Big 5 Wild Project

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The Big Five Wild project offers you a unique experience in the African bush and gives you the opportunity to observe and be a part of the research/monitoring teams on the reserve. The focus of the this project revolves around some of our key species; elephants, lions, hyenas and leopards. You will also be involved in monitoring our breeding initiatives comprising buffalo, livingston eland and nyala. Habitat work also plays an important part of the monitoring process. Whether on a monitoring drive, on foot, or observing the wildlife at a waterhole, all of your work will be done under the guidance of our qualified rangers.

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Project Highlights

  • Learning about South African wildlife conservation
  • Going on game drives and seeing wild animals up close/li>
  • Experiencing what it is like to live in the bush

You will be living close to many wild animals in the bush. Nothing beats being surrounded by a herd of elephants or a pride of lions and being able to spend time observing their individual traits and family dynamics.

Project details

  • Arrival date: Saturday
  • Orientation in Johannesburg: Saturday-Sunday
  • Transfer to project: Monday
  • Location:  65km North-West from Hoedspruit and 75km South-East from Tzaneen, Limpopo
  • Minimum duration: 2 weeks
  • Programs run 6 days a week

Johannesburg Orientation 
All of our JNB conservation projects will include a 2 day orientation prior to attending the project site. Saturday-Sunday is orientation in Joburg, then on Monday you will transfer to project via shuttle and depart on a Monday.

We recommend that volunteers fly to and from Hoedspruit Airport (cost around R2000). We will organise a transfer from the airport to the project and back. Choosing this option will save you a six hour bus shuttle from Johannesburg to Hoedspruit and back.

Volunteer Requirements

  • CV/Resumé
  • Basic level of competency in English
  • Medium level of fitness
  • 18 years of age or older

Volunteer tasks

Volunteer tasks are focused on monitoring, which forms the basis for the majority of our research assistance on the reserve. We conduct monitoring drives in the mornings and afternoons. The monitoring coincides with times of increased activity of the specific animals we are observing. We also spend time on foot tracking the more elusive animals, which is an amazing way to experience the bush. During the drier winter months, we have several hides based at waterholes which allow you to observe the various animals and their interactions at close quarters. The volunteers will also spend time attending to habitat management requirements on the properties and the greater reserve.

Winter in South Africa

Please note that May through to September are our winter months and it can get quite chilly with an average temperature ranging from -1 at night to 15 degrees Celsius during the day. So, please make sure to pack enough warm clothes if you plan your trip in that period.

Louise (New Zealand)

Interesting, informative and most enjoyable. I especially enjoyed the ‘hands-on’ as well as the enrichment activities for the animals.

Sarah (New Zealand)

The experience was great, I’ve met some great people on this trip, developed new skills and have a new found confidence. I would definitely come back and recommend this to friends and family.

Elin (Norway)

I enjoyed my stay here to the fullest. I loved working with the animals and people from different countries. Isabel and Pieter were always ready to help us with anything. Based on this experience, I will definitely volunteer again. Thank you!!!

Bev (USA)

Overall very impressed. You should be very proud of what you have accomplished in a relatively short time. We are very impressed with what and how you conduct the program. I definitely would recommend your program.

Tate (USA)

I loved every minute of the experience. I thought Pieter and Isabel went out of their way to make sure everyone was comfortable and having a great time. I would 100% recommend this experience to other people.

What’s Included

• Return Transfer from Johannesburg Airport
• All meals
• Accommodation
• 24 hour support and supervisor
• Donation to the project

2 day Volunteer Johannesburg Orientation

Arrive in Joburg or Jozi, as it is known locally, and get shown around by people who know the city well. The Johannesburg Orientation is excellent for first-time visitors to find their feet the local way and meet other volunteers on your project.

• Arty districts of Newtown and Braamfontein
• Constitutional Hill
• Telkom Tower
• Nelson Mandela Bridge
• Jazz Walk of Fame
• Mary Fitzgerald Square
• Traditional South African meal

Day 1
You will be picked up from the airport and taken to the hostel. Here you will be given a chance to settle down before meeting our SAVE volunteer representative.
You will be given a briefing on your volunteer program and then meet other travellers and volunteers for a welcome dinner.

Day 2
After breakfast you will be collected by one of our SAVE crew and shown your way around the sites of Johannesburg like a local. We will start off with a visits to Soweto, South Africa’s biggest Township here you will have the opportunity to take some  photos at the iconic Orlando Towers and Soccer City, home of the World Cup Final. We then head to a local food market where you can have a light lunch, shop for local arts and crafts and listen to some live music. After lunch we head to Constitution Hill, home of our South African Democracy and an integral part of our history. We then end the tour with a walk through the park at Zoo Lake, a pleasant end to the day.

Please note that the tour is flexible and may change according to the group’s interests for the day. This is your personal tour of our lovely city with our local guide to show you the best sites and places for the day.

Day 3
After breakfast we will either take you directly to your projects site, shuttle terminal or airport.


The volunteer house accommodates a maximum of 10 volunteers in five cosy rooms which sleep two people in a shared space. Each room has a washbasin and an en suite bathroom, which is shared with the adjoining room, consisting of a shower with hot running water provided by eco-friendly solar heaters and flushing toilets. The camp has no fence around it so you will see free roaming animals and birdlife during the day.

Next door is the kitchen with an outside eating area. The kitchen offers cooking facilities for volunteers to prepare their breakfast, lunch and dinner. The fridge is always filled up with fresh veggies and fruit, cheese and a variety of meat. Volunteers may help themselves to tea, coffee, cereal and toast in the morning. For a late brunch you can make sandwiches or salads or have a tasty fry-up. In the evening, after the game drive, the volunteers cook a delicious meal together or just braai (South African BBQ) in our Boma, where we light up the fire after sunset.

In the evenings we spend most of the time under the South African stars and start a fire in the boma. We sit around enjoying a well earned drink and an amazing dinner, telling stories of the day’s adventures.


If you require internet access at the camp, you can arrange this for a small cost with the camp manager. On our weekly town trip you will also have the opportunities for internet access at the internet café in town to check your emails and do bookings.


There are washing machines available for use at camp, washing powder is supplied. Clothes are line-dried, no dryers available.


All food for breakfast, lunch and dinner is provided, as well as fresh fruit. However, food is only re-stocked once a week so once it’s gone it’s gone! If you have any special dietary requirements please inform us before your arrival so that we can accommodate them if possible.

Cordial fruit drink, tea and coffee are provided. Soft drinks, alcoholic beverages (beers and ciders) and snack foods are not available in camp but you can buy them on the weekly town trips.

Important reminder: Participants must advise SAVE of their dietary needs. Volunteers with very specific dietary requirements may be required to supplement meals at their own expense.


Volunteers will be met at Johannesburg International airport and taken to the project by shuttle. The vehicles used are roadworthy and have all relevant licenses and liability insurance.

  • All transport is safe and reliable
  • All licenses and insurances are up to date
  • All insurances and liabilities for passengers are up to date and fully paid
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What kind of people volunteer at these projects?
What time do we start work?
What is the weather like?
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Cell phone reception:
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Food & Beverages:
Is the water safe to drink?
Should I take precautions against Malaria?
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Money/Credit Cards:

 Example Itinerary


Either an outing will be planned or it will be a free day for volunteers to relax or head out on their own tour.

In between activities, volunteers will receive a series of presentations on the work of the project, or how to approach dangerous game on foot, or possibly even a Zulu lesson. This time will also be used to transfer all data collected onto the computers and compile the weekly research report, as well as helping out with vehicle checks and cleaning.

Project start day. Town trip to pick up volunteers and restock supplies.

Early start on a set-route drive as part of our game counting program to determine populations of general game. In the afternoon we depart for a monitoring drive to locate one of our key species of interest; lion, elephant, leopard or hyena.

Waterhole monitoring in the morning to determine species utilisation of the area. We set off for a drive in the afternoon to the breeding boma to monitor the buffalo, Livingstone eland and nyala.

Habitat work; we could be busy with exotic plant removal, erosion control or bush clearing. In the afternoon or evening, we head out on hyena monitoring and night patrol.

Early morning start, we will be out locating the elephants as part of the ongoing research into the elephant contraception program. The afternoon we will set out to monitor bird species on our way to a sleep out under the stars with the Endangered Species project.

Habitat work in the morning, followed by an afternoon monitoring drive focusing on our lion population. On return in the evening, we may head out to the local pub or have a typical South African braai (BBQ)

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