This award winning and Fair Trade Tourism certified conservation project focuses on the monitoring and conservation of leopards using remote camera trapping.
Volunteers work in a small group of up to 5 alongside a knowledgeable team of field and research staff. Getting out into the African bush on the back of 4x4 vehicles, you will help the team with their leopard monitoring activities as well as other wildlife you may encounter, including the Big 5.
You will have the chance to live and work on a reserve in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa, surrounded by the African wilderness and its fascinating wildlife!
Help the local team conduct Leopard population surveys working alongside Panthera, the international wild cat organisation.
The work focuses on using remote camera trapping on a number of different game reserves.
For each survey location the team drive to, volunteers may be involved in:
The camera trap surveys are used to estimate the leopard population levels and changes over time. The stations are set up along roads, animal paths and areas that the leopards are likely to visit such as river beds. Each station has two camera traps, to record both the left and right hand side of the leopard for accurate identification.
The survey work has a direct impact on protecting the leopard population in South Africa. As leopards range very widely, when they venture beyond park boundaries they come under many different threats. This can include being hunted for their skins or being killed by farmers protecting their livestock. Unfortunately, the population has declined as a result of these high hunting levels.
Through the monitoring and data collected by the camera trap surveys, it has helped to advance leopard conservation and directly influences policy makers and laws on leopard hunting and control.
The surveys are conducted on different reserves in the KwataZulu-Natal province for a period of around 8 weeks at each location. The reserve the local team operate on is dependent on where there is a need for data collection on particular leopard populations. Reserves have included Ithala Game Reserve, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, Tembe Park, uMkhuze Game Reserve, Manyoni Game Reserve and iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
The team are also looking for volunteers to join the Endangered Wildlife Conservation project.
Volunteers normally work 5 days a week with camera downloads on 4 days of the week, taking around 4-7 hours each day. After the camera trap sites have been visited and the photographs have been catalogued, you are free to relax at the camp on your days off.
Each 2 weeks volunteers travel back to airport and switch around for the next 2 weeks, picking up new arrivals and dropping off departing volunteers.
There are usually 2-5 volunteers at on each reserve at any one time with a maximum of 5, allowing you to work closely with the wildlife team.
This placement has been approved by the DofE as meeting the requirements for the Residential section of the Gold Award.
You will be supported by the local conservation and research team who you will work with and live alongside at the research bases.
Volunteers live on research bases which are located within the reserve the team are working on at the time. The bases are basic and functional but it’s an amazing experience as you are surrounded by forest, grasslands or bush, where you can enjoy the daily animal and bird activity in and around your new home!
Accommodation is basic but comfortable. Volunteers normally will share a room with 1-2 volunteers of the same gender, and there are separate shared bathrooms and a living/eating area. There is an outside seating area where you can sit at night under a blanket of stars. There is electricity, running water and flushing toilets.
There is limited WIFI at the bases so we recommend bringing an unlocked mobile phone and buying a local SIM card to access the internet.
Each base has a kitchen and ingredients are provided to prepare 3 meals a day. Volunteers normally help themselves to breakfast and lunch and either take turns or cook together for dinner.
Breakfast is normally porridge or toast. Typically lunch and dinner meals are rice/potato or pasta alongside meat or vegan substitute accompanied by cooked vegetables or salad. There is fruit available.
Vegetarians and vegans are welcomed and can be catered for, with beans, lentils, oatmeal and spinach available.
Volunteers work in small teams in the Northern KwaZulu-Natal region. The team conducts surveys rotating through a variety of reserves in the area, with each reserve having its own unique mix of wildlife that is encountered. Although the focus will be on the leopard population, the region is famous for having the highest biodiversity per square kilometre in Africa so you have the opportunity to encounter more wildlife than almost any other place you can visit in Africa!
Most free time is spent at your research base during breaks between daily monitoring drives and in the evenings relaxing around a camp fire under the stars listening to the sounds of the African bush! There are also normally 2 days a week when you will not be scheduled to work on the camera traps so volunteers can use this opportunity to relax at camp.
If staying longer than 2 weeks, you will also get to spend some time in the local village / town on the fortnightly transfer weekends.
Popular activities in South Africa that you might like to combine with your project are:
For more information on South Africa and some of the things we loved when we visited there please see our South Africa country page. This also features all our other South Africa volunteering projects as you might like to consider combining this project with one of the others we offer to make a trip of a lifetime!
There are hot and humid, rainy summers between October and April, and mild, dry winters between May and September. In the summer temperatures average around 30 degrees Celsius, but at times peak around 35-40 degrees Celsius. In the winter the mornings and evenings can be cold (especially on the back of a vehicle as you drive through the bush) but by midday temperatures are usually 20-25 degrees Celsius.
2019: 12 Aug, 26 Aug, 9 Sep, 23 Sep, 7 Oct, 21 Oct, 4 Nov, 18 Nov, 2 Dec, 16 Dec*, 30 Dec
2020: 13 Jan, 27 Jan, 10 Feb, 24 Feb, 9 Mar, 23 Mar, 6 Apr, 20 Apr, 4 May, 18 May, 1 Jun, 15 Jun, 29 Jun, 13 Jul, 27 Jul, 10 Aug, 24 Aug, 7 Sep, 21 Sep, 5 Oct, 19 Oct, 2 Nov, 16 Nov, 30 Nov, 14 Dec*, 28 Dec
* 4 week minimum duration on this start date
|2 weeks||£1295||GB Pounds|
|Each additional 2 weeks||£800||GB Pounds|
|Transfer fee||£140||GB Pounds|
Your fee covers the overseas costs of volunteering and the costs of running our organisation in the UK, on a non-profit basis. For more details and a breakdown of our costs please click here.
All monies paid to us are financially protected through The Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust Limited (ABTOT).
Fees in currencies other than GBP are indicative only and volunteers are invoiced in GBP. For current exchange rates please see www.xe.com
"If you want to get really involved in nature and conservation, I think this would be the perfect first step for you. If you want to do something with wildlife, but you’re not 100% sure of what to do or where to begin, the team are a really good bet. It’s not about saving the world in 2 weeks or however long you’re going to spend there; it’s about being conscious of the reality of what’s going on in Africa and how you can change something or contribute to a worthy cause. I learned a lot during my time with the team and feel that I now have the tools to spread the word and keep the wheel turning!"
"Possibly the best experience of my life. I learned so much, and it was something that will benefit my studies in biology. Seeing that there actually are other people with as much passion for wildlife as me, has given me new faith in the future of our planet."
"Volunteering in South Africa with this program was definitely one of the best choices I’ve made in my undergraduate career, and I am truly grateful for having chosen such a phenomenal program that carries out real conservation."
cameras deployed over 10 years
"It was an amazing experience that will stay with me forever! Pod Volunteer provided the ideal amount of support and guidance"Satvinder
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