Volunteering in South Africa

29th August 2011
Two of the wildlife conservation projects we support, provide the opportunity to volunteer and provide financial and physical support this way. As we believe that both, the wildlife conservation projects and also the volunteers benefit from not having to go through an agency (acting more or less only as a travel agency; making the arrangements and taking a share of the fees), we will advertise projects, Big Cat Photography supports, for free via our web page.

As mentioned above, there are currently two of our wildlife conservation partners, which offer volunteering opportunities. Both of them are different in what volunteers do and also in view of the minimum duration and other arrangements:

1) UmPhafa Private Nature Reserve
Volunteering at UmPhafa, a private nature reserve, run by Action For The Wild (Colchester Zoo's charitable arm) is an opportunity to gain valuable experience in the wildlife conservation field and to learn new skills from qualified staff members over a wide range of aspects involved in the running of a reserve. Days will be varied with duties including behavioural observations on game species which often involves stalking species such as rhino and giraffe through the bush at close quarters!!

Participants will also be aiding with the other current research projects, such as small mammal trapping, setting up and checking carnivore tracking stations, and camera trapping of elusive nocturnal species in order to complete the species list of the reserve and to monitor populations. Depending on the time of the year there may even be the chance to see animals released onto the reserve!!

The volunteer programme at UmPhafa is ideal for people, who are thinking about seeking a career in wildlife conservation or animal management. The volunteer programme is however open to anybody, who has an interest in doing volunteer work with a wildlife conservation project.

Volunteering periods can vary between a minimum of 4 weeks to a maximum of 3 months. The rate for a 4-weeks stay at UmPhafa is £1,100. An additional contribution of £500 will be applied per 4 weeks thereafter.

UmPhafa is located in Kwa-Zulu Natal, where there are several other reserves nearby including a ‘big 5’ game park. You will have the opportunity to visit the game park during your volunteering period.

Find out more about volunteering at UmPhafa via the UmPhafa web page.


2) Daktari - Bush School & Wildlife Orphanage
At Daktari you will get hands-on experience in caring for injured and orphaned wild animals, and you will be providing teaching for children from underprivileged communities.

This wildlife conservation approach is unique, but from our perspective the key to succeed in protecting wildlife. As we have learnt during our visit to Daktari in August 2011, the communities, from which the children come from, have no wildlife or even birds left in their surroundings; simply because the people killed all of them (being scared of them, needing food or financial resources). By educating the children and through them, their parents, the aim is to enable the communities to come back to live side by side with wildlife and also to provide their working animals (donkeys, dogs, goats, etc) with a better and longer life.

In addition to this, Daktari takes the children (with the help of the volunteers) to a neighbouring game reserve, where the children can learn about the jobs that are related to the Eco Tourism.

Volunteering starts from 1 week and can last up to 3 months or even longer. The prices for volunteering start with £390 for one week (£430 from 2012 onwards) and are for longer terms the lowest, we have seen (including meals). Based on logistical reasons, volunteering at Daktari starts always on a Saturday (pick-up in Hoedspruit/Hoedspruit airport).

Daktari is located in the Limpopo Province, not far from the Krüger National Park and the adjoining private game reserves, like the Timbavati and Sabi Sand. This means you can easily combine your volunteering with a self-drive or organised safari.

Find out more about volunteering at Daktari via the Daktari web page.

For information on Daktari's work and achievements please also their Newsletter.


Why do volunteers have to pay?
This is a question, we have been asked many times as many people think "We provide free labour and hence should not need to pay for this".

Well, you have to remember that organisations, who asked for volunteer work are non-profit organisations or charities. This means there is no income, which would pay for the provision of accommodation, training, communication equipment and meals; costs, which are associated with having people on-site. In addition to funding the costs for volunteer personal, the volunteer fee contributes also to other costs of the organisation, which is often funded solely through donations.

The wildlife conservation projects that are supported by Big Cat Photography are organisations, which operate not with big fundraising departments and lots of overhead. This means on one side that the money goes directly, where we would like to see it go (to the wildlife and the work around it), but it means also in the absence of a substantial fundraising department and big TV advertising the organisation rely completely on donations that come from smaller groups of supporters (reached via Internet). The funds, raised from volunteers, who visit and have the chance to experience wildlife conservation and/or the combination of wildlife conservation and education first-hand, will help to fund the wildlife conservation projects.

We hope that people see the unique opportunity to visit South Africa, while experiencing wildlife conservation work first-hand, and will volunteer their work to organisations, which rely on this type of support, but have not got the funding for advertising campaigns (as their money goes to the work with the animals directly).

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