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South Africa - The Big 5 Wildlife Reserve

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Experience of a Lifetime

My time volunteering at GoEco’s Big 5 Wildlife Reserve project was better than I could have ever imagined. I didn’t know what to expect when I left New York and traveled to South Africa alone, but once at Dumela Lodge, the staff immediately made all of the new arrivals feel comfortable and welcomed. All of the volunteers became immediate friends through the positive atmosphere and a common goal of making the world a better place- and it was such an amazing experience to work and connect with more people from across the globe than I ever have before. Our purpose there was to assist in the data collection of a variety of species, including elephants, rhino, lions, leopards, birds of prey, and many others, to give to conservation organizations that protect these animals and their environments. Without the help of volunteers, the staff wouldn’t be able to collect and maintain all of the information that they need. Almost every morning, we would wake up bright and early for a game drive at a nearby reserve and would get to watch the sunrise from the jeep with beautiful landscape and animals all around. I felt that volunteering in South Africa was the absolute best way to enjoy the beauty of the country, while also giving something back and doing your part for the magnificent animals that are in danger of not always being around. If we weren’t busy with our research work, we were camping in the bush, hanging out by the pool, going on scavenger hunts, helping out at a local reptile park, and going on weekends trips, like to Kruger National Park. If you have the opportunity to volunteer here, do it. It was the best possible experience I could have asked for.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    9

  • Social Life

    10

Opportunity of a Lifetime

Traveling to South Africa truly is an amazing experience. I am an avid traveler -- I have traveled to many locations in my home country and in other parts of the world. Even with that experience, I must admit I had butterflies in my stomach before leaving. I thought about the length of the flights, finding my staff member at the airport, what kind of people I would meet, the level of difficulty of the research, and how interesting the excursions would be to name some items.

However, from the moment I met my project staff member at Johannesburg airport, I knew what kind of tone this experience would entail. He was very welcoming and right away I meshed with the other volunteers on the way to the bush. The accommodations did not disappoint, as the food was delicious and plentiful and the rooms were very clean. The staff gave us a sufficient amount of training before we went into the field. Everyone was responsible for a different task related to research. These tasks were educational but not overwhelming. The sights and sounds in the South African bush were extraordinary. Our schedule kept us busy but still allowed some time for resting and sharing photos. There was a wide variety of tasks to be completed, including research, conservation work, community involvement, camping, and social events. On the weekend, everyone got to sign up for a fun excursion. My trip to Swaziland proved to be memorable.

My time in South Africa went extremely quickly. Meeting people from all over the world was truly a great experience. By keeping an open mind and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone a little, it is amazing what you can accomplish. I highly recommend this trip to anyone interested in a life-changing experience!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

African Big 5 was All I had Hoped for and More!

I booked this trip many months in advance with Go Eco. Originally the research was to be a Thanda Reserve but was changed last minuet by African Impact to Greater National Kruger Park. This meant different airports, changing plane tickets, canceling overnight reservations, a mess. Go Eco, in particular Shira stepped in and took care of everything and kept in contact with me on a daily basis until she had everything changed at no cost to me. I did not encounter any further issues and was so happy with their commitment to making My Volunteer experience everything it could be even before I arrived.

Once on the ground I was immediately met at the airport in JoBurg, swept away in a car and taken to MoAfrika for an overnight stay. I met fellow travelers on this adventure and this overnight trip created a bond between us that was so much fun! Once we arrived at Dumala Lodge in Hoedsprite we were shown to our living areas, shown around and had a group meeting where we were given assignments and what we could expect in the bush, in community and on our days off. The second night in we were in the bush in our bush camp, doing game drives (4 in a 24 hour period) filling out our research sheets, photographing and videoing for various documentation and all I can say is WOW! Community work was humbling and left me wanting to stay in Africa longer.

Go Eco was wonderful. They took care of every detail, everything they said they would do they did and really that is the most important part to the start and end of your trip, to know as a single female traveler that you can rely on the company you picked to be there if you need them and when you do they follow through and Go Eco did! Just a note, nothing that Go Eco or African Impact did was caused by either company, it was a decision based by the Thanda Reserve, both companies really stepped up for their volunteers, Go Eco really went that extra step and it meant so much to me. I will use Go Eco again!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Social Life

    9

  • Health and Safety

    8

  • Community Impact

    7

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Program Administration

    8

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

Thanda Game Reserve

I had a really great experience volunteering at Thanda Game Reserve. I had signed up through GoEco for the Big 5 Research and Conservation Project.

Our daily tasks included doing RTP (Research, Tasks and Project) and going out on drives to observe the animals and collect data. We would spend at least half an hour if we saw lions or elephants, taking data on their self grooming, social interaction and so on. Sometimes we would even go on night drives, and used a spotlight to look for ‘eyes’ among the trees and grasses.

It is a great opportunity to share with fellow volunteers about the different animal behaviors. Every day is unique!