Kariega Wildlife Conservation Experience



Volunteers are accommodated in a renovated, fully furnished house on the reserve - comfortable but not luxurious.  You will be sharing bedrooms (bedding provided for you) and there are communal bathrooms (2 bathrooms in the house).  There is an entertainment / lecture room with a pool table, a lounge with a T.V (South African channels only), dining room and a fully equip kitchen with a fridge, stove, microwave, cutlery, crockery and cooking utensils.  There is a safe for cash and small valuables on site.  

Please bear in mind that the house is in the middle of a "Big 5" game reserve, so therefore one cannot walk outside the boundaries of the garden fence.  A plunge pool is situated in the garden for volunteers to cool off in after a hard day’s work.   There is also a “braai” (BBQ) area outside in the garden. 


All the ingredients for three basic meals a day are provided.  Volunteers are divided into cooking teams and all meals are made by the volunteers themselves at the house. Volunteers are also responsible for washing up and keeping the kitchen clean and tidy. The meals are basic, for example cereals, porridge and toast for breakfast; sandwiches for lunch and lasagna, veggies and salad for supper.  If volunteers wish to add ingredients to meals that are not available to them at the volunteer house, they can buy it on town trip days at their own expense.  Please note, we only cater for people with no dietary requirements as well as for vegetarians.  If you have a gluten or diary allergy for example, you will need to buy your own gluten-free bread or soy milk.  These special products you will find readily available at our local supermarkets to buy on Saturday town-trips.  Meals that volunteers choose to eat at restaurants on town-trip days, are also at own expense.


All the laundry is done by the volunteer programme's domestic helper, Nomelia, in a washing machine on site.  She also assists in cleaning the house.  Please note that the laundry is fairly basic, and expensive clothes go into the wash at your own risk.  No ironing will get done for you – dry clothes are however neatly folded.  There is an iron and ironing board available in the house should you choose to iron certain garments yourself.  Please remember though that you are on an Africa trip in the bush, so don’t fuss too much! 

Come join Kariega Game Reserve as a conservation volunteer...Make a real difference, grow your skills in conservation and have the experience of a lifetime!

Kariega Game Reserve is an extraordinary and exciting conservation project working with wildlife, at the forefront of numerous species reintroductions and conservation drives. If you want more than just a safari … come and get your hands dirty and learn more about conservation management on a Big 5 game reserve in Africa.

Kariega’s Wildlife Management conservation project is the ultimate Big 5 experience in Africa, where volunteers from across the world, get the opportunity to get hands-on involved in conservation management on the reserve. During your stay, you may see yourselves as “Assistant Conservation Managers”, as all the work done and data collected by you on wildlife will be utilized by Kariega Game Reserve for conservation on the reserve.


Research Projects

Elephant impact monitoring 

Volunteers will help monitor elephant movement patterns, range utilization and vegetation impact with the aid of telemetry (certain individuals are fitted with radio collars). A part of this research project that volunteers are very involved with, is recording the unique ear markings of each elephant for management purposes.  Elephant identification sheets are given to each volunteer, who in turn will assist the conservation department in this regard. 

Population status of leopards   

Leopards have been persecuted in the Eastern Cape for the last three hundred years, resulting in a decline in numbers and fragmentation of populations, placing the local population at risk of extinction. Virtually the entire landscape was hostile to them, and few leopards survived in only the most isolated areas. Recently attitudes towards large predators have shifted, and leopards are now legally protected. There has also been a recent shift in land use, with an increasing number of private nature reserves that complement the state-owned reserves in supporting conservation of biodiversity. Kariega Game Reserve is one of the oldest of these private nature reserves. These shifts suggest that the landscape is now more leopard-friendly, with decreased persecution and increased refuge areas. This project therefore aims to assess the status of leopards in the Lower Albany area and investigate the role of the Kariega Game Reserve as a refugee habitat for leopards, which may move across the Lower Albany area.  We are fortunate to have to support of the Centre for African Conservation Ecology of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University on this project.Currently we are trying to establish how many leopards occur on Kariega Game Reserve.  We have movement sensor cameras in place on the reserve and it is one of the Volunteer Programme’s tasks to monitor these cameras, change memory cards and record all images taken.  The cameras are moved around the property on a regular basis, to increase the chance of leopard sightings.

Lion prey selection monitoring 

​One of the volunteer programme’s responsibilities is to record as many lion kills as possible.  This data provides the conservation department at Kariega with valuable information regarding prey selection.   Certain lions on the reserve are fitted with radio collars, so volunteers will learn how to use telemetry tracking, whilst out on night drives.

Rhino monitoring

The estimated number of rhino poached during 2012 in South Africa is 633!  This crisis is the most significant conservation issue that South Africa has faced.  Kariega conservation volunteers help monitor and account for rhinos on the property on a regular basis. 

Birds in Reserve Project (BIRP) 

This project involves preparing a catalogue of the birds, bird numbers and their breeding status in the reserve as part of a project headed by the University of Cape Town’s Avian Demography Unit. 

Conservation Management

Conservation management activities form a large part of the volunteer programme.  Some of these activities involve physical work and therefore a certain level of determination from the volunteer’s side is required.  Keep in mind that the "reserve needs" are always taken into account and you will help to fulfil those needs as a volunteer.

Daily activities are interesting and varied, and could include assistance with some of the following:

  • Game Counts - Management must keep track of the population size of most species on the reserve and volunteers assist in the counts.
  • Alien Vegetation Control - Volunteers assist in the eradication and control of alien (non-endemic) plant species.  This aspect involves physical hard work!
  • Sex and age ratios recordings of specific species like eland and giraffe
  • Soil Erosion Control - Previous land utilization practices like cattle ranching has caused erosion gulleys in certain areas on the ​ reserve. These sites need to be rehabilitated. 
  • Reserve Clean-Up Operations - Volunteers assist in pulling out remaining old cattle fences and water pipes on the reserve.
  • Road maintenance and repairing of river crossings 
  • Parasite control – This involves the making-up and administering of anti-parasite meds to specific species (when required by the reserve) ​
  • And any other conservation management activity that might “pop-up” at the time and the reserve requires your assistance in

Volunteers may also have the opportunity to experience the following additional conservation activities: 

  • Capturing of Wild Animals – Our recent volunteers had the AMAZING once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to assist with the capture of the following species on the reserve: elephant, lion, rhino, hyena, giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, waterbuck, nyala and impala!! Please remember that captures only occur when required by the reserve and not for the sake of the volunteers.
  • Game Introduction - There is an ongoing programme for the introduction of additional game to the most recent acquired land by the reserve.  This section of the property is to be stocked with various different African mammal species. 
  • Fire Management - An important driving force in savanna ecosystems (depending on the time of year and fire regimes).

Education / Theory

Each volunteer will be given a field booklet, which can be taken home at the end of the placement.  Before you start with each practical task, the relative theoretical background on the subject will be discussed in the form of informal lectures.  The theory provides insight into the value of the practical activities in which you may participate. Mammal, plant and bird checklists are included in the booklet and will help you to identify different species at Kariega.

Practical education will be provided throughout your stay:    ​

  • Bush Walks, Game Drives and night drives - identification and discussion of various mammals, plants and birds 
  • Sleep Outs - Camping out in the bush around a campfire under the African sky (weather dependent)  

Community Development
We have identIfied an under-funded farm school near the reserve where our volunteer programme can make a real difference.  The school is small, yet very under-staffed and local kids aged 4 to 15 years attend the school.  Kariega volunteers visit the school one morning a week (not during school holidays or rainy days (most of the children walk about 10 km to attend school so if it rains, no one goes to school!), and make valuable contributions to the children’s education.  Our volunteers take many of the classes themselves and teach 6-12 year olds subjects like English, Maths and Science.  You might also help with the maintenance of the school’s facilities or by giving sport lessons to the kids.  A recent group of volunteers renovated a classroom (with a completely collapsed ceiling and floorboards!) for the pre-primary school kids.  Your contribution here is real, and both the children and the headmistress are very appreciative.  Guaranteed to leave you with a feeling of satisfaction!