Big 5 Wild Project

memories for a lifetime

Big 5 Wild Project

The Big 5 Wild project offers you a unique experience in the African bush and allows you to observe and be a part of the research/monitoring teams on the reserve. The focus of this project revolves around some of the key species; elephants, lions, hyenas and leopards. You will also be involved with monitoring breeding initiatives comprising of buffalo, Livingstoneland and nyala. Habitat work also plays an important part of the monitoring process. The reserve is a vast Big 5 nature reserve covering an area of 25.000 hectares and is situated in the Lowveld area, the home of nature conservation in South Africa. Here, 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 several 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 qualified rangers. As each activity has a pre-determined objective, you not only get to view the animals, but are also able to assist in the conservation of these species. 

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. 

Details about the project

What's included

Upon arrival you will be collected from the airport and driven to your accommodation for the orientation. Once the orientation is complete you will be transferred to your project location.


24 hour support and supervision 


Room share with other volunteers

Food & Beverages

Three meals a day, coffee & tea included

Details about the project

Big 5 Wild project details

  • Arrival Day – Saturday 
  • Time – Your flight can land anytime on Saturday 
  • Airport – O R Tambo (JNB) International Airport 
  • Jo’burg Orientation – Saturday – Sunday 
  • Project Starts – Monday. You will travel by shuttle to the project site in Hoedspruit. Alternatively, you may fly JNB – HDS in order to skip the shuttle (at your own expense).
  • Departure Day – Monday 
  • Departure Time – You must take a late evening flight out of JNB as the shuttle will only arrive back to JNB at approximately 18h00. Alternatively, you may fly HDS – JNB should you wish to skip the shuttle (at your own expense). 
  • Min Duration – 2 weeks (including 2 day orientation)
  • Min Age: 18 
  • Max Age: N/A – Medium level of fitness 

NOTE: You can also be collected at any hotel or place of accommodation on your arrival day, should it be within close radius of the city center or airport

Volunteer tasks are focused on monitoring, which forms the basis for the majority of the research assistance on the game reserve. Monitoring drives are conducted in the mornings and afternoons. The monitoring coincides with times of increased activity of the specific animals that are observed. Time is also spent on foot tracking the more elusive animals, which is an amazing way to experience the bush. During the drier winter months, there are several hides based at water holes which allow you to observe the various animals and their interactions at close quarters. The volunteers will also spend time attending to habitat management requirements on the properties and the greater reserve. 



Project start day. Town trip to pick up volunteers and restock on supplies.


Early start on a set-route drive as part of the game counting program to determine populations of general game. In the afternoon, depart for a monitoring drive to locate one of the projects key species of interest; lion, elephant, leopard or hyena.


Waterhole monitoring in the morning to determine species utilisation of the area. Set off for a drive in the afternoon to the breeding boma to monitor the buffalo, Livingston eland and nyala.


Habitat work; you could be busy with exotic plant removal, erosion control or bush clearing. In the afternoon or evening, head out on hyena monitoring and night patrol.


Early morning start, go out to locate elephants as part of the ongoing research into the elephant contraception program. The afternoon set out to monitor bird species on the way to a sleep out under the stars with the Endangered Species project.


Either an outing will be planned or it will be a free day for volunteers to relax or head out on their own tour. When you have free time, it’s not recommended to stay at the camp because the rangers have their off duty.


Habitat work in the morning, followed by an afternoon monitoring drive focusing on the lion population. On return in the evening, you may head out to the local pub or have a typical South African braai (BBQ).

In between activities, volunteers will receive a series of presentations on the work of the project, or how to approach dangerous game on foot, or possibly even a presentation on Rhino Poaching 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. 

Please note that from time to time there can be unavoidable changes to projects. These can be caused by weather, conservation priorities, materials supply, or because ongoing projects have progressed more quickly or slowly than originally planned. We ask you to accept the changes – we are sure that you will enjoy the replacement projects just as much.. This routine is stuck to as best as possible; however, working with animals requires a flexible schedule. The above outline is subject to change

  • Completed application form 
  • Basic level of competency in English 
  • Copy of return flight itinerary 
  • Medium level of fitness 
  • Travel insurance

There is no fence around the property which will allow you to see free roaming animals and birdlife during the day. They roam around the garden and you may regularly see the elephant herds coming to drink at the waterhole. The main building with the office has a large comfortable lounge with a book and movie library where volunteers can spend their free time reading field guides and other books, or watching documentaries in the evening. We also have a volleyball court at the camp and a pool for you to cool off! The volunteer house has a mix of dorm type sleeping arrangements with bunk beds or twin rooms for couples and/or volunteers travelling together. Bathrooms have a shower with hot running water provided by eco-friendly solar heaters and flushing toilets. Next door is the kitchen with an outside eating area.  



Activity level


Education level


Involvement level


Independence level

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