Walking in the footprints of elephants, learning to humanely relocate rhino, then getting to grips with wildlife monitoring cameras… As a volunteer field researcher, you’ll spend your days exploring Africa’s untamed wilderness and your evenings sharing stories around the fire.
Whether you’re looking for a behind-the-scenes experience of Africa’s wildlife, taking the next step in your career or want to gain work experience in an African game reserve, these are the experiences for you. You’ll learn about habitat improvement, tracking animal movement, poaching prevention and more.
Our Wildlife Research and Management Experiences start at $2420 for two weeks including transfers, meals and accommodation. But it really all depends on which project (or projects) you volunteer with and how long you stay. For detailed pricing info, explore our projects and experiences below.
Go behind the scenes on a ‘Big 5’ reserve and join one of the biggest conservation success stories
Explore a variety of animals in the Okavango Delta, home to the largest elephant population on Earth
Help protect Namibia’s wildlife by helping to reduce human-wildlife conflict
Experience for yourself the adrenaline-fueled world of wildlife capture and relocation
Join Hanchi, patrolling the South African bush on horseback
I spent two weeks at Mangetti and two at Phinda and it was such an amazing experience! Both taught me so much, including how to use telemetry gear to track animals such as lions and elephants.
The ACE team and the Phinda locals have provided me with memories that will last a lifetime and an endless amount of stories that I will forever treasure.
I could talk for hours and hours about the many adventures I was lucky enough to undertake during my placements with ACE, I still haven’t finished telling my friends and family everything! The amazing sense of accomplishment and pride I feel whenever I look back at what I’ve learnt and been privileged to be a part of is unfathomable.
For me, it was the ‘team effort’ that really cemented the experience and made it so much more than a just a safari. I felt, I was contributing in some small way, to the work that is being done at Phinda; I had a sense of ‘belonging’, even if it was for only 3 weeks.
My experience at Phinda, in three words, was wonderful, unique, and enriching. The team from the researchers, ecologists, logistic, back-office, and our dear volunteers were all great people and supportive, and helped make my journey wonderful.
Nearly every morning we would get up at around 5:30am, gulp down a quick cup of coffee, and be out of the door by 6. We would drive through the morning mist, watch it diffuse into shimmering light as the sun rose, in search of an elephant herd, a lion pride or to check on the animals in the boma enclosures.
Catherine and I had the most fantastic trip to Phinda. The whole experience was more than we could ever have imagined.
At Phinda our lives were enriched by the knowledge of our team leader in the many facets of wildlife management, whilst working with the wildlife veterinarians at Shimongwe was AWESOME. We were able to be a part of a team capturing wild animals for medical treatment, ID chip placement, and relocation.
Phinda was my 3rd time with ACE and I am 77 years old !!!! If you really want to be a volunteer with wild animals in Southern Africa, please contact ACE.
To truly get a feel for just how special a place Phinda is you must go and experience it for yourself - you won't regret it.
My experiences at Chipangali and Phinda were absolutely insane. It was definitely one of the best experiences of my life. The people there topped off the experience and I have so many good memories, I'd recommend it to anyone and everyone - just thinking about my trip makes me want to go back!
Sunset on the Okavango while watching the maribou storks and cormorants settle at the heronry for the night was awesome. We watched the sun’s rays slanting across the water colouring everything with its red glow and then fading as the sun dipped below the grasses and out of sight leaving us in gathering gloom and heading back to our island abode for dinner.
For a full month at Okavango, I had the opportunity to assist in vital research, documenting species presence on the Kwatale conservancy. We had some truly special sightings while there.
The Okavango Wilderness Experience in Botswana (Moremi Game reserve) is truly amazing! A real feeling of being out in the bush and at the same helping out for a great cause. The outcomes from this volunteering are retained for ever!
Would I say that the experience changed my life? Absolutely. You learn life skills and gain confidence you never thought you could in these experiences, and that is something I, personally, cannot thank the ACE team and the team I worked with in Phinda enough for.
Southern Africa’s wildlife populations are currently under threat from all sides. The region’s growing human population is placing ever more pressure on limited resources such as water and habitat, forcing wildlife to live on ever-shrinking ‘islands’ of land. Meanwhile, climate change is exacerbating the situation. Summers are getting hotter and lasting longer, affecting the flow of rivers that provide a vital supply of water for wildlife.
All of which is happening against a backdrop of poaching and big-game hunting, which is still legal throughout much of Africa.
Wildlife research and management underpin the region’s whole conservation movement. Every ecosystem is a delicate balance of species that hunt one another and consume natural resources such as vegetation and water. So to create a self-sustaining balance of species, conservationists need to constantly monitor the population dynamics of each animal, including ratios of male to female and age categorisations, how predator and prey species interact with each other and the available natural resources.
Meanwhile, carefully managed breeding programmes and the game-capture industry can help to re-establish lost wildlife populations.
At African Conservation Experience, we believe volunteering and conservation travel provide a viable financial model to replace trophy hunting.
In the meantime, while trophy hunting is still legally practiced, we think the conservation community needs to continue its work identifying sustainable quotas for hunting. This is a vital task as trophy hunters predominantly focus on adult males, which raises serious questions about the impact on populations that are regularly exposed to hunting.
During your time in Africa, chances are you will meet people who strongly support or oppose hunting. From an outsider’s perspective, it is difficult to understand how anybody could defend a pastime which legitimises the killing of animals such as lions, elephants and rhino. But this is highly complex and controversial subject and the jury is still out on how best to manage trophy hunting in Africa.
As animal lovers and conservationists, it is important that we do not let our moral objection to trophy hunting cloud our scientific judgement. However, looking at all the facts, we believe that conservation travel represents a genuinely viable alternative to hunting – replacing the money provided by hunting licences with financial support from travellers who would rather help animals than hunt them.
When you arrive in Africa, you’ll quickly discover one of the key issues affecting wildlife conservation is the expanding human population. This is resulting in more human-wildlife conflicts, leading to injuries and deaths on both sides.
The most common causes of human-wildlife conflict are animals damaging crops and livestock. When you consider that a fully grown elephant can eat up to 450kg of food a day, it’s easy to understand the farmer’s point of view. Similarly, if a pride of wild lions killed the herd of cattle you relied on for your livelihood, you might be tempted to use some pretty extreme methods to prevent a similar incident happening again in future.
But there are ways to solve these issues that do not involve attacking or poisoning animals. Wildlife conservationists in Africa employ many different strategies to avoid human-animal conflict – and even find ways that people and wildlife can benefit each other. These include working with local communities to create physical barriers and deterrents as well as identifying ‘flashpoints’ such as a new electric fence which might cause animals to come closer to a town than normal.
The Phinda reserve in South Africa has succeeded not just in reducing conflict, but creating a positive working relationship between wildlife and humans. Once a private game reserve, Phinda is now owned by the local tribal community, providing a valuable source of income and employment. The knock-on effect is that the human population has become more appreciative of wildlife and the benefits that ecotourism brings.
Many people ask why national governments aren’t doing more to protect threatened wildlife in their countries. Especially as ecotourism is such an important source of income for many of Africa’s poorest rural areas.
The most obvious answer is that governments in many developing economies simply don’t have enough money to invest in conservation. Even where governments have the desire to help, diverting funds away from programmes that target human poverty isn’t a politically viable option. Some governments in the region have introduced hunting bans, but these have caused as many problems as they’ve solved.
This is why the conservation projects we support are vital to preserve Africa’s wildlife and ecosystems. They bring targeted financial support to the conservation community and place a highly motivated workforce on the ground. Namely, you.
Help injured and orphaned animals through wildlife care, husbandry and nursing
Join some of Africa’s most experienced wildlife vets and help treat wild animals
Work with the world’s largest land animal by joining a team of experts
Help save the rhino by working closely with these incredible prehistoric creatures