Give Back Travel: Wildlife Conservation Volunteering in South Africa’s Kalahari Reserve
- There are no other vehicles to share sighting with during a safari.
- We have no time restrictions at sightings.
- There are no neighboring communities and therefore no light pollution (stargazing).
- Given the nature of our project, GPS collars are used to track collared animals for some interesting sightings.
- Driving off-road to follow predators is significantly easier and less taxing on the environment given the ecology of the region.
Educational Aspects of this Journey
- Scientific researchers will inform you about the ecology and behavior of animals and plants in the reserve, as well as the importance of habitat restoration and stewardship.
- Learn about the combatting rhino poaching and the ongoing rhino conservation crisis.
- Participate in tracking wildlife with radio antenna, GPS collars, and traditional track and sign methods used to identify and follow animals.
- Learn the natural history of flora and fauna in the reserve.
- Understand the issues associated with non-native species and their effects on the environment.
- Explore the role and importance of eco-tourism in conservation and how travel can be a force for good.
Day 1: Arrive at the Reserve
Arriving at the reserve around 4:00 PM, time will be given for you to settle in and unpack. Next, you’ll receive a thorough introduction to the project, discuss the upcoming activities, and learn how the project helps conservation and the ecological needs of the reserve.
Guests are accommodated in a tented lodge which offers incredible game viewing and sensational star-gazing opportunities to all who visit!
Day 2: Predator Research
Based on the ecological needs of the reserve, you will be participating in the continuous research of various predatory species. This research will focus primarily on developing a database of the reserve’s African wild dog (painted wolf) and lion populations. This database is essential for the reserve’s ecologist to determine the reserve’s predator/prey populations and ensure a balanced ecosystem is maintained.
This research may involve other wildlife including (but not limited to) cheetah, leopard, brown and spotted hyena, elephant, rhino, vultures, and buffalo.
The research may require following predators late at night when they are most active.
Day 3: Camera Traps and Game Counts
We will place and monitor camera traps to conduct scientific research and animal identification (e.g. a wild dog’s unique coat or a leopard’s unique pattern). Due to the sheer size of the reserve, placing and collecting camera traps from around the reserve before analyzing the data is no small task!
We’ll drive specific routes to conduct game counts and monitor any increase or decrease of significance in any of the reserve’s wildlife populations. Accurate game counts are one of the most important tools for reserve management, as changes in wildlife populations or sex ratios can be an early indication of specific ecological problems (e.g. too many/few predators). Management can isolate different variables and use these counts to correctly identify an ecological problem before it’s too late.
Day 4: Vegetation Surveys and Reserve Work
The reserve’s ecologist has set a program in motion to monitor changes in fauna and flora. Over sixty randomly selected sites have been identified, and vegetation surveys are used to identify gradual and/or sudden changes in vegetation across the reserve, and recognize changes in species composition, health of the grass layer, bush encroachment, and whether the reserve is overstocked. This data is captured and analyzed and used to determine the impact that environmental factors, including herbivores, are having on the vegetation of the reserve.
Bush encroachment is a problem throughout African savannas. Not only does it impact the habitats available to animals, it also impacts the infrastructure that we need to use in conservation areas. As this is a large reserve that is not open to the general public, many of the roads are hardly used. In fact, you’re unlikely to encounter another vehicle during your entire stay at the reserve! This also means that many of these roads get overgrown with encroaching bush, and trimming bushes on the road provides access to the road across the reserve. Other reserve work may include removing invasive plant species and removal of old fencing wires, leftover from earlier farming days, that may entangle animals
Day 5: Morning Drive and Departure
Wake up and watch the sun rise.
It’ll be your last opportunity to see some of the Kalahari’s magnificent wildlife before departing the reserve and heading back to the airport!
Add on a Cape Town or Safari Adventure:
Add an eco-luxurious stop to explore Cape Town where you can hike Table Mountain, visit Simon’s Beach to see the penguins, and explore the stunning coastline or wine country before jetting home.
Or, if you’re looking to extend your safari adventures, we can continue your trip to Bostwana’s Okavango Delta or any number of South Africa’s incredible parks or reserves.
Interested in booking this itinerary or customizing a trip to South Africa? Get in touch with a private travel designer!