LEO Africa - Wildlife monitoring, conservation & Sustainable living

Video and Photos

A male lion that we have been monitoring

About

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!

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

Impact

Environment, Conservation, wildlife monitoring, sustainable living

Related Programs

Questions & Answers

Reviews

9.23 Rating
based on 13 reviews
  • Impact 9.2
  • Support 9.2
  • Fun 9.1
  • Value 9.2
  • Safety 9.2
Showing 1 - 8 of 13
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Sabine
8/10
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.

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francesca
10/10
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!

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Chloé
10/10
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

Rachael
10/10
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.
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Silvio
8/10
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.
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Charlotte
4/10
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.

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Alessandra
10/10
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!

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Vanessa
10/10
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.