Endangered Species Volunteer Program

South Africa



One of our most rewarding Africa volunteer programs with animals that also teaches you on conservation. The African bush has always offered a certain allure to those wildlife enthusiasts, conservationist and animal lovers alike. Her natural beauty and unique array of wildlife have made South Africa a conservation and wildlife education destination hotspot. Volunteers at the Endangered Species Centre (HESC) in South Africa have the once in a lifetime opportunity to work closely with some of Africa’s most endangered animal species, including Cheetah and the highly endangered King Cheetah. Play your part in animal conservation in Africa!

You will have the chance to work hands-on with these cheetah who have been orphaned or ill, and who have found refuge at the centre, as well as being involved with the cheetah breeding program. Similarly, volunteers will participate in the rehabilitation of the animals as well as their feeding twice a week. You can take part in the daily feeding of a variety of orphaned and permanently housed animals (this depends entirely on the animals at the centre at the time).

This 21 day program has been specifically designed to continue the growth and learning as the program progresses, allowing volunteers to make the most gains for the skills and knowledge that they acquire while at the centre. The real and personal difference made by each and every volunteer is something can never be underestimated, teaching others, while at the same time enhancing your skill set and making a difference that counts volumes.
  • Age: min. 18
  • Location: Hoedspruit area
  • Requirements: 18 years, good physical fitness, flexible
  • Group size: max 12 participants
  • Project duration: 21 days - *7 or 14 day stay is also possible)
  • Laundry:Volunteers can hand wash clothes (washing powder is provided)
  • WIFI: R20 per hour - only available in the student camp
  • Linen/towels: All provided
This project is located near Hoedspruit

  • Be eager to learn and to participate in the conservation work
  • Have a desire to make a difference while gaining invaluable experience and knowledge
  • Be prepared to work hard and be a team player
  • Be willing to get dirty and work hands-on with the animals in their habitat
  • Have a true love of wildlife and genuine concern for conservation
  • Be prepared to have some fun
  • Please note: although there is no age limit, this is a fairly intense physical experience and a degree of fitness is required

The Volunteer program at HESC is designed to maximize your experience at the centre, and as such has been divided into three main sections:

Everyday care, cleaning, feeding and assisting or observing the veterinarian’s activities when required, are all part of what volunteers can expect during their stay at the centre. Work done and experience gained is both specific and personal, allowing volunteers to maximise their experience and knowledge during their stay at the HESC. Opportunities to learn more about the day-to-day running and operations of the sanctuary for the victims of Rhino poaching, Rescued Rhino’s at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, may become available for volunteers whilst participating at the centre.

During the conservation portion of the program you will gain hands-on experience in working with animals and will learn about African endangered wildlife. All aspects of conservation are presented and taught through informal lectures, and include aspects such as: trees, grasses, animals and the basics of biodiversity and its importance.

Sight Seeing
Theory is put into practice through the direct observation either in the wild, or at one of the other specialist centre in the area. These centres specialise in additional areas of conservation and research, with opportunities to visit the world renowned Kruger National Park.

Hands-On Experience
As part of your hands-on experience, you will be working closely with our passionate and dedicated team, mediating and looking after the well-being of the animals at the centre, which includes, but is not limited to, the following:
  • Working with the rescues and born at the centre animals, including species such as the White Rhino, King Cheetah and Wild Dog
  • Preparation of the animals food and feeding of the animals
  • Possible darting and capturing of animals with a vet for the purposes of blood sample collection, translocation of animals, or to perform an operation. These may include post-mortems to determine an animals cause of death
  • Assist in the hand rearing of baby or orphaned animals
  • You might even get the chance to release some of the animals
  • Add to the local community through community involvement
Some additional activities that volunteers may be involved in during their stay, may include:
  • Darting and possible translocation of animals
  • The tranquilizing of cheetah for the purposes of blood sampling and checking possible health issues, as well as to check for a possibility of a variety of diseases
  • Test the wildlife for Tuberculosis
  • Educational lectures regarding the darting equipment, the drugs used and their safety
  • The procedures that require an external veterinary specialist
  • The hand rearing of baby animals. Thus far and Elephant, White Rhino and Zebra have been successfully hand reared at the centre
  • Dealing with wildlife casualties
  • Sample collections for the purposes of genetic, tick and blood parasite studies
  • Working with exotic species such as snakes, birds and frogs A few of the activities mentioned above are subject to the current activities at the centre at the time of your stay.
Community Work
Since July 2008, HESC has partnered with the rural school of Paulos Ngobeni Primary School, to educate Grade 4 learners about endangered wildlife, in particular, the Rhino and the Cheetah. Learners come to the centre for their wildlife education, and working closely with these Grade 4 pupils will be part of a volunteers daily duties. Additional assistance, if you so wish, can be provided to the school via donations, which are used for the purchase of school equipment, or the donation of a simple pair of shoes is always appreciate by the students. For further advice regarding assistance, please feel free to contact the course co-ordinators for more useful information.

Day-to-Day Program
With the vast majority of activities on the go at the HESC, it is impossible to guarantee that a day-to-day layout will be stuck to routinely. Fitting in all the lectures, volunteer work, daily activities and local community school work, finding a balance that best fits the time is the order of the day. The centre strives to create and deliver a balanced physical, social, nature education, centre maintenance, creative work and external activity environment to best suit the needs of everyone.

External activities
Please note: Due to weather conditions, urgent volunteer work needed at the centre, public holidays etc. the external activities may be shifted to other days, or weeks within the 3-week program. Due to external factors it is also possible that an activity needs to be cancelled, in which case it will be replaced with another activity at the discression of the student coordinator.

Week 1
  • Guided tour at the centre
  • Morning game drive in open vehicle on Kapama Private Reserve.
  • Boat trip on Blyde River dam (Blyde River Canyon)

Week 2
  • Pro-Track Anti-Poaching Unit: Learning about training as an anti-poaching ranger, skills in the bush, tracking people, finding snares etc.
  • Working dogs & anti-poaching: We visit a K9 training facility where we learn how dogs are used in security, tracking, detection and apprehension work as well as getting an insight into the training methods for dogs and dog handlers.
  • Kruger National Park: A full day game drive in Kruger National Park

Week 3
  • Kinyonga Reptile Park: Half-day orientation course on snakes and other reptiles
  • Cultural village: Learn about the traditions, way of living, culture and beliefs of the local tribe and enjoy a traditional lunch where we have time to interact with the locals
  • Night game drive in an open vehicle on Kapama Private Reserve

Lectures and practical assessments
PLEASE NOTE: Due to school holidays it may not be possible to visit a school or for the school to visit us. This section will be replaced by other community type work and/or awareness work for the centre in the local area.

Week 1
  • South Africa: History, cultures, climate, geography, biomes etc.
  • How do I identify this?: The easiest ways to start identifying the magnitude of different trees, insects, birds, tracks and other signs.
  • Cheetah: Cheetah status, breeding in captivity, release into the wild, special needs, basic genetics and other interesting facts.
Week 2
  • Nature conservation: What is conservation, wildlife management, management of natural habitat, symbiosis between man and nature, future.
  • Anti-Poaching: Global impact of poaching/illegal trade in wildlife, facts and figures, the different angles of anti-poaching, how/where to get involved.
  • Bush skills: Orientation, finding water and food, medicinal/practical use of flora.
  • Rifle handling: Safety measures and handling skills.
  • Mammals and birds: Students give feedback on their assignments during our drive in Kruger National Park
Week 3
  • Reptiles: Full orientation course on snakes and other reptiles with a theoretical and practical component
  • *The cheetah and other endangered animals: A lecture prepared by the students for kids from local school.
  • *Preparing an event: Students prepare a program (including lunch) for the visit of local school at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre.
  • Assessment: Students provide feedback (assignments) on trees, tracks & signs, insects and birds during a walk/drive.
Accommodation & meals
Accommodation consists of 6 twin thatched huts (max 2 people per hut/ 12 participants in total) in Nungu Camp, situated within the boundaries of the Big 5 Kapama Private Game Reserve. Separate facilities are available for male and female participants. Accommodation is simple, clean and comfortable, and each hut is fitted with adequate power points. Linen and towels are provided!

Three meals per day are prepared by participants in the camp – a valuable team building experience in itself. There is a kitchen with a fridge in the camp, as well as barbeque facilities. The closest town is Hoedspruit, which is approximately 25 km from the reserve. Regular town trips can be organized for supplies, banking or internet facilities. Telephone facilities are available (at participants own expense).

Basic laundry facilities for hand-washing are available in the camp.

Sundays are spent at leisure. Adventurous activities are available in the area, such as hot air ballooning, paint-ball, river rafting in the Blyde river canyon, horse riding, and elephant back safaris. Should you decide to participate in such activities they can be arranged with the project leader at participant’s own expense.
The program runs for 21 days, please have a look at the below overview for possible start dates: (A stay of 1 or 2 weeks is possible)

12/11/2019 - 02/12/2019

07/01/2020 - 27/01/2020
03/03/2019 - 23/03/2019
31/03/2020 - 20/04/2020
28/04/2020 - 18/05/2020
26/05/2020 - 15/06/2020
23/06/2020 - 13/07/2020
21/07/2020 - 10/08/2020
18/08/2020 - 07/09/2020
15/09/2020 - 05/10/2020
13/10/2020 - 02/11/2020
10/11/2020 - 30/11/2020


Duration Fee
21 days 32700 ZAR
14 days 22000 ZAR
7 days 11000 ZAR
Rates includes
  • Pre-departure information/advice on flights, visa, vaccinations, travel insurance by Intern Africa
  • Transfers between Hoedspruit’s Eastgate Airport and the centre
  • Accommodation (shared)
  • Daily meals with Nungu camp
  • Specified activities
  • Weekly town trips
  • Welcome Brief: A warm welcome and full brief from the team
  • Orientation/Information rules
Rates excludes
  • Flights/transfers to Hoedspruit
  • Beverages
  • Visa fees (if required)
  • Travel Insurance
Click here to sign up.