LEO Africa - Wildlife monitoring, conservation & Sustainable living

Video and Photos

A male lion that we have been monitoring


LEO Africa is a wildlife monitoring, conservation and sustainable living volunteer programme based in the beautiful Marataba Section of the Marakele National Park. The focus of our monitoring are key species such as lions, black and white rhinos, elephants, leopard, hyena, buffalos and cheetahs. A typical day consist of 2 monitoring drives in which we collect data on wildlife and conduct conservation work for the park; when requested, we also assist the park management with special activities, such as game capture, animal darting, fire control and much more . Volunteers are the protagonist of our work, helping us to track the animals collecting and inserting data (with which we prepare reports for the park on animal behaviour, health, spatial movements etc.), some house duties and they'll have the possibility to take part to bush walks, sleep outs and much more! LEO is a truly, once in a lifetime African Experience!

  • Big 5 monitoring
  • Sustainable living
  • Conservation
  • Microlight Flight
  • 10-12 hours out in the field every day!


Environment, Conservation, wildlife monitoring, sustainable living

Related Programs

Questions & Answers


based on 13 reviews
  • Impact 9.2
  • Support 9.2
  • Fun 9.1
  • Value 9.2
  • Safety 9.2
Showing 1 - 13 of 13
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing experience!

Volunteering at Leo Africa has been an amazing experience I will never forget. I was there for two weeks in the summer of 2018. The staff and guides were great. The knowledge of the guides is incredible. I've learned so much about the behaviour of the animals who live at Marakele National Park and others. I also learned a lot about conservation and every day we were involved in the conservation of the park, for example wrapping trees with chicken wire to protect them against elephants. Doing a sleep out in the park and bush walks are a few of my favourite things I have done. I've met some great people during my stay and am still in touch with a few of them. I would really recommend going to Leo Africa in South Africa, and I would love to come back at some point.

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

The experience of a lifetime

I have spent seven weeks at LEO Africa and i really don't know where to start.
I am in love with Africa and I was looking for an experience in there. I was looking for adventure, a bigger knowledge about animals and wildlife, nature, freedom...but what i lived at LEO Africa was even more than all this.
Thanks to all the amazing guides that work there, you will become part of a wonderful project that has the goal to monitor the Big 5, hyenas and cheetas, and to conserve the environment. I didn't expect to learn so many different facts about animals and plants. And i have to thank billion of times all the staff for that!!!
They talked to us also about stars, plastic problem and how to help solve it and so many more things!! Everyday was exciting and different from the one before!!!!
The house is very comfortable, with big rooms and bathrooms. I miss waking up there, in the middle of the bush with beautiful sunrises!! Everyone has been very kind and made me feel like part of a family!
What I lived at LEO Africa is very hard to explain, it's beyond words!!!! I suggest it to EVERYONE, you will come back home happier and with unforgettable memories...about landscapes, animals, a lot of laughters and beautiful moments with the staff and the other volunteers!

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Unforgettable trip!!

2 months ago, I was in South Africa, with LEO Africa, a Volonteer research programme. This month at LEO was the best thing I've ever done in my life. It was an amazing experience. No one can understand how it feels before doing it.
Every single person I met in South Africa (the staff, the volonteers, and every member of the Marataba Reserve) were awesome. I really miss that kind of people (in France people you don't know aren't so nice with you). And obviously I miss our 3 mascots, Bessie (the boss!) Ranger and Trigger !
I recommend it to every animal/nature lover, for people who wants to learn more about it, and who wants to speak english better (I went there with 3 friends and one of us didn't speak english AT ALL, and now she can have a good conversation with someone).
You will learn a lot with the passionated member of the staff.
If you go to LEO, enjoy everyday. Dreams come slow and go so fast.

I hope I'll be back at LEO soon, because everytime I look at their pictures on their site or Facebook page I feel as excited as they can be.
At LEO Base, every day is a beautiful adventure and I think this is a great motivation to live a life full of happiness

Yes, I recommend this program

Research and Science at LEO Africa

After volunteering with Leo for three months in 2015 I couldn't help but come and visit the LEO team when I was in South Africa in May of this year! My stay with Leo was again a surreal and unforgettable experience. With Koos and Sabrina as my guides I learnt bush and field skills (which I still use now as a researcher). With LEO I have learnt the importance of monitoring animals for reserve management and that the bushvield ecosystem is a finely tuned machine that require constant maintenance and respect. I learnt that most of the work in conservation starts from the ground up; literally! Helping removing invasive plants and clearing up after elephants is a daily job. The experience of being able to walk with Koos in the bush watching rhinos are memories I will never forget and hearing the roar of lions in the night makes your heart feel wild! I made so many wonderful friends at Leo and learnt so many new practical and scientific skills including tracks, data entry, ID kits for animals, bird identification, monitoring techniques, ecology, botany and more! I cannot wait to return for another life changing adventure in 2017 in the new marataba reserve where the landscape is breathtaking and the animals are even more beautiful than they seem on television.

Your adventure is calling! answer the call to LEO Africa.

What would you improve about this program?
I don't think this programme could be improved, but that people interested in having an adventure at LEO must be ready to have an adventure! I have seen many a volunteer believe this is a "holiday". It is not. At LEO you experience the same hours in the bush as a guide or a researcher would, it can sometimes be tiring but this also means you get to experience much more of the African safari experience while also contributing to research and work that needs completed by the reserve and that must be considered.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Best experience ever!!!

This has been one of the most amazing experience of my life! I have learnt so much!!!
LEO Africa is the best volunteer programme I have ever visited. It is now located on the Marataba Section of the Marakele National Park. Working and doing conservation for a National Park is absolutely a privilege experience!!!
The LEO Team is very passionate, knowledgeable and ready to teach you anything about the bush. My contribution towards conservation has been concrete: we have been monitoring wild and free roaming lions, leopards, elephants, white and black rhinos and collected data on them to create reports for the park managers. We have taken photos that the staff members will use to create ID kits of these key species as well as hyenas to determine the number of animals on the reserve( who can't be count during the annual game count from the helicopter); the work done is really valuable and it gives you a deep insight of what real conservation is. Everyone is ready to help and very professional.
You stay out in the bush for either the entire day (if busy with a lot of reserve management activities) or the day can be split in two different game drives/activities. You will stay back at base on a rotation basis to carry on house duties and cook which gives you an opportunity to rest a bit as we always wake up pretty early!
Bring a large water bottle, sleeping bag, a camera, a good torch and a lot of enthusiasm!! Volunteers are also very friendly and sharing the room has not been a problem. The rooms are very spacious and the girls room has an inside bathroom as well.
Other than that... Enjoy the experience! I can't wait to go back!!!

What would you improve about this program?
I liked it as it is. It is a good balance between work and some private time. Game drives are amazing, the park is stunning and you get to see a lot of animals and learn a lot about them.
Default avatar
No, I don't recommend this program

Good impression, bad reality

The organisation and the behaviours of the manager of the program have been really bad during the period I spent there.
The volunteers were unhappy, the staff members were all planning to leave the program. They were not professional, not polite and I had really big problems with the organisation.
The food was often not enough, the activities were poor and volunteers were treated really bad. Manager were only interested about the money coming from the volunteers, without thinking about the idea of quality - price and customer satisfaction.
In two months (I've been there several times before judging bad the program) not one volunteer has been totally satisfied by the experience. The manager were more interested in insulting and gossiping bad about other staff members than focus on the service offered and the importance of conservation and wildlife.
I would not recommend a program like that. There are lots of program for volunteer all around Africa that are better.

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

What an amazing experience!!! Real conservation!

It was such an amazing experience! It was wonderful to watch lions, rhinos, giraffes, elephants and many other animals living free in a huge private reserve, a wildlife sanctuary where we were the "caged ones" (had to live in the camp and follow strict rules to observe the game) and the animals were protected yet totally free to wander around. We monitored the pride of lions and the endangered rhinos everyday, working with skilled and passionate guides: Koos Niemann, Sabrina Colombo and Dylan Lupton. The activities (game drives, walks, quad rides, exursions to Kruger Park and Panorama Route) were intese and fullfilling. The camp was big, well organized and I enjoyed a warm hospitality. Thanks to everybody for two wonderful weeks in beautiful surroundings with the company of great volunteers!

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Truely amazing experience

I have just returned from 2 awe inspiring weeks with Leo Africa and can't speak highly enough of this project. The reserve is nature at its purest and the animals therefore are quite shy and not conditioned to vehicles in the same way as animals within the national parks, which made it all the more exciting at each encounter.

Our job everyday was to either track and locate the resident lions or rhinos at the reserve and monitor their condition and performance. The day began at 4.30am if you were on breakfast duty and morning drives usually set off at 5.15-5.30am. Everyone in the house is tasked with a responsibility be it data research, or doing the washing up, to chopping trees and changing the wheels on the trucks!

Telemetry aerials are used to generally locate the animals in the morning and you then set of to find them, never knowing what you are going to discover on the way. Antelope, giraffes, wilderbeast and zebra roam freely among other wildlife. There is also a large herd of elephants, some of which are collared and a leopard. On our first drive, we found the Cleo the leopard who had been in hiding for a few days. She had a recent kill in her mouth and walked right in front of us. We were in such amazement that we completely forgot about the camera and taking any photos! The next day we were equally lucky to locate 5 of the lions just lying on the rocks at the river bed - we felt so privaleged to be able to sit and admire these marvellous cats so closely in their natural habitat.

Many of the journeys usually involved having to jump off the jeep to clear a tree out of the road, where the elephants had walked through and knocked them over! Other reserve management duties include bolstering roads after the recent rains and wood collecting to ensure fire for the water heater. Occasionally, we would go off road driving to locate the lions and we would have to get involved with bush/tree clearing to get access.

One of the things that I had not anticipated is just how much we would learn about the reserve and how to deal with each animal encounter. From the numerous birds to a porcupine and being able to hold a chameleon and a millipede to watching frogs, spiders and matabele ants.

All the staff are extremely knowledgeable and only too willing to show and help you understand the terrain.

I would certainly recommend this programme to anyone who would like to do more than just go on a safari!

What would you improve about this program?
The accommodation was a little too basic for us. I was travelling with my husband and although fortunate to have our own room rather than share in the dormitories, we would have been happy to pay more money for upgraded accommodation.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Truly Unique Experience

I originally came to LEO at the beginning of the year as a volunteer. The experience was like no other, with the very knowledgable staff, the amazing wildlife encounters and the general serenity the program had to offer was very nice.
My eyes were opened up to a whole new world in the bush. I was shown by the staff many different aspects of nature which made everything come to life. From everything from the soil and vegetation to the tiny animals, birds and of course the beautiful Lions, Rhinos, Ellies etc.

On a day to day basis we were exposed to either Lions, Ellies, Rhinos, Leopards helping the staff track them and record the data to be logged on each animal. On the way we were also blessed to see all plains game such as giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, antelopes and all things super cute.
This whole experience changed my perspective on life and i have since then moved to Africa, got my qualifications to become a nature guide and I am now back with LEO gaining some practical work experience.

Like before, every day is filled with so much learning opportunity, and different things to see each day. I would highly recommend this program to anyone

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

LEO Africa, Great and real conservation project! :-)

Looking for an eco-volunteering experience in South Africa ?
I've got what you need ! I volunteer at Leo Africa . This association do a monitoring activity for Lions , Rhinos , Elephants , Leopards , hyenas and many other animals !
The goal is to keep an eyes one the balance of this large private reserve of 30,000 hectares. Volunteers go on drive twice per day to look for these majestic animals , especially lions. Our most precious ally is the telemetry ( antenna who lets you know the position of animals) ,so all volunteers learn how to use this tool to monitor lions, elephants and leopards who wear a collar. Volunteers have also the opportunity to spend a full day in the bush to check the condition and the location of Black Rhino ( endangered species ) . The day on the quad is an opportunity to discover the most remote areas of the reserve but also to discuss with your guide every aspect of wildlife that interests you. The two classic safaris are an opportunity for the staff of LEO to teach us a lot of things on vegetation , animal behavior ( predators, antelopes, rodents , hyenas, monkeys , birds ...... ) .
Volunteers can also assist in the maintenance of the reserve ( repair roads, remove trunks blocking roads in the reserve ( dead tree or « victims » of the elephants) . LEO 's staff can also arrange for you a sleep out and bushwalk (experience to live once in your life) .
So even if the safari ended in failure because we don't always find the animals, we always come back to base knowing a little more about the bush before our departure.
Selati is a private reserve which offers luxury to LEO volunteers to be almost the only people allowed to drive in 30,000 hectares of bush . It allows us to observe the animals without being pressed by other vehicles.
Last but essential ! If you are not very comfortable with English Leo is happy to have guides who speak Italian, French , German and everyone is full of goodwill to help you to be more and more comfortable.
I share my experience with you because I took a long time to find a project that I was looking for. I finally found it, and I came to spend 2 months in Leo in November and December 2012. This experience was so great that I have been back other 2 months in June-July 2013 and planning to go back for a longer period in 2014 !

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

My amazing time at LEO Africa!!!

My time at LEO has been the best experience of my life! Monitoring lions,rhinos,elephants,leopards in a non-commerciale game reserve.LEO is a truly African experience that I'd recommend to everyone!:)

What would you improve about this program?
I think that the programme is perfect how it is. The staff is very friendly, the house is simple but comfortable (you can also book a couples room if you don't want to share the room), there is a small swimming pool and the drives and the black rhino monitoring are amazing - you can learn and see so much things that will Always stay in your memories!
The house runs of solar panels, so the only thing you have to get used to is to manage the bettery level of your electrical devices, but it can be seen as a Learning process for not waisting energy, which is very good!
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

What a privilege!!

I have always wanted to travel to Africa and as a single female traveller, never quite plucked up the courage to do so. That was until I found the LEO Africa project.
LEO made it easy to arrange my trip and right from the start, it was clear that the staff were very supportive by answering all of my questions about what to pack and what to expect and if you are willing to time your arrival in to Phalaborwa just right, the team will even pick you up and take you back on your departure.
If you arrive on the first flight, you may have to pass time with the staff in town to wait for anyone arriving later by bus. We had a wander around the shops, bought some supplies and then had a drink whilst getting to know a bit more about whom I was going to be staying the next few weeks with. It was during this time (and asking poor Stacey lots of questions) that I came to realise that we weren't going to 'play' at conservation, we were going to get quite hands on and play a vital role in to the research that maintains this contained and delicate eco system.
Upon arrival at the base camp, you are warmly greeted by all the other volunteers and staff, shown around, joined everyone for the evening meal and given your bed. I arrived after sun down and after a long 30 hour trip; I could only manage a few introductions before I was tucked up for an early night in my bunk!
Waking up on day 1, sitting on the patio at the back of the house with the sun rising over the koppies, this beautiful place hits you. The landscape is amazing, you can see for miles and knowing that this place is your home for the oncoming weeks is a good feeling.
The first morning, we were given a full orientation talk that covers the roles we would be doing, the rota's, the health and safety requirements and the rules of the house. The house is wonderfully self sufficient with solar power and a wood burning water boiler for the hot water. During this, if you weren’t already, you will become aware of the potential dangers of being in the wilderness. During my stay we had a sachs spider and a spitting cobra visit base camp. The staff are on hand 24 hours a day and are well trained in handling and capturing these animals. So, whilst the dangers are there, I felt safe at all times.
When the afternoon came, I and the other new arrivals got to go on our first drive and what an amazing first drive it was. We were to track 2 of the lionesses and the 2 cubs. It took us a while to get to the location that these lionesses were at but on the drive down we spotted white rhino, giraffe, impala, crazy guinea fowl, an endangered brown baboon spider to name but a few. Stacey (our guide and driver) answered all of our questions and started to teach us how to recognise the tracks and even what animal had produced the dung!
When we got the lionesses on a strong signal, everyone's adrenaline kicked in as we all fell silent and scanned the landscape for them. All of sudden, one of the other volunteers whispered 'she's there!' and sure enough, 10 metres ahead, one of the lionesses came out in to the clearing then followed by another. We sat quietly and stole a moment to take some photos but then they were gone and Stacey had to move quickly to off road to get our visual back. The signal told us the lionesses were on the move and quickly. Using the telemetry and all of our eyes, we continued to track the lionesses. Everything was quiet then the air was filled with the squeal of a warthog. The lionesses were hunting and had secured their meal. A bit more off roading and we got visual of the 2 lionesses again with their kill. Acacia, the mummy lioness, disappeared and Stacey told us to sit quietly and wait as she was probably off to fetch the cubs. We couldn't believe our luck when sure enough, Acacia returned with 2 of the cutest little things I've ever seen. We sat there, only about 10 metres away, for over an hour observing what most people will only ever get to see if they watch a David Attenborough documentary. It was at this moment that I realised that taking part in this programme was a privilege. It was a privilege that the landowners had opened up the opportunity for us to stay here, it was a privilege to be guided by such well trained staff, it was a privilege to share this experience with some amazing volunteers from all over the world and it was a privilege that the lionesses allowed us to spend that time with them.
I won't describe each of my drives but I will clarify that you cannot expect that each drive has a 'big 5' visual. One thing that you learn and appreciate is that you are not at a zoo, you are in the wilderness and the animals are not on demand and will grace you with their presence when they want to. Sometimes they will hide on the koppies or in thick bush where you can get so close you can hear them breathe but not see them. So whilst the programme cannot guarantee a 'big 5' visual on each drive, I can guarantee you that they will do everything they can to get the visuals needed for the research (even if this means a bumpy off roading experience) and that the Selati game reserve offers other equally stunning and beautiful wildlife which makes each drive special.
I still can't decide what my favourite moment was. Was it coming face to face with a curious hyena 5 metres ahead, was it the leopard that we spotted in Selati or the one that I saw at Kruger? Was it the rhino's or the elephants that were so protective of the calves crossing the road ahead? Was it finally seeing Mbhurri (the male lion)? The waterbuck that stared at us for too long? Learning about the vulture behaviour which led us to discover a kill? Watching the sunrise and sunset on the drives? The late night anti poaching watch and listening to the sounds of the bush? The sleep out in the river bed and being on watch for animals roaming in to camp?
There's too many more and it is impossible to say that one single thing was what made the experience. You’ll learn so much about the wildlife, about conservation, about the eco system and about the threats and challenges that the reserves and it’s animals face to ensure that the endangered animals survive.

Now for the questions that I had asked before I went -

What are the duties that you have to do?

Each day 2 of the volunteers will be responsible for the cooking of lunch and the cleaning of dishes after both lunch and the evening meal.

1 day a week, the safari vehicle is cleaned and every volunteer pitches in.

1 day a week, the volunteers will collect wood on the afternoon drive to burn for hot water.

Whilst out on drive, you will soon realise that the elephants like to knock down trees across the road so you will get involved in clearing the road. You will also get involved in building or repairing bolsters (bumps in the road) that help to control drainage on the roads in the rainy season.

Each drive had 3 jobs for the volunteers to complete, which we received training for. 1 person prepared phuza (drinks) for the drive, 1 person did the telemetry to track the signal on the animals and 1 person collected the data so that these could be entered in to the system when we got back to camp. The rest of us that weren't on rota were free to enjoy the drive, supporting the others by keeping an eye out and spotting for other wildlife.
The person who collects data on the morning drive will input the data in to the computer when they get back.

I was there during full moon which is a high risk time for poaching due to the poachers not needing additional light that gives them away. As such, the volunteers took it in turns to help with night watch. A shift at base camp where you maintained radio contact with the anti poaching teams across the reserve, listened for any unusual sounds and kept watch from the bases vantage point.

The rest of the time is yours to relax and enjoy the scenery, spend time with the staff to learn more and just clean up after yourself!

Other things you can do.

The staff will kindly help you arrange day trips if you wish to experience something out of the game reserve. You can pay for a member of staff to be your guide and the price to do this is really low. I chose to spend a day at Kruger National Park and a day doing the panoramic route. Both I can seriously recommend.

What to pack?

The LEO brochure has a full list; I would recommend taking heed of the advice. Whilst I was there, it was extremely warm during the day but on the afternoon drives, when the sun went down, it got cold. Everyone had brought jumpers, jackets etc but when you have to hold on to the truck whilst driving, your hands get icy!! It was only by accident that I had brought my gloves (they were still in my coat pocket) but these proved useful particularly for the people controlling the spotlight.

My advice? Stay for as long as you can as you will get more from your time with LEO than you could ever put in. It is a truly amazing experience and when you leave, it’s like leaving family. Everyone I was there with wants to come back and I am already in the process of organising my return. As cheesy as this sounds, LEO changed me. I am a project manager professionally and I am now looking to switch my skill set in to conservation projects.
So what are you waiting for? Volunteer, trust me, you won’t regret it!

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program


My name is Emanuele from Milan (Italy). I’m 35 and I spent all the month of August ’13 at LEO “Limpopo Eco Operations – Volunteers research programme” in South Africa.
It was my first experience as a volunteer and it was utterly amazing.
LEO is a wonderful association and the only one that offers volunteers the great opportunity of enjoying a real wildlife sanctuary natural reserve by learning about nature and all the animals.
I would recommend this experience to everyone who loves nature and wishes to live an unforgettable adventure. It is suitable to all people independently from their age, where they come from, their culture and their ways of daily life.
LEO’s main activity is focused on monitoring Lions and Black Rhinos, but during your volunteer’s activity you will come across in every kind of animal like white rhino, every species of antelope, colorful birds, eagles, vultures, giraffes, elephants and a huge quantity of many other animals that everyone dreams of to see in Africa.
At LEO there is a well prepared staff to face up every situation making you feel at home, comfortable and in security.
When you get LEO at your arrival, you will immediately receive a warm welcome and feel part of an amazing group of friendly people that are always ready to help you in every necessity of yours.
LEO is located in the middle of one of the most beautiful wildlife sanctuary nature reserves in the world. Its name is Selati Game Reserve. This area is closed to the traditional tourism, its access is only allowed to LEO’s volunteers and to nobody else. This last detail can already explain a lot of things to you, because you will be part of an environment thoroughly preserved from the human presence.
As a volunteer you will be supporting the staff in lions monitoring activities, for instance you can learn to manage the telemetry, an instrument to follow the radio collar lion’s signal, thus giving you a help to find out where that lion is located in the bush.
You will be living in a house shared with other volunteers and the staff. This will give you one more chance to make a lot of new international friends. Friends that you won’t forget for all your life and that may be you will wish to meet again in a next future.
I would deeply suggest visiting LEO’s website www.leoafrica.org to everyone interested in a wonderful new experience and do not hesitate to ask for any doubt or information you may need because you will know wonderful people such as LEO’s manager Sabrina always ready to help you in the best possible way.
Do not think over too much to be different from being only a tourist!
I will never forget this adventure and all the people I made friends with!