Go behind the scenes at
Africa’s finest
game reserve

Conserve the big five on the 25,000 hectare reserve at Shamwari

Apply now
  • Duration
    2-12 Weeks
  • Accompanied age
  • Minimum age
  • Start dates
    Every Monday
  • From
  • Duration
    2-12 Weeks
  • Accompanied age
  • Minimum age
  • Start dates
    Every Monday
  • From

South Africa Shamwari big 5 conservation

Have a once in a lifetime experience by working behind the scenes in one of Africa’s finest game reserves situated in the beautiful Eastern Cape. Your efforts will aid the true conservation work that goes on at the 23,000 hectare reserve and you will help play a vital role in preserving the Big 5 family along with all types of flora and fauna.

This is your chance to go on an extensive safari at a multi award-winning reserve for a fraction of the usual cost, all while doing your bit to help with important conservation work. You will have the unique chance of getting up close to lions and leopards at the Born Free Foundation Big Cat Sanctuary - no where else offers this!

Your time on the reserve will be diverse and structured, giving you the opportunity to personally experience life as a budding conservationist while adding incomparable value to the project. This busy yet highly rewarding programme will ensure your efforts help to make the reserve a safe and suitable environment for the wildlife to thrive. At the end of each day you will be immensely satisfied knowing that you have helped to save this precious wildlife and environment, protecting it for future generations.

Excellent volunteer programme

Volunteering at Shamwari was one of the best projects I have been to. The whole team of staff were incredible! Friendly and could never do enough. Our guide Jesse went above & beyond every day to make sure we had the best experience possible. I will never forget my time there, so fulfilling a... Read More

Alison HagartFebruary 2024

Most incredible experience

Most incredible experience! The whole team at Shamwari is passionate about conservation and share their knowledge. I am incredibly grateful for the experience I had and am already planning to return. Cannot recommend it enough - if you get a chance go. The best organised volunteering program I ha... Read More

Ivy HorkovicovaFebruary 2024

Wonderful experience

Wonderful experience - more than I expected. Jesse our guide was extremely knowledgeable & his enthusiasm was contagious. All the staff were exceptional and made our time at Shamwari so special. I would recommend to others and hope to return one day.

Trudi VennFebruary 2024

Shamwari Conservation Experience

Shamwari conservation experience was an amazing and worthwhile experience! Would highly recommend anyone who’s considering it to just do it!

Annalise BeechJune 2023

Fantastic Volunteering Experience

Fantastic volunteering experience exceeded all expectations. Great people and great fun. Well ran programme, by excellent coordinators. I would definitely recommend it.

Gordon HodgsonMarch 2023

From The Moment I Began

From the moment I began looking at volunteering at shamwari everyone was so helpful, answering questions, booking flights and transfers. Unfortunately my stay came to a quick end when Covid hit. I couldn’t ask for anything more from the guys at the Mighty Roar helping me with flights home but a... Read More

Chloe WilliamsFebruary 2023

The Mighty Roar In South Africa

I volunteered for a month in South Africa at Shamwari Private Game reserve for a second time. Both times I booked through The Mighty Roar and both times I have had the best time and experience, making friends all across the world whilst volunteering and enjoying the time I spent with them. I lear... Read More

Amy BaldryFebruary 2023

Most Amazing Experience

I traveled with TMR to Shamwari private game reserve in South Africa and it was without a doubt the best experience I have ever had. From the first part of the process TMR were there to help and guide you. Booking was made easy and all questions were answered quickly. As a single traveler I was m... Read More

Holly CorriganFebruary 2023

The Mighty Roar

Really helped with booking my experience away in Africa, made things easy and simple to follow a do. If I had any questions they were responded with quickly and informatively which really helped.

Highly Recommend

Amy BaldryJuly 2022

Shamwari Game Reserve

I volunteered at Shamwari Game Reserve on the Big 5 Programme in South Africa for two weeks in August 2019. The guides during the programme and in the accommodation were so welcoming and helpful, nothing was too much trouble. I got to meet other volunteers from all over the world and still k... Read More

Hannah KingApril 2020

South Africa Shamwari

My husband and I spent 2 weeks at the Shamwari Private Game Reserve. We enjoyed the safari experience alongside the conservation work.

Amanda WaughMarch 2020

A Great Way To Be Fully Immersed

My wife and I have just spent two weeks at Shamwari which was a great trip for us where we got fully immersed rather than just on a superficial 'safari tour'.

We loved the visit to the Born Free Foundation and doing our bit for conservation of the land for the animals - digging up 'alien pl... Read More

Stephen WaughMarch 2020

Shamwai Experience

I had the most amazing experience at Shamwari, the coordinators and staff were great to work with and so passionate about their work and the welfare of the animals and game reserve.The Volunteering team gelled well and hopefully our contribution of work made a difference. We were rewarded by join... Read More

Laura BlightFebruary 2020

Best trip of my life!

I went to Shamwari game reserve at the beginning of summer for a month, it was the best 4 weeks of my life. Booking with The Mighty Roar made everything so easy, the people that I got in contact with, Chris and Amie, where lovely and so easy to get a hold of if I had any questions. I also booked ... Read More

Megan GreenSeptember 2019

Background to the programme

The Eastern Cape was once populated with a variety of wildlife that roamed freely around the bushveld. However, with the onset of intense animal hunting and new livestock farms moving to the area, there was a fierce clash of domestic and wild animal interests which saw the eradication of problematic animals. 

Shamwari Private Game Reserve started in 1990 when a small 1,200 hectare farm was purchased. Shortly after this, droughts and financial difficulties led to a number of neighbouring farmlands being sold and led to the large and fast expansion of the reserve, which now totalled 7,000 hectares. Since then, Shamwari has been actively restoring both the wildlife and flora, eradicating alien vegetation and striving to create an atmosphere where nature can flourish. Over the course of the next 25 years, Shamwari Private Game Reserve expanded to what it is today.

The dedicated team of conservationists has returned the once derelict farmland back to its former glory of vibrant lands, where some of the world's most iconic wildlife now wander. Thanks to their inspirational conservation efforts and expertise, Shamwari is now a globally recognised and an award winning game reserve.

You will get to enjoy all of these recent successes as you head out in an open top jeep to monitor and conserve the masses of wildlife that surround you. Not only this, but you will play an important role in preserving and continuing all of the good work and you will be sure to leave South Africa knowing that you have made a vital contribution to the local environment and protection of these incredible animals.

Where will I be volunteering?

You will be volunteering and staying within Shamwari Private Game Reserve. The word Shamwari means "my friend" in Shona and is the pinnacle of game reserves. Home to the coveted Big Five and a diverse abundance of a variety of antelope, giraffe, hippo, warthog, cheetah, zebra and over 25 other species that roam the plains of the game reserve. 

Shamwari is one of the largest conservation initiatives in Southern Africa with some 23,000 hectares to explore! As you explore these vast lands you will be able to exist in harmony with nature, however fleeting the moment, where free-roaming wildlife traipse the landscape often under the relentless African sun.

The team has been recognised globally for its efforts in conservation and has lived up to our adage of conserving a vanishing way of life. They have a dedicated wildlife and conservation department which includes a wildlife veterinarian and ecologists with an animal rehabilitation centre. Facilities also include an animal hospital and anti-poaching unit.

Not only does the reserve have their very own Animal Rehabilitation Centre but they are also host to the Born Free Foundation's Big Cat Rescue and Education Centre for lions and leopards - providing you with an experience like no other.

What is my role?

This is your chance to go behind the scenes and be exposed to the daily aspects involved in the conservation management of a private game reserve. You will be involved in the short and long term projects that are intended to create sustainability for generations to come. Tasks may vary from physical work to interesting and interactive lecture based content. There are several monitoring projects which assist in capturing vital information used in the research and management of all species on the reserve.

With so many activities, it would be impossible to mention and highlight them all here! With this in mind, we are providing an overview of just some of the tasks you will get to enjoy while in South Africa. 

The vast majority of your time will be spent on the game reserve monitoring all of the wildlife around you. You will need to collect important data on rhinos, elephants, lions, leopard and antelope to compile information about family structures and to determine feeding and special ecology data. Regular game counts are also conducted to establish the carrying capacity of the reserve, the movement of animals to and from the area as well as predator to prey ratios. All of the data collected is used to assist in the managing decisions for the reserve.

You will also need to track down some of the more elusive animals like cheetahs and leopards by using telemetry equipment and camera traps. These vital tools allow the reserve to monitor the presence of the animals and to try and deter any conflict with the nearby livestock farms.

There is also a need to continue the success of reviving these once pristine lands back to their former glory. You will help with removing old fence lines, rehabilitate degraded and overgrazed lands, remove invasive plant species and more.

As Shamwari is home to many animals, there is often the opportunity to assist with ongoing research projects. These are undertaken in conjunction with local and foreign research and academic institutions, where the information gathered provides a vital understanding of the most appropriate ways to preserve the wildlife. These exciting projects may range from elephant fertility testing through to capturing data on the lesser-known species such as the brown hyena.

On top of the above, Shamwari is also home to the Born Free Foundation Big Cat Rescue Centre. The foundation and game reserve have partnered together to provide a safe sanctuary for captive lions and leopards, most of which have been exploited and treated inhumanely in the past. Your interaction with this team may range from a personalised behind the scenes tour, to assisting with maintenance and cleaning of enclosures and at times even feeding and other tasks required to ensure that the cats enjoy the peaceful existence they deserve.

The reserve has also set up their own Animal Rehabilitation Centre which aids in the rehabilitating of injured animals found on the reserve and surrounding community. The aim is to give the animal short-term care and release it back into it's natural environment as soon as possible. The centre boasts aviary, small and large stock enclosure areas, which house the various species that may find their way to Shamwari.

You may also get to observe game captures, assist in night patrols along with the anti-poaching unit, sleep out under the stars within the Big 5 reserve and liaise with ecologists that are experts in wildlife breeding.

The role of conservation does not stop at conserving nature and wildlife habitat alone, but also includes a responsibility to uplift local and impoverished communities. With this in mind, volunteers also play an important part in educating the local community as to the role and benefit of conserving biodiversity and highlight further the importance of conserving our natural resources. While helping in the community, tasks can range from creating and maintaining vegetable gardens, recycling projects, painting classrooms and building jungle gyms, to playing games and sport with local children.

What will a typical day look like?

As previously mentioned, you will spend the vast majority of your time out with the wildlife on the game reserve. You could be out early in the morning before the sun rises or assisting into the night to monitor the more nocturnal animals, so please be prepared for some unsociable hours!

Although your experience is diverse and structured, due to the nature of working in the open and with wildlife, working times each day can vary greatly! With this in mind, you should expect to work for around 8 hours per day Monday to Friday.

Depending on your day's schedule you will have several hours of free time at some point each day. Many volunteers use this time to relax in the pool at the volunteer house and to enjoy their surroundings outside around the fire pit.

Where will I be staying?

Not only do you get to work in one of the best places in the world but you will also get to stay there! During your time at Shamwari you will be staying in the Madolos Retreat situated in the far Northern extent of the reserve. Be sure to keep an eye out for any intruding animals including Zebra, Kudu and waterbuck that roam freely. You will get to relax and unwind in the spacious living accommodation, go for a splash in the luxurious swimming pool and listen to the wonderful night sounds of the African wilderness.

Other things to consider

Weekends and free time - You will have every weekend off from volunteering and this is the perfect time to explore everything this beautiful country has to offer. You are more than welcome to simply relax around the accommodation but most volunteers will use this time to travel and see the country. Further down this page you will come across many suggestions and ideas on where you could go. Alternatively, if you are looking to head further afield, then you may be interested in one or more of the organised weekend trips we run.

South Africa Childcare

  • May 2022
I volunteered on the childcare programme in South Africa during May 2022. It was best experience of my life and by far the best country I’ve ever been to. I was a little worried I’d be on my own, but as soon as I walked through the door I made so many friends!

Sasha's story

Big Five Safari in South Africa

  • February 2022
I absolutely loved my time volunteering at Amakhala, so honestly grab your binoculars and go and have some fun! For the same price as a two night safari stay, the 3 weeks I spent at Amakhala Reserve showed me a lot more and taught me about the animals and conservation efforts.

Scarlett's story

Volunteering at Shamwari Game Reserve

  • December 2019
Hear all about my experience in South Africa at the Shamwari Game Reserve in August 2019. Being able to get so close to all of the different animals every day was a dream come true.

Hannah's story

A great two weeks at Amakhala!

  • October 2019
Our two weeks volunteering at Amakhala included so much, with something new everyday. Getting close to amazing wildlife, helping the community and exploring South Africa.

Sara's story

Heading off on safari in South Africa

  • October 2018
Between the UK and South Africa teams, I felt fully supported and had the best two weeks at Amakhala. I saw so many animals and learnt so much, I cannot wait to volunteer again.

Lynette's story

Four months helping penguins in South Africa

  • March 2018
Even though I was volunteering for several months, which is longer than most, the time flew by and I really wished I stayed longer! If you like penguins or birds, then I can highly recommend this programme

Stephanie's story