South Africa is a true paradise for nature lovers. Unfortunately, poaching and the destruction of natural habitats is causing a worrying decline in this incredible biodiversity. Due to the increase in ivory trading, the African elephant is now endangered and the number of rhinos has decreased dramatically. In addition, in some areas, lion hunting has been made legal. In light of these problems, this project makes a significant contribution to the preservation of the species by providing the animals with a protected and controlled habitat in the wildlife reserve. The reserve keeps the experience as authentic as possible for the animals. Habitats are based on the wild and animals are not touched or handled unless they are sick or pregnant and require medical treatment.
The volunteer work site is a 10,000 acre nature reserve (approximately 150 km from Port Elizabeth), which has been privately owned for several years. With expertise and great respect for nature, the formerly agricultural area has been restored to it’s original natural state. The land, set inside a valley with access to two rivers, wooded hills and savannah’s boasts five distinct habitats. These habitats are home to a variety of animals, including the famous Big Five.
You’ll be volunteering in three different areas; Research, Conservation and Education. In Research, you can use remote sensing techniques to observe the movement patterns of elephants around their use of the nature reserve area to determine their impact on vegetation. Similar tasks arise for the leopard, lion and rhino populations. In Conservation, you can expect more diverse tasks such as, controlling irregular vegetation, data collection on sex and age of certain species, administering medicine to unwell animals, controlling soil erosion, cleaning and maintenance work. When it comes to education, once a week you will have the opportunity to visit a local school. Near to the reserve, a school has been built on a farm but it is lacking in both funding and teachers. The building is in poor condition and often requires repairs, which is where you come in! The students and staff alike are always grateful for help from visitors.
Working hours are from Monday to Friday between seven and nine hours a day, depending on season and weather. On Saturdays, excursions are made to the nearby cities, such as the coastal town of Kenton-on-the-Sea. The Eastern Cape region is also a popular choice for visitors as it offers a variety of activities, such as horse riding, skydiving and deep sea diving. On Wednesday evenings, our volunteers take a trip to the local pub. If the weather holds out, you can also go camping, our volunteers love spending the night around the campfire looking up at the stars!
It’s important to note that animals roam freely around the reserve, so it is necessary that you stay behind the fence surrounding your accommodation. You can not go jogging or take an evening stroll, as it could be very dangerous!