Conservation Research Assistant Program in South Africa
100% Rating
(9 Reviews)

Conservation Research Assistant Program in South Africa

Operation Wallacea is a research and environmental organisation, working alongside university and college academics to build long term datasets to put towards various conservation management goals. We recruit volunteers to help out with the data collection, and train them in the skills and background that's needed to help effectively. There's also the option to complete dissertations or senior theses at our sites.

The South Africa projects are dotted around a number of different reserves within the country, with each focused on assessing the environmental impact of the game and large mammal species, especially elephants, within the reserves. The projects are two to six weeks in length, with some of them involving an additional week at our marine site located in Sodwana Bay, where you can learn to dive.

Locations
Africa » South Africa
Length
2-4 Weeks
1-3 Months
Language
English
Starting Price
$0.00
Currency
USD

Questions & Answers

Program Reviews

  • Impact
    98%
  • Support
    99%
  • Fun
    93%
  • Value
    98%
  • Safety
    98%

Program Reviews (9)

Default avatar
Katie
Female
21 years old
Worcester
University of Worcester

My South African Adventure

10/10

My Expedition in South Africa was one of the best months of my life.
For my expedition, I spent 3 weeks in the Thanda game reserve, and then a week at Sodwana Bay UNESCO World Heritage site where I learnt to scuba dive, and discovered the wonders of the world below the surface of the ocean.

During my expedition, I worked in a close team of 11 student researchers, and had 2 field guides. For time time in the field, there were normally 8-9 students and the two guides (with the other 2/3 students using the day to do data input and species identification). The whole experience was so tailored, and the feelings of accomplishment at the contribution that we made was worth every moment. For weeks 2 and 3, the research was basically all collected by us students and we were allowed to get on with out own data collection and arrange the daily task allocations between us. During this time we were studying the habitat of the reserve to see what impact the elephants have been having on the site, depending on how long they had been using the areas for. One of my favourite tasks was the mourning bird count surveys were we did point count collection, stood silently in a circle atop some beautiful hills, listening to the sounds of the birds, watching the sun rise - it was well worth the early mornings.

During the day, the commute to the habitat sites would provide the true safari experience where you drive around seeing all sorts of spectacular wildlife. From elephants to giraffe, and from zebra to hyena, we came up close and personal with some species which I thought I would never get the chance to see.

We also spent the evenings on game drives, where we would complete short transects to look for any game we could see (and anything else that we thought was interesting!), and on other nights we would go for bush walks where we would just enjoy a walk around the savanna without the burden of data collection. This was where I had some of my best encounters - and probably some of the most dangerous!
I remember one evening, walking through some fairly tall grass, looking around me and then all of a sudden walking into the person in front (boomf!). It took me a while to realise that we'd all stopped, and the guide was telling us to turn around and walk back. We'd accidentally walked within 8ft of a pair of cheetah! Luckily these cheetahs were great hunters, and were more than full enough from the evening before to take interest in 6 gangly students - i'm not sure we would have tasted very nice anyway!

On another occasion, we were lucky enough (or unlucky enough, you decide) to come across a very large bull elephant, all but about 10ft away, wanting to come down our path! The best our guide could do was talk to it calmly and try and usher it away - that's what I call surreal!

I can't pick a favourite part of this expedition.
The people were amazing.
The country was beautiful.
The animals were spectacular.
The experience was first-class.
The diving was a whole new passion I hadn't yet discovered.
Everything was absolutely exactly what I would want from the experience, and so, so much more!

I'd honestly say that if you're looking for a way to spend a month this summer, then this is the thing to do.

How can this program be improved?

No improvements!

Default avatar
Mariah
Female
22 years old
Philadelphia
Delaware Valley College

Once in a Lifetime

10/10

This has been the most amazing experience of my life so far. It was more than a safari ride could give you. We were able to stop and look at any wildlife that was new or interesting to us. Being able to go out into the bush and conduct research helped verify more that this is what I want to do in my life. I would recommend this to anyone that has a love for wildlife and looking for a way to help it.

How can this program be improved?

Communication between internal travel and the program in charge of it could be improved.

Default avatar
Mary
Female
22 years old
Barto
Other

Mornings in South Africa

10/10

I am not a morning person. Yet I had no trouble getting up at 5:30 in the morning because I knew I was going to be able to see the sun rise over the South African countryside from the back of a pick-up truck. I remember one of the first mornings we went out, a fog hung low over the grass and the sun was just breaking through the trees, then suddenly I saw a dozen zebras and a family of giraffes who were silhouetted against the sun. It was breath taking. It was an amazing experience and I can't wait to go back!

How can this program be improved?

I think one of the main deterrents for people is the cost. Maybe if OpWall helped more to raise funds, more people would be willing to go.

Default avatar
Amber
Female
24 years old
aberdeen
University of Aberdeen

A life changing experience and you'll want to go back!

10/10

I went on the South African 2-week experience to Dinokeng. It was one of my best experiences in my life!

I won't ever forgot my first early morning drive. It was very very cold and in the back of the moving truck it was even colder. But when the sun started to rise and the full splendour of the area was revealed, you forgot about the cold. It was amazing! There was a stretch of land, densely populated with Zebras, Giraffes, Kudos and Impala and they were peacefully grazing while looking at us driving past. This site moved me so much, I teared up. I loved this trip, I learnt so much and it has increased my passionate for animal conservation. If I got the chance, I would love to go back.

Thank you Opwall and everyone on their team, you made my trip amazing! It was well worth the money!

How can this program be improved?

I do not think this program needs to be improved.

Rebecca
Female
20 years old

South Africa 2016

10/10

This experience was well coordinated in regards to providing education as well as a fabulous experience. I felt safe at all times despite being within close range to the wildlife. Driving up the main road and spotting elephants at the side was just magnificent. I also never thought inwoukd ever see a serval in the wild, especially during the day! Or see a cheetag having his dinner within a few metres of me. The opwall staff were wonderful as was our guide, an experience of a lifetime!

How can this program be improved?

If only i could have been there longer!

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Lisa
Female
21 years old
Kitchener, Ontario
University of Waterloo

A Month In SA Wasn't Even Enough!

10/10

I am an avid fan of travelling and I grew up in Europe. But of everything I've seen and everywhere I've travelled so far, nothing compares to South Africa. The trek to get there was the longest I've ever been on, but to spend a month in the SA bush and then a week on the coast learning to scuba dive was the most immersive and culturally exciting trip I've ever taken! I'd recommend visiting 100 times!

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Hollie
Female
24 years old
Nottingham
University of Nottingham

Expedition 2013

10/10

Fantastic experience of real african bush. Always felt safe and taken care of and made some fantastic friends. Would recommend to anyone who loves african wildlife and conservation. Favourite experience was waking up for the sunrise in camp and being less than 100 metres away from a family of hippos.

How can this program be improved?

A day off from lectures and data collection to relax and enjoy the area

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Mandii
Female
24 years old
United Kingdom
Canterbury Christ Church University

The most breathtaking experience

10/10

My time in South Africa was the most amazing experience for me. Meeting new people and seeing the most breathtaking views was the highlight of the trip. The staff look after you and help whenever you need it, and they are fun as well. I would most certainly recommend this trip to everyone as South Africa is the most beautiful place. My only problem was that two weeks was not enough. I enjoyed every second of the trip!!

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E.
Female
24 years old
United States
Rutgers University

An Unforgettable Experience

10/10

I learned more during this expedition than I ever thought I would. The combination of lectures and bush excursions makes for a fantastic learning experience. It opened up my eyes to brand new perspectives that i had never thought of before. There is a great balance of work and play, though you will be exhausted every day you're there.. so much gets packed in every day! I wouldn't trade my experience for the world.

About The Provider

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Operation Wallacea is a network of academics from European and North American universities, who design and implement biodiversity and conservation management research programmes. Research is supported by students who join the programme, to strengthen their CV or resume or collect data for a dissertation or

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