Volunteer on the frontline of
wildlife conservation at Mapesu
An up-close & personal experience with 43 mammal species
- Start dates Every other Wednesday
- Start dates Every other Wednesday
South Africa Mapesu wildlife conservation
Come and volunteer on the frontline of wildlife conservation by helping prevent the extinction of endangered species and their habitat. Volunteering at Mapesu game reserve will give you an enriching and unforgettable time with an up-close and personal experience of the 43 mammal species that call the reserve home.
Situated in northern Limpopo and spread across 7,200 hectares (18,000 acres!), come and witness a game reserve like no other. Forming part of the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area, the aims of which is to drop fence lines across all reserves to create one large transfrontier park, of nearly 6,000km2!
You will spend all of your time out in the reserve alongside the herd of elephants, cheetahs, many leopards, buffalo, 12,000 or so antelopes, giraffes, over 400 bird species and so much more.
You will play a vital role in preserving and restoring the environment and to re-establish biological diversity back into the area. Working along side our dedicated and qualified local team, you will assist by taking part in essential research, important species monitoring and reserve tasks – all of which have been created specially to combat the growing endangered wildlife crisis.
This unique project also offers you the chance to experience the raw, untamed South African bush by taking part in the hands-on survival-training course! You will be taught skills by experienced and qualified staff to exist in the wild without any modern conveniences, just like the original San people in the area.
With just your backpack and a few essentials, you will spend one to two nights (two to three days) out in the wild where you will learn how to track animals, create shelter for the night, find firewood and light a fire with flint, find water, prepare and eat traditional foods by cooking on the fire and so much more – a once in a lifetime experience.
Unfortunately, this region was once focused on cattle farming, which had led to overgrazing and the removal of problematic animals that would destroy crops.
As a volunteer you will have adventures in all aspects of conservation from researching leopard populations, cheetah and elephant monitoring, bird and ecological surveys, to analysing game transects, translocations and releases and hands-on work projects of evaluating and restoring fauna.
The project is in the process of rewilding the land to create optimum biodiversity. Volunteers will provide baseline data on the species, ecology, and interactions of all organisms in the area. The baseline data is essential in knowing that we are creating a safe, enriching and efficient space to protect endangered species.
Every day you will explore the African wilderness, providing valuable assistance to animals and habitats. Our aim for your visit is to not only ensure you enjoy every minute of the African bush, but to also provide you with the best experiences where you leave feeling you have really helped with conservation.
You will also have the opportunity to go on game drives at the neighbouring Mapungubwe National Park (for a small additional fee) to see even more animals, including lions and rhinos!
Volunteering at Mapesu will not only provide an unforgettable experience in the wilds of Africa, but also give students the vital field experience for their future careers, along with a certificate of completion and a reference. Not only this, but if you want to come and help as a specialist group (e.g. veterinary students) then we can provide a custom schedule so you can obtain the skills and experiences that will match your interests.
Be apart of something special that is more than just a tourist safari and be prepared to get your hands dirty.
Accommodation & meals
Accommodation & meals
You will be staying within our research accommodation located within the heart of the game reserve.
Get everyday off to the best start with the sound of hyenas and jackals and far reaching views over the reserve.
Every one comes together after a busy day to share their stories around the fire pit, cooking on the traditional braai (BBQ).
You will be sharing with up to 5 other volunteers (generally less), sleeping in comfortable single beds, with all bed linen and essentials provided. There are western style bathrooms and hot water showers.
There is free Wi-Fi available, but it is important to note that it can be intermittent.
All three meals are provided each day and are aimed to be as varied as possible. All meat, fruit and vegetables are provided for the volunteers at the house, but volunteers are responsible for preparing their meals on a rota basis.
You can expect some of the following meals:
Breakfast – Cereals, toast, muesli, yoghurt, muffins, cooked breakfast (once a week)
Lunch – Sandwiches, wraps, salads, quiche, burgers, chips
Dinner – Macaroni cheese, roasted chicken, vegetables, traditional meals
We can cater for the majority of dietary requirements / preferences if notified in advance.
All of the below prices exclude the £149 registration fee. The total price payable is the below price + £149, as will be confirmed in the application process. To find out exactly what's included as part of fees, please click the What's Included box on the programme page.
The fees you pay go towards the structure and support put in place in order to provide you with an organised and safe environment in which to volunteer. The programme fee goes directly to our local team in South Africa and is used towards the following:
- All meals
- Transport to Projects
- In-country orientation
- 24-hour in-country support
The registration fee that you pay to confirm your place on the volunteer programme is retained by our team in the United Kingdom. This fee is used towards the following:
- 24-hour UK based emergency support
- Unlimited telephone and email support
- A comprehensive volunteer handbook
- Assistance with all aspects of your trip
- 100% financial protection
- Regular programme inspections
- Certificate of completion
What's not included
There are still some parts of your trip that will need to be funded by yourself, these include:
- Flights to Polokwane International Airport (PTG) (£450- £800)
- Travel insurance (£18 per week)
- Airport transfers ( £45 e/w)
- Visa (£0)
- Criminal background check (£25)
- Spending money (estimated at £50 - £100 per week)
Frequently asked questions
Frequently asked questions
What are the requirements to join?
We welcome all volunteers from any background, religion and nationality, as long as you have no criminal convictions and are able to supply a clean criminal background check. In order to join the programme you need to be at least 17 years old on the programme start date.
Individuals need to have a good level / understanding of English but it dose not need to be your first language. As some programmes can be quite strenuous, we recommend that you should be physically fit.
What date should I arrive and leave?
You should arrive at Polokwane International Airport (PTG) on your selected start date, being every other Wednesday. You will be met by one of our local team members or an appointed driver who will be holding a named sign and who will then take you straight to the volunteer accommodation.
The programme ends on the Wednesday of your final week and you should depart the accommodation on this day. Our local team will be happy to help organise any onward journeys or book transport back to the airport.
Are there any age restrictions for solo travellers?
The only age restriction in place is that you have to be at least 18 years old before your programme start date. Anyone over this age is welcome. Generally the average age range for our programmes is 18 - 25, although this is by no means definitive and we regularly have volunteers of all ages.
When should I apply for the programme?
You can apply for this programme at anytime, however we advise that you apply as soon as possible to have the best chances of securing your placement on your selected dates. Some of our programmes have limited capacity and spaces can get filled up quickly.
If you are wanting to volunteer within the next few weeks, then please contact us and we will do our best to accommodate your needs.
It is possible to change your start dates once you have been accepted, however this is subject to availability and can attract a small administration fee.
What duration would you recommend?
On gaining feedback from previous volunteers, we believe 2 - 4 weeks is the ideal time to get settled in and really involved with the programme. This also allows you to make the most of your free time, to explore this beautiful country and to participate in any activities.
We regularly have volunteers come for 1 week that tell us that they did not believe they had enough time and wish they had stayed for longer.
What will my itinerary be?
Please make sure you arrive into Polokwane International Airport (PTG) on Wednesday.
Day 1 (Wednesday) – Arrival
A member of our local team will be waiting for you in arrivals holding a named sign. You will be taken straight to the volunteer accommodation that is around a 2 and a half hour drive away. You will go through your induction where all of the important health and safety information will be explained and you will find out the plan for your first week.
The fun begins! Depending on what the activities are for the day will dictate on what time you start your day – it can be as early as 5am so be prepared for an early rise! Most of your days will be spent in the game reserve where you will be monitoring all of the wildlife and carrying out all of your volunteer duties.
You will find that time will really start to fly by, so it’s important to make the most of your time! Don’t forget, our local team are there to support you and to answer any questions you may have.
Wednesday – Free Time
Wednesdays are free for you to relax around the accommodation or head into the local town.
Last day (Wednesday)
Time has flown by and it is already time to leave. If you are heading home then our local team can arrange your return airport transfer (not included within the programme fee) or recommend plans for your onwards journey.
How will I get to the project?
You will be staying in our volunteer accommodation that is located within the reserve. All transport for the project is provided and you will spend most of your days in an open 4x4.
Is there Internet and phone signal?
There is Wi-Fi within the volunteer accommodation although this can be intermittent. If you are wanting to call home or use the internet while out and about, we recommend that you bring an unlocked phone and purchase a local sim card - our local team can assist. Alternatively, you can buy a cheap phone while in South Africa for under £15.
Our Amakhala programme is run by our dedicated local team, who are committed to ensuring you have the best time ever. Amy and the other team members provide the structure for your stay, including the accommodation, meals, airport pickup, in-country orientation and of course support.
They are sure to become your good friends and you will not meet nicer people that are willing to do everything in their power to make your stay the most memorable.
Will I get an in-country orientation?
Yes. Your orientation will be on theWednesday or Thursday (depending what time you arrive) and will go through everything you need to know for your time in South Africa. Our local coordinator will go through all of the important health and safety information that you should follow during your time at the reserve.
What is the weather like in Limpopo?
Limpopo is at South Africa's northern most point where can expect long summer afternoons and dry days for the majority of your stary. With almost year round sunshine, you can expect a pleasant climate.
During the peak summer months temperatures average around 27ºC.
Can I volunteer if I live outside of the UK?
Yes of course. We welcome volunteers from around the world, no matter how far away from the programmes you are. The majority of volunteers that we host, come from the UK, US, Germany, Canada and Australia.
Can I go with my friend / partner?
We have many volunteers that travel with their friends, family members or with their partner. If required, we can ensure that you are based on the same project and stay within the same accommodation. On request, we can normally organise a private room to.
Is it safe to travel to South Africa?
We regularly visit and participate in each and every one of the programmes we offer in South Africa to rigorously check all aspects of the project and accommodation are safe and that all procedures are being followed. These include but are not limited to checking the living conditions within the volunteer accommodations, checking the neighbourhoods you’ll be staying in, tasting the food you’ll be eating and going on any weekend trips recommended by us or our local team.
We monitor the stability of all of our volunteer destinations on a daily basis and have constant contact with our overseas teams to ensure that our volunteers are safe.
All volunteers will receive a comprehensive volunteer handbook when you choose to join us on one of our programmes. This detailed document addresses a large range of issues such as health, safety, visas, as well as going into details about local cultures and traditions.
When you arrive in-country, you will be given a safety briefing during your orientation that will cover things like emergency procedures, how to use local transport and any cultural differences.
Our in-country team are on hand to help with any issues or to answer any questions and please do not forget that our UK office is available 24/7 in case of any rare emergencies.
While we can never guarantee your volunteer experience will be 100% trouble free, we have taken all of the necessary precautions to minimise all risks and to ensure the programme is as safe as possible.
Before You Depart
When do I pay? Can I pay in instalments?
To confirm and guarantee your placement on one of our programmes, you need to pay the registration fee of £149 within 7 days of receiving confirmation that your application was successful. The remaining balance is then due to less than 60 days prior to your programme start date.
Payments can be done all at once or be spread out over several months and can be paid via BACS (bank transfer). We do accept additional payments methods, such as debit and credit cards, although there may be additional fees.
Do I need any vaccinations and / or malaria tablets?
As we are not trained medical experts we cannot tell you exactly what vaccinations or other medication you may need for your trip. You will need to consult with your local doctors or travel clinic.
You can also find additional information on the NHS Fit For Travel website.
How do I arrange my flights?
All flights need to be booked by you, although we can point you in the right direction on where you may be able to find the best prices.
Before booking any flights, we strongly recommend that you wait to have confirmation that your application has been successful.
Do you offer travel insurance?
Travel insurance is a compulsory part of your volunteering trip, that’s why we have teamed up with Endsleigh to create an affordable and comprehensive travel insurance policy. It is suitable for all of the programmes we offer and can be taken out at any time. You can read more about our insurance here.
If you decide to purchase your travel insurance from an alternative provider, please ensure it covers you for everything you will be doing. Adequate travel insurance must be in place no less than 60 days before your programme start date. Without proof of this insurance, we will not be able to accept you onto the programme.
When will I receive my volunteer handbook?
You will receive a welcome email from us as soon as you have paid the registration fee and your placement has been confirmed. The welcome email will include the volunteer handbook that provides a wealth of information that will help you better understand all aspects of your upcoming trip as well as details about our insurance policy.
Please note, that all material is sent via email and hard copies cannot be sent.
On Your Trip
Can I arrange a private room?
The majority of our accommodation only offers shared rooms that are usually same-sex. However, if you would prefer a private room please let us know and we will at least try for you.
Can you cater for my dietary requirements?
We will try are best to cater for any dietary requirements. When you submit your application please include any required details within the dietary section and we will liaise with our local coordinators.
Are there any public holidays that would effect the project?
Although we try to be as clear as possible of all holidays that effect project availability, due to the nature of some countries, holidays can often be sporadic or prone to change.
If such a holiday falls when you are on your placement, this is generally a good time to experience unique festivities where you can join in with the locals.
What is the dress code at the projects?
We ask that all volunteers take the approach of a smart and responsible image during your time in the communities and on projects. It is best to also take some older clothes that you don't mind getting dirty.
Generally, it is best to avoid tight and very short clothing and anything that may have offensive slogans on it. Its recommended that you take some nicer clothes for weekends or any free time you may have.
We do not wish to impose strict regulations, however we do ask that you respect the local culture and do your best to adhere to the clothing guidelines within the volunteer handbook.
How much spending money will I need?
For general expenses and some travelling, you should find that £50 - £100 per week is sufficient. However, this can vary greatly depending on the amount of activities or trips you do and if you are eating out during the week.
Will I be able to travel whilst on the programme?
There should be plenty of time to travel while on your placement and we actively encourage that you do! The local coordinators will be able to give you lots of travel tips and provide any help needed for your independent adventure.