“If you’ve never come face to face with one of Africa’s big cats, you truly have so much to look forward to!” – Shawn Smith.
Living with Big Cats Wild Edition is the ideal conservation program for anyone who is looking for an authentic African experience. Live on a game reserve that boasts thousands of wild animals, including all of the Big Five – lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo. You will work alongside certified FGASA game rangers to track animals and complete data collection to monitor and ensure animal conservation on a 25,000ha game reserve.
Situated on 25,000ha of African bush at Makalali Game Reserve, our Living with Big Cats – Wild Edition is the ideal location to experience Africa’s Big Five. This program is for volunteers who want to experience true African wildlife. Volunteers will work side by side game rangers to monitor the big five as well as other predators. In addition to the Big Five, the reserve is home to a variety of wild game and an astonishing variety of bird species.
Our facility was established to provide dedicated assistance with information and data collection to partnered conservation areas to enable the best decisions for the welfare of the animals. This program is a unique and professional experience for individuals who want to make a true impact on wildlife conservation.
Monitoring forms the basis for the majority of our research assistance on the Greater Makalali Game Reserve. We conduct monitoring drives in the mornings and afternoons. The monitoring coincides with times of increased activity of the specific animals we are observing. We also spend time on foot tracking the more allusive animals, which is an amazing way to experience the bush. During the drier winter months, we have several hides based at waterholes which allow you to observe the various animals and their interactions at close quarters. Our time is also spent attending to habitat management requirements on the greater reserve.
- Elephant monitoring
- Lion monitoring
- Monitoring of breeding animals
- Hyena monitoring
- Monitoring of leopard locations
- Small mammal survey
- General game census
- Birds and raptors
- Habitat conservation
- Alien vegetation control
- Habitat rehabilitation
- Reserve management
The Greater Makalali Game Reserve is nestled between the Drakensburg Mountains and the Kruger National Park in the heart of South Africa’s Lowveld. It is crossed by two rivers, the Selati River in the north and the Makhutswi River in the south adding to the reserves unique topography. It is 65km north-west from Hoedspruit and 75km south-east from Tzaneen.
Volunteers stay in shared rooms (2-3 people/room) with communal bathrooms when they staying at the main research camp. Volunteers will also have the opportunity to stay in an eco-friendly tented camp when working with the monitoring team.
The project start day is every Monday throughout the year, with volunteers being collected fromHoedspruit.
Typical Project Schedule
Monday: Project start day. Town trip to pick up volunteers and restock supplies
Tuesday: Early start setting out on a set route drive as part of our game counting program to determine populations of general game.
In the afternoon we depart for a monitoring drive to locate one of our key species of interest; lion, elephant, leopards or hyena.
Wednesday: Waterhole monitoring in the morning to determine species utilisation of the area.
Thursday: Habitat work; we could be busy with exotic plant removal, erosion control or bush clearing.
In the afternoon or evening, we head out on hyena monitoring and night patrol
The afternoon we will set out to monitor bird species.
Saturday: Habitat work in the morning, followed by an afternoon monitoring drive focussing on our lion population.
Sunday: Either an outing will be planned or it will be a free day for volunteers to relax or head out on their own tour.
In between activities, volunteers will receive a series of presentations on the work of Siyafunda, or how to approach dangerous game on foot, or possibly even a Zulu lesson. This time will also be used to transfer all data collected onto the computers and compile the weekly research report, as well as helping out with vehicle checks and cleaning.
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