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Makalali Game Reserve

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Life-changing experience

I spent 2 unforgettable weeks (late October to early November) with Siyafunda, and left teary-eyed wishing I had more time. It is the kind of experience for those who really want to be in the authentic South African bush. We went on game drives to collect data twice-a-day that were always incredible-- we managed to see the entire Big 5 (and many more) in my first two days! Aside from the breath-taking wildlife, the staff and guides were exceptional. Their ability to connect with the volunteers, all while constantly educating us on everything in sight and making us feel safe in our surroundings made me feel immediately at home at Siyafunda. I was fortunate enough to spend some time at both the Bush Camp and the Research Base Camp, and I recommend doing both. Bush Camp is as authentic Africa as it gets, and it worth the experience. There is truly nothing like sleeping with Hyenas howling right outside your tent at night, which will inevitably happen at bush camp. Though you do maintenance or a project at least once a week, it is still something to look forward to, knowing that you are helping maintain the reserve for both people and animals alike. One of the best things about Siyafunda is their drive to educate and immerse you with the wildlife around you. Unlike fancy lodges where you arrive at a sighting and spend maybe 2 minutes with an animal, Siyafunda guides let the volunteers determine how long we stayed at a sighting to watch the animal, which lended to some incredible sightings. Because we were able to stay at sightings, we were able to see things like a two lions and leopard fight over a warthog kill, and hyenas bravely stealing a kill from a male lion. Siyafunda leaves you feeling as though you made a difference and are connected to nature. There is no doubt that I would recommend this program to anyone of any age, and I know that you will leave with indescribable memories, lasting connections, and wishing you had more time.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Great Summer Experience at the Siyafunda Research Camp in Makalali

Hello, I’m seventeen years old and i spent six weeks at the siyafunda research project from the 7th of July till the 18th of August this summer...it was really amazing and a real life time experience !!! all staff members were really nice, and made my time there gorgeous !!! the makalali game reserve is wonderful and hosts lots of animals, it took me not long to see all of the big five ! the accommodation was nothing special, but quite good, everything i needed was in the room, i was happy with it ! (it’s not a luxurious lodge, it’s a volunteer accommodation, that’s what people need to have in mind !!) weekly programme was great, we usually left at 6:30am and came back for around 10:30/11am, then we left the camp again in the afternoon from 2pm until 6pm... we had maintenance work once or twice a week, depending on what needed to be done ! i met lots of pupil down there and since I’m back in france I’m still in contact with them, so I’m happy about that ! i really have to say that it was an awesome experience and i definitely want to return there !! :D

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Impact

    7

  • Health and Safety

    9

  • Social Life

    8

Great immersive experience at Syafunda (through Enkosini)

Booked through Enkosini for a family of 5 (3 teens) for Siyafunda Conservation on the Makalali reserve. The reserve and includes the Big 5 and our experience was phenomenal! As volunteers, we have set tasks to help with and we do data recording of animals on all the game drives. Back at camp, we all share in the cooking and cleaning, and get to share stories around the fire every night. The camp itself includes a few buildings - including the dorms with showers. Accommodations are basic but wifi is available (when electricity doesn't cut out). The camp is not fenced and is often visited by various animals - both day and night (nyalas, impalas, mongoose, gennet). We heard lions on numerous occasions at night, though they never ventured in camp. We also had an outing to a nearby orphanage one day. Our stay of one week was good, but I would recommend two weeks to get more fully immersed and to have a better chance of seeing the Big 5. And for those who would prefer tenting rather than bunk rooms and hot showers, then you can sign up for the bush camp instead.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    9

  • Social Life

    10

This will get Africa under your skin (literally)

If you want a REAL experience of Africa – not the type in which a waiter serves you a gin and tonic while you watch the wildlife from a lodge terrace or a luxury vehicle, but the type that has you putting your fingers in rhino poo to see how long ago the animal passed by – then this is for you.
You’ll be up early monitoring wildlife, searching for elephants using a radio tracking device, putting off poachers on night drives, checking on the health of important animals …and yes, putting your own fingers in that rhino poo. Accompanied by a ranger (and believe me, they know what they are doing – you’re safe!) you´ll be out on drives every day or exploring the bush on foot to spy on cheetahs, wildebeest and lions.
I have been sniffed by a rhino that approached our vehicle, locked eyes with a male lion as he strolled by, sat on the ground 40 metres from a resting lion family, and watched ravenous lionesses tearing into an antelope not 20 feet away. I’ve been surprised by a giraffe who was inspecting my washing, sat silently among a herd of browsing elephants, and been completely and utterly ignored by two leopards! I’ve eaten around a campfire in the bush, slept out under the African stars, cooked for 10 people, and made many, many good friends.
If you want the 5 star hotel treatment, then don’t come here (the water may not even always be warm!) but if you want a five star adventure, if you want to get down and get dirty if needs be, if you want to get the smell of Africa into your clothes, then certainly, certainly do.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    9

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Impact

    9

  • Health and Safety

    9

  • Social Life

    9

Magali , such a great volunteer project and amazing experience

Hello , My name is Dani and I live in Belgium . I want to take a few minutes to share my experience of volunteering in Makalali .
I was 52 years old when I went to Makalali and it was my first time to volunteer. I love Africa and wanted to live something different than going on safari, " Do " something to help Wildlife and conservancy.
Pick-up in Hoedspruit and first the volunteers go to the shopping center to buy some personal items so as soft drinks , candies , chips etc ; Arriving in Makalali , welcome by the staff and explaining the organisation in the camp . Accommodation is pretty nice , double shared rooms and bathroom , all located in the middle of nature , no fences .
I did 2 weeks there and it has been a wonderful experience . Go out early morning with the 4X4 for animal observing , data base of the different animals , do Bush walks , bush clearing , surviving experience with a Zulu member ( amazing and lovely man ) . The work in the camp is shared , some people make the food , other do dishes , etc , following a day plan and menu to prepare the food.
You can expect to see the big five . Some days are hard work but it is so rewarding , having the opportunity to be there , have time enough to make pictures during the daily game drives for data base .
I would definitely recommend this amazing project , wonderful experience and eye opener to protect and respect wildlife .
Thanks to the staff and other volunteers to make this experience unforgettable , Dani ( Belgium )

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    9

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Community Impact

    7

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    9

Great Introduction To Wildlife Management

First I want to thank Kelsey for directing me to Makalali. I wanted to spend time on a reserve, experiencing day to day activities and learning about the animals, and not just going on a photo safari staying at a four or five star resort. But, I also wasn't ready to sleep under the stars and pack in everything I needed to survive in the bush. My goal was to give back, but more important, to try to find a way to better support organizations with boots on the ground in Africa. What are the real needs and issues they face on a daily basis.

Twines is a wonderful base camp. There is a main indoor sitting area, rooms for the volunteers with shared restroom facilities, a large shared kitchen area and laundry facility and outdoor dining. The first week I had my own room. The second week shared with a friend. You really spend very little time in your room - just sleeping. Up early for game drives or work activities. Few hours midday to relax and have lunch. Then back out again for afternoon/evening games drives and work activities. Generally arrive back after dark. Have dinner. Sit by the fire. And go to bed. There was a mother wart hog who I had to negotiate with each morning to let me pass as I left my room. I can't tell you how adorable it was to watch the five little ones run with their tails straight up in the air. There are no fences. So, one night we came back and there was a bull elephant eating from the marula tree outside my room. So, I just hung out at the kitchen until he was done.

We all took turns making dinner. It is definitely a new experience cooking for 20 people. I wish I had taken some easy recipes with me, and maybe some curry packets. And do yourself a favor when its your turn, have the veggies cut up before you go for the afternoon game drive. On Sunday nights they generally have a braai. Great fun to sit around the fire and enjoy the traditional South African bbq. Everyone just picks up something to bbq in Hoedspruit that day.

Met some great people from UK, Sweden, Australia that were volunteering along with staff from South Africa, Germany and Australia. We all loved our guides - Bethuel, Andrews and Claudia.

I really enjoyed the lectures. One day we had a speaker who was an elephant expert and was responsible for initiating the birth control practices at Makalali that are now required on all private game reserves in South Africa. She was fascinating. We also had a great lecture about hyenas from one of the guides who was conducting a field research project. I came away with a great appreciation for this much maligned species.

Favorite part of the experience hands down were the walks. We tracked rhinos on several occasions, always finding them. I always felt very safe on foot with our guides. Another favorite experience - sundowners overlooking the river listening to the hippos.

We learned to identify tracks, if the tracks were fresh or old, where an animal had laid down. And all sorts of interesting animal factoids - like a herd of giraffes is called a journey and they don't really stay with their family. They just find some buddies in the morning and say "hey, want to hang out today?". How many of your friends know that little tidbit?

There is definitely a business in managing a private game reserve, and some of these animals (like the malaria free cape buffalo, and sable bulls) are worth a great deal. While no one really wants the painted dogs. I found the business side fascinating.

There is some hard work like clearing roads. So take a good pair of work gloves. But, generally only 2-3 hours at a time in the cool of the morning. So, its manageable. We also walked through the bush looking for snares. The main project is tracking animals for the researchers. The information is required to maintain a predator/prey balance and manage the large mammals. Reserves are permitted only so many elephants per x# of square hectares.

Overall, great experience. I highly recommend.