HANDS ON BIG 5
Our Conservation Project is the ultimate Big 6 `Bush and Beach` experience, where you get the opportunity to get hands-on involved in conservation management as well as exploring South Africa`s amazing coastline. This Big 5 reserve is an extraordinary and exciting conservation area, at the forefront of numerous species reintroductions and conservation drives. While getting involved in every aspect of conservation management on the reserve, you will grow your skills in conservation and have the experience of a life time. A dedicated coordinator will endeavour to ensure that you have a wonderful learning experience and that on completion you may leave knowing more of what conservation is really about. So if you have always wondered what conservation management on a reserve in Africa entails this is the project for you.
Some of the activities may be hard physical work, and a certain level of determination from your side will be required. All we require is that you help with the tasks to the best of your abilities and to do everything with lots of enthusiasm. As long as you try your best, it is good enough for us!
Any work done in any `Big 5` Game Reserve in Africa can be potentially dangerous.
Wild animals remain unpredictable and therefore when we enter their domain we should do so with care and apply the necessary
*Generally, HIV/AIDS is extremely prevalent in the South Africa so it is your personal responsibility to take care with regards to health and safety, as well as sexual relationships. skills needed.
There may however be certain dangerous elements that the volunteer co-ordinator cannot control, like snakes, scorpions etc.
Flights into Port Elizabeth airport on Mondays before 1pm
Flight departing Port Elizabeth on Mondays after 12 Noon
After hours pickups to/from Port Elizabeth will incur a special transfer cost of
120 Euros .
Our 2018 bookings open 15 January.
Closed again from:
30 April – 13 May 2018
17 December 2018 – 13 January 2019
Open again 14 January 2019.
29 April - 12 May 2019
30 September - 6 October 2019
16 December 2019
Project reopens 6 January 2020
•Leopards in the Lower Albany Area: population status and the role of the reserve as a key habitat refuge
One of our main research focus areas on the reserve is our new and exciting leopard (Panthera pardus) project. The project is being undertaken in collaboration with the Centre for African Conservation Ecology of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
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. Hands on Big 5 is situated on 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 therefore aims to assess the status of leopards in the Lower Albany area and investigate the role of the reserve as a refugee habitat for leopards, which may move across the Lower Albany area.
Specific questions to be addressed with this project include:
•How many leopards occur on the reserve and in the Lower Albany area?
oThis will be addressed by collecting data on sightings, camera trap records and possibly genetic analysis.
•Is leopard activity in the Lower Albany area focused on conservation areas such as the game reserve?
oThis will be addressed by analysing the spatial distribution of leopard sighting records, and if resources are available, through the tracking of collared leopards
•Is there evidence for an increase in leopard numbers and wider distribution within the Lower Albany Area?
oThis will be addressed by relating the above-mentioned information to historical records of leopards in the study area.
•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.
•Lion prey selection monitoring – One of the volunteer programme’s responsibilities is to record as many lion kills as possible. This data provides the conservation department on the reserve 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.
•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 University of Cape Town’s Avian Demography Unit.
•Hyena tracking and monitoring - Movement patterns and breeding rates of these interesting predators are monitored. None of the hyenas are fitted with radio collars, so it can be quite a challenge finding them on the reserve. Our recent volunteers found a den site … one of our females gave birth!
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:
•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
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.
•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)
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 on the reserve.
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)
•Field Skills & Survival - Learn to look after yourself in the wild
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. Hands on Big 5 volunteers visit the school one day 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 and Maths. 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!
- All we require is that your help with the tasks to the best of your abilities, and to do everything with lots of enthusiasm.
- Some of the activities may be hard physical work, and a certain level of determination from your side will be required. As long as you try your best, it is good enough for us!
- Accommodation - shared bedrooms and shared bathrooms.
- Laundry - done by domestic helper
- Town-trips once a week
- 5 days a week work experience, helping the Conservation Department with management work on the reserve
- Entertainment costs over the weekends
- Additional activities can be organised for you (on condition that a few others in the group want to partake in the activity) like horse riding on the beach, river rafting, sky diving, deep sea fishing, field trip to an elephant park, a canoe trail etc. There are loads of fun things to do in the area and most of our volunteers make full use of this.
Their transport on the reserve will be on an open game viewing vehicle.
Volunteers may get transported on an open pick-up truck to Kenton-On-Sea on a Saturday when going for a `town day`.
- You will be sharing bedrooms and there are communal bathrooms.
- There is a lecture room, a lounge with a T.V, entertainment room with pool table, dining room and a fully equipped kitchen with a fridge, stove, microwave,
cutlery, crockery and cooking utensils.
- Lovely plunge pool to cool off in after a hard day`s work.
- If a safe for cash and valuables are required, volunteers can use the communal safe at reception.
- Please bear in mind that the house is in the middle of a `Big 5` game reserve, so therefore one cannot walk outside the boundaries of the garden fence.
- There are no internet or telephone facilities at the volunteer house for volunteers to use.
- Volunteers are divided into cooking teams and all meals are made by the volunteers themselves at the house.
- Volunteers are also responsible for washing up and keeping the kitchen clean and tidy.
*The meals are basic but wholesome, for example cereals, porridge and toast for breakfast; sandwiches for lunch and lasagne, salad and veg for supper.
If volunteers wish to add ingredients to meals that are not available to them at the volunteer house, they can buy it on town trip days at their own expense.
Meals that volunteers choose to eat at restaurants on town-trip days, are also at own expense.