Overview

Travel to a private nature reserve in the savannahs of Southern Africa to study the spotted hyena using remote camera trapping AND get career training from Conservation Careers!

Travel to the savannahs of Southern Africa to study the spotted hyena using remote camera trapping. Participate in a range of other long-term conservation initiatives while atop a safari vehicle in a private nature reserve. In all your efforts contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #15, Life on Land.

Compile individual spotted hyena identification kits using remote camera traps. Assist researchers with learning how individual spotted hyenas travel around an area looking for food and compete with other spotted hyenas, as well as other predators like lions, leopards and cheetahs. This information is used to effectively manage the ecological balance in a protected nature reserve.

You will also contribute to other conservation activities, like monitoring other predators, rehabilitating the local habitat, and creating conservation awareness at local schools. Most weekdays are spent on a safari conservation drive through the nature and wildlife reserve. Each volunteer is assigned a specific duty on each drive. This might include using telemetry equipment to track predators, capturing the data noted, navigating through the reserve, or checking and tidying the vehicle. Our staff will guide you through our training program during your first week to ensure you are fully prepared.

Highlights

  • Contribute towards the conservation of the spotted and brown hyena.
  • Learn how to set up your own remote camera trapping study.
  • Work alongside Field Guide Association of South Africa, FGASA, qualified guides.
  • Wake each morning to a chorus of savannah birds and drift off to the night-time hum of endemic frogs and crickets.
  • Visit the famous Kruger National Park, only an hour away from where we are based.

Our Award-winning Partner

Conservation Careers has teamed up a family-run organisation with an amazing culture and an awesome team of people across the world who are passionate experts in their chosen field and will make your experience a truly unforgettable one (in a good way).

Their award-winning projects receive over 2000 participants every year, and we’re proud to say that the vast majority of them describe their experience with them as ‘life changing’. Their approval rate from over 20 000 participants since 1997 is over 95%.

A key component of the success of their community development and conservation projects is the participants who join their programs. Opportunities include high impact volunteering from one week and up, internships for those looking for career development opportunities, Challenges that allow a one week adventure all for a good cause and a range of programs for school groups and younger volunteers.

If you register your interest below, you’ll put you in touch with our partner to take the booking and to plan your trip!

See all our Conservation Careers Internship and Volunteering opportunities.

Location and life on base

Live in the heart of the South African savannah sharing a renovated farmhouse with Field Guides Association of Southern Africa qualified guides, other staff, and participants hailing from all four corners of the globe. Rise each morning to the sounds of an authentically African birdsong at dawn, and head out in open-topped safari vehicles to conduct research vital for the conservation of key predators species, like cheetahs and lions. Head back to camp, when the sun is at its height, input data, study, assist with cooking or tidying, or relax with other participants in our shared outdoor social space. When the African sun starts to set over the Drakensberg mountains at dusk, head out again to conduct further research. Return when the stars in the Southern night sky are at their brightest and share a meal and the day’s stories with fellow participants. In your free time, explore Kruger National Park, a 45-minute drive from your accommodation, or the Panorama Route, including the magnificent Blyde River Canyon.

Accommodation

Lodgings are large dorm-style rooms with shared bathrooms. The base is solar-powered to ensure less impact on the natural environment.

Meals

Most breakfasts feature cereal, oats, and fresh fruit, and or lunch, it’s usually sandwiches and salads. Dinner might be anything from a traditional South African ‘potjie’ stew to pastas and stir frys.

Communication

Our base has a good connection to local cell towers, and participants with unlocked mobile devices can purchase local SIM cards during a weekly town trip. There is wifi available but bandwidth is limited. For wifi use on personal devices, participants can purchase wifi vouchers from staff on base.

Transportation

Transport to conduct field research is provided by our vehicles and drivers.

Climate

Limpopo is well-known for its warm climate. Sunny days and low rainfall are the norm on most days throughout the year. Summer, starting in October and ending in March, coincides with the rainy season. Temperatures during this season can reach a sweltering 35°C . During this time the heat is often interrupted by a short thunderstorm which is usually a welcome respite. The start of the rainy season, in October, is also the perfect season to spot many baby animals as many animals give birth during spring.

Your impact

All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or UN SDGs. This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.

Upon arrival to base, you will be educated about the history of the UN SDGs. You will learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these goals on a global level.

Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to act as active global citizens after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.

Many of Africa’s wildlife species are under threat. Private reserves, like Karongwe, where we run our conservation project, are a haven for species at risk. Karongwe is located within the UNESCO protected Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Reserve. This biosphere represents only 1.4% of South Africa’s land, but contains 55% of the total natural life found here.

Karongwe Nature and Wildlife Reserve

Karongwe Nature and Wildlife Reserve was once made up of individual farms. In 1998 the landowners banded together to create a 8,000 hectare wildlife reserve. We were brought onto Karongwe in 2001 to monitor the large predators and herbivores on the reserve. This helps reserve management to understand the impact of predators on prey and maintain a healthy ecosystem by ensuring a balance of natural resources. Predators are often tracked using telemetry, or monitored using camera trapping, to learn how they use the space within the park, what their feeding behaviour is like, how they interact with one another and other predators. Herbivores might be counted, their numbers, age, and sex listed, and their impact on vegetation noted. This data is presented to Karongwe management and landowners on a weekly, quarterly and annual basis.  We also assist with anti-poaching efforts by compiling ID kits of any rhinos we come across and maintaining the park’s fences and roads. We also assist with removing old farm infrastructure and invasive alien plant species as well as working on soil rehabilitation to help with habitat recovery.

Cheetah Research and Conservation

Our cheetah research is conducted in conjunction with the Endangered Wildlife Trust, a conservation organisation who currently manage SA’s cheetah metapopulation. Cheetahs are a species listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List Of Threatened Species. They are a rather fragile species as they naturally have a low genetic diversity and are not able to compete well with other larger, stronger predators like lions and hyenas. Our study mainly focuses on how cheetahs make use of their kill by setting up camera traps near their fresh kill to see how much time the cheetahs spend on their kill and what potentially encourages them to leave. This helps to know how they are dealing with competition with other predators. We also collect data on breeding success.

Elephant Vegetation Impact Mitigation

In partnerships with Elephants Alive, who have been actively involved in elephant conservation for the past 20 years, we also conduct surveys of the impact elephants have on the local vegetation. Due to their habit of pulling up trees to eat the top leaves and roots, a large population of elephants can have a negative impact on a small environment, especially at risk species like the baobab tree. This might involved monitoring sensitive areas of the reserve and the movements of elephant groups, developing elephant identification kits, and analysing the effectivity of elephant vegetation destruction methods.

Bird Research and Conservation

We also contribute to the South African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2), the most important bird monitoring project in Southern Africa, and its largest citizen science database. Birds are appropriate indicators of ecosystem health because they are popular and well studied. The availability of significant, long-term datasets in South Africa makes birds a good choice for early-warning system for climate change impacts and other systematic, ecosystem-wide threats to broader biodiversity. The number of critically endangered birds in South Africa has increased from 5 in 2000 to 13 in 2017. One group in particular features particularly dramatic statistics, 22 of the 79 raptors occurring in the North-Eastern region of the country are now considered threatened. Of concern are the low numbers of scavenging raptors. Most of South Africa’s vulture species, as well as the Tawny Eagle and the Bateleur, two obligate scavengers, are listed as endangered or critically endangered. In December 2016, SABAP2 featured nine million records across 17339 pentads, five minutes of latitude by five minutes of longitude, squares with sides of roughly 9 km, in South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland. Selection of sites and habitats critical to bird conservation rely on this data. All other conservation initiatives depend on the results of the bird atlas, to a greater or lesser extent. On cannot determine the conservation status of a species unless you know its range and how this is changing.

Environmental Education

We also conduct environmental education programs at several schools in the area.

As the requirements of our partners change over time so do the details of our projects. We make ourselves available for conservation-focused mini-projects. This might include documenting bird of prey nesting sites or the creating a list of micro fauna species in the park. In the past we have partnered with a range of conservation organisations like Panthera and academic institutions like the University of Cape Town, Pretoria University, and Bournemouth University. Exact project details are also always subject to change due to weather conditions, time of year and animal movements.

As such, the specific United Nations Sustainable Development Goal we work on in Limpopo is #15, Life On Land.

Project Objectives

Karongwe’s Long-term Objectives:

  1. To provide long-term and consistent data for Karongwe Reserve Management to assist with Reserve Management decisions based on scientific data.
  2. Increase local awareness of our purpose and impact on Karongwe PGR.
  3. Increase scientific output.
  4. Contribute to three large scale reserve management projects alongside the Warden in accordance with the Reserve’s Management Plan.
  5. Increase our in-country capacity by providing environmental and conservation education and training and through community upliftment projects.

Exploration

Joining a program not only allows participants to collaborate with communities or work toward preserving unique ecosystems but it also offers plenty of opportunities to explore the surrounding area or travel further to see what other parts of the region have to offer.

Long term field staff are a great source of advice, and have helped us put together the following information on local travel options. Many decide to travel before or after their experience (subject to immigration restrictions), solidifying the lifetime friendships established on program. Please note that the below suggestions are not included in the program fee, and are for the individual to organise at their own expense.

Weekend trips

Skiing

South Africa might not come to mind as a top skiing destination, but at Tiffendale in the Drakensberg mountains you can rent skis or a snowboard and practice gliding down slopes.

Bungee jumping and ziplining

Awe-inspiring canyons dot the Drakensberg range, and many use the opportunity to experience the exhilarating thrill of bungee jumping for the first time. If you aren’t ready to dive headfirst into the canyons you can glide overhead, using the many zipline tours available in the area. This is an excellent way to see the spectacular landscape from a bird’s eye perspective.

Kinyonga Reptile Park

Learn more about Southern African reptiles by visiting the nearby ‘Kinyonga’ park, a name that means ‘little lion’ in Swahili in reference to the chameleon.

Kruger National Park

The famous Kruger National Park is a massive wildlife reserve where you can spot Africa’s big five, lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo, and, of course, the African bush elephant.

Further travels

Kalahari Desert

The rusty sanded expanse of the Kalahari stretches from South Africa, to Namibia and Botswana. Home to dunes reaching the heights of several buildings and a diverse range of wildlife, including the majestic oryx gazella, a visit to the desert is not to be missed.

Cape Town

Watch the African sun set over the top of Table Mountain, discover the southernmost point of Africa, Cape Agulhas.

Zululand

Further North, you’ll find the historic Zululand, as well as the grave and memorial of the famous leader, King Shaka.

Durban

Experience the unique cultural milieu of the coastal town of Durban on the coast of the Indian Ocean. Its warm waters make the city a haven for surfers.

Cultural immersion

Engaging intimately with a new context teaches not only global awareness but adaptability and critical thinking, skills highly valued in the modern marketplace. Local and cultural immersion is encouraged on all our programs around the world, and is also one of the most enjoyable aspects of your experience. Luckily, there are many activities you can get involved with in your free time, or before and after your program. On our community programs the focus is on cultural topics, while on marine or wildlife programs the emphasis is more on the environmental element. Use your evenings and weekends to explore diverse and eclectic topics like Theravada Buddhism in Laos or how plastic pollution and climate change affects Indian Ocean coral.

Karongwe Private Nature and Wildlife Reserve

Boasting more than 20 thousand acres of open savannah, Karongwe features some of the best wildlife viewing of any private South African wildlife reserve. It features the entire big five, including the elusive leopard.

Limpopo

The Northernmost region of South Africa, the Limpopo province features some of the best opportunities for wildlife in Southern Africa. It is sparsely populated and borders Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

South Africa

Possessing one of the highest biodiversities in the world and the home to many of the most threatened African wildlife, South Africa is a nature, wildlife, and adventure lover’s paradise, featuring species like lions, cheetah, rhinos, and many other  unique species.

BONUS! Kick-starter online training for Early Career Conservationists (worth £295)

Conservation CareersFeeling lost in your conservation job hunt? Want to work in conservation, but don’t know where to start? Get your career on track with the Kick-starter online training for Early Career Conservationists designed to help you understand the job market, to navigate your career options, and to get hired more quickly.

Whether you’re at university and planning your next steps, a graduate in the job hunt or working in an unrelated job but interested to switch into conservation, this course is designed to help you.

This unique online course has been designed to increase your chances of success, and is being specially organised and run by Conservation Careers.

All you need to do is register your interest in the project below, and if you choose to make a booking we’ll save a place for you on our course when you get back from your placement.

Included in the course is a year’s full-access membership of the Conservation Careers Academy, which includes access to over 8,000 jobs, 1,500 training courses, live training events and many more career-boosting options.

Duration, dates and cost

  • 1 week – £1,545
  • 2 weeks – £1,845
  • 4 weeks – £2,495
  • 6 weeks – £3,095
  • 8 weeks – £3,745
  • 10 weeks – £4,345
  • 12 weeks – £4,995

Start dates are as follows:

  • 2021: 06 Feb; 20 Feb; 06 Mar; 20 Mar; 03 Apr; 17 Apr; 01 May; 15 May; 29 May; 12 Jun; 26 Jun; 10 Jul; 24 Jul; 07 Aug; 21 Aug; 04 Sep; 18 Sep; 02 Oct; 16 Oct; 30 Oct; 13 Nov; 27 Nov

What’s included

  • 24-hour emergency desk
  • 24-hour in-country support
  • Access to Alumni Services and Discounts
  • Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
  • All necessary project equipment and materials
  • All necessary project training by experienced staff
  • Location orientation
  • Long term experienced staff
  • Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)
  • Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
  • Welcome meeting

Increasing Employability: Pre Departure Program Training:

Our programs are not only life-changing experiences but are also designed to help participants increase their employability. We have developed a curriculum to be completed prior to arrival in the country in order to ensure that more time is dedicated to program work once you commence your volunteer program.

Eight weeks prior to your start date, you will complete the following online courses in preparation for your in-country program:

PRE-DEPARTURE ORIENTATION (1 hour)

PROGRAM SPECIFIC TRAINING (1 – 5 hours)

OPTIONAL: WILDLIFE CONSERVATION COURSE (10 – 15 hours)

In order to obtain a certificate for the Wildlife Conservation course which is endorsed by the University of Richmond and UNC Charlotte, you will need to complete quizzes & assignments and will be given 4 weeks post program to submit your work.

If you are looking to travel in less than 8 weeks from now, you will still complete the course however this will be done in country and all content will need to be downloaded before arrival.

Health & Hygiene:

The work we contribute to across the globe remains important and new measures allow our participants to continue to join our programs and continue impacting positively on their world and the communities we work with. Changes to our existing protocols have been made by our health and hygiene team to strengthen our health and hygiene protocols and ensure that international standard safeguards are in place to protect our participants, staff and host communities. Please inquire for more information on the protocols.

What’s not included

  •  Additional drinks and gratuities
  • COVID-19: Health and Hygiene Fee
  • Extra local excursions
  • Flights
  • International and domestic airport taxes
  • Medical and travel insurance
  • Personal items and toiletries
  • Police or background check
  • Visa costs (where necessary)

Reserve your place or ask a question