Wildlife Conservation Volunteering with African Impact

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About

Southern Africa is known for its spectacular wildlife, and the reality certainly lives up to the dream. Yet much of this wildlife is under threat from poaching, damaging agricultural practices, and climate change. If you want to contribute to a more sustainable future and play a key role in improving the precarious conditions of endangered animals, apply for one of our conservation initiatives.

Your daily tasks can include a wide variety of activities; you can go on research game drives or boat trips to collect data, take photos of the animals in their natural habitat, observe and document animal behavior and ultimately, learn all about what it takes to protect these iconic animals.

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Questions & Answers

Reviews

9.35 Rating
based on 20 reviews
  • 9-10 rating 95%
  • 7-8 rating 0%
  • 5-6 rating 0%
  • 3-4 rating 0%
  • 1-2 rating 5%
  • Impact 9.2
  • Support 9.2
  • Fun 9.5
  • Value 9.4
  • Safety 9.6
Showing 1 - 8 of 20
Default avatar
Chris
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

An Incredible Experience

From my point of view the whole experience of volunteering at African impact was of the highest possible calibre. The staff and people around the lodge were friendly and helpful, nothing was too much trouble. When it can to the guides who took us out on the drives, there knowledge was superb and there was a good level of really specialist knowledge in lots of very specific areas, there was not a single question I asked, that wasn't answered with great detail. I learnt so much that just cannot be taught by just watching documentaries.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
if i did it all over again, i would do it for longer. for me 2 weeks just wasnt long enough to feel like i did the project justice.
Default avatar
Winki
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Thank you for making the best summer I ever had!

Africa was a mysterious place for me before attending to this program, I was worried about numerous things! However, when I first arrived to Dumela lodge(where we live during the program) I felt so surprised and relaxing! This place is beautiful ,people here are super nice and the food is delicious ! It makes me feel likes home after a week, and I am gonna miss it forever..Besides, I learnt a lot from volunteering in this wildlife conservation! I still remember when I first saw the lion in front of our car..and I was holding my breathe and my excitement! Apart from lions, we also met rhinos, cheetahs, elephants .. and impala! There is too much to say about our game drives every day... and I have never thought that I would have made an impact on helping anti-poaching / animals protection organization to get different animals' data. This summer holiday would not be even better without African Impact, and I miss it tons!

What was your funniest moment?
The funniest moment was we (all volunteers, interns and stuffs!) taking the light painting photos! That was my first light painting experience and I had no idea how it works, so I kept moving when they took the photos, and I ruined most of them haha! Finally I tried so hard to keep still and the picture looks awesome!
Default avatar
Ruby
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My time at Dumela Lodge

Right from the very start of my time with African Impact I knew I was in a safe and fun environment and immediately felt at home at the lodge. The other volunteers and interns were all so welcoming and we had a lots of laughs throughout the stay!! The food provided by the kitchen staff was always delicious, and I enjoyed every single meal. The guides were very kind and not once did I feel as though I was causing them an inconvenience. They are so knowledgeable and really try to help you get the most out of your stay by teaching you loads invaluable information about the plants and animals in the bush. Obviously you can’t predict nature so game drives can be quite hit and miss, however I was lucky enough to be able to see loads of amazing animals during my 2 week stay. My only regret is that I didn’t stay longer!

What was your funniest moment?
My funniest moment was singing Lion King really loudly on the way to Kruger with some of the other volunteers.
Default avatar
Mark
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My Experience with African Impact

When I was 21, I made ventured out overseas for the first time to make my very first impact with the African Big 5 Wildlife and conservation project in South Africa. that experience stuck with me for the rest of my life. and ever since then, I have made my impact with the project another three more times throughout the years.
for each time I have work in the project, I've had the pleasure of working with like minded people from over the world with a passion of wildlife conservation such as myself. being surrounded by that atmosphere enriched my experience even more then I hoped.
the staff at each location were always welcoming and supportive with my time at each project. with the guidance and field guides we would set out on game drives where we could have a chance to see anything such as the Big 5, Giraffes, Kudu, Impala, Nala, Aardvarks etc, from which each drive was always different which made it even for exciting.
I have also gain many skills such Data collection and entry, conservation work such as evasive plant removal, litter pickup, fire break and erosion control. we also took part in bird surveys, presentation on wildlife topics and also helping out in the community such as teaching children how to read and with business skills with running their own vegetable farms.
I would highly recommend this organization to anyone with a passion with wildlife conservation.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
your not going to get life experince with just staying at home. you go out and see the worldjoing a program or project that apeals to you and go for it. you will meet like minded people such as your slef with the same passion as yourself and form encredable friendship that will last through the ages and again experince that you only see on TV
Response from African Impact

Hey Mark,

We really appreciate you taking the time out to share your experience with us—and we agree, there is nothing better than being surrounded by like-minded people! We count ourselves lucky for volunteers like you. We look forward to working with you again in the future (fifth times the charm)!

The African Impact team

Default avatar
Peter
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Peter Carellini - South African Experience

I'll say this right off the bat - what you will see and experience in South Africa will be unlike anything you've ever seen. The cost for this program, just to witness the incredible majesty and life of the bush, is worth it alone. If you're looking for adventure, if you're looking for true exploration that goes past trite tourism and surface level traveling, you've found your place. Contributing to research was such a simple addition to the trip, yet made all the difference - never once did I doubt that I was genuinely helping a cause. We did a spot of anti-poaching that further cemented that belief, and at that moment I knew the volunteering was concrete. I can't say any more than the staff of African Impact - guides, house staff, project managers - being absolutely perfect and hugely a reason why I look back on the adventure so fondly. It's hard not to love South Africa. It's a country of the world, offering so much; the Rainbow Nation is too apt of a name. Bring a camera.

What would you improve about this program?
I would like to see more community outreach. I'd be more than okay exchanging a few game drives for opportunities to engage in the community. I know it's a bush oriented experience, but we're so close to the community that it felt slightly disappointing. I'd also encourage sending photography volunteers out with research volunteers - it would be much more helpful to the research, and help consolidate the database for wildlife pics. That pairing would also tie both sectors of work together greatly, and allow for even greater contributions to research.
Response from African Impact

Hey Peter,

Thank you for such a glowing review. We're so glad you enjoyed your trip. The photos we've been seeing on social media that you took on project are beautiful! Welcome to the alumni squad!

The African Impact Team

Default avatar
Hannah
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Epic Photography Adventure with African Impact

I was pretty hesitant at first to volunteer in South Africa again, my first time with another company wasn't the best experience. However, volunteering with African Impact was one of the best decisions I have made.

I have been wanting to take the next step with my photography for a long time now, and finally biting the bullet and taking the African Impact Photography course was an awesome idea!

We got to do so many amazing things, and learnt so much about conservation photography.

I was stoked with the amount of opportunity we had to be out in the field and practising our skills. It really felt like we were true wildlife photographers and my photography developed so quickly over the 4 weeks, I was veeeeeeeery impressed!

My favourite thing was heading out for the over night camping trips to Klaserie and spending 24 hours in the bush looking at incredible animals - everything from elephant to leopards to wild dogs. We were very lucky to see the big 5, wild dogs, and a hyena kill all in the one day!

I also really love just chilling out at Dumela Lodge and kicking back with the other volunteers by the pool or to watch a movie together - Something that you really look forward to after the action packed weeks!

It was a very sad moment when my 4 weeks was up and I had to fly back home to Australia. I would have loved to have stayed to do it all again, but I have promised myself I will come back in the future!

What would you improve about this program?
An advanced photography course would be awesome - If they had something that we could come back and do to further improve and develop our skills I would totally get around that!
Response from African Impact

Hey Hannah,

Thank you for this awesome review! We are so impressed with the photos and videos you took on project, as well as your blog! We can't wait to have you back with us in the near future.

The African Impact Team

Default avatar
Katie
2/10
No, I don't recommend this program

Not for Young Professional Couples

We chose to join the Big 5 research project in South Africa as a couple because we wanted to spend our money consciously on our vacation, hoping to be immersed in the region much more than we would as regular tourists. Our compassion for animals extends into our everyday life, so we also wanted to visit the game reserves with conservation in mind, learning as much as we could about different species, endangered or otherwise. What the project turned out to be was much more of a glorified summer camp that approaches research and conservation in an uneven and juvenile fashion. And if you choose to stay for the shortest minimum placement of two-weeks, you'll find yourself at a significant disadvantage.

From day one, within the communal space there was an atmosphere of exclusion from the younger solo travelers as well as little direction from staff when it came to building a community at the lodge. The same can be said about project work. The activities that were assigned on our second day of arrival should have been managed by those that were long-term interns, but the groups we worked with wanted nothing to do with any task they knew was difficult. If you can believe it, there were times when those long-term interns "called front row" of the safari vehicles when we went on game drives. It's crazy for an organization like this one where you are grounded in one place for an extended period of time to casually operate in a way that never addressed the clear segregation of people staying on property. To that point, and even worse, is that we had a mid-stay feedback session after our first week where the business manager heard our concerns, said they would do something to improve our second week, and then disappeared from view. We weren't even introduced to them until that session; though he had been on leave the first week, it was still many days after he returned before we knew who they were. My husband commented in the first few days that we literally didn't know who was in charge.

It wasn't just the business manager that was an issue, other staff and guides came and went, because this time of year is apparently when everyone goes back home on leave for various reasons. Holidays are necessary and good, but when a volunteer is only here for two weeks and you never have the same manager or coordinator, and eventually are left with two assistants who are piecing together what they can as they go along, it leaves the short time we are here devoid of any connection or lasting impact, specifically for how we feel we helped with African Impact's conservation work.

Truthfully, when booking this trip, we thought it would be an eclectic group from all around the world, some younger, some older, but all ultimately interested in the same goals and interested in getting to know one another. This was so the opposite of what we experienced that I just don't know what we missed in our preliminary research of African Impact. There's really nothing wrong if parents want to send their kids here for gap years, or internship work, but when that group of travelers turns the lodge into a toxic environment of people constantly talking negatively about other volunteers or about how much they hate a guide or other staff member at African Impact, it corrodes the mission of the organization from the inside. We eventually stopped joining the group whenever we could because we just couldn't listen to the negative conversations anymore.

Even funnier and more poignant about the non-inclusive environment is that they had an event called Sundowner towards the end of our trip which we knew nothing about beforehand. Once we showed up, they asked each of us to pay 50 Rand to be in pictures shot by the photography volunteers, which you can then buy for more Rand afterward. To simply join the group or have some laughs in a photo, they wanted you to donate 50 Rand to a project called Farmers of the Future which we also knew nothing about and felt uncomfortable donating to. At this point we were so done with African Impact and the way the volunteers interacted with each other that we opted out. That left us by ourselves hanging out, while everyone else went out in a field to take photos. It was like we weren't even a part of the team.

Lastly, there are only two weekends to explore other parts of the country when you stay for the short placement time. I had asked many months in advance of our arrival if I should book tours on my own and was told that everything would be sorted on-site. What we discovered is that there have to be a certain number of people interested in a tour for it to run, the weather has to be perfect, and their tour operator has to be in town. As it turned out, literally 3 days before our scheduled tour the first weekend, the lodge manager performed so poorly at his job booking tours for us that he told us what we wanted to do was unavailable and that we had to go it alone and figure out tours for ourselves. The second week, another tour was cancelled less than 24 hours beforehand and many people had nothing to do on their last Saturday here. No other options are provided if your selected tour is cancelled.

Ultimately, the real winner here is South Africa because simply by the country being the country that it is, we were able to see the entire Big 5 and other stunning animals. I have to give major kudos to some guides from Africa on Foot in Klaserie for their passion and dedication; they allowed us to experience each animal and see their natural behaviors. I just wish there were more consistently good experiences during our time with African Impact and that the business manager had taken our feedback to heart with obvious action.

We loved South Africa and all of our experiences with the animals; it's a place not to be missed. But I would highly recommend that any young professional couples stay far away from African Impact and definitely this program in particular. Book a lodge in Kruger, rent a car for yourself, drive around the dirt roads to spend time with animals, or join one of Kruger National Park's many activities. You'll fly home with cherished memories minus the drama.

Response from African Impact

Hello Katie,

We are so sorry to hear that your stay on our Big 5 project in South Africa was disappointing and thank you for your honest feedback on this platform. We did get in touch with the project team there to follow up on what went wrong and apologize profusely that your two-week stay was not what you expected. While we cannot guarantee the ages or backgrounds of our volunteers throughout the year (volunteering is open to everyone), we understand that our Business Managers were on leave during the first week of your placement and believe this had a big impact on your experience.. Our teams work round-the-clock all year and rarely get time to take leave, but we felt confident in the remaining staff members to hold the fort and ensure the smooth running of the project. This did not happen, and the staff members in question have since been spoken to regarding their conduct and professionalism. We feel confident that this situation has been dealt with on-the-ground, but apologize once more that it affected your experience in South Africa. We would be happy to chat further regarding your stay and value any feedback you have to offer. Thank you,

The African Impact Team

Default avatar
Célia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Wonderful

I think this adventure is the greatest experience I’ve never had.
I met amazing people (staff, volunteers,..)
The staff helps you to feel good.
That project is very enriching.
Zambia is a very beautiful country with its landscapes and animals.
There are a lot of activities like safari’s, zipline, bundy jump, microlight, helicopter, walk with lions.
I went to the church and I liked it so much, I met local people, they sing and dance. I really can recommand you to try the church,

I’ll be back for sure

Response from African Impact

Hey there Célia,
We're so happy to hear you had a great experience and really embraced the African culture. We hope to see you back with us soon. In the meantime, keep in touch and welcome to our Alumni squad.
The African Impact team