Big 5 Conservation Project

The project is located in a 25,000 hectares Big 5 game reserve in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, a malaria free area. The programme does not focus on one particular species but offers the once in a lifetime chance to get behind the scenes and involved with the conservation efforts of the game reserve, one of the largest of South Africa. The place offers various landscapes and vegetation, from forests to open lands and hills, which makes it an ideal place for all the southern African animal species.

The game reserve is also host to the Born Free Foundation that takes worldwide action to protect species in the wild and takes in abused animals such as lions and leopards in South Africa. There is also a rehabilitation centre that takes in any injured or orphan animal of the game reserve or its surroundings with the aim of releasing it.

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You will fly in Port Elizabeth International Airport, located about an hour drive away from the project. If you arrive on a Monday before 13h and leave on a Monday (departure from the project at 10h), your return transfer will be arranged at your own cost for R1500. At your arrival you will be given a quick introduction and will have time to get settled and socialise with the other volunteers.

The Big 5 Conservation Project exposes the volunteers to the several daily aspects involved in the conservation management of the game reserve. Participants will take part in short and long terms projects that are intended to create sustainability for generations to come. The experience is diverse and though structured, as result of the nature of working in and around wildlife, you need to be ready for the unexpected! Visits and tasks at the Born Free Foundation and the Animal Rehabilitation Centre are undertaken according to the requirement to manage and host the big cats and other animals deemed to have a chance of being saved, rehabilitated and released back into the wild.

Born Free Foundation: It cares for lions and leopards that have been kept in terrible conditions (in circuses, as pets, etc.) in order to give them a second chance in life. Unfortunately, because of the extent of the abuse that was made on them, these animals are both physically and mentally too damaged to ever be released. It is therefore the mission of the Big Cat Sanctuary to give them the best captive conditions possible. The volunteers will have the opportunity to help at the Sanctuary about once a week (when help is required) with the following activities:

  • Food preparation and distribution
  • Vegetation control
  • Veterinary work
  • Etc.


Animal Rehabilitation Centre: the Centre was set up to aid in rehabilitating injured animals found on the reserve and surrounding community with the aim of giving them short term care and release them into the game reserve. As the centre is not a sanctuary and no animal is kept for purposes of breeding in captivity, volunteers are sent there when and if assistance is required. They may gain different types of exposure through this experience which may range from assistance through observation to more hands on animal care and husbandry.

Community projects: the role of conservation does not stop at conserving nature alone, but also includes a responsibility to uplift local communities. This responsibility includes education of the community as to the role and benefit of conserving biodiversity and further stresses the importance of conserving our natural resources. Volunteers will make weekly trips to the local community to assist in various projects such as:

  • Creating and maintaining vegetable gardens
  • Recycling projects
  • Clothes sales
  • Painting classrooms
  • Building jungle gyms
  • Etc.


Here is a list of activities that you may take part in during your stay (please note that this is for your information and that you may or may not take part in all the activities listed below):

  • Game monitoring (rhinos, elephants and predators)
  • Telemetry tracking (leopards and cheetahs)
  • Game counts
  • Game capture and other wildlife veterinary work
  • Collecting of old fence lines
  • Vegetation control (removal of alien plants)
  • Road maintenance
  • Research projects
  • Tracking walk
  • Assisting in night patrols
  • Lectures
  • Etc.


You will be given the chance to be exposed to real conservation issues and tasks, with the chance to make a sustainable difference through your participation alongside qualified rangers and field guides.

A typical daily schedule (please note that this schedule may vary according to the season and activities undertaken.):


7h – 8h: breakfast

8h – 12h: first activity

12h -13h: lunch

13h – 17h: second activity

17h – 18h: dinner


Days off

Your weekend will be at leisure, you can either stay at the camp or take part in an off-site activity. Here is a non-exhaustive list:


  • Enjoy a night out at the local pub
  • Take a trip to Jeffrey’s Bay (famous surfing spot)
  • Bungy jumping
  • Take a trip to Addo National Elephant Park
  • Etc.

The main student facility is located in the North part of the reserve. Antelopes often pay the volunteers a visit and they can even spot elephants. You will stay in twin bedded rooms with shared shower and toilet. The accommodation also provides a dining area, a lounge with a TV and a pool table, a lecture room and a swimming pool. Three meals a day will be provided, laundry is offered on a weekly basis and your rooms will be cleaned twice a week. Wi-Fi is offered.

Arrivals and departures on Mondays.


Period                                          Programme fees in Rands (ZAR) 2024

2 weeks                                                 R28590

3 weeks                                                 R42885

4 weeks                                                 R57180

6 weeks                                                 R85770


Period                                          Programme fees in Rands (ZAR) 2025

2 weeks                                                 R32880

3 weeks                                                 R49320

4 weeks                                                 R65760

6 weeks                                                 R98640



Are included in the Programme Fees: the registration fees, accommodation, three meals a day, laundry once a week, your supervision.

“The wildlife at the Big 5 Conservation Project is breathtaking and having the opportunity to spend every day working behind the scenes with the conservation team was a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience. The accommodation was surprisingly comfortable especially the bed which ensured a good night’s sleep to prepare for the next day’s activities!” Michelle Briggs, England


“Thank you for giving me this amazing experience! The staff, the volounteers, the nature, the animals, everything! Thank you! I will be back :)” Anne, Denmark


“The most incredible place which offers a wonderful experience. Staff are all amazingly enthusiastic and welcoming. Cannot wait to go back.” Elicia, England

Projects : South Africa

Marine Conservation Project

The main objective of the project is to support marine applied research that informs conservation management decisions with scientific advice. The programme combines research, conservation and education.

Vet Programme

The Vet Programme is designed for vet or nurse students. The programme aims to offer participants a combination of veterinary and conservation activities and to be a part of community upliftment projects. 

Cheetah Rehabilitation Project

The Cheetah Rehabilitation Project is a unique project that allows the volunteers to work hands-on cheetahs & other cats while actively working for their rehabilitation in the wild.

Fauna Conservation Project

The project aims to teach as many things as possible to the volunteers about the management of a game reserve and the differents species that live in it.

Research & Conservation Project

There are maximum 10 volunteers at a time, supervised by Katie, Bronwyn and Stuart, three professional and passionate guides who will teach them everything there is to know about the management of a game reserve and will introduce them to the researches that are being carried out.

Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre

Founded over 40 years ago, the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is the only registered center of Durban to the rescue, recovery and release of the wildlife indigenous to the province of KwaZulu-Natal. It is made up of a passionate team dedicated 24h/24 to the rescue of animals in danger that truly needs volunteers to lend a hand.