Explore South Africa

Volunteer for the conservation of South African wildlife

The Makalali project offers you a unique experience in the South African bush and gives you the opportunity to observe and be a part of the research and monitoring teams on the reserve.


The focus of the Makalali project revolves around some of our key species; elephants, lions, hyenas and leopards. You will also be involved with monitoring our breeding initiatives comprising buffalo, Livingston eland and nyala. Habitat work also plays an important part of the monitoring process.

The Greater Makalali Reserve is a vast Big 5 nature reserve covering an area of 25000 hectares. Situated in the Lowveld area, the home of nature conservation in South Africa, your work is vital for accurate management of the animals within the reserve. The data collected is also made available to students and researchers that we host, as well as a number of national conservation projects, including the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT).

Whether on a monitoring drive, on foot, or observing the wildlife at a waterhole, all of your work will be done under the guidance of our qualified rangers. As each activity has a pre-determined objective, you don’t just get to view the animals, you get to live with them for a little while. There’s nothing quite like sitting in the dark next to a lazing lion waiting for it to start its nightly call, or being surrounded by a herd of elephants and being able to spend time observing their individual traits and family dynamics.

At the end of the day, you return to the camp to share your experiences over dinner around the open fire and then fall asleep to the sounds of the bush.

Rhino Monitoring

With the ever present threat from poaching, close monitoring of these animals is crucial for the future of the species. The rhinos are monitored to ascertain their movement around the reserve and interaction with each other. This is done mostly on foot due to their secretive nature. This also forms part of the anti-poaching measures in place, working closely with the reserve management and anti-poaching teams on the reserve to ensure 100% sighting and safeguarding of our rhino. Our Siyafunda projects also work closely with The Rhino Protection Trust www.rhinoprotectiontrust.com to raise awareness and funds to support our efforts to save these magnificent but vulnerable animals.

Cheetah Monitoring

As cheetah are one of Africa's most endangered large predators, the entire population is monitored on the reserve. By tracking the cheetah on foot, we can observe their utilisation of the area, prey selection and reproductive behaviour. By combining this with data collected on other predators we can track the effects on distribution patterns of the cheetah by the presence of lions, hyena and leopards. With dedicated, long term monitoring we can be sure to effectively understand their lives and better protect them for future generations.

Game Drives & Walks

Game drives are a great way of covering distance within the reserve in order to see the larger African wildlife, observing their behaviour, movements and habits along the way. After dark, they also enable the possibility of sighting the nocturnal animals such as African civet, black-backed jackal, large spotted genet, porcupine and aardvark to name but a few.
Monitoring walks also allow you to walk, quite literally, in the footsteps of the animals you are tracking. You will learn how to identify the tracks of the animals you are monitoring, as well as any others they may have been following, or following them! By determining age and direction of the tracks you will be able to help determine territory and, with any luck, current location.

Bush Skills

As well as monitoring the endangered species, you will also be taught basic survival techniques and how to navigate your way through the bush. Our experienced rangers will show you some practical bush skills, like how to use a sling shot, build bird traps and set snares, as well as identifying the myriad tree and plant species. You will also get the opportunity to drive a Land Rover, learning about 4 x 4 vehicle skills, and participate in a Zulu lesson.
During your experience here, you will also get to enjoy a sleep out under the stars. We will set up camp in the bush and cook over an open fire. After a delicious Potjie (a typical South African dish), you will take turns on night watch to guard the camp while the others are sleeping. Nothing beats falling asleep under the stars while listening to the distant lion roar and whooping of hyenas.

​Habitat Conservation

Alien Vegetation Control: Under the guidance of Working for Water (WFW), volunteers will assist with identifying and monitoring stands of alien and invasive vegetation within the river and across the reserve. Volunteers will participate in the mechanical removal and chemical control of these species as well as the follow-up monitoring of problem areas. This is an important project as alien invasive plants have the ability to encroach on areas and prevent other indigenous plants from growing, as well as using up large amounts of moisture from the soil. This has a detrimental effect on your ecosystem and therefore requires constant monitoring and removal.
Habitat Rehabilitation: Volunteers will have the opportunity to assist in ongoing habitat rehabilitation initiatives in the reserve, including erosion control, the construction of rock gabions, brush-packing and re-seeding.

Join us for the experience of a

Fall asleep under the South African sky.

Your home during your stay will be in our eco-friendly tented camp set amongst the trees which overlooks a water course.  There are large, comfortable twin share tents set on raised platforms, ensuring each has its own unique view of the African bush!

There are shared ablution facilities with flushing toilets and bush showers.  All meals are cooked by the group.  Your evenings will be spent hearing tales from your experienced ranger, listening to the sounds of the bush



Project start day. Town trip to Hoedspruit to collect new volunteers and restock supplies. 


Mornings will consist of monitoring walks to locate rhino and cheetah. You will learn how to identify and age their tracks and how to record this information. Once the animals have been located you will monitor their behaviour, environment and interactions in order to better understand them. Meanwhile, you will also learn how to track other big game such as elephant, lion and hyena in order to better understand utilisation of the areas covered. At all times you will also be on the lookout for potential sightings and nest sites of the Southern Ground Hornbill.

On return to camp, you will enter the data collected onto the computers. You'll also get the chance to work through your bush knowledge work books to help improve your tracking skills.

In the afternoons, you will set out on monitoring drives in order to cover more ground to determine new areas to locate rhino, cheetah and Southern Ground Hornbill. Once signs of activity and tracks have been located you will continue on foot to discover more. Whilst driving through the reserve you will also get the chance to see some of our other resident Big 5—elephant, lion and buffalo.


On Friday afternoon, your drive will meet up with the Makalali Research group for a sleep out under the stars.


In the morning you will help out with some habitat work, either bush clearing, erosion control or road maintenance. On return from the afternoons monitoring drive, we may head out to the local pub or have a typical South Africa Braai (BBQ).


Either an outing will be planned or it will be a free day for volunteers to relax or head out on their own tour.

Whats included

Transfers for arrivals and departures on Mondays to/from Hoedspruit, all food (except snacks, soft drinks and alcohol), accommodation, linen (except towels), housekeeping service, training, travel within the reserve, assistance with travel in the local area, an outing every two weeks to interesting local attractions outside of the reserve (entrance fees to be paid by volunteers).

We want to preserve our natural heritage and provide you with an experience that is meaningful, unforgettable and fun


We will pick you up in Hoedspruit on Mondays.

To come to Hoedspruit:

Come volunteer in

Additional information


  • 14
  • 21
  • 28
  • 7






  • alcohol
  • snacks
  • soft drinks

Terms & Conditions

Utforska Sydafrika

No ratings found yet!

Utforska Sydafrika


Read more about Utforska Sydafrika >>>

Book Now!

Price on request

This product is currently out of stock and unavailable.

Get a quote from Utforska Sydafrika

Please Login or leave your Contact Details to Continue

Contact Details

Dina personuppgifter kommer användas för att förbättra din upplevelse på webbplatsen, hantera åtkomst till ditt konto och för andra ändamål som beskrivs i vår privacy policy.

Ask a question

Please Login or leave your Contact Details to Continue

Contact Details

Dina personuppgifter kommer användas för att förbättra din upplevelse på webbplatsen, hantera åtkomst till ditt konto och för andra ändamål som beskrivs i vår privacy policy.

Turn your wanderlust list into an holiday

      No items in Wanderlust

Travel agents use your wanderlust list as an inspiration to tailor-make your ideal holiday.