The Kariega Conservation Project is designed to offer volunteers the opportunity to be involved in all conservation related projects on the reserve. You may start seeing yourself as “assistant conservation managers” as all of the work done by you will improve the quality of the reserve.
The data collected by you will be utilized by Kariega management in making important conservation decisions for the reserve. As a volunteer you therefore derive a good deal of satisfaction from your work, as your efforts directly contributes to improving the reserve.
Kariega is home to the famous White Rhino, Thandi who survived being poached. She survived thanks to the dedication and commitment of our Eastern Cape conservationists and vets who refused to give up on her, and Thandi has since then even had a baby!
“My visit to Kariega Game Reserve on their volunteer programme was made extra special by the support I had from the Worldwide Experience team before, during and after my trip. They arranged my stay and ensured that I had everything I needed ahead of my departure so that there wouldn’t be any hidden surprises. Once in South Africa, my transfer was sorted by WWE and I arrived at Ocean View Lodge on the reserve as fresh as can be expected after an overnight flight. Whilst there, I learnt so much! How to use a telemetry kit to find collared lions, what a serval likes to eat as treat, how many species of bird are in the reserve, what a baby blesbok looks like and why a warthog’s tail is so straight when it runs. All tasks are based on the needs of the reserve and as a volunteer, I really felt like I was contributing to the daily running of the place. I left Kariega wanting to get even more involved in conservation. WWE checked in with me during and after my stay and it really felt like they cared about ensuring I had the best conservation experience I could. I’d highly recommend a booking a volunteer experience with WWE – you’ll have the time of your life!”
– Victoria Petley, UK, January 2018
“A brilliant and memorable experience. The mixture of physical and other activity was well balanced. It was hard work at times but we had a lot of fun. We had a mix of nationalities and ages but the group I was with all gelled well together! As an “older” volunteer I was made to feel very welcome! Jarrett, our co-ordinator was brilliant: very knowledgeable, passionate about conservation and had the patience of a saint!”
– Hilary Omissi, UK, April 2016
Interested in doing conservation work on a Big 5 Game Reserve?
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.
Kariega’s Wildlife Management Volunteer Programme is the ultimate Big 5 experience, where volunteers from across the world, get the opportunity to get hands-on involved in conservation management on the reserve. During your stay with us, you may see yourselves as “Assistant Conservation Managers”, as 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 and leave with a stronger understanding of conservation issues feeling like 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!
Please note that our activities are based on a minimum stay of 4 weeks. Although many of the activities listed below may take place in 2-3 week placements, not all are guaranteed. So the longer your stay, the more in depth your experience. Volunteers will be provided with stimulating practical experience in the following four areas: research, conservation management, education and community development.
Leopards in the Lower Albany Area: population status and the role of Kariega Game Reserve as a key habitat refuge
One of our main research focus areas on Kariega Game Reserve is our new and exciting leopard (Panthera pardus) project. The project is being undertaken in collaboration with the Centre for African Conservation Ecology of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
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. Virtually the entire landscape was hostile to them, and few leopards survived in only the most isolated areas. Recently attitudes towards large predators have shifted, and leopards are now legally protected. There has also been a recent shift in land use, with an increasing number of private nature reserves that complement the state-owned reserves in supporting conservation of biodiversity. Kariega Game Reserve is one of the oldest of these private nature reserves. These shifts suggest that the landscape is now more leopard-friendly, with decreased persecution and increased refuge areas. This project therefore aims to assess the status of leopards in the Lower Albany area and investigate the role of the Kariega Game Reserve as a refugee habitat for leopards, which may move across the Lower Albany area.
Specific questions to be addressed with this project include:
How many leopards occur on Kariega Game Reserve and in the Lower Albany area?
– This will be addressed by collecting data on sightings, camera trap records and possibly genetic analysis.
Is leopard activity in the Lower Albany area focused on conservation areas such as Kariega Game Reserve?
– This will be addressed by analysing the spatial distribution of leopard sighting records, and if resources are available, through the tracking of collared leopards
Is there evidence for an increase in leopard numbers and wider distribution within the Lower Albany Area?
– This will be addressed by relating the above-mentioned information to historical records of leopards in the study area.
Elephant Impact Monitoring – Volunteers will help monitor elephant movement patterns, range utilization and vegetation impact with the aid of telemetry (certain individuals are fitted with radio collars). 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.
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. Certain lions on the reserve are fitted with radio collars, so volunteers will learn how to use telemetry tracking.
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.
Hyena tracking and monitoring – Movement patterns and breeding rates of these interesting predators are monitored. None of the hyenas are fitted with radio collars, so it can be quite a challenge finding them on the reserve. Our recent volunteers found a den site … one of our females gave birth!
Conservation management activities form a large part of the volunteer programme. Some of these activities involve physical work and therefore a certain level of 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 fulfil 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 – 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!
- 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
- Parasite control – This involves the making-up and administering of anti-parasite meds to specific species (when required by the reserve)
- And any other conservation management activity that might “pop-up” at the time and the reserve requires your assistance in
Education / Theory
Each volunteer will be 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.
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)
- Field Skills & Survival – Learn to look after yourself in the wild
We have identified an under-funded farm school near the reserve where our volunteer programme can make a real difference. The school is small, yet very under-staffed and local kids aged 4 to 15 years attend the school. Kariega volunteers visit the school one day a week (not during school holidays or rainy days (most of the children walk about 10 km to attend school so if it rains, no one goes to school!), and make valuable contributions to the children’s education. Our volunteers take many of the classes themselves and teach 6-12 year olds subjects like English, Maths and Science. You might also help with the maintenance of the school’s facilities or by giving sport lessons to the kids. A recent group of volunteers renovated a classroom (with a completely collapsed ceiling and floorboards!) for the pre-primary school kids. Your contribution here is real, and both the children and the headmistress are very appreciative. Guaranteed to leave you with a feeling of satisfaction!
The Eastern Cape is a malaria free area home to many “Big 5” private game reserves in South Africa
The Eastern Cape, lying on the southeastern South African coast, is a region of great natural beauty, particularly the rugged cliffs, rough seas and dense green bush of the stretch known as the Wild Coast.
The province’s diverse climates and landscapes range from the dry and desolate Great Karoo to the lush forests of the Wild Coast and the Keiskamma Valley, the fertile Langkloof, renowned for its rich apple harvests, and the mountainous southern Drakensberg region around the town of Elliot.
Volunteers are accommodated in a renovated, fully furnished house on the reserve – comfortable but not luxurious. You will be sharing bedrooms (bedding provided for you) and there are communal bathrooms (2 bathrooms in the house). There is an entertainment / lecture room with a pool table, a lounge with a T.V (South African channels only), dining room and a fully equip kitchen with a fridge, stove, microwave, cutlery, crockery and cooking utensils. There is a safe for cash and small valuables on site. Please bear in mind that the house is in the middle of a “Big 5” game reserve, so therefore one cannot walk outside the boundaries of the garden fence. A plunge pool is situated in the garden for volunteers to cool off in after a hard day’s work. There is also a “braai” (BBQ) area outside in the garden.
All the laundry is done by the volunteer programme’s domestic helper, Nomelia, in a washing machine on site. She also assists in cleaning the house. Please note that the laundry is fairly basic, and expensive clothes go into the wash at your own risk. No ironing will get done for you – dry clothes are however neatly folded. There is an iron and ironing board available in the house should you choose to iron certain garments yourself. Please remember though that you are on an Africa trip in the bush, so don’t fuss too much!
Please inform the Worldwide Experience team if you are vegetarian. Meals that volunteers choose to eat at restaurants on town-trip days, are at own expense. If possible, once every two weeks the volunteers are invited to eat dinner at the luxury Kariega lodge, giving them the chance to socialise with other staff and rangers.
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 just 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)
A dedicated coordinator will endeavour to ensure that you have a wonderful learning experience and leave with a stronger understanding of conservation issues feeling like you made an important contribution. Please note that our activities are based on a minimum stay of 4 weeks. Although many of the activities listed below may take place in 2-3 week placements, not all are guaranteed. So the longer your stay, the more in depth your experience.
Weekends and evenings are spent at leisure.
Kenton-On-Sea is a beautiful small coastal town only 15 minutes drive from the reserve. The beaches are absolutely breathtaking and pristine.
After Saturday morning shopping in Kenton (volunteers can stock up on all everyday essentials), volunteers often laze around on the beach, swim in the waves or sit in a beach bar while sipping away on a cold drink and taking in the scenery. There are the following services in Kenton-On-Sea: small rocery store, ATM, pharmacy, post office, police station, doctor, stationary shop, internet café and a small beach clothing shop.
Grahamstown is a viby student town famous for Rhodes University and is 30 minutes drive from the reserve. Port Alfred is also a coastal town, a bit bigger than Kenton, and is also about 30 minutes drive from the reserve. Both Grahamstown and Port Alfred have good doctors and most services and products that one would need.
Port Elizabeth is an hour and a half to two hours drive.
Working hours on the reserve are generally speaking Monday to Friday 7.30am to 5.00pm with an hour or two for lunch (please note working hours are dependent on weather and nature of activity). The evenings and weekends are at leisure.
Saturdays are generally reserved for town trips to allow volunteers to stock up on everyday essentials and to make use of internet and phone facilities. Sundays are off time for both the volunteers and the volunteer coordinator and volunteers are to entertain themselves. Additional activities that can be organised for you on a Saturday are at own cost and on condition that a few others in the group also want to partake in the activity. Below is a list of activities and approximate costs, which have proved popular with past volunteers. This will help you with your budgeting.
- Horse riding on the beach or on a game reserve
- Sky-diving (tandem) – this means you are strapped to an instructor!
- Deep sea fishing
- Quad bike rides
- Field trip to Addo Elephant National Park – gate entrance fee
- Two day canoe trip
- Elephant sanctuary (touch, feed and 15 minute ride)
- Smiley Face Tours and Freewalker adventures also offer trips to surrounding areas, including the Garden Route, Karoo, Hogsback, Coffee bay (the Transkei) etc. Weekend bungee jumping trips or shark cage diving trips can most definitely be arranged. These weekend trips are lots of fun and a great way to see a bit more of the Eastern Cape as well as the Garden Route whilst you are with us.
|No. of Weeks||2019 Price|
Need a quote on your airfare to Kariega? Please ask a member of the team for our latest prices.
Kariega Conservation Project Testimonials
– Laura Valentine, France, UK, 17/02/2014 – 03/03/2014
“Ok so here we go … tears in my eyes for the hundredth time today because I’m leaving tomorrow. Thank you Frances for your kindness, knowledge and making us all so comfortable. This has been nothing less than magical – wonderful people, roaring lions, majestic elephants … and so much more, like the beautiful landscapes. In fact it’s very hard to put words on this experience. Not to mention riding on the sand dunes and sky diving, wow. I don’t even know where I’m going to begin when people back home say “So how was it?” Just one thing to add to this – my first trip to Africa will definitely not be my last.”
– Jamie Crook, UK, 13/01/2014 – 17/02/2014
“I don’t want to leave. After 5 weeks of living here on the reserve, waking up every morning to go out and make a difference at Kariega. I am going to struggle going back to reality. We have done so many things in the time we’ve been here. There hasn’t been a single moment I didn’t enjoy. We had a good mix of habitat management, research and fun stuff to do. We were lucky enough to witness the darting of Thandi and an operation performed on her. It was a fantastic experience. During our off weekends we also experienced things that will stay with me forever. None of this would have happened without our amazing volunteer coordinator, Frances – we really could not have had anyone better to guide us.”
– Laura Williams, UK, 13/01/2014 – 17/02/2014
“I have had the most fantastic time here at Kariega Game Reserve. It has been an experience I shall remember for the rest of my life. Highlights include seeing the Big Bull elephant who came to give us a good sniff on our first day here, witnessing the darting of Thandi to check on her wound, the lion roadblock on our way back from the school and finally finding Thandi again in the middle of the road last night.
Massive thanks to Frances who has worked tirelessly to teach us and show us so very much. Nomelia, you are an absolute star. The children at Farmerfield school, you’ve got spirit. Rudi, your bush walks have been fantastic and Murray thank you for a terrific weekend at Plettenberg bay. I’m so sad to be leaving South Africa!”
– Phoebe Cole, Lowestoft, Suffolk, UK, 08/07/2013 – 19/08/2013
“Having stayed at Kariega Game Reserve for 6 weeks, I now consider this place my home. I take away with me a deeper knowledge of conservation issues as well as environmental adaptations relating to animals and plants. Every moment I will cherish; capturing lion, having elephant walk around the garden fence (and within touching distance past the Cruiser!) and crazy pizza nights with the rest of the gang. Everybody I have met in SA has been so friendly, helpful and open. Having been a part of Thandi’s operations (skin graft), and also the de-horning procedure of another white rhino was amazing. I am going to put together a presentation for my college class to highlight the issues surrounding rhino poaching. Thanks to everyone at Kariega … you certainly won’t be forgotten!”
– Katy Goddard, UK, 12/08/2013 – 26/08/2013
“This was my first trip to South Africa and I have had a great time on Kariega Game Reserve. We have seen so much and so much up close as well. I didn’t know what to expect but everything has been brilliant and I don’t feel I have missed out on anything. I have really enjoyed getting an insight into what goes into the management of a reserve. My top highlights would be the night drive with the lions and canoeing with elephants … all very surreal! Best working activity was chopping down the pines. Azel is a great ranger and I have learnt so much from her. I’ve also had a really fun time with everyone else in the volunteer house.”
– Susan Jackson, UK, 12/08/2013 – 26/08/2013
“I want to thank the Kariega team for providing such an amazing adventure here. It was more than I expected and I will remember these two weeks forever. There were so many amazing sightings and I will always remember the night drive with the lions. The amount of time we spent with the elephants was fantastic and it was such a surprise that they were so relaxed. I will send you some pictures to your facebook page and will recommend you to anyone I know who would love to have this type of experience. I wish everyone at Kariega Game Reserve well and for continuing success here.”
– Becky Derwent, UK, 12/08/2013 – 26/08/2013
“This was my second trip to SA working on a reserve. The first time was amazing which is why I chose to come back but these last two weeks have topped my first experience by far and that’s thanks to Kariega. My experience here has been AMAZING and I have thoroughly enjoyed every moment here. I will never forget our time with the elephants and lions and the experience that came with it. Thanks again to everyone at Kariega for my time here and thanks to all the other volunteers for making my experience brilliant. I’m sure this won’t be last time in SA!”
– Jake Dove, UK, 12/08/2013 – 26/08/2013
“Like a couple of the other who came here with me, I had visited South Africa before on a similar conservation placement at a different reserve in the Eastern Cape, so of course I thought I knew what to expect. How wrong was I?! Kariega has surpassed ALL of my expectations and I can honestly say that these two weeks have been the best two weeks of my life! Why? Simply for three main reasons:
- Kariega’s awesome wildlife
- The people that I have lived and worked with
- Our coordinator, Azel
My top memories of my trip are:
- Being surrounded by the entire elephant herd and coming within an inch (literally) of two young bulls
- Seeing not one, but THREE hippos out of the water during the day on different game drives
- Canoeing the Kariega river and having an awesome sighting of elephants (surreal but incredible!)
- An amazing night drive on which we saw caracal, jackal and then followed the lion pride hunting for a number of hours
- Seeing Black Rhino on our last game drive before camping in style on Harvestvale at Flycamp.
- Diving with Great White Sharks at Mossel Bay.
- Ziplining over the Tsitsikamma waterfalls
- Bungee jumping off the Bloukrans bridge
- Skydiving in Grahamstown
I would implore each and every person visiting Kariega to make the effort the experience some of the country’s incredible cultures and scenery. This trip has sealed in my mind my decision to come back and train for my field guide qualification and follow my childhood dream of working in wildlife conservation in Africa. Your experience here at Kariega will be what you make it – work hard and play hard and you will be rewarded with lifelong memories. Thank you to all whom I met and worked and lived with for these past two weeks. Goodbye Kariega … you will be sorely missed and fondly remembered forever!”
– Martha Spikes, Somerset, England, 04/02/2013 – 04/03/2013
“I sit here as the sun rises, listening to the sounds of Africa, wondering how I am meant to summarise the last 4 weeks. The accommodation is amazing – with the visits from the lions and elephants. I have been to Africa before but I can honestly say this experience surpassed all expectations. Azel is a star, her enthusiasm, passion and expectations at getting stuck on Mondays (personal joke!) is amazing. The extra hours Azel puts in to make this a truly remarkable experience … and “Fantastic Fridays” rounds off this experience with a bang. To see the hippos displaying aggression, a black rhino on the plains (!!), lions roaring and an elephant trying to stop the truck – so many memories and so many photos to bore my friends at home. A big thank you to Azel for making this trip and cementing Africa in my heart forever.”
– Karen Macdonald, Glasgow, Scotland, 18/03/2013 – 15/04/2013
“What an amazing experience, really really special. Azel makes each sighting special. I loved it when the lions came to visit us. Most of the other volunteers in the house were brilliant, especially Val (from Brazil), Svenja (from Germany), Pam (from USA) and Ross from Scotland too.
Enjoy the challenge of cutting down wattle trees – me and Svenja tackled some massive ones … team work is the key to having a great time! I am taking away amazing memories … Thanks Azel.”
– Ross Mercer, Ecclesmachan, Scotland, 01/04/2013 – 15/04/2013
“I never stayed long enough! I have loved every single experience here – I just wish I could have stayed longer. It has been immense. I’m so tempted to write my entire journal in here, but I know it will take up the entire book so I won’t. I’m going to be clinging to Azel’s ankles tomorrow when I have to leave; “Don’t make me go!” and crying my eyes out. She has made this trip for me. I’ve never met a more lovely person. Azel is the bomb, the boss, the man!! I can’t find more words to say how amazing she made this trip for me. My fellow volunteers were also great. The best way to describe us is one free family. I wish I could spend longer with them and I will definitely be keeping in touch with those that I bonded with most.
As for the experience .. WOW is all I can say. The work wasn’t “work” and plans were never set in stone – like following the lions for an entire morning instead of going on a game count, or finding a black rhino when we were expecting to plant Spekboom! It was all so much fun.
Enjoy your time at Kariega!! You will remember this for the rest of your life. I’m definitely coming back.”
— Joanna Wilson, 27/08/2012 – 17/09/2012
“This would have to be one of the best things I have done in my life so far. Have had an amazing 3 weeks on Kariega Game Reserve. I only wish I could stay for longer. Have managed to see all 5 big game – nearly, excluding the leopard. It was really interesting and amazing to see the elephant herd interacting with each other – each having their own personality. Was great building the fence and working on the road clearing. Justine is an asset to the programme. Really enjoyed her awesome rocky road adventures on the Cruiser. Also met some lovely people too – have enjoyed the last 3 weeks sharing the Kariega experience. Thanks so much for a great time! Hope to visit SA again soon.”
— Alasdair Young, 27/08/2012 – 08/10/2012
“A-Maze-ing! I was lucky enough to stay at Kariega Game Reserve for six weeks and I still could’ve stayed longer. I truly did have, cheesey as it sounds, once of the best times of my life! My highlights would be:
- Finding out that I’m not so pathetic and incapable of all things physical. That I can single handed take down a massive pine tree for example.
- Doing game capture … twice! Catching Zebra, Eland, Nyala and Giraffe. The time I spent helping with this was truly unforgettable.
- Pushing myself out of a plane from 10,000 feet.
- Hippos are by far my favourite animal ever, so seeing a bull hippo about ten yards from us, and out of the water was truly incredible.
- Getting so close to the Elephants that we were practically on top of them, repeatedly was awesome.
- Watteling! Who’d have thought that massacring this Australian alien tree would be so much fun?!
- Meeting some truly great people who’ve now become great friends, including our coordinator, Justine.
The staff are fantastic and very knowledgeable so you feel comfortable booking with them from the word go! I’ll definitely book with Worldwide Experience again!”
— James Jewkes, 13/08/2012 – 08/10/2012
“This has easily been the most incredible trip of my whole life. I was at Kariega Game Reserve for a whole two months, which even I thought was a ridiculously long time – but I still want to stay longer! There have been so many things that have made this trip amazing but here are a few:
- The animals – everyone has said this, and I agree. No where has such incredible animal sightings as on Kariega (apart from leopards). The animals are so calm around the vehicle and Justine knows exactly when it is safe.It made for some great photos.
- Game capture – this was so exciting and actually getting to interact with wild animals was incredible.
- Justine – she truly was incredible at staying organised and keeping us busy. I never once saw her angry or upset and she always went way further than she needed to when organising weekend trips and activities.And as she would say – nothing is impossible!
- Becoming independent – this is the first time I’ve lived away from home for such a long time. I can now start a fire without firelighters, cook and learn to tidy properly.
Once again, best trip ever. Thanks Justine and Kariega.”
— Jessica Kershaw, 23/07/2012 – 06/08/2012
“Well I had an amazing two weeks at Kariega Game Reserve and met some amazing people. Two weeks is definitely not long enough, I really wish I could stay for longer! I have had so many highs I don’t know where to start. One high was the canoeing down the river and the elephants were definitely another high. I can’t thank Justine enough – she has been so helpful and nice and I wish her all the best. I hope everyone enjoys their time at Kariega as much as I did.”
— Sally Milner, 22/07/2012 – 13/08/2012
“Words are not able to describe just how incredible Kariega Game Reserve is! Since I was tiny I have wanted to go to Africa and work with animals and now that I’ve been here I want to live here! These past 3 weeks on Kariega have been beyond amazing and have confirmed that I want to work with animals and be involved in conservation for the rest of my life. Everything about this place makes you want to smile, the wildlife and the people. I have not met a single person on the reserve or in the local town who has not smiled and waved at me – there is a huge community and family spirit that I have not seen in any other country I have visited. No two days are the same here. The elephants are brilliant and I feel like I’ve got to know them and their personalities in my time here. Love the little one who came up and kicked the front of our vehicle! Seeing the rhinos just takes your breath away and the close encounter with the black rhino was amazing. I owe a big thank you to Justine who found so many giraffe for me, you have fulfilled my childhood dream of seeing them in the wild. Justine is the greatest volunteer leader and will make even the rainiest day a memorable one. Thank you to everyone here in South African and on Kariega Game Reserve – you have given me memories I will cherish forever. I will definitely be back … very very soon.”
– Lindsay Bainbridge, 16/07/2012 – 13/08/2012
“Where do I start … I can definitely say I have had the best four weeks ever! I wish I could stay for longer. Kariega Game Reserve is a beautiful place and I am so glad I chose this for my first voluntary programme. I have met some amazing people and hopefully I’ll be friends with them for a long time. I came to Kariega shy and unconfident but by the second week my shyness had gone away and my confidence was growing. I never thought I could do half the things I could before coming here. So thank you to everyone who has had part in that. My visits to the local school, Farmerfield, were definitely an experience! The children there made me smile because you can see how much they enjoy meeting you, taking part in your lessons, but also they were just happy to be there even though they don’t actually have a lot. I want to say a HUGE thank you to the Kariega volunteer coordinator, Justine. She has been brilliant! Thank you again for the best experience yet!”
– Imogen Tingay, 29/07/2012 – 20/08/2012
“I really don’t know where to begin to explain how utterly amazing this experience has been. It has been a real eye opener and has helped me grow as a person. It is true that the volunteer house becomes home and the people you share it with become your family, regardless of their country of origin. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the best 3 weeks of my life.”
– Becca Harker, 30/07/2012 – 27/08/2012
“I’m so sad my month at Kariega Game Reserve is up! It’s been wonderful. Full of highs, so many I don’t know where to start. It’s felt like home whilst I’ve been here, something I didn’t expect at all. I’ve loved the isolation, the views from the house, the quiet, and the sounds of the African bush and the total lack of TV! There are so many moments on Kariega that I will treasure – here are a few I’d like to share:
• Watching a black rhino from a foot away
• Seeing an aardwolf (his ears a mass with bulging ticks!)
• Tracking the lions and finding them fast asleep
• The night drive where we rounded a corner to see the lions walking towards us up the track – a unique and special sensation
• Walks along Kenton coast in glorious weather and being mesmerized by the power and sound of the waves – I had to drag myself away every time
• Canoeing in zig zags along the shimmering river, relaxing with friends
• Hiking through the thorns and fynbos with the cackling wood hoopoes overhead, followed by a well-earned litchi juice
• The pleasure gained from hacking at pine trees with machetes, clearing roads and pulling out wattles – how will I replicate that kind of joyous destruction at home?
• The day at Harvestvale with the gang – mountain climbing, red cliff views and picnic on the plain
• Sky diving!
• So many more …. Chasing spring hares, collecting bones, sharpening machetes, shooting stars ….
Above all else, I have achieved what I came here to do, which was to be able to go home not wanting to! To prove to myself that I can follow my dreams and should continue to do so without fear. To future Kariega volunteers … make memories to last forever!
– Blossom Edwards
“Wow, I have had an amazing two weeks at Kariega Game Reserve. A really good mixture of work and fun! My highlights have been learning about conservation in SA, treating Thandi and seeing all the animals and taking lots of great pics. A special thanks must be said to Justine, the volunteer coordinator here – for sharing her knowledge and her great stories. I hope that Thandi continues to get better and look forward to reading all the updates about Kariega”
– Danny Guy
“After spending 7 weeks at Kariega Game Reserve, I no longer call myself a volunteer … more like Justine’s volunteer assistant! By staying at Kariega so long I’ve got to know so many people so well and meet great people from all over the world. There have been so many moments here, that I couldn’t just pick one as a highlight – every week has been a new adventure. This trip has been amazing and I can’t thank Kariega, Justine and the other volunteers enough. My only problem now is how to top this once in a life time experience!”
– Charlotte Westendorf
“Best experience I ever had! A big thanks to Jacques, the volunteer coordinator, he really makes Kariega’s volunteer programme great. The most exciting part was seeing the lion cubs and watching them play and get bigger. I had an almost buffalo capture, and a real lion capture AMAZING, terrifying and exciting! I loved Kariega as a game reserve, the scenery is gorgeous. After 8 weeks I will miss Kariega and everybody here. I am really very grateful for this great experience!”
– Ellie Ellwood-Miller
“I cannot think of any better way to have spent my summer. As well as being a totally unique experience in the bush I learnt to cook and became more confident just in time for university!”
– Eleanor Ellwood, August 5th – September 14th 2009
“WHY am I leaving?!! This has been, and always will be the best experience Ive ever had. I have met so many awesome people, done so many amazing things … some highlights have been: Canoeing on the Kariega river and getting soaked (so went swimming), our road trip to Plettenberg bay and doing the highest bungee jump in the world and the “thorn game” (you had to be here!) … to name but a few. The best bits are the game drives, we always find game with Jacques and he knows way too much so we get double the experience that the guests or anyone else gets. I now like birds more than I should – I have found myself watching them instead of elephants! Unfortunately Ill be on my way home tomorrow, but with a mass of memories, knowledge and friendship that I will never let go. I am going to miss being woken up by monkeys on the roof and watching warthogs from the tree house.”
– Julie & James Bentley, August 4th – August 31st 2009
“Best holiday of my life and at 42 I can say that! Glad my son and I were able to do this, made all my hard work back home worthwhile!”
– Gregory Gosden, July 6th – August 31st 2009
“Best experience of my life. I met some great people and saw some brilliant sightings (example a lion kill!). Thanks Jacques for all, hopefully see you soon!”
– Abby Seymour Volunteer at Kariega 16 March to 11 May 2009
“I must start off by saying that I have really enjoyed my time at Kariega. The program has a very good combination of work and fun. The work was so cool and I felt like I was actually really making a difference. Some of the work activities we got involved in included invasive plant eradications. We used a combination of methods like chopping the trees down, ring barking them as well as spraying them with chemicals. We also did game counts – which are used to estimate how much of each type of game is on the reserve. Another work activity was doing birding, where we marked down the different species of birds we saw for a week to help record what kind of birds are present in the reserve. We also recorded the individual markings on various elephants in the reserve for identification purposes. All the work was great, but be did not work all the time. We also spent a lot of time having fun like canoeing and swimming in the river. We went to the beach and learned more about beach ecology as well as played in the Indian Ocean. We went camping, had plenty of braais (barbeques), swam in the Kariega river on a full moon night etc. etc. A lot of the time we got the opportunity to view game, which was so amazing, I got a whole bunch of pictures of all the different game species. We also got to go on a couple of night drives. One of the highlights was seeing a lion kill! I have learned so much over my time here about plants, animals, birds, the environment and also about South Africa in general. One of the things that made it such a great experience was the volunteer coordinator, Jacques. He is such a great guy and so knowledgeable. He took the experience to a new level and made it amazing. My time at Kariega has been so wonderful and definitely worth it ? and I think I got a ton out of it!”
– Andrew Dainty
“One of the best parts of the Kariega experience was Jacques, our volunteer coordinator. He is a wonderful guide and a mentor. Some of the highlights were watching the lions hunting and following their hunt from beginning to end. Another one had to be the elephants. We worked with and watched the elephants for hours. Seeing the elephants at night was also a great experience. I also did a fantastic canoe trail and spent the night at a rustic, but great tree house on the trail. Thanks very much to all for this great experience.
– Adam Howson, UK
“My name is Adam Howson and I joined Kariega Game Reserve’s volunteer programme for a month during 2007. I left the UK and headed to South Africa not knowing what the road ahead had in store. However, I can honestly say that it was the experience of a lifetime.
My reason for joining Kariega’s volunteer programme was to collect data and information for my third year university project. On my arrival, the Kariega team provided me with a wealth of information, time and support in helping me complete my tasks. The team here are so talented and working in the field with such people was awe inspiring!
I was really shocked at how much I was involved in during my short stay. I remember thinking back in the UK – “come on, as if I’ll get to do that”. The next thing you know I’m in the back of a truck with a sedated zebra! I was actually involved in all the research and conservation projects the web site advertised – no joke. However, they always made time for my individual needs – sorry for all the questions guys! The team have great personalities too and play just as hard as they work! They allowed me to explore local towns, visit the beach, party (oh!) and skydive from a plane at 10 000 feet. Yes people, I have video evidence – what a day that was!
This has been so much more than a uni trip for me. The memories I brought back to the UK, I will keep with me for the rest of my life.”
– Jane Scott
“Some places come into our hearts and quickly go, but Kariega stayed leaving footprints in my heart. Being a volunteer on Kariega Game Reserve was an experience that I will never forget. I learned so much in my six weeks out there. My personal favourite work activity was tracking and studying the elephants. The work we did was satisfying and rewarding and I really felt that my contribution helped improved the reserve. This is definitely an experience that I would recommend to anyone.” – Jane Scott, Scotland
– Fiona Roberts
“I cannot say thank you enough to the volunteer programme team at Kariega Game Reserve. I left the UK not sure what to expect on the other side … well, was I in for the surprise of my life! I can truly say that this was an experience of a lifetime. My memories at Kariega will stay with me for the rest of my life. I did things that I have never done in my life before (and probably never will, unless I return to Africa one day!), and learnt about things that I never even knew existed. I enjoyed every single work activity (even the hard, physical ones!), and the sense of satisfaction that we got as a group watching the African sunsets after an exciting day in the bush … well, that is something that I can’t explain. All that I can say is that I will talk about Kariega for the rest of my life and I encourage everyone to go there and to experience it for yourself. I can assure you, it is certainly worth it!” – Fiona Roberts, UK
– Sam Burchell 24/10/2011 – 04/11/2011
My two weeks at Kariega went by way too quickly. My absolute highlights were observing hippos one day (amazing) and happening across lions at a dam.
I had a great time doing eveything on Kariega – from cutting down black wattles to watching an elephant family have their afternoon snack. Our teaching sessions at Farmerfield School was also great fun and I hope the kids like their newly white painted rocks! Make sure you do the beach horse riding on a Saturday – its amazing.
Thanks so much to Justine, the Kariega volunteer and coordinator, for all her knowledge and patience with us!
– Allan Harvey 24/10/2011 – 21/11/2011
I was a volunteer on Kariega Game Reserve last year (2010)and just had to return. I have to say I had a great 4 weeks again. It was so nice to be back at Kariega. My time went by too quickly though. We had plenty to keep us busy – checking on leopard camera traps, eradicating black wattle and pine, game counts etc. I also enjoyed ay time at Farmerfield School and hope the flower bed flourishes after it was planted (pity I cant be there for the graduation ceremony).
My highlight this time was seeing the lion cubs, black rhino and buffalo. But best of all was the canoe trip on the Kariega river with Justine (especially since I have never been in a canoe before). We also went on a great hike. I have to mention our Wednesday night pizza night at Homewoods also, good fun and great pizzas.
I really hope to be back again!