Volunteer on a real conservation project, and participate in field research
Spend up to 12 hours a day working on an exclusive private reserve in South Africa
Learn from some of the best wildlife professionals in the world
Learn a host of new skills, from telemetry tracking to dung identification
Meet and live with other like-minded people from around the world
Ecologist and Research Manager
Communal living, rustic-style research camps
As a volunteer who will spend up to 12 hours a day with Phinda’s conservation team, you will need to stay at one of the reserve’s two research camps. Both are rustic-style houses, with very basic, but comfortable facilities. Communal living means you may need to share a bathroom with your fellow housemates, but most of the rooms are private. Read more here.
This programme is ideal for young teens or young adults looking to make a difference while on a gap year or during a long vacation.
Parents, why not accompany your kids to the reserve, but enjoy a week of indulgence at one of our six luxury lodges on &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve?
Alternatively, volunteers are encouraged to add on nights at one of the lodges either before or after the volunteer programme.
Your journey at a glance
The time has come for you to walk in the footsteps of pangolins, stand in the shadow of giants and get-up-close and personal with predators.
Year after year, we have been inundated by guests, from all corners of the globe, asking about a more “hands on experience” that goes behind the scenes of our conservation efforts. In celebration of our 30 year anniversary, we’re launching an unforgettable 7-night (or longer) volunteer programme at &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve, in South Africa.
As a volunteer on &Beyond Phinda, you will join our highly experienced conservation and research team in their daily tasks as they manage the land and its thriving populations of wildlife. The role of the volunteer is to go behind the scenes and assist the monitoring team with any daily management duties that may be required, both routinely, and in aiding any other game capture, major research project, or animal relocation that may be needed at the time. Your active participation is what we rely on, so come prepared to get your hands dirty. In addition to assisting the monitoring and research at the reserve, you will also have the opportunity to learn new skills such as plant identification, animal tracks and tracking, bird identification and so much more; all alongside like-minded travellers.
&Beyond Phinda has a long-standing, comprehensive monitoring program which you can now be a part of. Every day we will go out to follow up on our priority species: elephant, lion, black and white rhino, leopard and cheetah and collect GPS locations (which are used to map home ranges), count the individuals present and assess their behaviour.
In order to keep track of all the individuals, we constantly refresh identity kits with up-to-date current photographs. You will assist with monitoring and collecting this data as well as taking photographs. The lesser known or ‘less popular’ species are just as important at &Beyond Phinda and we are always on the lookout for interesting birds of prey, smaller creatures, or any animal that appears injured or ill.
*All proceeds go toward the funding of Phinda’s conservation and research projects
An incredible opportunity to learn new skills and gain life-changing conservation experience.
Gain a host of practical skills
In addition to the daily research and monitoring, there are a plenty of practical skills and opportunities you may get the opportunity to be a part of, depending on the time of year. Here are just some of the incredible things you could experience.
On most days, you would be required to assist in the data sorting gathered from the day’s tasks, update ID kits, or assist with general analysis.
Explore and identify spoor, animal droppings and scat. Learn what the size, shape and colour of the scat can reveal about the behaviour and movements of animals.
Get up close to a wide variety of trees, shrubs and flowers as you learn how to identify and name them, as well as their unique features and uses.
ANIMAL TRACKS AND TRACKING
Study different wildlife tracking techniques and signs in the bush. Interpret the intricacies of the tracks that will help you identify specific details in the surrounds.
From time to time, the opportunity may arise where we need to assist animals that are injured or
sick, or the veterinary team may be called to assist with a darting, notching or contraception of one of our priority species.
Learn to identify many species of birds by sight and sound and find out about their unique evolution, habitats, environment, biology and ecology.
Use tracking devices in the active monitoring and protection of our endangered species as they supply critical data for our research purposes.
The opportunity may arise to be involved in a game capture. Watch and get involved as the highly trained and experienced team use techniques and special equipment to move these wild, yet fragile creatures.
During certain parts of the year, we assess the population sizes and distributions of specific wildlife to ensure the balance of a healthy ecosystem.
Learn about this important tool in scientific research and how we use it to observe animal movement, behaviour, numbers and habitat.
A typical day as a volunteer
Start your morning early with a monitoring session with one of our field monitors. This can sometimes last the whole day depending on what needs arise. During this monitoring session we will locate and assess animals and record their location. An early start means that coffee is a necessity, so we normally find a scenic spot to have a coffee break somewhere in the bush.
Return to camp for a midday break and head out for a second monitoring session in the afternoon/evening. This down time is a great opportunity for relaxing, but may sometimes be used to assist in data sorting, or potentially helping to identify recorded individuals from photographs and to update ID kits.
The experience is extremely rewarding, as long as you are prepared to work hard, have fun and learn, you will enjoy every minute.”
Monitoring may at times take a drastic turn and we need to assist animals that are injured or sick, so flexibility is key. If this is the case, we might be out for the entire day depending on the situation, so 12 hours away from camp could be a possibility. For this reason, it’s important to always pack extra gear, warm comfortable clothes and additional snacks.
Sundays are generally slower, and the afternoons are used for a breather, however there are certain activities which can be pre-booked with our &Beyond Adventures team, and a day at the beach can be organized at your own cost. Optional activities include scuba diving, snorkeling, or an ocean safari. Different seasons provide us with specific activities or research projects. During the months of May through to August, game capture might be on the cards more often than other times during the year. August through to October we conduct annual game counts through driving transects as part of our annual ecological population summary of the different species within &Beyond Phinda.
- Accommodation in one of two research camps on the reserve (Not in a luxury &Beyond lodge) - Read more below.
- Food will be supplied (volunteers will need to do their own cooking)
- Daily housekeeper to assist with cleaning and laundry
What's not included
- All beverages
- Private safari activities (Additional nights in the lodge can be booked pre or post the programme)
- Emergency medical evacuation insurance
- Travel Insurance
- Transfers to and from the reserve
- Accommodation is not in &Beyond lodge, but in one of two research camps on the reserve - Read more below.
- Volunteers will be expected to cook for themselves
- Subject to a minimum of 7 nights, as wildlife and weather can be unpredictable
- The programme can be extended on a day by day basis after 7 nights
- Acceptance into the programme is at the discretion of &Beyond's Conservation and Habitat Team.
- &Beyond Trading Terms apply
- Valid for Feb-Nov 2021 and Feb-Nov 2022
- Valid for August and September 2021 only
- Children must be older than 12 years of age
- Maximum 6 people in a cottage
What you need to know
You do not need to have any previous experience to volunteer with us, but you do need to be at least 18 years of age (unless staying exclusive-use with a family, then kids 12+ are welcome), have travel and medical insurance, a reasonable level of physical fitness, and enthusiasm for manual work.
Days can be long, and weather conditions are sometimes challenging – from extremely hot and humid days to cold and wet days that sometimes test one’s patience and perseverance. A relatively open-minded and flexible mindset is important, as you will be meeting and living with people from all walks of life. The experience is extremely rewarding; as long as you are prepared to work hard, have fun and learn, you will enjoy every minute. Please note that acceptance into the programme is at the discretion of &Beyond’s Conservation and Habitat Team.
There are two volunteer camps on &Beyond Phinda, both located a fair distance from our guest lodges and from each other. Swilleys is located in the far north, and Sutton in the south of the conservancy.
Both are rustic-style houses, with very basic, but comfortable facilities. Communal living means you may need to share a bathroom with your fellow housemates, but most of the rooms are private. Please enquire about room configuration and availability when booking. Each house can accommodate four research volunteers. The house is serviced daily, so there is a housekeeper to assist with cleaning and laundry.
Food will be provided for your house kitchen once a week. We supply meat, fresh fruit and vegetables and non-perishables items such as tinned food, pasta and other basic items, as well as essentials like tea and coffee.
You and your housemates will be responsible for cooking your own meals in the communal kitchen, so we recommend taking turns and creating a roster on arrival. If you have any special dietary requirements, please let us know and we will cater accordingly as best we can. Trips into the local town can be arranged if there is anything specific you would like to purchase that is not provided in the kitchen, although that depends on availability of a vehicle. Each of the lodges does have a staff canteen where you can purchase a few limited drinks and snacks. Each house has a gorgeous veranda with the best views and sunsets in KwaZulu-Natal. We highly recommend cooking your meals on the braai (BBQ) like a true South African. We will supply the firewood.
Safety is of the utmost importance to us, for both you and the wildlife. Please note that neither of the volunteer camps is fenced off. &Beyond Phinda is a Big Five game reserve, and there is no physical impediment to any wildlife entering the area around the camps.
For this reason, under no circumstances should anyone walk-in or around the camps at night unaccompanied. Venomous snakes and scorpions are found in the conservation area, so precautions need to be followed. Monkeys and/or baboons do like to snatch food, so take precautions with all meals, to deter them from entering your living areas.
There is no Wi-Fi at the research camps, but an occasional trip can be made to the main administrative camp if time allows. If you would like a South African SIM card that connects to the local network, you will need to arrange that upon arrival at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. There is GSM signal at both camps.
Our expert travel planners and reservations staff can help you plan your trip should you need assistance from your home country. Visas, vaccinations, and necessary COVID-19 precautions may apply and will be communicated to you when enquiring.
The basic package cost does not include any transfers to the lodge, however, we offer various packages that include transfers from both Johannesburg and Durban.
Are you ready?
BEGIN YOUR VOLUNTEERING ADVENTURE
Frequently asked questions
Question: Who is the programme ideally suited for?
The programme is ideal for older teens or young adults looking to make a difference while on a gap year or during a long vacation. While this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, the hours are long, the work is tough, the experience is by no means a luxury experience – but it is extremely rewarding. Please note that acceptance into the programme is at the discretion of &Beyond’s Conservation and Habitat Team, as we will need to assess whether you understand the nature of the programme and the level of work it entails.
Question: What is the accommodation like?
Volunteers will not be staying in one of &Beyond’s luxury lodges on the reserve due the complexity of the programme and the hours involved. Volunteers will be staying in one of two research houses, depending on group sizes and configuration. The houses are set up for communal living, with a shared kitchen that requires volunteers to cook their own meals. For this reason, the programme is ideal for school-leavers, gap year students or young adults looking to make a difference and be adventurous. We encourage parents that would like to accompany their kids to the reserve, to enjoy a week at one of our luxury lodges on &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve.
Question: Is there a malaria risk?
&Beyond Phinda is a low-risk malaria area, so there is very little cause for concern. If you feel that you would like malaria medication as a prophylactic, please consult a doctor prior to arriving.
Question: Could I contract tick bite fever?
Tick bite fever is prevalent in certain parts of South Africa. However, there are ways to prevent the fever. Contact with ticks is certain, so there are steps that should be taken to lessen the chance, such as wearing long trousers and long sleeve shirts. This, with a warm shower checking all places (we mean all) should be enough to prevent it. If contracted, a simple trip to the doc and some meds will sort you out without any issues.
Question: Can I bring my computer and camera with?
Yes, you can bring your camera with on monitoring sessions to capture priceless photographs. There is ample power to charge your devices at the camp.
Question: Is the water safe to drink?
Rainwater for drinking and cooking is stored in tanks and is safe to drink, after boiling. Please supply your own water bottle for game drives, maybe even a thermos if you like your coffee first thing in the morning. Water for showering and brushing teeth is salty but safe to use. You will have the chance to purchase bottled water on your way from the airport on arrival, or your driver can stop in town along the way.
Question: How much free time will I get?
You will have free time around the camp on a Sunday. Additional activities arranged through our Phinda Adventures office, offered at your own cost, can be arranged. If you need any personal supplies, short trips into town can be arranged if time allows and if any vehicles are available, however, this is not guaranteed.
Question: What do I need to bring?
Other than your basic personal items, we recommend the following:
• T-shirts and shorts
• Thin cotton long-sleeve shirts are recommended for sun protection
• Warm hoodies/jumpers, especially during during winter (April – August)
• Winter jacket
• A waterproof jacket for rainy weather
• Long trousers (for walks or evening drives)
• Beanie, gloves and scarf (during winter)
• A wide brim sun hat
• Walking socks
• Hiking-type shoes
• Comfortable shoes for your time off
• Sunglasses (very important not only for UV rays, but also for bug
protection on drives)
• A torch (and batteries)
• A camera (and batteries)
• Towels (2 are ideal)
• Small backpack
• Water bottle (1L is ideal)
• Sun cream (SPF 30+)
• Insect repellent
• Basic first aid kit (including Baytocol, for tick prevention)
• Plug adapters (South African three rounded pronged plug)
There is no need to bring your own linen or sleeping bags.
All kitchen essentials and utensils are supplied.
Please note that neutral shades such as olive, brown, green, khaki and
beige are best (bright colours are NOT recommended in the field).
Limited edition experiences
Celebrate our 30 year anniversary with us
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