Conservation Volunteer Programme

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!

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 Big 5 game reserve.

Your Conservation Experience

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

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.

Wildlife Conservation Research Projects

Elephant impact monitoring

Volunteers help monitor elephant movement patterns, range utilization and vegetation impact. A part of this research project that volunteers are very involved with, is recording the unique ear markings of each elephant for management purposes. Elephant identification sheets are given to each volunteer, who in turn will assist the conservation department in this regard.

Movement sensor camera monitoring

Cape leopard part of conservation project

Leopards have been persecuted in the Eastern Cape for the last three hundred years, resulting in a decline in numbers and fragmentation of populations, placing the local population at risk of extinction. We are trying to establish how many leopards occur on Kariega Game Reserve. We have various movement sensor cameras in place on the reserve and it is one of the volunteer programme’s tasks to monitor these cameras, change memory cards and record all images taken. The cameras are moved around the property on a regular basis to increase the chance of leopard sightings.

The cameras are also used to record sightings of other rarely seen species, such as brown hyena, and to try and monitor their movement patterns.

Lion prey selection monitoring

One of the volunteer programme’s responsibilities is to record as many lion kills as possible. This data provides the conservation department at Kariega with valuable information regarding prey selection. 

Rhino monitoring

This rhino poaching crisis is the most significant conservation issue that South Africa is facing. Kariega conservation volunteers help monitor and account for rhinos on the property on a regular basis. For safety reasons we do not divulge more information about this monitoring project or our rhino numbers on the reserve.

Birds in Reserve Project (BIRP)

This project involves preparing a catalogue of the birds, bird numbers and their breeding status in the reserve 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 programme. Some of these activities involve physical work and therefore a certain level of fitness and determination from the volunteer’s side 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 ratios recordings of specific species like eland and giraffe
  • Alien vegetation control and habitat management - Volunteers will assist in the 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 so be prepared to get your hands dirty!
  • Soil erosion control - Previous land utilization practices like cattle ranching has caused erosion gulleys in certain areas on the reserve. These sites need to be rehabilitated
  • Reserve clean-up operations - Volunteers assist in pulling out remaining old cattle fences and water pipes on the reserve.
  • Road maintenance and repairing of river crossings
  • Indigenous plant nursery work including landscaping around the lodges
  • Assistance to the rhino anti-poaching unit - Volunteers may be required to assist this team on the reserve from time to time
  • Parasite control – This involves the making-up and administering of anti-parasite meds to specific species (when required by the reserve)
  • Any other conservation management activity that might pop-up at the time.

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 and not for the sake of the volunteers.
  • Game Introduction
    There is an ongoing programme for the introduction of additional game, especially as the reserve has acquired more land that will need to be stocked with various different African mammal species.
  • Fire Management
    An important driving force in savanna ecosystems (depending on the time of year and fire regimes)

Conservation Education / Theory

Each volunteer is given a field booklet, which can be taken home at the end of the placement. 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 and will help you to identify different species at Kariega. Volunteers are required to help (on a rotational system) with the entering of data into our research computer at the volunteer house.

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)
  • Coastal ecology outings

Community Development

Young school children at Farmerfield school supported by Kariega Game Reserve

Kariega conservation volunteers spend one morning a week at the under-funded nearby farm school called Farmerfield.

The school educates approximately 95 local children between the ages of four and 15. It is very under-staffed and volunteers assist by taking some of the classes themselves. They teach 6-12 year olds subjects like English, Maths and Science. You might also help with the maintenance of the school’s facilities. A recent group of volunteers renovated a pre-primary classroom to replace the completely collapsed ceiling and floorboards. Your contribution here is real and both the children and the headmistress are very appreciative.

Please note that visits to the school do not take place during South African school holidays or on rainy days (most of the children walk about 10 km to attend school so if it rains, no one goes to school). 

Field Conditions

Accommodation is in a fully furnished house on the reserve (shared bedrooms and bathrooms). Volunteers are divided into teams and are responsible for the preparation of meals on a rotational basis. There are plenty of opportunity for braai’s (BBQ’s) under the night skies and socializing around a fire. There is a lovely plunge-pool for volunteers to cool off in after a hard day’s work.

The working week at Kariega is from Monday to Friday. Working hours depend on the season and may vary from 7 – 9 hours per day. The evenings are at your leisure. Saturdays are reserved for a town trip to the nearby beachside village of Kenton-On-Sea where volunteers can shop, eat out and spend some time on the beach. Sundays are off time.

There are also additional activities that can be organised 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
  • Sky diving – tandem (that means you are strapped to an instructor!)
  • Deep sea fishing
  • Two day overnight canoe trail on the Bushman's river (this is a hit with many of our volunteer groups)
  • Quad bike riding
  • Addo Elephant National Park field trip
  • Paint ball
  • Weekend trips away can include bungee jumping, canopy tours and shark cage diving

When you send an email to us to enquire about joining this volunteer programme we will reply with a detailed information pack. This includes further information about living conditions, off time over weekends, transfers between the airport and the reserve etc.


There are no set arrival/departure dates for this project, but please note all arrivals are scheduled on Mondays. Departure days can be Fridays, Saturdays or Mondays (please note: no Sundays). Volunteers are required to sign an indemnity form acknowledging and accepting the consequences of working in close contact with wild animals. Applicants must be 17 years of age or older. The minimum time period for a booking is a two week placement and the maximum period is 12 weeks.

Please note that our activities are based on a stay of four weeks. Although many of the activities listed below may take place in two to three week placements, not all are guaranteed. So the longer your stay, the more in depth your experience.

Enquiries and Reservations

Prices include accommodation for the duration of your placement, all work activities on the reserve and three meals per day. Please email us to enquire about our weekly rate. Not included are entertainment expenses over weekends, socializing costs (drinks and meals volunteers choose to have while out in town) and transfers between the airport and the reserve. Please note we can unfortunately not offer any free placements in return for work.

Arrangements will be made by Kariega staff to collect incoming volunteers from Port Elizabeth Airport. Kariega is approximately 140 kms (two hours drive) from Port Elizabeth. Volunteers are to pay for the transfer to and from the airport themselves.


For a personalised answer to all your questions or to enquire about our latest prices, please feel free to email our Volunteer Programme Manager, Helena Warren, at or call directly on +27 76 100 6809.

Conservation Volunteer Testimonials

For more volunteer testimonials please visit our Volunteer Testimonial section on our blog.

“Kariega was one of my best experiences in life. Since the moment I’ve arrived, everyone was so friendly and made me feel at home. Our coordinator had so much wisdom to share about the fauna and flora on the reserve. We were able to see a huge herd of elephant right next to us, an encounter between a white and black rhino, lions walking around and many other fantastic moments. I’m so grateful for the opportunity of joining this programme.” Daniel Mendes, Brazil, 28 May – 11 June 2018.

“I am so in awe of my entire time here. I don’t know what to write that could possibly express how breathtaking every single day has been. I learned so much and tried to write down as many interested pieces of information as possible, but I could never write fast enough to keep up with it all! I enjoyed it all – from stargazing to removing invasive species, feeding servals, visiting the children and the village dogs in Ekuphumleni, observing elephants/rhinos/birds, getting to use telemetry in action and being albe to learn about game capture and watch the team of vets dart an ostrich! I will never forget how magical it feels to be a volunteer on Kariega. Hopefully I will be able to come back someday.” Stephanie Hargrave, Florida, 25 June – 9 July 2018.

“This was not my first volunteering project but it’s definitely the most exciting project I’ve ever taken part in! I was very lucky to be part of a great group of volunteers. In such a short time, we all got so close. We learnt so much from our coordinator. Jarrett is just awesome! It was a very good choice to come to Kariega but it would have been better if I could stay longer. Thanks Kariega, I will never forget this.” Kwenta Notteboom, Belgium, 9 July – 22 July 2018.

“These past weeks have been an experience that I will never forget as they have undoubtedly been the best few weeks of my life – I couldn’t fault a thing. From paintballing, messing around on the beach and even sky diving. Not forgetting the crazy safaris and learning about all the different animals. But I think what has to have made this experience for me is the people that I’ve met. I came out to South Africa alone with no expectations of making friends with people as amazing as I have. Every single person was so welcoming and kind and taught me so much. I can’t thank you enough Jarrett – you legend!” Lucy Barton, UK, 6 August – 20 August 2018.

For more volunteer testimonials please visit the Volunteer Testimonial section on our blog.

Kariega conservation volunteersKariega conservation volunteers

Volunteer at Kariega Game Reserve - Short clip
Video Volunteer Conservation Programme Kariega Game Reserve2
Volunteer at Kariega Game Reserve - Full length video
Video Volunteer Conservation Programme Kariega Game Reserve

Volunteer Blog Page

Check out the Kariega Volunteers blog page to see what they've been up to! 

Thandi's Story: Help Save our Rhino
Thandi Calf Jan2015 Gary Van Wyk1000

Volunteer Testimonials

Read what past volunteers have to say about their experience as a Kariega Conservation Volunteer.

Contact Info

For a personalised answer to all your questions or to enquire about our latest prices, please feel free to contact our Volunteer Programme Manager, Helena Warren:

t: +27 (0)76 100 6809

Or fill in our Volunteer enquiry form here.