Port Elizabeth, South Africa


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 is an extraordinary and exciting conservation project, 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 malaria-free Big 5 game reserve.

Kariega’s Conservation Volunteer Programme is the ultimate Big 5 wildlife experience, where volunteers from across the world get the opportunity to enjoy hands-on involvement in conservation management on the reserve. During your stay with us, you may see yourselves as “Assistant Conservation Managers,” as all the work done and data collected by you will be utilized by Kariega for conservation purposes. A dedicated coordinator will ensure that you have a wonderful learning experience,  make a real contribution to the reserve and leave with a stronger understanding of conservation issues.

Our volunteers also get the opportunity to explore South Africa’s amazing coastline as Kariega is a mere 16 km from the sea... the beautiful Indian Ocean is literally on your doorstep! This coastline has particularly rich marine fauna and flora as well as endless sand dunes and beautiful beaches. To top it all off, we have a brilliant community outreach programme. Our volunteers assist at a local rural farm school by teaching children basic subjects like English. Come and make a real difference and have fun doing so!

Volunteer Activities

Volunteers will be provided with stimulating practical experience in the following four areas: research, conservation management, education and community development.

Research Projects

Elephant Impact Monitoring -

Volunteers will help monitor elephant movement patterns, range utilization and vegetation impact with the aid of telemetry (certain elephants are fitted with radio collars). Volunteers will also use elephant identification sheets to record the unique ear markings of each elephant for reserve management purposes.

Population Status of Leopards -

Leopards have been persecuted in the Eastern Cape for the last 300 years resulting in declined numbers and fragmented populations, and placing the local population at risk of extinction. Virtually the entire landscape was hostile to them, and 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 which complement the national parks 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. Our leopard 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 the 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 the volunteers are responsible for monitoring these cameras, changing memory cards and recording all images taken. The cameras are moved regularly around the reserve to increase the chance of leopard sightings.

Lion Prey Selection Monitoring -

An important responsibility of the volunteer program 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.

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 cataloguing the species, numbers and breeding status of the birds at Kariega 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 program. Some of these activities involve physical work and therefore a certain level of determination from the volunteer is required. Keep in mind that the "reserve needs" are always taken into account and you will help to fulfill those needs as a volunteer. Daily activities are interesting and varied, and could include assistance with some of the following:

• Game Counts

• Sex and Age Ratio Recordings - species like eland and giraffe

• Alien Vegetation Control - eradication and control of alien (non-endemic) plant species. Bush encroachment control through selective clearing is also done in certain areas on the reserve. This aspect involves physical hard work!

• Soil Erosion Control - previous land utilization practices like cattle ranching have caused erosion gulleys in certain areas on the reserve that need rehabilitation.

• Reserve Clean-Up Operations - removing old cattle fences and water pipes on the reserve.

• Road Maintenance and Repairing of River Crossings

• Parasite Control – administering anti-parasite medications to specific species (when required by the reserve)

• And any other conservation management activity that might “pop-up” at the reserve that requires volunteer assistance. 

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 and impala! Please remember that captures only occur when required by the reserve.

• Game Introduction - there will be ongoing introductions of additional game, especially as the reserve has acquired more land that needs to be stocked with various 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 receive a field booklet which can be taken home at the end of the program. 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 which 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).

• Field Skills & Survival - learn to look after yourself in the wild

Community Development

We have identified an under-funded farm school near the reserve where our volunteer program 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 day 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, Math 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!

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Field Conditions

You will be accommodated in a fully furnished house on the reserve (shared bedrooms and bathrooms). Volunteers will be divided into teams and will be responsible for the preparation of meals on a rotational basis. There will be plenty of opportunity for braais (BBQs) under the night skies and socializing around a fire. We have also recently built a lovely plunge-pool for volunteers to cool off after a hard days work!

The working week at Kariega is from Monday to Friday. Working hours depend on the season and may vary from 7 – 9 hours per day. The evenings are at leisure. Saturdays are reserved for a town trip (either to Kenton-On-Sea, Port Alfred or Grahamstown) where volunteers can do their shopping, eat out, visit all the sites of the local towns. Sundays are off time.

Kenton-On-Sea is a beautiful small coastal town only 15 minutes drive from the reserve. The beaches are absolutely breathtaking and pristine. Your local "hang-out" is a pub / restaurant overlooking this stunning beach! After the Saturday morning shopping in Kenton (volunteers can stock up on all everyday essentials), volunteers often laze around on the beach, swim in the waves or sit in the beach bar while sipping away on a cold drink and taking in the scenery.

There are also additional activities that can be organized for you on a Saturday (at your own cost and on condition that a few others in the group also want to partake in the activity), including:

• Horseback riding on the beach or in a game reserve

• Sky diving - tandem (that means strapped to an instructor!)

• Deep sea fishing

• Two day canoe trail on the Kowie River (this is a hit with many of our volunteer groups)

• Quad bike riding

• Addo Elephant National Park field trip

• And even a weekend trip away with bungee jumping!

Age Requirement

Kariega accepts volunteers of 16+ years of age.  Volunteers under 16 years old are only considered when accompanied by a parent/guardian.  There isn't a maximum age limit, though a reasonable fitness level is necessary.  Families are welcome!

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Volunteer Contribution:

1 week: GB£595 / US$795

2 weeks: GB£895 / US$1195

3 weeks: GB£1095 / US$1495

4 weeks: GB£1395 / US$1895

Extra weeks: GB£295 / US$395 per week

Please Note:

Volunteers get discounted rates when joining 2 or more Enkosini programs!

Enkosini uses USD rates as standard due to currency fluctuations. GBP rates are indications of approx recent values. Currency convertor atwww.xe.com.

Volunteer contributions cover meals, accommodation, activities on the reserve, and project donation. Flights and travel/medical insurance are NOT included. The only additional spending money required will be for personal purchases, social excursions away from Kariega, and pre/post project travel. We do not have discounted rates for partial weeks.

Please bear in mind that the sooner you apply, the better your chances of securing your placement!

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 2016 Dates

There are no set arrival/departure dates for this project, but please note no arrivals or departures over weekends (Saturdays and Sundays). Arrivals and departures are preferred to be scheduled for a Monday. Volunteers are required to sign an indemnity form acknowledging and accepting the consequences of working in close contact with wild animals. Applicants must be 18 yrs old or over. The minimum time period for a booking is a 2 weeks placement and maximum time period is 12 weeks. 

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Arrangements will be made by Kariega staff to collect incoming volunteers from Port Elizabeth Airport.  Kariega is approximately 140 kms (two hours) from Port Elizabeth. Volunteers are to pay for the transfer to and from the airport themselves. The current rate is R500 for a one way transfer (R250 sharing) and payable directly to the taxi driver upon arriving at Kariega Game Reserve. 

Flights and buses to Port Elizabeth can be booked online atwww.kulula.comwww.flysaa.com and www.computicket.com


Once your placement is confirmed, Enkosini will forward you Kariega’s information document. This provides volunteers with project specific information and help with pre-trip preparations (what to pack, preferred flight times, living conditions and generally what to expect).

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 “I joined Kariega Game Reserve’s volunteer programme for a month during 2007. I left the UK and headed to South Africa not knowing what the road ahead had in store. However, I can honestly say that it was the experience of a lifetime.

My reason for joining Kariega’s volunteer programme was to collect data and information for my third year university project. I was able to prepare prior to my stay due to the excellent response from Enkosini Eco Experience, in finding out what research projects I would be involved in. On my arrival, the Kariega team provided me with a wealth of information, time and support in helping me complete my tasks. The team here is so talented and working in the field with such people was awe inspiring!

I was really shocked at how much I was involved in during my short stay.  I remember thinking back in the UK – “come on, as if I’ll get to do that”. The next thing you know I’m in the back of a truck with a sedated zebra! I was actually involved in all the research and conservation projects the web site advertised – no joke. However, they always made time for my individual needs – sorry for all the questions guys! The team have great personalities too and play just as hard as they work! They allowed me to explore local towns, visit the beach, party (oh!) and skydive from a plane at 10 000 feet. Yes people, I have video evidence – what a day that was!

This has been so much more than a uni trip for me. The memories I brought back to the UK, I will keep with me for the rest of my life.” - Adam Howson, England

 “Staying on Kariega Game Reserve was the most amazing and definitely the best thing I’ve ever done. Being part of the whole experience, living on the middle of a game reserve, enables you to learn so much and truly understand what conservation is all about. The work is a mix of physical labour, for example, the removal of old fence lines, which is hard work but very satisfying when finished. Driving around the reserve and being able to see lions, elephants and all the game so close up is unbelievable – definitely an experience to remember! Being able to sit so close to the lions and take photos as they posed for us – stunning! And then there are the beaches, awesome even in winter. The Kariega experience I would recommend to anyone and everyone.”-Rebecca Underdown, England

 “The Kariega experience was one which I will never forget. During the mornings while I was there the group of about 10 of us staying on the game reserve would do work such as fence removal, trail rebuilding, clean up farm sites, game counts, and alien plant removal. This type of work was physical but definitely rewarding because you could see how it was going to directly help the animals on the game farm and conservation of the habitat for the future. In the afternoons we got the opportunity to do some fun activities and see the game reserve a bit more. We went canoeing, on hikes, to the beach, and tracked down the lions or elephants. I'll never forget the feeling of first seeing the group of elephants and just how close we were, especially when they all started to get anxious and we had about 6 of them come at us...inches away from the truck. It was amazing just as it was when we would all of a sudden come upon the gorgeous lions. I loved being able to be a part of the game reserve, both living and working on it. This is definitely a great experience and one which I recommend to anyone.”-Jennifer Benning, USA

 “"It’s definitely true what the Kariega Volunteer Programme slogan says:  'An equal mix of work and play' defines my experience here down to a pinpoint.  If you choose this placement for an easy ride or think that it is solely a better chance to see the Big 5 up close … you’ve come to the wrong place.  That’s not to say you won’t experience things with wildlife that others only dream of.  For example having a bull elephant come up to the fence of your house, patrol around the perimeter and stand majestically, watching a magnificent sunset, allowing for literally perfect photos.  Of course there’s hard work to do as well, such as the removal of invasive plant species or old fences which now act as physical barriers to wildlife, or even expanding the waterhole outside our house with clay and water … BUT you’ll be surprised at the sense of satisfaction and personal gain you will feel.  You will also feel like you are really making a difference when you see the fruits of your work.  My personal favourites were seeing a family of 6 giraffes who have become residents outside the house due to our work on the waterhole, and seeing whole plains of alien plants dying as a result of our spraying chemicals and thus restoring some of the natural balance in the ecosystem.

We also got ample time to explore the surrounding area like the local towns (especially the beautiful Kenton-On-Sea) and had the opportunity to do a number of additional activities, like horse riding on a stunning beach and skydiving over the Eastern Cape bush.  There really is so much to do in the area.  I will love the Sunshine Coast forever!

My personal experience of the programme has been fantastic and even after a 8 week stay, I was still seeing and doing new things every day.  My recommendation to future volunteers … The longer your stay, the better your experience will be as you will get the chance to do so much more – things you may never get the chance to do again!  Definitely make the most of your stay by putting your all into everything and I promise that you will leave Kariega at the end of your visit with awesome memories, new and exciting skills, and some great friends.  I say all this without any doubt whatsoever.  To all future volunteers at Kariega:  Have a fabulous time!”- Adam Tiran, UK

 “Last Saturday we returned from a wonderful vacation and experience at the beautiful Kariega Game Reserve. We enjoyed it very very much and we thank you that you recommended it to us.  Everything was well arranged and prepared. They have a varied volunteer program where you experience a lot! We learned new things about animals and plants and experienced the real life of the Xhosa people who live there. It was great fun!!  We are already saving money for a next year's South African vacation so we will keep in touch because we are very pleased with your organisation.”-Rene Verhaar & Magda Rozenboom, Netherlands

 “As conservationists we live in a world with numerous challenges and daunting odds. However, we all share responsibility for the wise use of our resources and for the conservation of the diversity of ecosystems and species. It is this extraordinary diversity that makes Africa such a vibrant place to live in and to visit. You cannot love what you do not know. Come share our passion for conservation here at Kariega Game Reserve and experience the depth and scope of the challenge facing environmental conservation in Southern Africa.”-Helena Warren, Kariega Volunteer Programme Manager

 “I had the best time at Kariega . The staff, from the beginning of the process was very responsive to all my questions and made sure I felt very comfortable. I learned a great deal about wildlife conservation when I was there. I am very glad I did this project and will forever hold the memories with me. Infact It exceeded my expectations ! absolutely loved it ! I also made some new life long friends ! What great experience and cause !”-Mo Noubani, Orlando, FL

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