuring the positive contribution Hamba Africa will ultimately deliver.

Now I find myself wanting to continue to do better not only for me but also for others who would not be able to have such an experience without a ‘Hamba Africa’ to help them realise it.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

My favourite story is, of course, the one where past students or friends I’ve ‘guided’ or led on safari tours, continue to be involved in conservation work. To know that somehow their shared experience has inspired them to carry on such important work gives me immense joy and satisfaction.

Guiding people who may never have experienced nature at this level before or worked so closely with wildlife, who perhaps didn’t realise the severity of certain issues like poaching or orphaned animals and watching them realise their passion for it. It makes this all worthwhile. When I get updates saying "I’m currently working at this wildlife sanctuary" or "I’ve just finished my degree in zoology", it is really special to me because I feel in some small way Hamba Africa has helped them realise their own aspirations and ambitions.

Also watching (maybe sometimes helping) a holiday romance to blossom and to hear later that they are still going strong.. Very cute.

I’m still waiting for that wedding invitation, though!

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

The 4-week wildlife adventure placement with travel week. 100%.

It’s the best of both worlds in my opinion.

You get to live in the heart of the African bush on the banks of Olifants river which is an absolutely serene and tranquil living experience with the sunsets, the sound of the bush at night and every morning waking up and checking out the river bank to see who’s popped by for a drink.

Unbeatable.

Plus the conservation workloads of fun, although there’s no doubt it can get sweaty and dirty too!

So rewarding!

And even as a qualified FGASA guide you are always learning and discovering something new each day; for us guides, the bush is the ‘never-ending classroom’.

And travel week is a great adventure, South Africa is a beautiful country with so much to see and do that is simply too good to miss out on.

New locations, new experiences, exploring unknown environments – the perfect way to really get to know the country. There’s an opportunity to try activities and locations that it has taken me years of living and exploring South Africa to discover, for example, the temperate rain forests in mountain valleys.

And of course, the close friendships you forge with your group will make travel week an exceptionally unique experience, one you’ll always remember.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

Our goal and commitment towards supporting conservation are key, but so is investing in our guests and volunteers.

I like to think the two are mutually beneficial: the more passionate and engaged the volunteers are, the greater our conservation work benefits. The better the conservation work, the greater the opportunities for volunteers.

Hamba Africa was created and designed so that our placements include a diverse range of projects. Not only to ensure the positive impact on conservation but to enable everyone who joins us the opportunity to get involved, to learn and develop skills in all aspects of ecological management, zoology, and socio-economic development.

We believe there is always a Hamba Africa project that resonates with every guest/volunteer.

And what makes me most proud of my team is always keeping that goal at the forefront of their minds.

From the moment we receive your inquiry, to long after you’ve departed, I know our team will ensure you maximize your time and experience with us. I’m proud to know that my team is helping others to develop their own potential.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

I believe it’s having a clear ethos, especially in the travel and conservation sector. I think today, young people want an experience that is fun and adventurous but they also want something they can take pride in and feel a sense of achievement and accomplishment.

The more authentic your company is to your ethos, the more like-minded individuals who share that ethos will be drawn to joining and they're for supporting you.