Volunteer – Kariega Conservation Project



Interested in doing conservation work on a Big 5 Game Reserve?

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

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!


1 week and up. Most volunteers stay for 2-4 weeks, but longer is possible.


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.




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 at www.kulula.com, www.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).

Kariega is based in a malaria-free area and there are no formal vaccination requirements for entering South Africa, however it is incumbent upon each person to get their own medical advice on vaccinations and on whether or not to follow a malaria prophylactic program (if you are planning onward travels into malarial zones).  See FAQs for complete packing list.


Click HERE to find out up to date costs and requirements for volunteering with KARIEGA CONSERVATION PROJECT.


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 day’s work!

Meals are included. Vegetarian option available upon request before arrival.


Kariega Conservation Project is home to Africa’s “Big Five” – lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino.


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!


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!

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

For more information on ENKOSINI ECO EXPERIENCE, please visit www.enkosini.org

For important information on travelling overseas, please read ‘KNOW BEFORE YOU GO WILD!‘