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South Africa: Endangered Wildlife Monitoring Program
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South Africa: Endangered Wildlife Monitoring Program

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    8

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    N/A

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Day to Day Life

    9

Amazing short trip with stunning wildlife

I spent two weeks with Wildlife ACT at Tembe Elephant Park, and loved every minute of it! Saw an amazing variety of wildlife, including the resident wild dog pack and lots of lions.

It was great to be able to contribute to the research and conservation effort too, rather than being just a tourist. They have a fantastic research team in Hayden and Dani (supported by Leo), and excellent support before you get there from Bronwen et al.

As a frequent traveller and former volunteer coordinator for another organisation, I was really impressed by Wildlife ACT. Lots of information offered up front and they really care about the cause. Accommodation and facilities were also way better than expected.

I have already recommended Wildlife ACT to friends and I’d love to go back one day again!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

It's not a 'holiday'!

If you're looking for someone to drive you around pointing at animals, having wonderfully cooked leisurely meals provided, a well-stocked (but probably over-priced) bar and a pool - forget it. The WACT experience is NOT for you.

Since you'll be doing the cooking, you need to be able to rustle up a meal for 6* on a stove which has probably seen better days and/ or to be able to braai. *There's usually a rota, so don't panic :-) and no-one expects 6 course gourmet fare.

Accommodation is basic but perfectly functional and comfortable - no en suite or aircon (though there is a fan) and the wifi can be, err, erratic. And you're likely to share with one or two total strangers. I recommend earplugs in case you end up sharing with me. I snore!

That's all the cons (if you think those are cons) taken care of.

You will:
make amazing new friends from pretty much anywhere in the world
have experiences you never dreamt of
make a positive difference to conservation
fall in love - Africa just does that to you: it seduces you and never lets you go
go back - again and again

There are no typical days - they are all different - but you'll be up before dawn, make the tea, coffee for the morning drive and leave before first light, which can be very early indeed. You'll be out for at least 5 hours (to places where tourists aren't allowed), sometimes more depending on the day's work then come back for breakfast and possibly a siesta. Till around 3pm you may have time to yourself, or admin or camp maintenance then out for the night drive, back mid evening, supper and bed (unless you are very young and have more stamina than I do: but I'm Very Old). One of my favourite activities is doing a game count from a hide. Me, my camera, binoculars and the bush. Bliss.

You will learn how to find animals using telemetry, to record what you've seen, where and what the animal was doing. You may be involved in darting or attending animals which have been victims of poaching, so not for the faint-hearted.

When you leave you will miss the skies, the dawns, the sunsets, the sounds of the bush at night, the animals you have got to know and the people you have met.

So, you'll just have to go back, won't you?

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

The eye-opening of a lifetime

My name is Miroslav Goranov and it has taken me 22 years to realize my goal to come to South Africa and stand face to face with my dreams to one day be among the best Wildlife Photographers.

My eternal love for Photography, animals and nature led me to Wildlife ACT, which turned out to be the best thing that has ever happened to me in my life. I had a breath-taking 6 weeks of volunteering and words can't explain how many much I have grown during this time.

The most important thing of all was understanding conservation and discerning that I was actually a part of something big that came with a lot of responsibility. We've all heard about conservation and fake organisations that pretend to do something about it, where volunteers come to pet lions, right?
Well, this is not the case. As Wildlife ACT has cleverly put it - ''This is Zululand, not Disneyland.''

For me, I'd say it was more of a Dreamland. Waking up every morning early on, sure. Who needs sleep anyway? When there are animals out there to be saved. When they are being snared, killed and trapped on a daily basis. When the clock is ticking. When their numbers are decreasing. When the Milky Way shares its warm embrace high above. When every cell in my body yells ''go and do something about it''.

Once you set your first step inside the camp, you already know. This is the real deal. Every day is an event and every second is an experience. No doubt. The unpredictability of nature overall adds up to that in such a beautiful way. I felt like home. Literally. If home is not a place, but a feeling, then this was it for me.

In six weeks, apart from tracking and monitoring animals on a daily basis, I watched helicopters come down to save an elephant from dying. I watched the glowing eyes of local communities as they were being educated why the Wild Dogs are of such importance to our existence. Maybe, if in this world, in this time, our generation won't do everything it can for these animals, perhaps the next one will!

I watched the innocent eyes of wild dogs, as in the meantime they were being slaughtered somewhere out there, being just another victim of human cruelty and misunderstanding. I watched dehorned rhinos, as they were finally free of threat to be poached, as the last means of conservation to save these amazing creatures from extinction.

I saw life, love, motherly protection. I saw my reflection in these animals' eyes. I saw need, compassion, understanding. But most of all, I saw peace.

I found peace!

And right in this moment I knew - South Africa is waiting for me, because if not us - nobody will save our planet's wildlife. It is up to you. And if it is, Wildlife ACT is the right place to be!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    9

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

Better than a safari!

If you had told me two months ago I would PAY to get up before dawn, ride on bumpy roads in the back of an open truck in 50 degree weather, struggle through a water shortage, marinate in bug spray to avoid mozzie bites, drag dead aromatic carcasses around (all in the name of conservation), and live without TV, music, and a lot of times Internet, I would have called you crazy!
If you asked me if I was ready to go back today - I would ask how soon can I leave?!

Wildlife Act is simply phenomenal. From emailing before my departure, to organizing every transport Monday, answering all my questions and providing a truly ethical conservation experience - they by far exceeded all my expectations.

Mkuze, PJ, and Cole are amazing. PJ is a passionate monitor who is simply fun to be around. Long mornings, short mid-day breaks, and long evenings were never boring and worth every moment. At times it was heart-breaking, Seeing snared animals, watching animals struggle through the drought) other times amusing, (dealing with marauding vervet monkeys, watching the wild dogs play before a hunt) but at all times an experience I will never regret or forget.

Tembe's uniqueness is breath-taking. Hayden, Dani, and Leo were all a joy to be around. The elephants are beautiful and plentiful and monitoring sessions with Leo never disappoint; the sand lions simply gorgeous. The lion call up was awe-inspiring, and the wild dogs have my heart.
The accommodations are simple and adequate. Trust me, exhausting days make the beds FEEL like heaven! Both camp sites were kept as clean as possible - and yes - you are expected to pitch in and clean up after yourself as well. The food is more than enough, and I lost 5 lbs I believe because of the very lean venison we ate daily! Volunteers cook for themselves (and the monitor) and that experience is a true treat. The coming together of different nationalities introduced me to some wonderful culinary experiences.

The training is hands on and all the monitors are patient and helpful. The days are long, BUT I can honestly say my four weeks was not long enough. The feeling you get when you successfully use the telemetry equipment and track down collared animals to the point you get a visual is sheer triumph. I even miss the data entry - an important part of Wildlife Act's mission to protect and strengthen endangered species.

If a safari is on your bucket list, and you don't need 5 star accommodations, take your experience further by being apart of a global concern - endangered species conservation. Join Wildlife Act for an adventure of a lifetime!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Community Engagement

    9

  • Health & Safety

    8

  • Day to Day Life

    8

Volunteer with purpose, experience an adventure

Wildlife ACT is a grass-roots, on-the-ground, hard-working group of conservationists, who do not pad the pockets of their owners. In fact, the owners are out in the field, doing the dirty, dangerous conservation, relocation, veterinary work and planning for the protection of key critically endangered species like the Wild Dog, Black Rhino, Cheetah, Lion, Leopard, Vulture, and Turtle. You work in small groups, monitoring focus species, working on projects or dealing with any endangered animal emergencies that come up. I was lucky enough to feed and water a wild cheetah in a temporary boma, participate in the removal of a deadly snare from a pregnant Wild Dog female, build a vulture hide, and so many other once-in-a-lifetime adventures. The staff is passionate and dedicated to the animals. Camp is rustic but comfortable, food is what you make of it, since volunteers take turns cooking and preparing meals. Every day you spend several hours tracking and managing several of the focus species. You'll learn to use GPS, telemetry equipment, and many other tools to find, monitor and track animal movement. Photo opportunities abound. So much to talk about such an amazing experience, you can see my full review on Trip Advisor, or I'd be happy to talk with you or answer any questions about the program that I can. It was something I researched and took very seriously and was well rewarded with quality experience. This is such an affordable way to do a lot of good on the ground for conservation, while working with a group of people who are truly in it only for protecting the future of these critically endangered species, not for profit. I can't recommend this organization highly enough, as they continue to expand their scope into new reserves, I also can't wait to go back for a new adventure!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    9

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Day to Day Life

    10

An Inspirational Experience

Whenever I am back in nature, something very deep within me reawakens. I recently decided to act on this feeling, and after spending some time with Wildlife ACT in 2015, I have since quit my job and have now started working in wildlife conservation!

The Wildlife ACT staff are highly experienced and knowledgeable. They are also some of the most inspirational and dedicated people I have ever met. Witnessing first hand how hard they work and how much they care about making a REAL difference, really makes one reconsider what is important in life. They are working tirelessly to save our endangered species and natural habitats and deserve all the support they can get.

I can't recommend this program enough. There are so many unethical organisations out there claiming to be doing good, but are really just in it for a profit. Wildlife ACT are by far the most ethical and legit wildlife conservation organisation I have ever come across - and there are plenty of past and current volunteers who would agree!

Don't hesitate. Do it. Experience and feel something spectacular for yourself. You won't regret it.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    10

  • Day to Day Life

    10

The best to do!

I will join the wildlifeACT-Team for four more weeks this October and December, after four two week programs with my partner before. It's the best way to learn about wildlife, community work, poaching, tourism.... We travel a lot through Southern Africa (and other places), but for me -especially when I travel alone- it's a good opportunity to support a worthful and helpful system. Not always you can expect to experience the big things - but there are such a lot of smaller things to see, do and learn in these amazing Parks! You find diaries (in German) and lots of beautiful pictures on www.manfredsuter.com!

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Placement

    9

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Engagement

    10

  • Health & Safety

    9

  • Day to Day Life

    10

An African Adventure

Volunteering for WildlifeACT proved quite a memorable experience. As well as being involved at the front of conservation for some of the world's most endangered wildlife, I got to experience the social life of being on a reserve, and learned a number of key skills that enhanced my employability to work in the field. An experience that I cannot recommend enough if you are interested in wildlife and are passionate about making a difference.