Make a real difference, grow your skills in conservation and have the experience of a lifetime!

Research Projects


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.


Population status of leopards

Leopard (2)

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 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. We are fortunate to have the support of the Centre for African Conservation Ecology of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University on this project.

We are currently trying to establish how many leopards occur on Kariega Game Reserve. We have movement sensor cameras in place on the reserve and it is one of the Volunteer Programme’s tasks to monitor these cameras, change memory cards and record all images taken. The cameras are moved around the property on a regular basis, to increase the chance of leopard sightings.

Lion prey selection monitoring1507847_724641507559499_550195626_n

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 whilst out on night drives.

Rhino monitoring

The estimated number of rhino poached during 2012 in South Africa is 633. This crisis is the most significant 996998_711644948859155_1998234544_nconservation issue that South Africa has faced. Kariega conservation volunteers help monitor and account for rhinos on the property on a regular basis.

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 Universityof Cape Town’s Avian Demography Unit.

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.60521_572319039458414_262889155_n
  • Game Introduction
    There is an ongoing programme for the introduction of additional game, especially as the reserve has 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)

Conservation Management

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)
  • Coastal ecology outings

Community Development

Cvp (12)

It is our responsibility to take pride in our heritage and accordingly make plans for a healthy, sustainable future founded on equality and fairness – help Kariega to achieve this vision by volunteering as part of our team!

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 oneday 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!

Field Conditions

Accommodation is in a fully furnished house on the reserve (shared bedrooms and bathrooms). Volunteers are divided into teams and are responsible for the preparation of meals on a rotational basis. There are plenty of opportunity for braai’s (BBQ’s) under the night skies and socializing around a fire. There is a lovely plunge-pool for volunteers to cool off in after a hard day’s work.

The working week at Kariega is from Monday to Friday. Working hours depend on the season and may vary from 7 – 9 hours per day. The evenings are at your leisure. Saturdays are reserved for a town trip (either to Kenton-On-Sea, Port Alfred or Grahamstown) where volunteers can do their shopping, eat out, visit all the sites of the local towns. Sundays are off time.

Kenton-On-Sea is a beautiful small coastal town only 15 minutes drive from the reserve. The beaches are absolutely breath taking and pristine. Your local “hang-out” is a pub / restaurant overlooking this stunning beach! After their Saturday morning shopping in Kenton (volunteers can stock up on everyday essentials), volunteers often laze around on the beach, swim in the waves or sit in the beach bar while sipping away on a cold drink and taking in the scenery.

There are also additional activities that can be organised for you on a Saturday (at your own cost and on condition that a few others in the group also want to partake in the activity), including:

  • 1274475_642868945736756_388831213_oHorseback riding on the beach or in a game reserve
  • Sky diving – tandem (that means you are strapped to an instructor!)
  • Deep sea fishing
  • Two day canoe trail on the Kowie river (this is a hit with many of our volunteer groups)
  • Quad bike riding
  • Addo Elephant National Park field trip
  • Paint ball
  • Weekend trips away can include bungee jumping, canopy tours and shark cage diving


There are no set arrival/departure dates for this project, but please note all arrivals are scheduled on Mondays. Departure days can be Fridays, Saturdays or Mondays (please note: no Sundays). Volunteers are required to sign an indemnity form acknowledging and accepting the consequences of working in close contact with wild animals. Applicants must be 17 years of age or older. The minimum time period for a booking is a two week placement and the maximum period is 12 weeks.

Please note that our activities are based on a minimum stay of four weeks. Although many of the activities listed below may take place in two to three week placements, not all are guaranteed. So the longer your stay, the more in depth your experience.


425$ US / €325 per week

Prices include accommodation for the duration of your placement, all work activities on the reserve and three meals per day. Please email us to enquire about our weekly rate. Not included are entertainment expenses over weekends and socializing costs (drinks and meals volunteers choose to have while out in town). Please note we can unfortunately not offer any free placements.

Arrangements will be made by Kariega staff to collect incoming volunteers from Port Elizabeth Airport. Kariega is approximately 140 kms (two hours drive) from Port Elizabeth. Volunteers are to pay for the transfer to and from the airport themselves.

Check the beautiful video of volunteer programs : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cp1Cj47xMng

Volunteering house


Change this in Theme Options
Change this in Theme Options