SOUTH AFRICA: Big 5 Conservation

South Africa

Adventure Overview:

  • 2 weeks
  • 3 weeks
  • 1 month

The award winning Game Reserve in northern Zululand, South Africa, is 14,000 hectares of pristine bush and is home to Africa’s infamous Big 5 including Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo, Black and White Rhino and many other key animals as well as over 400 species of birds.

In 2006 the Foundation  launched a conservation research program. The breitling replica watches program includes the monitoring of elephant and black rhino.  The research program involves the University of Nataland the Wildlands Conservation Trust as well as other conservation and wildlife agencies in research.

The project's partnership with neighbouring communities has been strengthened by the raising of funds that seek to involve such communities in education programs centered on biodiversity and community based natural resource management.

Here you will help the research work by gathering information in the field and spend time in the bush on conservation initiatives. You will spend some time entering captured data onto a computer to be shared with relevant researchers and authorities. The focus of this project is to monitor the endangered Big Five African animals (lion, leopard, Rhino, Elephant and Buffalo) and to assist in vital conservation within the reserve.

During your time here you will help the research work by gathering information in the field and spend time in the bush on conservation initiatives. You will spend some time entering captured data onto a computer to be shared with relevant researchers and authorities.

Big Cats...

In the last thirty years we have seen an alarming decrease in the population numbers of the cat family in southern Africa. The Thanda foundation has teamed upwith The African Lion & Environmental Research Trust ( to put together a tracking and monitoring program essential to the conservation ofthese magnificent animals.
As recently as 1975, over 200,000 lions may have roamed the African continent. In 2002 estimates put the population between 23,000 and 39,000, representing an 80 –90% decline in less than 30 years.    
Thanda game reserve is also home to the Leopard.  In the past, leopards have also been victims to habitat loss; farmers often considered Leopards a nuisance to cattleand as a result frequently shot or hunted them.  Numbers decreased due to immigration and lack of food as well as extensive numbers being illegally poachedfor their valuable skin and body parts.  
During your volunteering time you will be specifically focusing on the hunting, social, territorial and reproductive behaviors of the lion population.  Other data will also be collected to improve our understanding of the behaviors and you may be involved with observations

The rhino population..

The rhino population in Africa dramatically decreased after a long and devastating period of hunting and poaching.  Due to conservation efforts we have seen a huge increase in population numbers in recent years.  In 1960 the total number of black Rhino’s was at least 100 000, and today there are fewer than 3 500 left.  Most of these survive in southern African countries where there are good protection measures and as a result we are beginning to see a gradual population increase in this magnificent species.

This Game Reserve released Black Rhino into the park in 2009 as part of the Endangered Species reintroduction program. Their movements are tracked by the anti-poaching team. You will spend your time with a guide in the bush to capture information on the movements of the rhino, the habitats they favour and their general health. You will also be involved in the removal of snares, which are a danger to the animals.

Black Rhino are mainly nocturnal animals and so some of your time will be spent monitoring the movements of the Black Rhino from the safety of a vehicle at night. This will give a fantastic experience of night time in the African bush!

The elephant population..

 The Foundation has partnered with the Space For Elephants Foundation, which is a national organisation endeavoring to create more space through a network of corridors throughout South Africa to support the natural migration of elephants.

Conflict with humans is a major issue for elephants in the region, but understanding how to mitigate the conflict first requires an understanding of the ecology of the species within the Park.

The data collected on Elephant research will be used by Space for Elephants to secure a future for elephants, and to help sustain the beauty and ecological integrity of the places where they live.


  • Live in the heart of a Big 5 game reserve.
  • Carry out research on endangered wildlife within the reserve to provide information for the Thanda Foundation, Space for Elephants and Alert.
  • Partake in research drives and conservation activities.
  • Monitor the night time movements of the predators in the park. Monitor the movements and behaviors of the 2 herds of elephants the 2 lion prides.
  • Assist with weekly game counts.
  • Assist on conservation initiatives within the Park such as alien plant control, soil erosion and assisting the reserve management where needed.
Cost Breakdown:
2 weeks€1625
3 weeks€2063
1 month€2500
2 months€4376



What is Included?

  • Accommodation
  • Food
  • 24 / 7 Support
  • Training
  • Adventure Package
  • Information Pack
  • Accommodation: You will stay in beautiful and comfortable twin cabins set in the Game Reserve overlooking a water hole which is commonly visited by the animals in the park! A great viewing point for budding photographers & artists too. There is a large communal thatched building with areas to dine, relax, and to watch the animals. The accommodation is staffed with cooks and cleaners and all bed linen is provided.
  • Food: You will be provided with three meals a day. Breakfast is on a help-yourself basis and usually consists of cereals, toast, tea and coffee. Lunch and dinner are full meals, and will be cooked for you by one of our cooks at the reserve.
  • Training: All volunteers setting out on an adventure with us receive pre-departure training to help you prepare for the experience ahead. This training covers all the areas you need to think about before you pack your bags. It gives you time to focus and prioritise, and provides you with the knowledge and information you need in order to have a safe, fulfilling and enjoyable adventure. On arrival at your project you will also receive orientation training which will help you to better understand the local culture and support you as you find your way around this new country. On your return we will also support you as you readapt to life back home. We encourage you to keep in contact with us and consider opportunities for you to stay connected to the work you have been part of with Agapé. In addition to all of this training you will also receive a comprehensive welcome pack full of useful information on your project, the country and the culture, as well as detailed safety and communication lists.
  • Support: Agapé Adventures respects that each person is unique, and thus has different needs, and we endeavour to meet those genuine needs as effectively as we can. All volunteers are supported by Agapé every step of the way. You will be allocated a line manager to assist you in the day to day aspects of your adventure and staff at Agapé’s main base who will be available 24/7 for any out of hours emergencies. All staff involved in supporting you, work together to provide coordinated, personal and professional support throughout your adventure. 
  • Adventure Package: It would be unforgiveable to be living in such stunning scenery without exploring your surroundings! Here are some of the highlights for you to do in your spare time at weekends. These are not included in your volunteering fee, but our coordinators are able to assist you with making the necessary booking arrangements. All arrangement are made from the project and cannot be pre-booked: • Game drives in the beautiful Hluhluwe and Umfolozi National Parks (R1000) • 4 day photographic workshop in the Drakensberg Mountains (R4800) • Weekend trips to swim with Dolphins in Mozambique (R3800) • Visit the rugged scenery of Swaziland and experience the cultural heritage (R2850) • Game drives to the Tembe Elephant park, home to the largest Tuskers in Southern Africa and living with the Tonga people (R1000) • Weekend trips to the seaside town of St Lucia (R650) to do Whale Watching (seasonal – R850), to spend time on the beach or take a boat trip to see Hippos and Crocodiles up close (R300) (N.B Prices are a rough guideline and are likely to fluctuate. None of these are guaranteed departures and are totally dependent on availability and demand)
  • Airport Collection & Drop Off: The nearest airport to the Game Reserve is Durban. There are daily flights from Johannesburg or Cape Town to Durban. You will be met as you enter the terminal building and driven for 3 hours back to the reserve. Whilst on your project you will be transported by our team and park rangers and guides. Note: You will be picked up from the airport at 1.30p.m on the Sunday before the project orientation starts, if you are unable to arrive before this time please organize your flight to arrive on the Saturday. We will be happy to recommend overnight accommodation if required.

What Isn't Included

  • Stipend
  • Visa
  • Flights
  • Insurance

What will I do?:

During your time in this amazing project you will have a wide range of activities and a lot of hands on experience. Throughout the week the focus will vary depending on the areas of research required during that time of year. To give you a basic overview of the type of work you can expect with be involved in: 

  • Monday through to Friday, you will participate in 2 activities per day, which usually include game research drives or conservation activities.  
  • Monitor the behavior, feeding patterns and movement of the 2 elephant herds 
  • Collate and record data on a pride of lions in the bush by observing hunting, social, breeding and territorial behavior at various different times of the day. This also involves some night drives.
  • Monitor the rhino population to support the data recorded by the anti-poaching team during the day. This will help the reserve managers to understand the health of the animals, which are part of an endangered species reintroduction program.
  • Capturing data as required by the reserve management team on their ongoing endangered species work , plus assist in doing regular game counts
  • Carry out physical work to help regenerate natural bush from reclaimed farmland including the prevention of further soil erosion and the removal of old fences to avoid injuries for animals.
  • Contribute to the long term strategy of removal of Alien Plants from the park.

The Local Area

Zululand is a world of fascinating contrasts and incredible beauty, a unique experience! From the Seven Kings who lie buried in the South,swisstopwatches to the Big Five in the North, the Zululand District surprises with its diversity and down to earth hospitality.

It is aptly branded the Heart of the Zulu kingdom, this place where many clans and tribes came together hundreds of years ago to be molded into a great nation. But the Heart of the Zulu Kingdom is more than just a place. lt is a vital part of the nation, and the visitor to Zululand can feel its powerful presence in the people's immense pride in their own heritage and culture.

So if you want to understand Zululand must take journeys to both the place and its spirit. Both Journeys are breathtaking one through this magnificent country, with its wealth of natural beauty and teeming wildlife, and the other into the minds and culture of its people.

You should also go to battlefields where thousands of Zulu warriors fought and died, and earned their reputation as a nation of fearsome fighters. The Zulus also have many ceremonies and one of the most impressive is the Royal Reed Dance Festival held in eNyokeni Royal Residence near Nongoma, each year. Ceremonies like this are all impressive sight and, like many of Zululand's spectacles, will not be easily forgotten.

Map of the Area



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