Are you a big cat person?
Set in over 30,000 hectares of African wilderness this project in particular will delight wildlife lovers with rhinos, elephants and leopards all wandering by (but hopefully not too close!). Lions will be your primary focus though, and you’ll have the opportunity to actively monitor a lion pride and get up close to these amazing animals. Recently the research has expanded to include Rhinos and Elephants and these studies are combined with the focus on the Lions in the reserve making for an even richer experience. Your help is vital for the immediate and long term success of the project, so your contribution, like your memories, will last long after you return home.
- Tracking the lions every day - probably the most exclusive safari in the world!
- Experiencing a genuine African 'bush experience
- Getting up close to amazing wildlife
What's not included
Day 1 – Arrive into Johannesburg Airport (airport code JNB)
You will be met at the airport and taken to Pretoria Backpacker’s hostel in Pretoria. You’ll need to arrive in before 4.15pm so that you’re all ready for the orientation which kicks off at 5pm. The journey from the airport to Pretoria should take around 45 minutes. The orientation is a crucial part of settling in to life in South Africa and will take you through what it’s going to be like at your project, do’s and don’ts, how to stay safe and it’s your prime opportunity to ask any burning questions that you haven’t yet had answered. After the orientation you’ll have some time to relax and prepare before your first day at the project tomorrow.
If you aren’t able to arrange a flight to get you into Johannesburg before 4.15pm then we’d recommend you fly in a day early. We can arrange an early airport pick-up for you including one night’s accommodation, please give us a call for more information.
Day 2 - Transfer to the reserve
Today you’ll jump on an early morning bus from Pretoria to Phalaborwa. At the end of your 7 hour journey the team will meet you and take you to the project. You’ll have the rest of the day to settle in. Take your time, because this is your home for the next few weeks!
The first day will be all about settling in and getting to know how things work. The team at the project will be on hand for you to ask any questions and to get to know them.
Following Days - Getting stuck in at this amazing project!
Daily life starts with getting up at the laid back hour of either 4 or 5 am (ouch!). Everything is done with the animals in mind, so the time you wake up depends on where the lions are! Lions are the priority of the research and it’s important that they are tracked and located every day as part of ongoing monitoring of their introduction into the reserve. You’ll leave camp in your 4X4 car armed with the telemetry kit, data recording set, spotlight for catching the glint of an eye in the early morning night and the most important item; a box with hot coffee and snacks for the mid morning pit stop.
But it isn’t just about the lions. The elephants, rhinos, zebras, leopards, wildebeest, eagles, vultures, elands, kudus and many more amazing animals will all play a significant part in your daily life. You will spend hours every day getting the chance to see and be part of these animals environment and you realise how amazingly formed they are for the land that they live in. The sun gets too hot to be out in at midday so you’ll head back to the lodge during this time.
On a typical day you will attend two research drives per day (morning and evening), with additional research being conducted during the day as and where necessary. There wont be a drive on Sunday mornings and the drive on Sunday afternoon is voluntary. When you’re not out on drives or inputting data on the computer, there’ll be plenty of other tasks that need attention such as basic maintenance of the accommodation and surrounding areas. Past volunteers have built a new wall around the shower block, ripped up old carpets and cleared areas to make way for new exciting areas for the accommodation. This is totally optional but will be great for team building and tanning those arms and legs!
Your last day
Say your goodbyes as the project team drop you back at Phalaborwa to catch your return bus to Pretoria. Your return bus ticket to Pretoria is included in your project fee.
Because the journey back takes 7 hours, we recommend you book your flights home to depart no earlier than 8pm on the last day of your trip to make sure you have enough time to get to the airport. If you arrange flights for the day after and need an overnight stay in Pretoria, our team can help you to arrange this.
Return transfer from Pretoria to the airport is not included but our team will be able to advise you of the best route depending on your onward travel after the project, the costs will be around US$20.
What our projects say:
- Without volunteers we would not have the finance or manpower to operate at all!
- The financial support we get from the volunteers basically runs the programme, from staff wages, equipment, fuel etc. so without them we could not do anything. So they make more than just a difference they make the programme so all our achievements big and small are thanks to the volunteers
What does the project do?
This research programme was developed in 2004 with the aim of monitoring behaviour patterns, movement and the impact on prey and predator species that reintroduced lions have on the reserve.
The overall aim of the Lion monitoring expeditions is to learn more about their behaviour and produce a detailed annual report that will enable the reserve owners and managers to determine the carrying capacity and sustainability of large predators on the reserve. If there are too many lions and not enough animals lower down in the food chain, the reserve cannot operate in a natural way. Therefore occasionally we have to manage the animals in the reserve. They do this by careful live capture and transfer of animals or using trained hunters to lower the numbers of specific animals.
Recently the research has been expanded to include Rhino and Elephant studies within the reserve creating a more detailed and fascinating picture of the interaction between the different species.
What’s the project like?
Our stunning reserve is a 30,000 hectare habitat boasting high concentrations of wildlife. The park has around 90 elephants, numerous rhinos, leopards and plentiful game species. A pride of lions was introduced to the reserve in 2004 and a specific programme is needed to monitor all aspects of their behaviour and habits to allow reserve managers to assess their impact on the reserve. The aim of the research is to produce detailed reports on the feeding ecology of large predators and to determine the capacity of the reserve to sustain large animals.
This is a unique opportunity to get involved with a pioneering research programme and gain knowledge from highly trained staff. This is a chance for you to learn skills such as tracking collared lions using radio telemetry, navigation techniques, using a GPS, animal identification and gain an awareness of the fauna and flora in the area.
Why does the project need volunteers?
Once trained, you will generally be out in the game drive vehicle twice a day, tracking, spotting and then observing and recording the lions' behaviour. The hours vary depending on lion movement and activity so you could be out late into the night. During the heat of the day, you will find yourself entering the data you have collected from the field, becoming involved in reserve or house maintenance or getting involved with the other research programmes conducted on the reserve.
Project resources and advice
Please note that if you’re going on any of the projects based in large reserves all clothes worn in the reserve should be in neutral colours that will blend easily into the background. For these projects binoculars will also be a good addition to your kit list. Past volunteers have found taking a pocket knife/pen knife also quite useful.
Please note that the weather can become quite cold during the months of May to September, please remember to bring some warm clothes with you.
Tell me more?
You will stay in a basic but comfortable farmhouse lodge on the reserve and sleep in shared dormitory style bedrooms. The lodge is communal with backpacker-style bedrooms and a communal lapa (thatched roof) and braai area - two words you will become extremely familiar with! The volunteer house gets frequent visits from elephants and nocturnal wildlife, amazing!
Food is provided and you will take turns to prepare food for the group and complete house duties on a daily basis. At weekends in your free time you might want to hire a car, the project staff will be able to assist you.
The house is equipped with solar electricity and paraffin lights are available when necessary. There are facilities to charge batteries and cell phones. You’ll be expected to complete house duties on a daily basis. We recommend you’re back at your accommodation in the evenings before dark, due to the active wildlife at night.
Please ensure that you bring your own sleeping bag. A mosquito net isn’t necessary unless you plan to travel through the Kruger area as this is a Malaria zone.
What you get
What exactly do i to i Volunteering provide?
It may seem like a strange concept to pay for your volunteer experience. You'd be right if you think you shouldn't and the truth is you actually don't! Your placement is free; it's the benefits around it that you pay for. It's important to note that i to i Volunteering is a travel company and not a charity. We provide a professional travel service. We are responsible for finding and assessing worthwhile projects across the world, preparing you for the volunteering experience and supporting you whilst you're there.
Project sourcing and assessment
We work with hundreds of locally run partner projects around the world and are constantly sourcing new opportunities. We visit all projects to check that they are worthwhile and legitimate and we also conduct a thorough safety assessment before we'll send volunteers there.
Almost everyone who works for i to i Volunteering has traveled extensively or worked overseas. This means we're a goldmine of information; we're always available to offer support and guidance before, during and after your trip.
Thorough project briefing materials
Once you book on to a project you'll receive an online account that contains loads of general information about volunteering, about your chosen country and how to have fun and stay safe. We'll also give you advice on visas and inoculations.
It can be pretty daunting arriving in a different country for the first time - especially after a long flight! If you arrive on your project start date, there'll be a welcoming face at the airport to pick you up and take you to your accommodation.
Soon after you arrive you will attend a thorough orientation with our in-country team. This is to cover important safety and security information. You'll also get some tips about sight-seeing options for your time off and maybe even learn some of the local lingo!
Accommodation and meals
Accommodation is included with all projects and meals are even included with some. We only use locally-owned and operated accommodation so that part of your placement fee is filtering back into the local economy. Most projects offer homestay, guesthouse or shared volunteer houses as standard accommodation, but some offer the chance to upgrade to a more comfortable living standard.
Local in-country coordinators
Your in-country team will arrange a pick-up for you at the airport and will conduct your orientation upon arrival. All coordination teams are English speaking and are locals of your destination country. They won't be at your project every day, but will be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week if you need them.
24/7 emergency support
Aside from the local support from your in-country team you'll be given access to a 24/7 emergency phone line manned by our response team in case any problem should arise while you're overseas. We also hire crisis management professionals to be on hand in case of a situation that requires additional expert support.
The safety and security of our volunteers is paramount. For this reason we provide ongoing crisis management and emergency response training to our local teams around the world. We also fly in our in-country coordinators to the UK regularly for thorough training to help them offer the best safety to the thousands of volunteers they support each year.
Supporting our projects
We don't fund our projects directly from the project fee that you pay us. Instead we choose to support a number of projects through our Helping Hands Foundation to provide resources to those projects that really need it.
Recruiting people like you
We make no secrets of the fact that part of your placement fee is reinvested in to recruiting volunteers just like you! The volunteers recruited in one week will typically deliver over 2000 man-days of service. The difference this makes to projects overseas is immeasurable. Many of our overseas projects rely on assistance from international volunteers, so it's necessary for us to put together brochures and websites to find the people who can support them. This recruitment process is vital to ensure programs have a constant stream of reliable volunteers.
Please note: You may be the only volunteer at your chosen project at any one time. If you have any questions about this, please feel free to contact us.
What we will do after you've booked:
- Once booked on you will instantly receive a welcome email confirming your booking with access to your online account
- Community Development and Teaching customers will be requested to complete a police check (where relevant)
- We will contact you if we require anything else e.g. CV/resume for some projects, doctors note for medical conditions etc.
- We will prepare for your trip and you will receive all information required to prepare yourself in your online account
- We will ask you to complete personal information and pay your final balance if they are still due when required
- We are available for any questions you may have on email@example.com
What you need to do after booking your place with us:
- Book your flights
- Arrange suitable travel insurance
- Fill out your personal details through your online account
- Complete your police check if requested
- Make final payment at least 90 days before you go
- Make sure you have a visa for your trip if it's needed
- Visit a nurse or travel clinic for advice on inoculations and malaria prevention
- Read all details and prepare as much as you can for your trip
- Take contact details of the in country team and where you're going in your hand luggage - just in case!
- Get on the plane!
Flights & insurance
It's important that you get adequate travel insurance for your i to i Volunteering experience and as many of you will be working this often means standard policies won’t work. The good news is that no matter where you're coming from we have already found a policy to suit you.
The best time to get your insurance is when you book your project as this means you can get a fully tailored policy exclusive to i to i Volunteering, just ask your consultant for further details at the time of booking.
For prices, policies and key facts click here
As with insurance we advise you get these booked as early as possible to avoid high prices and to make sure you arrive on the right day. The i to i Volunteering team is right up to date with the best deals no matter where you’re flying from; their insider knowledge could save you some time and money.