SOUTH AFRICA: Zululand Wildlife & Game Reserves Conservation Expedition

Company : Travellers Worldwide
Location : Zululand
Duration: 2 weeks to 6 months
Approx Costs: 1500 to 3000+ £ Pound (UK)

Get involved with the most exciting, endangered and priority species conservation work in the heartbeat of Africa. You'll work with a professional team across different reserves.

You'll work with a professional team (who are supported by WWF amongst others) and you'll work with endangered species like the Cheetah, African Wild Dog and Black Rhino, and priority species with a high ecological impact like Elephant, Lion, Rhino, Leopard and Buffalo. So if you want to experience genuine conservation work and find out what Africa is really about, then this Expedition is for you.

If you want exciting and rewarding conservation work, you’ll love this placement. The work is varied and fascinating and makes a major contribution to the conservation of African wildlife. You'll work on one, two or all three of the Game Reserves, depending on how long your placement is for. You'll gain a wealth of conservation knowledge and experience working under qualified conservation experts and on location out in the bush on a daily basis. You'll definitely experience Africa in a way that no mere tourist can!

If you do this project for up to four weeks, you can choose which Game Reserve you'd like to work on. If your project is for longer than 4 weeks, you will most likely work on all four Game Reserves - a fantastic experience!


--> An exciting, never-to-be-forgotten adventure into Africa and into Zulu culture.
--> You'll learn a lot about genuine conservation of African Wildlife from experts in their field.
--> New skills, more confidence, a greater understanding of a different culture, invaluable personal and professional development.
--> An entry on your CV or résumé that will put you head and shoulders above most others in the job market.
--> And best of all ... an unforgettable experience!


  • The experience you'll gain on this project is varied and fascinating. You'll be the Conservation Monitor's right hand, assisting with all aspects of conservation activities. As one of only 4 team members, you form an agile and efficient team, working out in the bush every day:
  • Tracking and locating endangered and priority wildlife via radio or satellite telemetry equipment
  • Map sightings using GPS equipment
  • Photographing and creating identity kits of individual animals
  • Studying the animals and recording behavioural and feeding patterns for research purposes
  • Completing large scale game counts
  • Activities that occur regularly are:
  • Radio collaring of animals
  • Relocation, re-introduction of endangered species
  • Notching (identity marking) of animals like rhino and elephant
  • Setting up camera traps at watering holes and game trails
  • Scouting for and releasing animals from poachers snares
  • Night tracking excursions
  • Bird capturing and ringing
  • Alien plant control


"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." Steph Ronson


Wildlife monitoring is essential for keeping track of animal movement patterns, habitat utilisation, population demographics and importantly, snaring and poaching incidents of endangered wildlife species. This valuable information, which our team members help gather, has numerous management applications, including the planning of successful introduction and removal strategies of endangered and priority wildlife species.


Unlike other projects, The Zululand Conservation Expedition is not focused on only 1 reserve, but stretched across 4 of most famous reserves in Southern Africa. Depending on how long you stay with us, you will get the opportunity to experience the work done on all these reserves. The Zululand ecosystem is among the most productive wild lands on the planet, with wildlife as diverse as its landscape.

The reserves you can work on are one or all of the following


Thanda Private Game Reserve, in the heart of Zululand, is situated in an area exceptionally rich in fauna and flora, boasting not only the Super 7 (lion, buffalo, elephant, rhino, leopard, African Wild Dog and cheetah), but also over 380 bird species. Over the past few years a number of indigenous keystone species, including African Wild Dog, cheetah, lion, elephant, buffalo and White Rhino have been reintroduced to this reserve. The team you will be joining initiated their monitoring efforts to help assess the progress of these reintroduced species with a focus on the African Wild Dog, cheetah and Black Rhino as well getting a handle on the resident leopard and hyena population’s demographics, and how these species including lion and buffalo impact these endangered species.

At the end of 2009, Thanda was expanded by 14,000 ha through the incorporation of the Mduna Royal Reserve. This expansion allowed for the introduction of the Black Rhino and facilitated the establishment of the Thanda Research Centre. This initiative, which is a collaboration between several organizations with a collective vision and commitment to reintroduce vast tracts of lands into wilderness whilst stocking the land with animal species that once grazed uninhibited at the turn of the century, has been long in the making although only now made possible. The partners include the: Thanda Foundation Trust; Space for Elephant Foundation; WWF and KZN Wildlife through the Endangered Black Rhino reintroduction programme; Wildlands Conservation Trust who are involved with the Mduna Royal Reserve Project; and Wildlife ACT who are partnering with Thanda on the monitoring programmes.

The team's current focus on Thanda is the monitoring of the African Wild Dog, Black Rhino, Cheetah, and Spotted Hyena.


A place of great beauty and high contrasts, Mkhuze is renowned for its’ astonishing diversity of natural habitats, from the eastern slopes of the Lebombo mountains along its eastern boundary, to broad stretches of acacia savannah, swamps, a variety of woodlands and riverine forests as well as a rare type of sand forest. The Mkhuze River, with a fine stretch of fig forest along its banks, curves along the reserve's northern and eastern borders and the Mkhuze Game Reserve and constitutes the north western spur of the recently declared World Heritage Site: the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park.

The reserve offers an abundance of wildlife including endangered species such as Black Rhino, Cheetah, African Wild Dog and Suni. Other animals to be found in the reserve include White Rhino, elephant, giraffe, leopard, nyala, Blue Wildebeest, warthog, impala, kudu and other smaller antelope. It is also famous for its’ rich birdlife and attracts ornithologists from all over the world. Two beautiful pans, Nhlonhlela and Nsumo which lie in the north and east respectively, support large communities of hippos, crocodiles, pinkbacked and white pelicans, as well as a diversity of ducks and geese which gather in spring. As on all 3 reserves, a maximum of four team members are taken on at any given time and each member will have the opportunity to make a tangible contribution to conservation while gaining invaluable experience in the field.

The team’s main focus on Mkhuze is the monitoring of the African Wild Dog, Cheetah, Elephant herds and Vultures.


Situated in Northern Zululand, and adjoining the Mozambique border, Tembe Elephant National Park is home to over 200 African elephants and a rich diversity of wildlife - including the big 5 with black and white rhino, buffalo, hippo, leopard, lion, African wild dog, leopard and various antelope species. Tembe is also famous for having the elephants with the world’s biggest tuskers. They are absolutely massive!

The area now known as Tembe Elephant Park is real wild country, with very few people and no major fences around it except the northern international border fence. This fence was no obstacle for the elephants and they crossed freely into Mozambique. Very few people lived in the area mainly because of the scarcity of surface water. What water there is, is seasonal and the more permanent waters of the northern sections of the Muzi swamp are saline, and therefore not suitable for cultivation. The soils are poor for cultivation except along the Muzi swamps and the elephants destroyed any crops that did manage to grow. The park falls within the Tembe Tribal ward and Chief Mzimba Tembe donated the land for the formation of this game reserve.

The main focus on Tembe is the monitoring of Lions, Elephant and Wild Dogs.


Set in the heart of Zululand, and established in 1895, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP) is one of the oldest Game Reserves in Africa. Part of the land was the exclusive hunting preserve of the Zulu king Shaka, who protected the area by proclaiming 'conservation' laws through his ownership of the land.

In 1895 the Hluhluwe Valley Reserve and the Imfolozi Junction Reserve were proclaimed as Game Sanctuaries. More than a hundred years later, the proclamation of the Corridor Game Reserve between the two Reserves led to the re-naming of the four Reserves as Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park. The Park covers some 96 000 hectares and contains an immense diversity of fauna and flora. Hluhluwe, the northern section, is characterised by hilly topography, and is noted for its wide variety of both bird and animal life. Imfolozi, the southern component of the park, is the larger section which has a large Wilderness area where no roads or permanent human habitation is permitted.

This Reserve was the home of the now famous 'Operation Rhino' in the 1950's and 60's. In 1962 the decision was taken by the Natal Parks Board (now renamed Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife) to remove a number of Southern White Rhino (Ceratotherium simium) from Imfolozi Game Reserve which was then the last remaining habitat of the species on the continent. In the first 10 years of this programme, more than 100 of these Rhino were caught and sent to Game Reserves, Parks and Zoos throughout the world resulting in the reestablishment of the species throughout the continent.

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park is also famed for its Wilderness Trails which originated in iMfolozi in the 1950s and its renowned Game Capture unit recently upgraded into the Centenary Capture Centre, a bench mark for animal capture and sustainable utilization throughout Africa.

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park is home to a rich diversity of wildlife, including the "Big 5" as well as African Wild Dog, Cheetah, Hyaena, Jackal, Hippopotamus, and various antelope species including Waterbuck, common and mountain Reedbuck, Nyala, Kudu, Bushbuck, Steenbok, Duiker and Impala.

The main focus on HiP includes the monitoring of the Wild Dogs, as well as a new and extensive camera trapping survey of Cheetah and Leopard.

"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..." Julia

As with all Conservation projects, your work will depend on what is required at the time your project takes place. Conservation projects are frequently governed by uncontrollable factors, such as the weather, season habits of species, conservation priorities and logistics in operating research projects in a remote area. From time to time the focus of projects are adjusted depending on the results achieved through the research and small adaptations in program activities may take place. Visiting specialists and researchers often add value to existing programs and your project may interact with other research activities when possible.


You can join this project in multiples of 2 weeks (2,4,6 all the way to 12 weeks). If you stay for 2 weeks you will work on one reserve. If you get to stay for 4 weeks you will get to spend time on 2 reserves, and if you stay for longer you will get the opportunity to join the team on all 3 reserves. Should you want to stay longer than 2 weeks there is a further interview process. Start and end dates are every second Monday.

"My overall experience was amazing! a great hands on experience and also a great confidence booster. I was allowed me to see a side of conservation that one can not get from being a tourist in South Africa or a volunteer on other projects. The knowledge given by the management/field team was very valuable and again a great insight into conservation. I can honestly say everything was a highlight, but seeing the Rhino capture was very special." Peter Holland


You will be based on a reserve itself in our research accommodation along with one to three other volunteers and in a farm house or wood cabin. Sharing a room will depend on the number of volunteers on the reserve.


If you’d like more information about this or any of our projects, please email or call us! If you’d like to apply for this project, please go to our website and complete the application form. As soon as we receive it, we’ll liaise with you and then start making your travel adventure happen.

Start Dates

Flexible start and finish dates you choose. Our placements are flexible and can be tailored to match your preferences. For availability please contact the office.

Costs / Benefits

Costs vary depending on length of placement, but starts at £1,595 for two weeks. You can participate for up to six months or longer, subject to visa requirements.

Included is full support from the moment of booking and throughout your placement to your return home. There are support staff 24/7 in all our destinations worldwide and a 24 hour emergency international telephone line direct to the Head Office. All meals are provided, unless otherwise stated. Accommodation is provided (whether a rented house, a hotel/hostel, home stay, apartment or flat).
You'll also receive a free T-shirt.
You’ll be met at the nearest airport on your arrival by our in-country manager who will take you to your accommodation and give you a full induction into the area. He/she will also be on call 24/7 and you’ll see them frequently.

Pre-departure you’ll receive comprehensive information about every aspect of your placement and necessary preparations, ranging from what to pack, to visa information, to what to do on your weekend travel in the country. Your safety, well being and happiness throughout your placement are our primary concerns and we will keep in touch with you throughout. International flights not included.


No qualifications needed, just a love of animals, a big heart and a desire to contribute to their conservation.

Everyone is welcome on a Travellers programme, whether gap year, undergraduate, on a career break - or even retired! From 17 years old upwards, and all nationalities. This placement would suit anyone who wants to make a real difference, wants first-hand experience of a different culture and has initiative.

Booking / Enquiry

Travellers Worldwide SOUTH AFRICA: Zululand Wildlife & Game Reserves Conservation Expedition Reviews

My Experience

I decided to take a gap year to South Africa when I was 17 and applied to volunteer in SA with Travellers Worldwide to help animals and I loved every minute of the trip! Travellers made the whole experience e.g. booking and transport very easy. Thank you Travellers!

By: Leah
Nationality: British
Age: 23

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