Bush Volunteer Program - Research Camp (Makalali Game Reserve - South Africa)

A unique experience in the African bush that gives you the opportunity to observe and be a part of the research and monitoring teams on the reserve. Special focus on elephants, lions & hyenas

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  • Duration: 7 Days and 1 Hours
  • Very easy
  • Electronic voucher
  • Meet on location
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“To Learn and To Teach” ("Siyafunda" in Zulu) are the objectives on which Siyafunda Wildlife and Conservation is founded and the basic principles that drive our projects. Our aim is to obtain a greater understanding of wildlife and the environment in which it thrives and to teach our knowledge to all who assist us at our Siyafunda projects.

Siyafunda was founded in 2004 to assist the Greater Makalali Game Reserve with monitoring their elephants as part of the contraception program.  This then evolved to include the monitoring of all Big 5 animals as well as other predators.  In 2013 we were able to use this knowledge and experience to expand into the Zingela Reserve in Northern Limpopo.

Our projects have been established to provide a dedicated assistance to our partnered conservation areas.  By assisting with their specific information requirements we enable the reserves to make the best decisions for the welfare of their animals.  Siyafunda provides a unique and professional experience for individuals of these fascinating natural environments.


  • Elephant Monitoring 
  • Lion Monitoring
  • Breeding Animals Monitoring
  • Hyena Monitoring
  • Leopard
  • Small Mammal Survey
  • Birds and Raptors
  • Habitat 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 alusive 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 Siyafunda properties and the greater reserve.

Habitat Conservation

Alien Vegetation Control: Under the guidance of Working for Water (WFW), volunteers will assist with identifying and monitoring stands of alien and invasive vegetation within the river and across the reserve. Volunteers will participate in the mechanical removal and chemical control of these species as well as the follow-up monitoring of problem areas. This is an important project as alien invasive plants have the ability to encroach on areas and prevent other indigenous plants from growing, as well as using up large amounts of moisture from the soil. This has a detrimental effect on your ecosystem and therefore requires constant monitoring and removal.

Habitat Rehabilitation: Volunteers will have the opportunity to assist in ongoing habitat rehabilitation initiatives in the reserve, including erosion control, the construction of rock gabions, brush-packing and re-seeding.

Reserve Management: We are lucky enough to be situated on a large reserve but this also means that it needs to be constantly managed. Volunteers will have the opportunity to take part in assisting with reserve duties such as road maintenance to prevent erosion problems, encroachment of vegetation over the roads and fence clearing when needed.


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.

We set off for a drive in the afternoon to the breeding boma to monitor the buffalo, Livingstone eland and nyala.

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

Friday: Early morning start and we will be out locating the elephants as part of the ongoing research into the elephant contraception program

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.

On return in the evening, we may head out to the local pub or have a typical South African braai (BBQ)

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 the 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.


Your home during your stay will be the Twines Research Camp, in the heart of the reserve with all of the wildlife on your doorstep, quite literally! There are twin share rooms with shared bathrooms and all meals are prepared by the group. In the evenings, while sitting around the open fire, you can listen to the nightly calls of the lions and sounds of the bush while doing some star gazing and sharing stories of your day.

Pricing Structure

  • 1 Week $700, 2 Weeks $1200, 3 Weeks $1700, 4 Weeks $2150 and then additional Weeks at $450.

Important information

Operated by: Siyafunda Conservation International (Pty) Ltd

What’s included

  • Transfers for arrivals and departures on Mondays to/from Hoedspruit,
  • all food (except snacks, soft drinks and alcohol),
  • accommodation,
  • linen (except towels),
  • housekeeping service,
  • training,
  • travel within the reserve,
  • assistance with travel in the local area,
  • an outing every two weeks to interesting local attractions outside of the reserve (entrance fees to be paid by volunteers)
R 10,300 7 Days and 1 Hours , Very easy

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