Shamwari Wildlife Reserve Conservation Volunteer

Company : The Great Projects
Location : Eastern Cape
Duration: 2 weeks to 2 months
Approx Costs: 750 to 2500 £ Pound (UK)

Become a wildlife volunteer on a South African Game Reserve.

Join the Shamwari Conservation Experience to volunteer in South Africa and for a chance to be involved with the conservation efforts of the world renowned Shamwari Game Reserve. This project was established to return the land and the wildlife species which used to inhabit it, back to its former glory.

With a dedicated wildlife department, Animal Rehabilitation Centre, Animal Hospital and Rhino Awareness Centre, volunteers will gain first-hand experience and insight to Shamwari through a vast array of tasks during their time here.

The objective is to give volunteers an opportunity to personally experience and add value to a project which has been globally recognised for its conservation efforts and expertise.


Day 1
Arrival into South Africa via Port Elizabeth airport, where you will need to transfer onto the shuttle bus to the project site. Once you have arrived, you will spend the rest of the day settling in and meeting staff and the rest of the volunteers on the Shamwari conservation experience.

Day 2-13
Project Days. Rise early and eat breakfast for 7.30am. You will meet your fellow volunteers and volunteer co-ordinators from 8am. Volunteers with begin morning activities which are distributed on a rotational basis. Operations run from 8am to 5pm basis. There will be lunch from 12-1pm every day. Afternoon activities begin from 1pm and run until 5pm. Evenings (after 5.30pm) and weekends are generally available for volunteers to spend as they wish.

Day 14
Unfortunately, today is your final day. Once you have said goodbye to the staff and facilitators, you will then transfer back to airport for your return flight home or you will commence onward independent travel plans.


Project Activities

Game count & monitoring
Annual game counts of species (including rhino, elephants, lions, leopards and antelope) are carried out in order to establish the carrying capacity of the reserve, the movement of animals to and from the area, as well as predator to prey ratios.

Telemetry tracking & research
Telemetry tracking (or tracking using remote sources such as wire or radio) is used throughout Shamwari - particularly with regards to the more elusive species like cheetah and leopards. Restoration and rehabilitation of reserve landscapes and fencing This is integral to the wellbeing of the reserve and ensures its long-term revival as a pristine landscape suitable for an extensive collection of flora and fauna.

Maintenance of the reserve as a healthy breeding centre
Shamwari is an important breeding centre for a variety of species. Management here can refer to anything from veld (open country or grassland) conditions assessment, mapping of breeding area, mapping of alien vegetation, monitoring animal numbers and managing water points.

Alien plant control
An essential part of your volunteer duties here, alien plant control helps to get rid of unwanted (and potentially poisonous plants), increase the natural biodiversity of the reserve, as well as decrease fire risk.

Volunteering at Born Free Foundation
An opportunity will be given on a weekly basis for individuals to volunteer with big cats (lions and leopards) at the Born Free Big Cat Sanctuary - a world-renowned animal rehabilitation centre.

Volunteering at the Animal Rehabilitation Centre
Shamwari Animal Rehabilitation Centre was set up to aid in the rehabilitation of injured animals found on the reserve and surrounding community. The aim is to give the animals the short term care they need so that they can be successfully released back into the environment.

Community Projects
This responsibility involves the education of local communities in the benefits of conserving biodiversity, and stresses the importance of conserving the natural habitats of Shamwari and the surrounding area. Weekly trips are made into the local community to assist in various community projects that range from creating and maintaining vegetable gardens, recycling projects, painting classrooms and building jungle gyms.

Restoration and Rehabilitation of Reserve Landscapes
The need to return the once pristine landscape to its original splendour includes the collecting and removal of old fence lines and rehabilitating degraded and overgrazed land.

Research Projects
These projects are often undertaken in conjunction with both local and foreign research and academic institutions and may range from elephant fertility testing to capturing data on lesser-known species such as Brown Hyena.


Start Dates

Every Monday throughout the year.

Costs / Benefits

Costs From £823

What's included in the price of the project?
• Accommodation during your time volunteering
• All meals and juice, tea and coffee.
• Volunteer activities (including at the Born Free Foundation)
• Full-time English speaking ground staff

What's not included?
• Travel insurance
• Flights
• Airport transfers to Shamwari (550ZAR one way, payable on arrival)
• Weekend excursions
• Alcoholic beverages, personal snacks etc.


We recommend that you come with a moderate level of fitness as the days are jam-packed and volunteers will be involved in a whole host of activities! In terms of skills, all we ask is that you arrive with a willingness to get involved, have a respect for the wildlife and project staff with whom you’ll be working and aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty!

Booking / Enquiry

The Great Projects Shamwari Wildlife Reserve Conservation Volunteer Reviews

Great value for money

I was looking to travel and wanted to go somewhere like Africa to help animals and I booked the program at the Shamwari Game Reserve in South Africa and joined for 4 weeks. Before departing I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect and what joining ‘Team Shamwari’ (this is what the project volunteers participants are referred to as) would entail but I'm so happy I joined. The accommodation was fantastic, I was in twin room with an ensuite sharing with one other volunteer and we got three meals provided every day.

We usually worked around half the day doing activities like maintenance and then work with the wildlife at the reserve. We would track elephants and learn how to identify which family groups they were as well as keeping record of what they were eating when while we were tracking them. We helped out the vet team with some health checks of a specific elephant bull and we’re lucky enough to see the lion cubs. While at the camp we also got to see velvet monkeys, zebra and nyala which was surreal.

During my time at Shamwari we also spent a half day at the BornFree foundation learning about the animals there and how they are best cared for. My favourite day was Fridays as it was the day we would travel to volunteer at the local community’s Children’s Paradise’ playing, drawing and teaching some basic English words to the kids there. The weekends are left free for volunteers to spend them at their own leisure and we would usually hang around camp, watch movies and spend time swimming in the pool when it was hot.

We also joined tours and most volunteers spent at least one weekend during their stay exploring nearby areas/towns doing hikes, zip lining, horse riding etc. The education I received at Shamwari was one of the best components of the experience. We watched Blood Lions and discussed the issues around poaching at length with the staff at Shamwari and it was enlightening, I was shown a different perspective of the issues that South Africa is facing and have continued to fundraise and donate to organisations helping to conserve endangered animal species. The only down side was the cliques that formed during the project, people were soon saving seats and whole trucks or their friends in the vehicles we’d head out in each day which I found immature and annoying but this was a minimal aspect to my time spent at Shamwari.

Overall I think the Shamwari Wildlife Reserve Conservation Volunteer Project was great value for money and feel privileged to have seen four of the Big Five animals in the wild (leopards were the only one I didn’t see in the wild but did see them at BornFree). The weekend activities were also a great way to extend the ‘African’ experience and after my first trip to Shamwari I just really want to head back there!

By: Megan Saw
Nationality: Australian
Age: 29

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