Phinda Wildlife Research Project

Go behind the scenes on a Big 5 safari reserve.

Phinda is one of the great success stories of African wildlife conservation. Unlike many private safari reserves, most of the land is owned by the local community which means everyone works together to protect the wildlife – and everyone benefits from the park’s success. 

As a Phinda volunteer, you’ll play a vital role in this amazing story. As part of the reserve’s research team, you’ll help to manage thriving populations of elephant, rhino, lion, cheetah, pangolin and many other species. You’ll have countless chances to observe these animals in their natural habitat and by working behind the scenes, you’ll see a side of Phinda that tourists don’t usually experience.

You will also have the unique opportunity to monitor black rhino as part of Phinda’s involvement with the pioneering WWF Black Rhino Range Expansion Project.

Find out more in the video below - you can click 'CC' for subtitles and find chapters in the progress bar!

Phinda group viewing cheetahs from a vehicle

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  • Elephant
  • Rhino
  • Lion
  • Leopard
  • Buffalo
  • Cheetah
  • and many more.

Conservation Impact

  • Wildlife research and management
  • Reserve management


🇿🇦 South Africa

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Experience wildlife management behind the scenes

As a conservation volunteer at Phinda, you’ll experience life behind the scenes on one of the largest private reserves in South Africa and get closer to the wildlife than you ever could as a tourist.

Protect one of Africa’s largest rhino populations

Assist in managing this critical rhino population through daily monitoring and horn trimming, in order to deter poachers.

Supported by the WWF and Rhinos Without Borders

By working with the wildlife in Phinda, you’ll support major international conservation organisations.

Owned by the Zulu community

Most of the Phinda reserve is owned by the local community so your placement will help to support this unique initiative.

Work side-by-side with experts

You'll play a valuable role and work with a team of dedicated conservation professionals who support the research department at Phinda.

Great cheetah viewing

Due to its growing cheetah population, Phinda plays a pivotal role in cheetah conservation throughout the whole of southern Africa.

Biodiversity hotspot

The Phinda reserve is situated within one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots known as the Maputaland complex.


As a volunteer on our Phinda Wildlife Research Experience, there’s always something to do. Your role will be varied and hands-on. Depending on the animals being managed and researched, you’ll be involved in the following activities:

Wildlife research

To maintain the perfect balance of species within the reserve, Phinda’s conservationists keep a close watch on population numbers.

  • Record wildlife sightings and map their movements to build up a detailed database of animals’ territories
  • Use satellite technology to track the movements of collared wildlife such as elephants and pangolins
  • Monitor priority species such as black and white rhino, elephants, cheetahs and lions, to help protect them from threats such as poaching
  • Study the behaviour and population dynamics of animals such as elephants and predators
  • Assist the research team to determine prey utilisation by lions, leopards and cheetahs

Wildlife management

Careful management of the wildlife is vital to Phinda’s conservation success.

  • Help to notch rhino ears, enabling researchers to identify, monitor and protect individual animals
  • Assist with humane rhino horn trimming, an effective anti-poaching strategy
  • Learn about the use of non-hormonal contraceptive programmes to effectively manage the populations of elephants and predators
  • Get involved with Phinda’s wildlife relocation programmes, helping to move species such as rhino, lion and antelope
  • Manage and preserve wildlife habitats to ensure a sufficient supply of resources such as food and water

Community support

As Phinda is mostly owned by the community and is a major employer in the area, you’ll play a vital role in supporting the local people.


As well as gaining hands-on experience, you’ll also learn about the conservation, ecology, biology and behaviour of Phinda’s wildlife.


  • Rhino poaching, anti-poaching methods in the field, and relocation programmes
  • Breeding programmes for rare and endangered species – such as Phinda’s black rhino custodianship programme
  • Wildlife relocation programmes – including the WWF’s Black Rhino Range Expansion Project, the Rhinos Without Borders programme, and lion relocation to Rwanda


  • The natural environment of the Big 5 and other African species
  • The role of different species in the ecosystem
  • The impact of population growth or decline of certain species, such as lions and elephants, on the ecosystem as a whole
  • Interesting smaller ecosystems on the Phinda reserve, including a unique sand forest


  • The physiology and natural diets of the Big 5 and other African species
  • Native African plants, reptiles, amphibians and birds


  • The relationship between predator and prey species
  • Behaviour of animal groups, such as the social structure in a pride of lions and herds of elephants
  • Predator hunting behaviour and the differences between social predators such as lions and hyena, compared with solitary predators such as leopards and cheetah
  • Mating and breeding behaviour of Big 5 and other African species
  • The movement of herd species such as elephant, buffalo and antelope


Can I volunteer at more than one project and how much will it cost?

Most of our travellers like to combine multiple projects to create a tailor-made trip. The combined price of projects is cheaper than the individual projects added up online. 

We offer combinations of conservation projects, transport between them, accommodation and travel insurance as you require. We are a travel operator, not an agent, which means we take full responsibility for your trip which will be financially protected through ABTA and ATOL.

We will discuss your options and tailor your experiences so you can realise your dreams.

How do I book?

Your journey to Africa starts with our online application form. This is your chance to tell us about yourself and what you want from your African experience. Following our communication, we’ll send you a bespoke itinerary and quote. Then, you only need to pay a deposit amount of GBP 295 / USD 400 / CAD 500 / AUD 500 / EUR 350 to book your entire trip.

The cost below for this experience includes:

  • Accommodation

  • Internal Flights

  • Airport Meet & Greet

  • Transfers

  • 24/7 Support

  • Personal Guidance

  • Meals

Cost Calculator

Total Cost: GBP 0000