The iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, will be your workplace for the research activities during this exciting species conservation project. The vast park in its entirety contains three major lake systems, eight interlinking ecosystems, is home to most of South Africa’s remaining swamp forests, Africa’s largest estuarine system, more than 520 bird species and 25.000 year-old coastal dunes – among the highest in the world. The Eastern Shores Section of the Park is where the leopard survey will be taking place and where you can find a variety of habitats and numerous different wildlife species. The whale monitoring project takes place in Cape Vidal, a scenic coastal region and natural habitat of different turtle, bird and mammal species.
After your arrival at the airport in Richards Bay you will be picked up for a fee of approx. 115€ and taken to the city of Mtubatuba, where a staff member will meet you to take you to your accommodation in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. After getting there you will meet the rest of the team and staff members and receive an introduction to the project’s goals and tasks, including safety regulations. Your team of approx. six volunteers will be divided into groups consisting of two people rotating throughout a two-week cycle between the whale and leopard project.
While you are part of the leopard survey team you will take part in doing research on the local leopard population with the help of camera traps. These will be installed on different spots across an area of 100 to 120 km² to collect data about the population density and gauge population trends over time. Depending on what stage of the survey you arrive, you will support the staff members as a volunteer with a variety of tasks. These include e.g. construction and reduction of camera traps to move the project to a different location. Primarily though, you will help downloading photos from the camera traps, recoding the data and managing the camera trap sites. While you are on your way to checking the traps, you will have the chance to witness the region’s fascinating wildlife.
After you’ve finished the daily project tasks you and your team will get back to your accommodation and have time to have dinner together and relax.
If you’re interested, please note that this project does not involve any direct interaction with wild animals. We are strongly against breeding young lions for canned hunting, and have therefore signed the strict code of conduct of the organisation CACH ( Campaign Against Canned Hunting). We can provide additional information if required. We realise that some of the people on our projects in Southern Africa want to see as many animals as possible in their natural environment. However, this is dependent on a number of factors. Please note that NATUCATE makes no guarantee that you will see a variety of animals, in particular the big five. To make such a guarantee would be unprofessional and against our corporate philosophy.
During your time at the project you will be accommodated in a spacious volunteer house together with other team members. The house is situated not far away from Lake Banghazi which is close to the coast – you will most likely have the chance to listen to hippos bathing in the lake. The house has four bedrooms, which are usually shared by two volunteers, as well as a shared bathroom and a communal kitchen. There is also a lounge and an outside seating area including barbecue, which invites for relaxed gettogethers after work. All volunteers need to take care of their daily meals. You will have access to a stock of groceries which you can use to prepare your meals. It is possible to take care of a vegetarian diet. Furthermore, the volunteer team is in charge of keeping the house clean and tidy. The volunteer house provides electricity and, in general, a working phone connection. Internet is available via ethernet cable. To keep the team efficient and small the group of volunteers in general does not consist of more than 10 volunteers.
Everybody interested in volunteering abroad should be able to adjust to entirely unfamiliar standards of living in their future host country. Therefore, we would like to point out the importance of being flexible and adaptable regarding the accommodation and sanitary facilities provided by the project. Those are very basic and – depending on the project – cannot be compared to European standards. The equipment and furnishings are limited to a minimum; air conditioning is not available. Depending on your host country occasional power blackouts or water outages are quite common. Please contact us if you have further questions about your accommodation. We are pleased to provide you with comprehensive information since we would like you to feel entirely prepared for your time abroad.
At noon, after returning from your morning surveys, you have some time to take a rest and relax. You are welcome to play games with the others, read or just enjoy the surrounding nature. In the evening you also have time for yourself.
The last shore-based survey of humpback whales along the coastline of KwaZulu Natal was carried out in 2002. However, given the growing threat to the population of the humpback whales – such as oil and gas exploration, marine pollution and climate change – it is very important to ensure a consistent monitoring of the animals. This way population trends can be tracked and threats and impact can be determined to develop suitable conservation measures.
Over the period of 18th June to 13th August 2018 such a shore-based survey on migrating humpback whales will be conducted by our partner in cooperation with other organizations. The captured data provides valuable information about the population of the whales, their distribution, behaviour patterns, and habitat use. It also makes it possible to compare these results with the ones of the 2002 survey to gather information on the recovery and growth patterns, as well as prevailing threats for the humpback whales.