Volunteer Abroad Species Conservation in South Africa

Wildlife Protection

Volunteering in Southern Africa

This animal protection project involves conservation of the wilderness and protection of endangered wild animals such as cheetahs, rhinoceros, African wild dogs, elephants, lions and leopards. The project works across several different Game Reserves in Zululand, each with a different conservation focus, and with differing animal species present on each reserve. Your entire training will take place while on the job in the African bush. You will learn how to locate the wild animals at risk, using various instruments, how to read their tracks and how to document their behaviour and feeding patterns. The project works in collaboration with the WWF, which also partially sponsors the project.

Zululand is a district in the province of Kwazulu-Natal in South Africa. It is known as the pulse of Africa and at the same time, was the birthplace of African nature conservation and environmental protection. It has one of the most diverse, fertile and wild landscapes in the world. The fact that you might come across the renowned “Big Five” is enough to take your breath away, but the never-ending expanses and the incredible diversity of animal and plant life in their natural intact habitat reflect the beauty of Africa and make a trip to this fascinating continent worthwhile.

Services Our Services at a Glance


  • Placement in the project
  • Accommodation during the project
  • Assistance with travel arrangements
  • All meals during the project – volunteers help to cook
  • Assistance with selecting travel insurance
  • English-speaking support by long-term experienced staff
  • Assistance with booking flights
  • 24/7 support throughout the project
  • Pre-departure information pack

Not included

  • Trip to/from Richards Bay
  • Airport pick up and drop off
  • Travel insurance
  • Personal expenses and optional excursions
  • Visa fees

South Africa

Start DateDurationCostNATUCATE-ID V.RSA-001
2 Weeks 1.425 €
4 Weeks 2.225 €
6 Weeks 2.975 €
8 Weeks 3.775 €
10 Weeks 4.500 €
12 Weeks 5.200 €



To take part in voluntary work in South Africa you must apply by submitting a motivational letter, after which we will send you the appropriate NATUCATE form. Furthermore, all applicants must be at least 18 years old and have a good knowledge of English. Working conditions on the project can be very strenuous and there can also be extreme weather conditions. Therefore you need to be physically fit and we will require a medical certificate testifying as to your state of health as part of the application. Please keep in mind that you – for monitoring purposes – will spend a large part of your day sitting on the rear benches of a 4x4 vehicle. After some time this can become physically quite demanding, especially in different weather conditions like rain. There are no prerequisite qualifications or abilities for this project, but you should have a love of and positive attitude towards nature and respect for other cultures. We recommend that you contact your general practitioner before setting out, to find out about any vaccinations which may be required for working in Africa.

Details Volunteering in South Africa

Voluntary service in South Africa

You will book a flight to Johannesburg airport and an onward flight to Richards Bay airport, where your adventure will begin. For a surcharge of approximately € 100.00, the coordinators will pick you up at the airport and take you to the reserve. Work placements on the project begin every second Monday of the month. Your stay can last between two weeks and three months. The African bush is a dynamic and constantly changing environment, so that work on the project depends entirely on the movements and activities of the animals under observation and the prevailing weather conditions. A typical day starts in the early hours of the morning (approx. 4 am). Accompanied by the other volunteers and an experienced supervisor, you will set off before sunrise seated on the back of in an open off-road vehicle to watch the animals. In order to locate them various gadgets, such as tracking collars, are used. You will learn how to monitor these gadgets and so be able to work more independently. Once the animals have been located, the sighting and the behaviour and food patterns of the animals will be recorded and documented for research purposes. You will return to camp late in the morning and have time to relax as you wish. In the late afternoon it is time for the second trip into the bush. On returning to camp shortly after sunset, the next thing on the agenda is preparing supper and the day finally draws to a close around the camp fire. One day per week is reserved exclusively for data entry and analysis in the camp.

For an extra charge of approx. €100 you will be picked up from Richards Bay Airport and brought to the camp.

In addition to the activities listed above you may also be involved in checking camera traps, carrying out game counts, bird-watching, photographing animals, removing non-endemic plant species or marking accompanying the professional staff to mark certain animals such as rhinoceros for data collection and research purposes. One day searching for animals turns out to be a success, another day you might not spot any animal at all. These activities will depend on the length of your stay, the season and necessity. A further possible aspect of your work could be the translocation and reintroduction of endangered species, if these activities are scheduled for the time that you will be there. Any planned activities like collaring, treatment or relocation are performed in conjunction with Reserve Management Staff and with veterinarians, whose availability to perform this work depends upon their schedules and proximity, as well as upon the pack/pride dynamics of the animals themselves. Through the daily practical training in the bush, you will acquire many new skills.

These include the proper utilisation of tracking and GPS gadgets, how to make animal identification systems, setting up and using camera traps and data collection about animal behaviour. Moreover, you will learn about the traditional methods of animal identification and tracking and develop an understanding of nature conservation issues and objectives with regard to the endangered species in Africa. Work on the project can sometimes be dangerous, very strenuous and extremely challenging. Your safety is guaranteed at all times by the training you receive, the instructions from the professional and experienced coordinators and the protective vehicles when out on observation. The working hours and the challenging and often strenuous tasks are fully compensated by the rewarding experiences which you would otherwise probably never have. You will get an insight into the work of real conservationists and naturalists and be part of it.


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.


Biannual volunteer stay in St. Lucia

Since the different camps of our conservation project partner in Zululand are located far from one another, biannual meetings are arranged for all staff members for the sake of the project’s conservation efforts and its efficiency. In these meetings the staff members discuss recent events, potential problems, and plans for the future. Given the fact that the monitoring work is done by the teams seven days a week without any weekend breaks it is difficult to find a time for these meetings that doesn’t affect the monitoring work. The dates that have been arranged for 2019 are:

  • 11th-12th May 2019 (this affects the 2-week slot starting 6th May and ending 20th May 2019)
  • 23rd-24th November 2019 (this affects the 2-week slot starting 18th November and ending 2nd December 2019)

Volunteers participating in the project during this time need to spend two nights away from the project due to the absence of their monitors. Volunteers from all projects will be brought to the beautiful small coastal village St. Lucia where they spend those two nights. Note: The trip will be at the participants’ own cost, but there are special rates for the accommodation. The venue in St. Lucia offers different accommodation facilities such as male or female dormitories, safari tents, or single/double rooms with an en-suite bathroom. The accommodation is self-catering so all meals have to be arranged at the participants’ cost. During their stay, volunteers have the opportunity to join exciting leisure activities like whale-watching, cultural village tours, day trips to the beach, horse-riding, kayaking, guided birding trails etc. If you have any further questions regarding the stay in St. Lucia please feel free to contact us anytime.


Accommodation during the project

The project is located in Zululand, South Africa – an area renowned for the spectacular diversity of its animal life. Zululand is home to many unusual mammals, birds, reptiles, insects and plants. Depending on the length of your stay, you will be housed in one or more camps in the various wildlife reserves. The project works in four different reserves, each with its own type of vegetation and animal species. If you are only staying two weeks, you will work in just one reserve. If you are staying eight weeks, then you will get to know all four. You will share accommodation with the other volunteers, at a research camp within the reserve. There is electricity, warm water and toilets. You will be supplied with everything except towels and mosquito nets. You can use the internet in the office once a week. Depending on the area mobile phone reception can be limited. The communal kitchen is well equipped with an oven, microwave, a hob and a solar cooker and contains everything you might need for cooking. You can prepare your meals here, together with the other international volunteers. If tastes differ or you suffer from food intolerances, you can of course cook on your own. The coordinators who live at the research camp with the volunteers, will make a trip to the supermarket (once a week or every fortnight) to purchase the food required. Some of the volunteers may accompany the coordinator on this trip, if there is space in the vehicle and if the work allows. As the volunteers choose and prepare the food themselves it is easily possible to follow a vegetarian diet.


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.

Leisure time

Leisure time

Each day you will have some time off during the midday period when it is hot and most animals are inactive. During these few hours over the midday period you are welcome to read, sleep, eat, play cards or board games, or simply enjoy the animal activity around your accommodation.

    Project background

    South Africa is renowned for the variety of species which live there. Together, the Zululand region, the famous Krüger National Park and the southwestern province of The Western Cape are home to more than 300 mammal species, 500 bird species, 100 reptile species and numerous species of insect. They are also home to the rarely seen African wild dog and the big five (rhinoceros, elephant, Cape buffalo, lion and leopard). National and international efforts have established a number of nature and species conservation projects which carry out research using tracking technology in a number of areas, such as populations and movement patterns of endangered wild dogs. Mapping (monitoring) of animal and plant species helps to monitor wildlife populations and planning future conservation measures.

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