24 Apr 2018
Join Our Wildlife Volunteer Projects
We have WWF-supported wildlife volunteering opportunities currently running in South Africa and the Seychelles. Conservation volunteering in Zululand forms part of our Endangered Species Monitoring Programme. Our Seychelles Conservation Project focuses on endangered species monitoring, marine conservation and ecosystem restoration.
Get involved in real endangered wildlife conservation and have the ultimate African wildlife experience while doing it.
Why Choose Wildlife ACT?
How to Volunteer
Volunteer With Endangered Species
Zululand, South Africa
2 weeks +
2 weeks +
R18900 First 2 weeks
R13500 Every following 2 weeks.
R18900 First 2 weeks
R13500 Every following 2 weeks.
Zululand is recognized as one of the most biodiverse wildlands in Africa, with much of it declared a World Heritage Site. Conservation volunteers work across 5 unique parks – most of them nationally proclaimed reserves. For every 2 weeks that you join us as a volunteer, you have the opportunity to live and work on a different park. Our work focuses on endangered and priority species including the African Wild Dog, Cheetah, Rhino, Lion, Elephant, Leopard and Vulture.
R18900 First 2 weeks
R13500 Every following 2 weeks.
R18900 First 2 weeks
R13500 Every following 2 weeks.
Choose your currency
Volunteer With Leopards
Zululand, South Africa
2 weeks +
2 weeks +
R18900 First 2 weeks
R13500 Every following 2 weeks.
R18900 First 2 weeks
R13500 Every following 2 weeks.
Wildlife ACT is officially contracted by the international wild cat organisation, Panthera, to conduct Leopard population surveys within South Africa. This involves conducting a number of exciting, short-term Leopard Population Surveys using remote camera trapping survey methods. The survey is the largest on leopards of its kind in the world where we’re working together with provincial parks to help inform management to improve leopard conservation.
R18900 First 2 weeks
R13500 Every following 2 weeks.
R18900 First 2 weeks
R13500 Every following 2 weeks.
Choose your currency
North Island, Seychelles
For a unique eco-tourism experience which allows you to give something back by supporting a dedicated conservation research and volunteer team on a Private Island paradise, come and support those volunteering in the Seychelles. Eco-tourists live and experience conservation life on the exclusive North Island in the Seychelles – considered by many to be the most beautiful archipelago in the world with its luminous white beaches, granite outcrops and azure oceans. As an Eco-tourist on our Seychelles Volunteer project, you will focus on three key aspects: Endangered Species monitoring, Marine Conservation and Ecosystem Restoration.
$2800 First 4 weeks
$1200 Every following 2 weeks.
$2800 First 4 weeks
$1200 Every following 2 weeks.
Choose your currency
We offer the first wildlife volunteer programme in Africa to be Fair Trade Tourism certified! “We have a high regard for Wildlife ACT’s contribution to conservation and are thrilled that they are now able to display the Fair Trade Tourism mark” – Jane Edge, MD of Fair Trade Tourism
We are the only Fair Trade Tourism certified wildlife volunteer programme in Africa that works with and are supported by high-profile and international conservation organizations such as WWF, Endangered Wildlife Trust, Panthera and Wildlands Conservation Trust (to name just a few).
We work across five different game reserves in South Africa: Hluhluwe-Mfolozi Game Reserve, the uMkhuze section of iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Tembe Elephant Park and Manyoni Private Game Reserve. Conservation volunteers therefore get the chance to experience varied natural environments. Many volunteer organizations allow their volunteers to experience only one reserve.
Unlike other volunteer organizations that work solely on small, private game reserves (used as farmland in the past) we work predominantly on large, nationally proclaimed and protected game reserves that have always been home to wildlife – giving you a real sense of the true African wilderness.
The Wildlife ACT experience is unmatched in terms of the type of work we do and the diversity of species we work with, including the ‘BIG 5’. We have been reviewed on several online platforms and the feedback we receive is overwhelmingly positive.
No more than five volunteers are allowed per reserve at any given time. Unlike other volunteer projects we are not a glorified safari where up to 10 people get on one vehicle and as many as 30 volunteers on one private reserve.
Our team members are highly qualified and focused on real conservation work. Our one founding member, Dr Simon Morgan, holds a PhD in Black Rhino Ecology. Our other founding member, Chris Kelly, completed his studies in nature conservation before a long career in wildlife monitoring, game capture, relocation and reintroduction.
Wildlife ACT has been extensively reviewed on multiple and reputable websites, including TripAdvisor, GoAbroad & GoOverseas. It currently has a rating of 9.9 out of 10 and 97% respectively with gold star verification!
Wildlife ACT was awarded and recognized as the Best for Habitat & Species Conservation in South Africa (and second in Africa) at the African Responsible Tourism Awards 2017 – an event that promotes and supports responsible travel.
Wildlife ACT is a founding partner of Project Rhino KZN and sits on the advisory committee of the Wild Dog Advisory Group of South Africa. The Wildlife ACT Team founding members are also trustees of Wildlife ACT Fund.
Wildlife ACT is looking for people who want their contribution, in terms of their time and funds, to be effectively utilised in genuine conservation efforts. If you wish to be a part of a professional conservation team, make a real difference and experience important conservation work in Africa, then you are the kind of conservation volunteer we are looking for!
Anyone from the age of 18 up can join our team. All you need for wildlife volunteering is the passion to make a difference, have a good grasp of the English language, be in a reasonably good physical condition and most importantly, have a good attitude. And remember: This is Zululand, not Disneyland!
You can make a no obligation application at any time. ENQUIRE NOW
Make contact with us
Fill out our simple online application form to become a conservation volunteer.
Ask our expert
Bronwen Kelly is our friendly and helpful reservations manager. She will guide you through the process and make sure your plans come together.
Pay your deposit
When you are happy with everything, you can secure your place by paying your 30% deposit. 70% of your remaining balance will be due four weeks before you arrive in Africa.
Book your flights
You will be responsible for booking your own flights.
We collect and drop off all our participants at RICHARDS BAY, which is the closest airport. You would need to book your international flight arriving in JOHANNESBURG (O.R. Tambo International Airport), followed by a short internal flight from Johannesburg to Richard’s Bay (RCB). Please see the “How Do I Get There” tab on our Project Page for more info about flights.
When you arrive at Richards Bay airport, you will be collected by an organised responsible transfer company with a sign. All arriving conservation volunteers will be transported by the transfer company to a central meeting point, where you will be met by your respective Wildlife ACT wildlife monitors, who will then take you into the reserve, on the back of a monitoring vehicle. On the Monday of your departure you will be transported back to Richards Bay airport to catch your departing flight home.
Contact us at any time for help and advice
We guarantee you a prompt response to your enquiries. You will be able to contact the Wildlife ACT team on the reserves at any time during your preparations, so you will have access to all the latest developments live from the field. The Wildlife ACT team can also help you with specific enquiries relating to latest animal sightings and other interesting news as it happens. For the latest news, visit our blog.
Most conservation volunteers join Wildlife ACT for 4 to 12 weeks, with a minimum stay being two weeks. We maintain a small volunteer group of no more than five people per reserve and therefore recommend that you apply as soon as possible in order to confirm the dates that suit you.
Wildlife ACT runs a number of projects so we are in the unique position to offer you the opportunity to join us on more than one reserve, giving you the chance to experience diverse aspects of wildlife conservation. The opportunity to work on multiple game reserves depends on the length of your stay. If you stay for only two weeks, you will work on one reserve, but for every additional two weeks you stay, the better your chance of experiencing another reserve.
Please Note: Once bookings fill up, placements will be made based on where there are spaces available. Although we do our best to keep to the planned schedule once bookings are confirmed, all placements are subject to change should there be a specific need at any time.
If you are ready and excited to start planning your trip, but discouraged by a financial road block, Wildlife ACT has another solution for you. We have teamed up with FundMyTravel, who provides us with an online platform where you can fundraise for your meaningful travel experience. How does it work? You create a campaign page, complete a brief profile to build trust, add a video and tell your story!
FundMyTravel has a team of dedicated staff who want to help Wildlife ACT participants reach their fundraising goals. They can provide tips and insights on the best ways to spread your word and offer sharing tools to get your campaign greater exposure through social media and email. Click the button below to learn more and get started!
Erick Gonzalez Rodriguez ~ March 2018
An absolutely enriching experience. It is not only about helping on-site and enjoying watching animals, it is about getting involved in this real problem of conserving endangered animals; about contributing to preserve their habitat; about learning with experts what the major issues facing conservation are and why. And probably a factor of utmost importance: about spreading the word and raising awareness. Species are disappearing from their habitats because of human activity. Although there are many ways of contributing to wildlife conservation, it has been exciting working with Wildlife ACT and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife – two of the organisations tackling the many problems facing the threatened and endangered species of South Africa.
Being in the field monitoring various priority species daily, we are exposed to mind-blowing wildlife experiences. The contribution of a volunteer may appear small at first glance, however, overall this contribution adds up day-by-day, with the monitoring team providing invaluable information to help maintain the equilibrium of the whole ecosystem. This includes endangered and non-endangered species, their habitat, and ultimately protecting them from the threat of extinction.
Nicholas Keeney ~ January 2018
My two weeks at iMfolozi was, without question, the most incredible experience of my life. Having always had a passion for wildlife and conservation, the monitors and the landscapes here have been inspiring and unmatched. Since the day of my arrival, my excitement and willingness to learn only grew with each session and interaction. My passion has only increased and my only wish is to continue to grow in my knowledge and understanding of African wildlife conservation.
William Esbjug Gromstad (Norway) ~ January 2018
Possibly the best experience of my life. I learned so much, and it was something that will benefit my studies in biology. Fi and Ryan are honestly two of the most inspiring and extraordinary individuals I have ever met. Just being with them for two weeks, has been a revelation. Seeing that there actually are other people with as much passion for wildlife as me, has given me new faith in the future of our planet. They deserve all the credit in the world.
Lucy Duncan ~ February 2018
I had a great experience. Marumo and Mike were very welcoming and fun to be with. They taught a great deal about conservation and the animals over the two weeks which made the trip very educational and insightful. The accommodation was better than expected. It was very sociable and I really enjoyed having a chance to speak to the other researchers. Really enjoyed the Braais too!
Andrea Miller (Germany) ~ August 2017
We’ve had some wonderful times working with Wildlife ACT. If anyone wants to do some conservation work then this is definitely the best organisation to choose. You just have to keep going back for more, but then that’s how Africa gets to you – especially those Wild Dogs (Painted Dogs) of uMkhuze. Thanks Wildlife ACT for having us!
Ann Wheeler (New York)
Wildlife ACT is a phenomenal organization. When I volunteered with them in 2014, I didn’t realize how much it was about to change my life. I was freshly employed at a credit union, in what is widely accepted as a good, stable job. I spent two amazing weeks in the bush at the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi reserve, which ignited my soul and reminded me what my true passion in life was. I was able to be a part of rhino lifts (look it up; it’s relocating rhinos by helicopter!!!), tracking and monitoring wild dogs, elephants, and lions, and really getting a chance to see what real, no-frills conservation is all about.
My true passion may have still been buried under the cover of a desk job if I didn’t get the great opportunity of working with the amazing people at Wildlife ACT. If anyone is ever looking for a great volunteer opportunity with a legitimate conservation organization, I would recommend them without hesitation. The work that they do isn’t just for you to have a fun experience, it’s to truly conserve wildlife through research and education.
Anastasia Ellis (United Kingdom) ~ July 2017
Being a Wildlife ACT Volunteer in Africa at the uMkhuze reserve was one of the most special trips of my life. The richness of the experience is difficult to compare to anything, and if you’re a nature and animal lover, it is something you’ll do and then ask yourself “how have I not done this before??”. We were so lucky to have our wonderful monitors PJ, Ben and gorgeous Kelsey who has moved on to another reserve now. Be camera and bino ready, be ready to be up and head out at 4am, and be ready to have your mind blown by Africa.
Daniel Wood ~ June 2017
I spent just 2 weeks with Wildlife ACT at Tembe Elephant Park and loved every minute of it! We saw an amazing variety of wildlife, including the tusker elephants, the resident wild dog pack and lots of lions.
As a frequent traveller and former volunteer coordinator for another organisation, I was really impressed with Wildlife ACT. One of the things that initially drew me to Wildlife ACT was how informative and up front they were on their website – rare indeed. Lots of information offered and they really care about the cause. It’s genuinely rare to find an organisation which ticks all these boxes, and still have a lot of fun while you’re out there! Accommodation and facilities were also way better than expected.
It was great to be able to contribute to the research and conservation effort too, rather than just being a tourist (this isn’t an ecotourism vanity project). Volunteers help in all sorts of ways – providing vital funding through the donation, helping create ID kits, locating collared animals using radio telemetry, setting up camera traps and much more. If you’re really lucky as I was, you might get to participate in call-ups or relocations of key species, which is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
They have a fantastic research team as well as great working relationships with other park and support staff. There’s also excellent support before you get there from Bronwen et al. who will answer any question you have, but honestly almost everything is provided up front in the volunteer information.
Every day is a new experience. You never quite know what you’ll do or what you’ll see, and Tembe is a stunning backdrop to your day. My stay was all too brief but amazing nonetheless… I have already recommended Wildlife ACT to friends and I’d love to go back one day!
Ashley Gonder (Washington) ~ May 2017
When I originally decided to volunteer in South Africa I was a little apprehensive because I was going to a foreign country all by myself. Once I found Wildlife ACT the process from beginning to end was incredibly smooth. The million different questions were all answered super quick and with a lot of detail. The booking process was smooth and easy. Brownen was amazing to work with!
Once I initially got there the staff was waiting at the airport with friendly faces. They were very organized and we were on the way to our respective reserves in no time.
I spent my time at Manyoni and the monitors are INCREDIBLE! I can’t say enough good things about them both. Meg and Frede are both so knowledgeable, friendly, and fun to be around. We got in a couple of scary situations with a herd of elephants surrounding us and Meg was calm and collected and instructed us what to do so nobody got hurt. The monitors made this entire experience as amazing as it was.
I’ve always had a love for animals and when I found this organization I immediately knew that I wanted to be a part of it. I learned so much about the animals, Africa, and most importantly, MYSELF while being with Wildlife ACT. The days are long but it doesn’t feel that way. Getting up every morning before the sun is so exciting because you literally have no idea what you might see or be doing. I felt like I was actually helping make a difference out there. I never realized how much monitoring animals can really help. The whole ecosystem is in such a fragile balance and it was so fascinating learning about how everything works together and balances itself out. I really feel like I made a difference out there.
I plan on returning next year! This was the best two weeks of my life and I wish I could’ve stayed longer.
Miroslav Goranov (Netherlands) ~ March & April 2017
It has taken me 22 years to realize my goal to come to South Africa and stand face to face with my dreams to one day be among the best Wildlife Photographers.
My eternal love for Photography, animals and nature led me to Wildlife ACT, which turned out to be the best thing that has ever happened to me in my life. I had a breath-taking 6 weeks of volunteering and words can’t explain how much I have grown during this time.
The most important thing of all was understanding conservation and discerning that I was actually a part of something big that came with a lot of responsibility. We’ve all heard about conservation and fake organisations that pretend to do something about it, where volunteers come to pet lions, right? Well, this is not the case. As Wildlife ACT has cleverly put it – ”This is Zululand, not Disneyland.”
For me, I’d say it was more of a Dreamland. Waking up every morning early on, sure. Who needs sleep anyway? When there are animals out there to be saved. When they are being snared, killed and trapped on a daily basis. When the clock is ticking. When their numbers are decreasing.
Once you set your first step inside the camp you already know, this is the real deal. Every day is an event and every second is an experience. The unpredictability of nature overall adds up to that in such a beautiful way. It felt like home. If home is not a place, but a feeling, then this was it for me.
In six weeks, apart from tracking and monitoring animals on a daily basis, I watched helicopters come down to save an elephant from dying. I watched the glowing eyes of local communities as they were being educated why the Wild Dogs are of such importance to our existence. I watched rhinos being dehorned as they were finally free of the threat to be poached, as the last means of conservation to save these amazing creatures from extinction.
And right in this moment I knew – South Africa is waiting for me, because if not us, nobody will save our planet’s wildlife. It is up to you. And if it is, Wildlife ACT is the right place to be!
Sophie Vickers (United Kingdom) ~ Jan & Feb 2017
After doing many conservation projects in South Africa, Wildlife ACT has been my favourite. If you are thinking of booking, my advice: BOOK! Bronwen was amazing with the booking and all the details. Big shout out and thank you to Megan and Frede at ZRR. Their knowledge of the animals and the reserve is next to none. Whether you are travelling with friends or alone, your group will become family in a short time. Early mornings, more rain than imaginable, sunshine, mountains, you name it, it’s there and so SO much fun. They are making a difference with conservation, the variation of wildlife is awesome. Keep up the fantastic work and see you soon guys!
Jonas Heck (Germany) ~ Sept – Nov 2016
I was a volunteer for two months between September and November 2016 and I enjoyed every single day. It was definitely the best experience of my life. I met such nice people and learned a lot about conservation work. And, of course, all the animals that I have seen were so cool. To see especially wild dogs in the wild is something so special. I’m glad that I was part of the team and would love to come back one day. Greetings from Germany to the whole WACT team!
Morgan Taylor & Rob van der Horst ~ Oct – Dec 2016
The past three months with Wildlife ACT in Zululand have been freaking insane. The 3am wake-ups and wrapping up our days by 7.30pm has been tough. Freezing mornings, scorching heat – 7 days a week. But it has been so so worth it. We’ve monitored and tracked some of South Africa’s most threatened species. We’ve been involved in collaring four cheetah for monitoring, a rhino darting for relocation, two lion darts for relocation, one dog dart for collaring and monitoring, and five wild dog darts for translocation. We’ve spent time with 146 individual African Wild Dogs – over 1/4 of the population in South Africa. It has been an incredible opportunity to be involved in conservation in a greater sense. We have learned so much about wildlife, the threats against them and what we can do to help. We’ve experienced and witnessed first-hand the devastation of poaching and snaring. It has been an incredibly humbling journey for both of us. We’re eternally grateful to our wonderful monitors for everything. South Africa – it’s been real.
Tamara Mercer Medsker ~ August 2016
If you had told me two months ago I would PAY to get up before dawn, ride on bumpy roads in the back of an open truck in 50 degree weather, struggle through a water shortage, marinade in bug spray to avoid mozzi bites, drag dead aromatic carcasses around (all in the name of conservation), and live without TV, music, and a lot of times, Internet, I would have called you crazy! If you asked me if I was ready to go back today – I would ask how soon could I leave?!
Wildlife ACT is simply phenomenal. From emailing before my departure, to organizing every transport Monday, answering all my questions and providing a truly ethical conservation experience – they by far exceeded all my expectations. Long mornings, short mid-day breaks, and long evenings were never boring and worth every moment. At times it was heart-breaking, other times amusing, but at all times an experience I will never regret or forget. The accommodations are simple and adequate. Trust me, exhausting days make the beds FEEL like heaven! The food is more than enough and I lost 5lbs I believe because of the very lean venison we ate daily! The training is hands-on and all the monitors are patient and helpful. The days are long, BUT I can honestly say my four weeks was not long enough. If a safari is on your bucket-list, and you don’t need 5 star accommodations, take your experience further by being part of a global concern – endangered species conservation. Join Wildlife ACT for an adventure of a lifetime!
Sophie James ~ August 2016
If you are thinking of booking, do it… you will not regret it! I can’t thank the team at Wildlife ACT enough. They conducted themselves extremely professionally yet they made you feel very comfortable, at home, and up-most part of their team! Bronwen has amazing organizational skills and will try to meet all your requirements! I will not lie – it is hard work; as they say, it’s Zululand not Disneyland. There are very early mornings, late lunches and late evenings, but when you see the animals healthy day-to-day and help them when they are most in need, I can promise it’s the most rewarding thing! You’ll come home with a different perspective on life. If you are looking to be part of REAL conservation, then this is the project for you! I searched high and low to find a reputable project and was so glad I came across this one! I credit all of you at Wildlife ACT for the work you do day in, day out! Thanks again!!!
Suna Huls ~ July 2016
It was the best and most amazing experience I ever had! The monitors are amazing, the work that we do is so much fun and important, and Africa is amazing itself. Everything is taken care of and the camps are just perfect (basic the way it should be). I will definitely visit wildlife ACT again!
Mirjam van Driel ~ June 2016
I hereby want to thank Wildlife ACT for the amazing time I had while volunteering in ZRR and Tembe. It was an absolutely amazing experience I will never forget. All the staff members I met were just great. All very dedicated, passionate, professional and friendly! They all involved us closely in whatever needed to be done and I never got the feeling we were “just volunteers”. It really was a hands-on experience and I have learned so much! I loved every second of it. I am definitely coming back!
Robin Shepard ~ February 2013
I did over 80 hours of research on the internet, trying to find a reputable organization with which I could learn, experience, and participate in real conservation. The down-and-dirty kind, protecting vulnerable species, not the fake baby-animal-petting or vacationing-by-a-pool-and-going-for-photo-safari-drives kind. I wanted to support a group of people who were not getting rich off of “volunteers” digging holes, and then the next group filling them back up (this really happens at some “volunteer” camps, where they are creating “work” for volunteers to do.) I also didn’t want to support groups that breed big cats under the guise of releasing them into the wild, but allowing volunteers to feed and pet them as babies, as this renders them unfit for wild release and is unethical. I wanted a group that works hard, down to their last dime, trying to ethically protect and conserve critically endangered species… and I found just that.
Tacit Mysterium ~ April 2016
Just wanted to say Thank You to all the Wildlife ACT team. I volunteered with you guys for 4 weeks (wasn’t long enough if you ask me). It was the best time of my life. Was even better then I could dream. I advise any potential volunteer looking at this page to GO AND DO IT!!! Would happily recommend this company to any interested in it. Thanks again guys 🙂
Nina Regel ~ March 2016
I really enjoyed my time volunteering and couldn’t have asked for more. It was awesome to be involved hands-on in everything and whatever needed to be done. Every time on the road was an amazing experience and the monitors are such great guys and have an awesome knowledge of the African bush. It was interesting to see how the management involved Wildlife ACT and even us volunteers never felt left out. I never felt unsafe at any time, even with a lion growling at us 🙂 It has been a lifetime experience and I will never forget it. There was nothing I would like to change about my 4 weeks with WACT!
Mario Zamora Giralda ~ July 2015
My experience with Wildlife ACT was the best experience of my life. I had been in many countries and I did many things in my life, but many thanks to give us the chance to be Involved in a project like this and become aware with the efforts of your work to conserve endangered species.
Alisara Christensen ~ August 2015
Inspiring. I was able to learn more about the pressing issues regarding wildlife and conservation in Africa. Being here at the reserve allowed me to be surrounded by the very devoted and passionate monitors and volunteers who have come here individually to help achieve a common goal. Each day I learnt more about the animals’ behaviors, the challenges we face to help them, and surprisingly, more about myself. This experience was not only inspiring but also very authentic. The trip very much reflects WACT’s motto “Real Africa, Real Conservation.”
Stephanie DeMay – May / June 2015
Concluding Africa thoughts and lessons:
1. I really loved seeing every sunrise and every sunset. They are such special moments that I’m usually asleep or inside for. I resolve to put more sunrises and sunsets into my “normal” life. Join me?
2. Sometimes it was our job to just sit. And wait. Sometimes for 1-2 hours just observing the same animals. Sometimes for several hours with absolutely nothing going on. I think some of the girls in my last group were often bored out of their minds. But really, how nice is it to just sit? Sit and listen to the birds. Sit and watch the stars come out. There is always so much going on!
3. These Wildlife ACT people are warriors. They work just crazy hours, 30 days on/10 days off, with a constant rotation of new volunteers every two weeks. If the people suck, they are stuck in close quarters with them with no relief for 2 weeks. If the people are awesome, 2 weeks is way too short before it’s time to say goodbye. I’m used to working ridiculous hours in the field, lab, and office as a grad student slave, but as I go forward into a real conservation career as a real grown-up, I will remember the commitment and sacrifices of these people and let that push me on to be a warrior and not an entitled whiner.
4. I love knowing what things are called. I was able to pick up South African birds and trees really quickly and it was really fun to learn about the bush. It’s too bad all that knowledge is now useless. I want to be better at my birds and trees and flowers here. I have all the field guides. I wish I had a guide though to go walk with me and tell me stories about things- that’s how I’ll learn it best. I’ll just have to try my best on my own. Knowing what things are makes outdoor experiences so much richer.
My heart is full. It’s sad to be back in the real world, but I’m super thankful for the experience and memories and people I’ve met. This was the best thing I’ve done in my whole life.
Julia Herold – Germany
After volunteering with Wildlife ACT in 2009, I was able to join their team as a long-term volunteer for half a year in 2013.
There was no way I was gonna let such an amazing opportunity slide, so I put my medical studies on hold for a semester and – as expected – had the time of my life!
Wildlife ACT are a conservation group focused on Wild Dogs, Rhino and Cheetah.
They provide monitoring services to game reserves around KwaZulu Natal that don’t have the necessary resources and expertise to do so on their own and offer volunteers the chance to work alongside their monitors and take part in all aspects of the conservation work they around the reserve.
It was a fantastic experience, and there wasn’t a dull moment during the daily tracking of Wild Dogs, checking camera traps, monitoring Rhino and all the great wildlife sightings in between.
I spent time at all of their project sites, including Tembe National Park, Mkuze and Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve.
Joining an organisation like Wildlife ACT, to me, is the best way to go on safari. Research vehicles are allowed into areas of the reserves that you’d never get to see as a normal tourist and the knowledge of the monitors far surpasses that of most guides.
And obviously I wouldn’t have had the chance to assist in several Wild Dog relocation’s, fitting collars on Wild Dogs, Cheetah and Lions and be part of a massive Buffalo Tb-testing operation!
The insight you get into the inner workings of conservation, as well as anti-poaching efforts and research is what would make me go for a volunteering trip instead of a normal safari every time!
It’s definitely not a luxury holiday and their saying “this is Zululand, not Disneyland” certainly fits – the camps are basic, kitchen duty is shared and the day starts ridiculously early – but to me, that’s the best way to experience the African bush.
It is Zululand after all, not Disneyland, and that way there’s no chance of confusing the two 🙂
Also, a set up like this almost guarantees you a set of like-minded travelers as your camp mates, and to me, the company in which you spent your time is so much more important than where you sleep at night!
I met so many wonderful people from all over the world and will remember some of the discussions we had and the experiences we had together.
And when you’re sitting around a fire which a great bunch of people after a nice braai, listening to the lions roaring around camp, it doesn’t really matter whether you’re sitting on fancy leather seats in a 5* lodge or on self-made chairs from wooden crates!
All in all, putting my „regular“ life on hold in order to spent this time in Africa was the best decision I ever made, and I can’t wait to go back.
The Wildlife ACT team really are a fantastic bunch, welcome everyone into their team with open arms and gladly share their passion for the African bush and its incredible wildlife.
Taken from African Safari Journals
Ricardo Alves-Ferreira – Aus, March 2015
“Thanks for your great work once again, I love the way you are all so professional in what you do. I’m so happy with the experience, learning and rapport Jaquelina was met with. We set out to have a taste of what being a Conservation monitor comprised of, and discovered that its exactly what Jaquelina wants to do as a profession; so, all time and investment was only a part of the necessary things to the outcome. We thank you for that.
I want you to know that we talk about Wildlife ACT every chance we have, and hope to be able to send you many young people that want to experience what Wildlife has to offer.”
Jaquelina Alves-Ferreira – Aus, March 2015
“I don’t want to leave Africa! I will definitely be back with Wildlife ACT. All of the monitors I have been with have been absolutely brilliant at their jobs and amazing people. After speaking to Axel, Pippa, Lisa, Graeme and Philip I’ve decided to apply for a course in field guiding with Bhejane when I get home, so then when I am qualified hopefully I’ll be able to work somewhere in South Africa. It’s too beautiful here!”
Samantha Lostrom – November 2014
My name is Sam Lostrom. I have just completed 6 weeks volunteering with Wildlife ACT and just wanted to say I cannot thank you enough for the amazing experiences I had.
I was so pleased to find how dedicated all the monitors were to conservation, how beneficial the projects were to the reserves and how hands on and educating the volunteering was. This volunteering has given me direction as an ecologist and allowed me to learn how to monitor species in terms of telemetry, camera trapping and searching without collars and creating ID kits (e.g. tracking). In addition monitors were always willing to teach us how to appreciate what we saw around us by helping us ID birds, telling us about the history of the reserve and the ecology of the area.
Besides all the education I received, I can confidently say that I experienced the most magnificent things of my life while with Wildlife ACT. I have always been passionate about animals and seeing the antelope, wild dogs, rhinos, big cats and elephants in such a natural way was breath-taking. Every day I was in awe of where I was and what I was doing, I was so motivated and happy to be there and am inspired to go on and start my own career in conservation.
I cannot thank you enough for not only educating volunteers like me, but for giving us experiences we will never forget. I wish you all nothing but the best for the years ahead. I know such an honest and dedicated organisiation like you will go far and only extend the fantastic research and conservation you are completing. I’ll be recommending you to my zoology friends if they ever decide to travel, and please don’t hesitate to notify me about any fundraising or awareness that needs to be raised.
Claire Whitbread – October 2014
“We did not know quite what to expect prior to our visit but found the project to go way beyond anything we had in mind. We are all so very grateful and humbled by being involved in such a wonderful project.”
George Kelly – UK, Sept 2014
A wonderful chance to get inside nature conservation in Africa and great fun being on the ‘front line’.
Deborah Tighe – September 2014
“I’ve had an absolutely brilliant month volunteering with Wildlife ACT in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa!
The projects give an excellent intro into conservation issues over there, and certainly changed some of the views that I’d held through ignorance for a long time.
Thanks to Clinton for being so passionate and informative about Lions, whilst always drawing our attention to a myriad of other creatures ,critters and plants, that are so very important in themselves, and to each other. You manage to be professional ,laid back and an excellent ‘people’ person, with such ease!
Thank-you Leonard (Ezemvelo) for imparting your knowledge about Tembe Elephant so well. I wish we could have had more time! And thanks also for being able to reverse 3km in sand, at top speed…. Oh and then there’s that dessert………..
Thank-you Craig for being both informative and fun, as well as an excellent host, and all that despite the wisdom teeth removal! Watching the vulture being tagged and camera backpack fitted was awesome! I wish you the very best.
Thank-you Megan for being so caring and passionate about African Painted Dogs I wasn’t fortunate enough to see a pack in the wild till my last few days, and your enthusiasm made the 2 sightings great!
Thanks Marumo for coming back and being such good fun, I’m sorry that I couldn’t know you for longer. Many many Thanks also to Bronwen, and Rebecca, for all their help and Taryn for everything including the braai!
I’m missing the noises of the bush at night terribly already!”
Angharad Lewis – UK, July 2014
“Many thanks to you and all the monitors that helped Angharad to have such and awesome experience. She is telling everyone it’s the best thing she has ever done in her life and intends to come back. It has also shown her that she has some photographic talent which has boosted her confidence for college in September.
I can’t thank you guys enough. Hope to come back soon.
Kith Presland – May 2014
I’d like to tell you I had an amazing time at Mkhuze and learned a lot about the hard conservation work the Wildlife ACT monitors and others do. It’s wonderful.
I love the Wild Dogs more than ever. I saw so much of them and they are really entertaining! That pack is so lucky to have someone like Cole to look after them.
Thank you, Bronwen, for placing me at the beautiful Mkhuze Reserve.
Maria Gomez – August 2013
How was your overall experience with Wildlife ACT?
This is my last reserve, I’m so sad! My overall experience has been amazing, it was all I ever wanted, learning all the importance of taking care not only environmentally speaking, but also the attitude you have with all the people that work with you. I feel really blessed for having this opportunity, be a part of a conservation project which is working really good!!
Did you feel you made a contribution to conservation through our monitoring programme?
Yes I have. Being able to monitor wild dogs (which have become one of my favourite wild animals now) has been amazing, the way all monitors take care of them and show their worries and passion for their job it’s absolutely wonderful, having the chance to work with them and spread all of this feelings to us is what makes it even more beautiful.
Was there something you did not like?
I think in overall I liked everything about this company and how does it work. Although, people (other volunteers) make a lot of difference and in this reserve I was unfortunate to be with some people that didn’t feel interested at all about the project and moaned every chance they had, that is really frustrating because it makes it a little bit difficult to enjoy it.
What was the highlight of your time with us?
I can’t believe how lucky I’ve been in this reserve! I’ve been in 2 black rhino captures by airlifting, 1 lion call up and 1 wild dog collaring. Amazing!!
Emma Clifford – UK, October 2013
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
Being part of an operation where black rhinos are bring relocated to another
reserve to try and breed them! But also the sights, smells and feeling of
the bush were all amazing and different each day.
2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Don’t expect luxury! It’s very basic but it’s such great fun, there’s
everything you need for a great experience.
3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced
environmental impacts or supported conservation?
Definitely! Even though some of it is hard work (3am starts!) I really felt
like I had helped in some way. The monitors are fantastic, I learnt so much.
4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
Amazing!! Words cannot describe this adventure- over 1500 photos taken and a
I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Luka Atkinson – UK
If I hadn’t already booked my flight home I don’t think they could have made me leave. I met some really fantastic people, all of whom I was genuinely upset to say goodbye to. I learned a whole range of new skills like how to track using radio telemetry and also learned the basics of Zulu. I really felt as if I was part of a team and truly felt at home at both Thanda and Mkhuze reserves. At the moment my main priority in life is getting myself back to South Africa. Even though there were so many highlights in the field, some of my favourite times were just sitting around at camp having a braai with the people I met while I was in South Africa, even when the braai was interrupted by a bull elephant in our backyard.
Mel Parry – UK, July 2009
My overall experience with Wildlife ACT was amazing, I enjoyed every minute of it whilst also gaining so many new skills and knowledge of African wildlife that will be useful tome for my course at university and in the future. From start to finish the experience was made trouble-free by the Wildlife ACT team. I would definitely recommend this organisation to other potential volunteers as a worthwhile programme.
Peter Holland – UK, Aug 2009
My overall experience with Wildlife ACT was amazing! a great hands on experience and also a great confidence booster. Wildlife ACT allowed me to see a side of conservation that one can not get from being a tourist in South Africa. The knowledge given by the management/field team was very valuable and again agreat insight into conservation. I can honestly say everything was a highlight, but seeing the Rhino capture was very special.
Julia Herold – Germany, Aug 2009
I had “the experience of a lifetime” I really enjoyed my stay in Mkuze as well as in Thanda and can’t wait to do it again. It was great to stay at two different camps and experience the differences between a private game reserve and a government run one. I definitely learned a lot about the differences, advantages and disadvantages of both kinds of management. Also, it gave me the opportunity to work with different people and see different environments. I really can’t choose a highlight! The leopard capture was definitely an awesome experience, as well as the hyena. To see the Wild dog pack hunt and kill was amazing. Tracking and finding the cheetahs might seem like a boring routine in comparison, but I wouldn’t have wanted to miss a single sighting – it’s always different and always an great feeling to finally spot them. Last but not least, the amputating of Impala heads and legs with a pocket knife is something I won’t ever forget 😉
Kat Donegan – USA, Sept 2009
I’m finding it very hard to try and sum up my overall experience as I took so much away from the trip with Wildlife ACT, so it’s very hard to sum it up! I absolutely loved my trip to South Africa and I’m very glad I decided to gowith Wildlife ACT, as I experienced things I believe I would not have encountered if I’d chosen another company. To be able to have the hands on and close up experiences was truly life changing and it has made me re-think my future, as I was planning on working within a zoo environment, but now I would relish the opportunity to do research in the wild, especially in South Africa. One of my favourite moments was seeing the lion cubs and wild dog pups so closely was absolutely unforgettable. Also, meeting an array of different people who work for Thanda and Wildlife ACT, and feeling part of the team so quickly, as everyone was very welcoming.
Steph Ronson – UK, Oct 2009
“I loved every minute of it and wish I could be back now. The monitors passed on so much information to us while driving through the bush. My highlight was seeing the wild dog pups for the first time after looking for them for just over two weeks. Also helping to ID them by looking through photos taken of each of the pups. Through Wildlife ACT, I didn’t just feel like a tourist, by completing daily tasks I felt I was contributing to the programme.”
Emma Ivinson, 18 yrs, UK, Aug 2010
“The time I spent with the Wildlife ACT team was one of the most memorable and incredible experiences of my life. I had always dreamed of going to Africa to work on a game reserve and this is the real deal! Their motto, ‘Real Africa, Real Conservation’ absolutely sums up their project. As a volunteer you are put to good use and help with the vital conservation work the team are doing. I learned how to use the radio tracking equipment that is used to locate animals such as the African Wild Dog packs, Cheetahs and, on a night trip, Hyenas, and along with another volunteer, I picked out photos that would be used to identify the Rhinos and Elephants we saw in the future. You see some of the most amazing animals on our planet and know that you are genuinely helping to conserve them. One of the most unforgettable moments I had was watching two adult bull Elephants washing and playing in a water hole. Watching how the older Elephant interacted with the younger male was incredible and at one point the older Elephant came within 10 metres of our vehicle!
I would recommend using the facility of being picked up from the airport. This is how most volunteers get to the meeting point before meeting who they’ll be working with and going on to the game reserve where they’ll be staying. If you are thinking about going, I would say go for it! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that you should not miss! I will never forget my time in Africa, and I am planning on returning for part of my gap year… I cannot wait!!”
Kristi & Philip Schulp, New Zealand, Dec 2010
“My husband and I volunteered for two weeks on the Thanda Reserve as part of our honeymoon, and wow, what a great two weeks. Thanda is a beautiful private reserve with a great variety of scenery including hills, plains, watering holes, trees, and bushland, and we got to know it pretty well while canvassing for animals in the back of the truck.
One surprise we found was that “getting up with the sun” happens a lot earlier in Zululand than it does back home…3:00 or 3:30am. We got used to that pretty quickly and were always eager to start the day with the telemetry equipment in search of wild dogs, black and white rhino, cheetah, lion, elephant, leopard, and more. Many, like giraffe and warthogs, we saw as they sauntered or ran through our camp. Pretty exciting. Our job was to find the animals and track where they were and what they were doing. It was particularly exciting to find and watch the pack of wild dogs; many of which were born earlier that year.
Our highlight was really learning about wildlife management from experienced, passionate conservationists and seeing what happens day-to-day to manage the land and animal resources in the area. For example we spent nearly three days locating a white rhino (who knew such a large animal could be so hard to find and keep in front of you!), helping the vet and other staff to get her on her feet after being darted and “walk” her into a huge moving van so she could be relocated to another reserve where breeding would be more successful for her. There isn’t more hands-on work than actually touching a beautiful animal like that.
The days volunteering were long, some eleven hours, and it was purely magical every day to locate the animals, learn about their day-to-day activities, spend all day outside in a beautiful area, and to be with such great staff. My husband and I highly, highly recommend volunteering with Wildlife ACT and to be part of their efforts to protect such amazing animals.”
Lance van de Vyver, 21 yrs, New Zealand, Dec 2010
“I was lucky enough to work in all four reserves and had an absolutely amazing month in the bush. The highlights were coming face to face with lions, elephant and rhino, plus getting to be involved in a black rhino release program was amazing. Anyone who loves the bush, loves conservation or just wants the best hands-on safari available should definitely join Wildlife ACT…. you will not regret it!”
Suzanne Heath – UK, Jan 2011
“Just to say a huge thanks to the team at Wildlife ACT. I had a great 2 weeks volunteering. I was lucky enough to end up at Tembe where I was involved with the release of the 14 wild dogs. It was such an emotional time and what an honour to be involved with them in the last few days of their captivity and then to be only a few meters away from them in their first few hours of freedom – to see their first footsteps in the wild, to see their first feed beyond the boundaries of the boma and then to track them with their radio collars over the next few days trying to make sure we knew where they were and that they were hunting on their own and staying out of trouble. Amazing!
Cilla was our monitor while we were there and she was a legend! Hugely enthusiastic and knowledgeable and such a passion for those 14 dogs. It was a great experience. Thanks to everyone!”
Linda Cockburn, UK, Jan 2010 & Jan 2011
“I have taken part in programmes with Wildlife ACT on two reserves – Thanda and Mkhuze – and hope to return to one of the other reserves at some point. This is a wonderful opportunity for anyone interested in South African wildlife to get involved in useful research and conservation and to see an amazing variety of creatures up close. We were tracking mainly wild dog and cheetah and I will never forget looking into the eyes of those beautiful cats from just a few metres away, as well as spending almost two hours watching two cheetah brothers devour an impala. How often do you get the chance to do that? It also gives you the opportunity to meet other people with similar interests. I have such wonderful memories of the sights and sounds of the bush and can’t wait to get back there as soon as I can.”
Gale Smith, 54 yrs, US, Feb-March 2011
“I guess the best review I can post is that I’m planning to go back to work with Wildlife ACT in early 2012. Last April I wanted to travel to Africa, but could not find anyone who wanted the same type of experience I did. I am 54 yrs old, from the US and decided to go alone! Wildlife ACT was perfect. Even when I encountered flight problems, they knew where I was and were there to make sure I got to the reserve. I never felt alone.
I spent two weeks at Thanda reserve (1 of 4 reserves where Wildlife ACT is based). Our main focus for the time was tracking the newly re-released Wild African Dog pack. The knowledge, passion and skills of the staff was impressive. The bush is their home and we made it ours for a short (too short) time. I felt comfortable with them as they were relaxed and fun, yet I knew they were always vigilant for our safety.
My favorite memory is the giraffes that would be right outside my living quarters in the afternoon and the other animals that roamed freely through the camps. There is no way I can tell you how the time in Africa impacted me. I have a facebook page “South Africa Calling” with pictures and video links about my time with Wildlife ACT in Zululand this past April.”
Hannah Margolis, 18 yrs, Canadian, July 2011
“I had a really great time with Wildlife ACT. I was Mkhuze for two weeks, and wish I could have stayed longer! The staff are very friendly, and the wildlife monitor I had was fantastic. He was really fun and taught me so much! The best part of Wildlife ACT is how hands-on it is; you’re with the animals everyday and I really felt like we were helping them! The highlight of my two weeks was darting a young cheetah, who we fitted with her first collar so we could monitor her. I recommend Wildlife ACT to anybody who wants an exciting, hands-on experience with African animals. I can’t wait to come back!”
Joke Lammers, 56 yrs, Netherlands, July 2011
“In July 2011 I’ve participated for two weeks, worked at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park and enjoyed it very much. A well organised project in a beautiful reserve. Good accommodation, with a communal kitchen and hot showers(!!). The monitor on Hluhluwe-iMfolozi, Cathy, is very experienced, enthusiastic and responsible. Monitoring the painted dogs was great, these are exceptional social animals. Working with camera traps was great fun. I would love to participate again.”
Sue Learoyd & family – UK, Aug 2011
“We stayed at Mkhuze Game Reserve, which was just beautiful. The accommodation was good, and better than expected with a shower and hot running water. Seeing the sun rise and set over the reserve, was just something else. We went in August and the cold mornings and evenings in the back of the truck was a surprise, and we were wearing layers and fleeces – do take a woolly hat and gloves!
I cannot recommend more highly the wonderful support you get from the staff. Bronwen is just so helpful, and even made a cake for my stepson’s birthday! Cilla, our monitor was so knowledgeable and made a real difference to our understanding of conservation and Africa.
Wildlife ACT are special. We’ve made lifelong friends and developed a love of the African Bush. It really isn’t a safari, it’s far deeper than that, it gets under your skin.”
Robin Shepard, Feb 2013
“To the Wildlife ACT Team,
Just back from an incredible two-week stay at Mkhuze Game Reserve, I find myself grateful for an amazing adventure and already wishing I was out in the bush again each dawn and dusk with the Wild Dogs. I also wanted to thank each member of the Wildlife ACT Team that made this opportunity possible and specifically thank and recognize those who made my experience, and that of the other volunteers I shared my time with, especially memorable and inspirational.
Firstly, for patiently and sincerely answering my seemingly endless pre-departure inquiries, Bronwen Kelly. Despite thoroughly researching Wildlife ACT before deciding on coming, I had a number of specific options and questions that Bronwen answered expediently and comprehensively, in a friendly, helpful manner. This made a significant impact on my decision to come to Wildlife ACT, as her professionalism and efficiency gave me a good deal of confidence in the team’s validity and ethic, each step of the way.
Secondly, yet most importantly, our Wildlife Monitor, Cole du Plessis was an absolutely inspirational ambassador for Wild Dogs, the Mkhuze wildlife we encountered, and conservation in general. His focus and passion for his work and the Wild Dogs was impressive to each one of us. Cole set an excellent example with his solid work ethic, time management skills and incredible adaptability.
The most inspirational part of this whole experience, though for me, was being able to spend time with, learn about, and experience the Wild Dogs through Cole’s dedication, affection and enthusiasm for them. I already had a great interest in the plight of the critically endangered African Wild Dog, but that was multiplied exponentially by the passion and breadth for which Cole performs his job.
Again, thank you all so much for the opportunity to be a part of this experience, for your commitment to the cause of conservation, and for the personal sacrifices you each make to run a great team on the front lines, dedicated to Real Conservation.
Nigel & Sally Ritson, UK, Feb 2013
Ode to Megan Lategan
You’ve been our guide since last Thursday
And have been amazing in every way
You found Elephant, Buffalo, Rhino and frogs
But as of yet no wild dogs
We searched and searched for Fen and Poofy
But had more chance of finding Goofy
Those pesky Mutts are so elusive
The Tembe pack have become reclusives
Despite no dogs we’ve had a blast
Chasing round the park so fast
Megan, you have been a brilliant guide
Taking us from hide to hide
North, South, East, West
You really tried your very best
And because you’ve done so much for us
I’d like to say thanks, you are gorgeous!
Dominique Correa, Jan 2013
I would like to thank all the Wildlife ACT team for the amazing time I had in Africa.
I can truly say that the experience changed my life forever. Before the trip I had no idea what I wanted to do and didn’t know what good could come from my university course, which is Advertising. And now, Wildlife ACT inspired me to used it for a good cause. I have been trying to get involved in Brazilian conservation organizations and have been more interested in my country’s wildlife which is huge!
At both Tembe Elephant Park and Hluhluwe I met the most amazing people and I know I made friends for life. The work you guys are doing is incredible and I would like to help in anyway I could. Please let me know if you guys ever need anything! I’m planning on coming back in July of next year. I cannot wait.
Thank you so much for everything.
Lizzie Hide, UK, March 2013
To the Wildlife ACT monitors: Thank you for an awesome(!) 8 weeks. You are a truly amazing bunch of people – your passion, knowledge, patience (especially with my tendency to organise) and dedication to the wildlife you monitor and protect is both inspiring and humbling. I have learnt so much from you all and the experiences I shared with you will be in my memory forever.