Wildlife vol-Viv`s Travel Bug 1300 815 512

Wildlife volunteering

In a wildlife park near Johannesburg a man walks alone among the bushveld scenery.  There is a rustle in the long grass and two large black-maned lions emerged and raced towards him.  Instead of fleeing he stood his ground, bravely facing these deadly cats.  The rest of the lion pride followed, eleven of them, including females and cubs.  To all intents and purposes, this was a situation fraught with the threat of danger and death.  And yet it is something that visitors to Kevin Richardson’s refuge can see each day if they visit the park. 

Richardson is South Africa’s famed ‘Lion Whisperer’ (a title he does not like) and he has become world-famous for working alone, face-to-face (and even swimming) with lion, hyena, wild dog, leopard, warthog and others.  To see him rolling on the ground playing with lion, stroking and patting and even kissing the large males, is an incredible sight.  It is almost unbelievable: and yet it was his laughing call “Morning – morning...let’s go my boys... let’s go” that had brought them bounding towards him.  Tony Park has written Richardson’s biography “Part of the Pride - My life amoKevin_Richardsonng the big cats of Africa” which will be available in Australia in September. Tony normally writes thrillers set in Africa and generally has a new novel out each year.  

There are lots of different ways that a traveller can view African wildlife.  Tourists can visit game reserves (national or private) and view the game from safari trucks, cars, elephant back – or even on foot in some instances.  Of particular interest to me are those travellers who want to explore their destination’s famous landmarks as well as work among the animals in assisting their conservation.

Africa is a vast continent of astounding beauty and great diversity.  It is home to a number of traditional and colourful cultures and many exciting and fascinating animal species.   As the world gets more crowded and our lives become fuller and faster, the peace and tranquillity of the natural world becomes increasingly attractive.

It is crucial for all of us to ensure that the impact on these national environments is minimised.  Since the 1980s the approach to conservation in African wildlife and support for rural people has become the forefront to many eco-tourism companies.  “CARE OF THE LAND, CARE OF THE WILDLIFE, CARE OF THE PEOPLE” is the catchcry of well-known travel conservationist company “& Beyond”.

It is with this in mind that I choose to focus much of my push to get anyone visiting Africa to consider travelling as a volunteer.  By choosing to travel and work in Africa one can have a safari and also make a real contribution to the future preservation of the wildlife.  Here are some wildlife projects to whet your appetite:

The Cheetah Centre (Eastern Cape, South Africa)

A non-profit organisation, the Cheetah Centre is committed to the conservation of the African Cheetah.  Your time is spent helping in every aspect – looking after cubs and sometimes their mothers, food preparation, cleaning cages, talking to visitors.  Minimum time here is 8 weeks.

Okonjima (Namibia)

You will have the opportunity to work with cheetahs, leopards and wild dogs rescued by the Africat Foundation.  Most cats are rehabilitated and released back into the wild.  Activities include tracking and monitoring plant and animal studies; general reserve and fence maintenance; Africat feeding of animals; and some work with the Africat Foundation. 

Elephant Conservation (Namibia)

This programme takes you to ‘Damaraland’ in the Namib Desert, a tribal area also home to the desert elephant.  There is competition for water and land with the resident human population.  Your volunteering days would not be for the faint-hearted but they would be a wonderful experience.  This is basic living, with no electricity, no toilets, and sleeping accommodation would be 2-man tents.  Your time could be spent out on patrol in the desert, camping out wild under the stars, and living close to the elephants.  You will also help build protective walls around the windmills and water points as well as teaching subsistence farmers to manage their conflicts with the elephants.  In this desert area, you will also find black rhino, ostrich, springbok, giraffe, kudu and, if you are lucky, desert lion.


Kariega Game Reserve (Port Elizabeth, South Africa)

This "Big 5”, malaria-free game park has many volunteer programs to choose from:

Elephant Impact Monitoring. Volunteers help to monitor elephant movement patterns and vegetation impact.  They will also be involved with recording the unique ear markings of each elephant for management purposes.

Lion Prey Selection Monitoring. This is a programme to record as many lion kills as possible to help with information about prey selection.

Hyena tracking and monitoring.   Movement patterns and breeding rates of the hyena are collected.  


If you are interested in working with animals in Africa, helping with wildlife conservation or just interested in travelling while making a difference then please come into Viv’s Travel Bug and I will find you a wildlife project in East, Central or Southern Africa to suit your volunteering needs.

Viv 1300 815 512 /viv@vivstravelbug.com.au