• Welcome to
    Shamwari Conservation Experience

    Eastern Cape, South Africa

Shamwari Conservation Experience

2 - 12 weeks / from 1,620 - 8,720 EUR
  • About

    The Shamwari Conservation Experience is an amazing opportunity to get behind-the-scenes and get involved with wildlife conservation at the world-renowned 23,000 hectares Big Five Shamwari Private Game Reserve. Shamwari is the pioneer and leader in demonstrating how the conservation of wildlife, fauna and flora can be achieved through eco-tourism. You can join the team of dedicated individuals who are passionate about teaching you about wildlife conservation, nature and all it has to offer.

    Shamwari is best known as a luxury safari destination, for its involvement with the Born Free Foundation and from the series, “Shamwari – A Wild Life,” which was broadcasted on Animal Planet, Discovery and Nat Geo Wild.

    As a volunteer you will get involved with various short- and long-term conservation projects operated by the award-winning Shamwari Wildlife and Conservation Department.

    The programme

    Shamwari’s conservation work generally run from Monday to Friday from approximately 08H00 to 17H00 or as is required by the operations of the reserve.  You and your fellow volunteers may also be asked to assist and conduct related weekend activities from time to time. Weekends are usually your off time where you have the possibility to book various activities outside of the reserve. Shamwari can advise and supply information on locally registered adventure and leisure operators, who can offer you great off-site activities. The activities range from cultural tours to adventure activities which include canoeing, quad biking, horse riding on the beach, to coastal and marine tours. These off-site activities are undertaken on an elective basis and at your own cost. If you decide not to join the off-site activities, then you are welcome to enjoy the peace and tranquility that living on a game reserve has to offer.

    The Shamwari Conservation Experience will show you a true reflection of the day to day operational requirements needed to manage the game reserve and its vast resources combined with a theoretical learning from presentations and talks about wildlife and conservation – a highly recommended experience and an adventure you will never forget!

  • Activities

    Game monitoring: Rhinos, elephants and predators: With regular monitoring, it is possible to identify individuals, compile information about the family structure and determine feeding and spatial ecology. Data collected is used to assist in the managing decisions for the reserve.

    Participation in the game count: Annual game counts are conducted to establish the carrying capacity of the reserve. Game counts assist in the decision making of predator to prey ratios and the movement of animals on or off the reserve

    Telemetry tracking: Monitoring of some high-profile animals like cheetah and leopard are required using telemetry tracking equipment as result of the neighbouring properties carrying livestock and the elusive nature of some of the species.

    Research projects: Undertakings of research projects with a focus on a value-added outcome for the reserve or conservation as a whole, are viewed as an incumbency. These projects are often undertaken in conjunction with both local and foreign research and academic testing to capturing data on lesser known species such as the Brown Hyena.

    Restoration & rehabilitation of the reserves landscapes: The need to return the once pristine landscape to its original splendour includes the collecting and removal of old fence lines and rehabilitating degraded and overgrazed land.

    Alien plant control: Exotic and alien plants were introduced to the land by the farmers for different reasons and uses. Today this exotic vegetation needs to be removed to be able to increase the natural biodiversity and decrease the likes of fire risk and better preserve our fast diminishing natural water sources.

    Visits to the Born Free Foundation

    Visits to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre - featured in “Shamwari: A Wild Life”, aired on Animal Planet, Discovery and Nat Geo Wild.

    Community projects

    General reserve maintenance

    Talks and presentations about wildlife and conservation

    Other possible activities include, when available: Participation in a game capture and other wildlife veterinary work, Orientation and nature walks and Assisting with nightly anti-poaching patrols

  • Location

    Shamwari is only a 1 ½-hour drive from Port Elizabeth International Airport (PLZ) in South Africa. Several adventure and leisure activities are nearby, stretching down a beautiful coastline known as the Garden Route. Activities include surfing, canoeing, horse riding and bunging jumping, to name a few!

  • Facilities

    Shamwari's facilities include: accommodations with twin beds and en suite bathrooms complete with a shower, toilet and basin; dining and common lounging areas; a swimming pool; and an enclosed outdoor area known locally as a boma, typically used for communing around a fire.


    Shamwari's accommodations for individual participants, called Madolos Retreat, is situated in the far northern extent of the reserve and hosts a maximum of 20 guests. There are 10 rooms, each with two twin beds. Each room is assigned based on gender, although accommodations can be made for couples by special request. All rooms include an en suite bathroom that includes a shower, a toilet and a basin. The lodge facilities include a communal lounge area, a dining area, a swimming pool and an outside boma area, for enjoying a relaxing evening around the fire and under the stars.

    • Room configuration: 10 rooms with two twin beds and an en suite bathroom that includes a shower, a toiler and a basin.
    • Communal facilities: Outdoor boma area and fireplace; swimming pool; dining area; beverage storage fridge; lounge and entertainment area; television with access to local cable channels; desktop PC (Wi-Fi vouchers can be purchased onsite); World Call Card telephone system.
    • Laundry

      Laundry services are provided once per week on average. We advise that no delicate or expensive clothing is brought to or handed in at the laundry. Although every care is taken to provide the volunteers with this service, the Shamwari Conservation Experience will not be held responsible for any damage to apparel due to hard water, color runs, shrinkage or marking due to chemical cleaners.

    • Food & Meals

      Three meals are provided on a daily basis. Meals will be served at the lodge or taken pre-packed, depending on activities. Cooked breakfasts are served once weekly, generally on Fridays. Meals are planned with the goal of exposing participants to an array of local dishes and are generally taken on a self-service basis with juice, tea or coffee. Soft drinks and still and spring water are available on-site and from local trading stores.

      Meals can be catered for vegetarians and others with dietary requirements, with advanced notice. However, there are no facilities to service Kosher or Halal meal requirements. For an additional fee, accommodations can be made, depending on availability.

    • Sample Menus
      • Breakfast: Cereal and toast; muesli and yoghurt; muffins and toast
      • Lunch: Sandwiches; wraps and potato salad; quiche and pasta salad; burgers and chips
      • Dinner: Macaroni and cheese with green salad; roasted chicken with vegetables; traditional, local stews like braai and potjie
    • Internet & Phone Reception

      Wi-Fi vouchers can be purchased on-site. Due to the position of the lodge, internet speeds are not up to international urban standards; however, they have proven more than effective for access and communication.

      Cell phone reception is available. Check with your service provider for costs or purchase a local SIM card at the airport.

    • Credit Cards & Cash

      You can take out cash in town once per week. Shamwari recommend you to bring South African rand in small bills to purchase snacks, soft drinks and other goods on-site.

    • Shops

      Small consumables, such as soft drinks and energy drinks, chocolates and crisps, are available on-site. A percentage of each purchase is used to champion the local community.

  • Travel info

    This page will guide you on how to book your flights, how transportation to and from Shamwari works and which vaccinations are required for your trip. 

    • Flight Itinerary

      Flights booked to Port Elizbeth International Airport (PLZ) should arrive no later than 12:30 p.m. on Mondays for volunteers planning to join the shared transfer to Shamwari. Shuttles leave daily at 1 p.m.

      Shuttles are scheduled to leave Shamwari for the airport at 10 a.m. daily. The shuttle typically reaches PLZ by 12 p.m. We recommend that participants leaving Shamwari book flights with departures scheduled after 2 p.m. on their departure days.

    • Airport Transfer

      Shared transfer from the airport is arranged by Shamwari. The transfer to and from Shamwari will take around 1 ½ – 2 hours. The transfer is not included in your project fee and costs 60 EUR each way.

    • Vaccinations

      We recommend you consult with your doctor to ensure you have the appropriate vaccinations before you trip. Shamwari is not in a malaria risk area.

    • Visa

      People from most countries will automatically get tourist visas valid for up to 90 days upon arrival in South Africa. If you are unsure about whether this applies to your country, please see the government’s list of exempt countries: http://www.dha.gov.za/index.php/countries-exempt-from-sa-visas

    • Travel Insurance

      It is mandatory that you have valid travel insurance for your entire trip. The insurance will cover all costs involved with any kind of an emergency or incident, i.e. an air rescue, hospital or medical costs and flights. Please contact your local travel insurance agent, otherwise we can recommend the travel insurer World Nomads: https://www.worldnomads.com/

  • FAQ

    • Will I get an opportunity to work hands-on and up-close with the animals?

      The emphasis and drive behind the award-winning conservation initiatives at Shamwari Game Reserve have always been focused on sound and ethical wildlife and ecological principles. The day-to-day work does not require human intervention and interaction through touch. In times of crisis or true need for intervention, participants may be afforded the opportunity to safely get close to observe, and at times participate in a more hands-on way, wildlife species.

    • How far is the nearest trading store or outlet to purchase goods and when can I go?

      You will generally get an opportunity to buy personal items and sundries on Fridays while visiting the local community as part of our social responsibility drive. Although local general dealers don’t carry a vast array of items they do offer toiletries, cold drinks and other necessities. You can buy World Call Cards for the on-site paid telephone service in nearby Alicedale, which is about 12 kilometres away.

    • Are there ATMS or facilities to cash in travellers’ cheques?

      For security purposes, we advise that you carry the minimum amount of foreign or local currency needed at any given time during your stay. We advise volunteers use ATMs or we recommend cash in travellers’ cheques at a registered or known foreign exchange outlet at the Port Elizabeth airport. If your airport transfer allows, you can also cash travellers’ cheques at one of the major local banks in Port Elizabeth.

    • Will I be able to concentrate on big cats or a specific animal or subject interest on the reserve?

      We are proud to offer an experience that is, by nature, very diverse. All participants get a behind-the-scenes look at the game reserve’s wildlife operations. Participants also get exposure to various aspects of modern-day conservation, including several ecological, wildlife and species management issues.

    • Will I be communing with fellow gap-year students and volunteers only?

      The student centre has been built to facilitate exposure to various forms of conservation, wildlife, community and sports experiences. The streaming of particular common interest groups will differ according to seasonality and specific requirements, thus the facility may simultaneously host various experiences of a different nature, whether for individuals or groups. The age and background of participants may vary. Tolerance and acceptance regarding shared communal resources is necessary.

    • What is there to do on weekends or in my free time?

      As both evenings and weekends are generally spent at leisure, there are several on- and off-site activities available. On-site activities range from playing pool and table tennis to making use of our swimming pool. If enjoying a movie or watching sports on-site isn’t for you – and if you’re old enough – you can join a visit to a local pub or restaurant on trips sometimes organized by participants. As these off-site activities are at an individual’s own cost, participants generally share costs to make trips more affordable. Often the friends you make whilst at Shamwari will be using their leisure time to plan and enjoy one of several adventure activities along the beautiful Garden Route. We have a comprehensive array of adventure brochures and the contact details of reputable operators available. Our staff will gladly advise you further before or after your arrival.

    • Do I need any vaccinations?

      Consult with your doctor in your country of origin to determine what vaccinations you need. However, the Shamwari Game Reserve is in the Eastern Cape district, a malaria-free area.

  • Reviews

    “Thank you Shamwari for giving me this amazing experience. The staff, the volunteers, the nature, the animals - everything! Thank you, I will be back :)!”
    – Anne Marqvorsen, Denmark

    “Shamwari offers everything anyone could hope for when it comes to conservation. The coordinators are extremely knowledgeable and always make you want to learn more.
    I will never forget this incredible experience and I hope to return one day in the future
    – Grace Barry, UK

    “Where other people should go? to Shamwari conservation experience camp. what else? I mean it’s just awesome! Don't think about it just go there and I promise it will change your life!”
    – Jana Ginger Duke, Austria

    “I would recommend this place for everybody who wants to see how a game reserve works and who likes to see how animals live in the wild. It's an amazing place.”
    – Lisa Vanbrabant, Belgium

    ”I was at this wonderful place for 10 weeks. First, I thought this is going to be a very long time away from home. Now I can say that it became a second home for me. I enjoyed every minute being at this beautiful reserve, doing/seeing a lot of interesting and breathtaking things.”
    – Nina Schuerch, Switzerland

    “I opted to stay at Shamwari for 12 weeks, I was thinking of going straight for the Ranger Training but as I had done nothing like this before I decided a long stint as a volunteer would be a good way to start... was it too long? No! I had an amazing time, Shamwari is a place that gets under your skin and works its way in to your heart.”
    – Aislinn Pilia, UK

    ”I would highly recommend this experience for anyone with a passion for helping others and learning about African Wildlife, meeting new people from around the world. Second time around this was another amazing month and hope that I will have another opportunity to take part and return to a place I love.”
    – Melissa Sault, Canada

    “In a short two weeks I have had the most informative and rewarding experience of my life. As an Australian ecologist I was excited to learn conservation practices implemented by the Shamwari team, from tracking, telemetry, participating in university studies and the incredible efforts of Born Free giving mistreated animals a second life.”
    – Kylie Bridges

    “Shamwari is a once in a lifetime chance for an amazing time in South Africa, working on a reserve as a volunteer, as well as seeing the beautiful animals here. However long you stay there is a guarantee of having excellent action- packed days if you throw yourself into the experience. Well worth everything and you will come away with amazing memories.”
    – Charlotte Brooks, UK

    “Shamwari is a fantastic volunteer programme. It's very educational and the treatment of volunteers is excellent. I absolutely enjoyed my stay and will look forward to coming back in the future. Thank you Shamwari!”
    – Benjamin Hintz, Germany

    This has been an absolutely amazing and life-changing experience for our students. The work that you do in
    terms of conservation and community participation and encouragement is exceptional. We have enjoyed every minute and will definitely be coming back to the beautiful Shamwari.”
    – Vicky Holland, UK (Cornwall College)

    “I had one regret while at Shamwari, and that was not booking a longer stay.”
    – Greg Parisi, USA

  • Prices & Dates

    Dates: The programme starts and ends every Monday and you can book from 2 - 12 weeks.
    Please contact us for availability and reservation

    Number of participants: Max 20

    Prices (2023) (per person sharing):

    2 weeks - 1,620 EUR

    3 weeks - 2,330 EUR

    4 weeks - 3,040 EUR

    Extra weeks - 710 EUR per week

     + Airport Transfer between PLZ airport & Shamwari - 110 EUR

Why you'll love it

  • You will get behind the scenes at the world renowned Shamwari Private Game Reserve

  • Shamwari has a close partnership with Born Free Foundation – and you will get to visit the sanctuary

  • Shamwari’s amazing programme will teach you lots about the eco-system and the animals

  • You will get to meet the Anti-Poaching unit and you might be able to  join them on a night patrol in the bush

  • Shamwari have great facilities and the helpful staff will take great care of you

  • You will get to monitor rhinos, elephants and predators in a beautiful environment

  • Shamwari is situated at the beautiful Garden Route, close to the ocean and offers lots of activities you can join in the weekends

  • You will enjoy this experience with up to 20 like-minded people from all over the world


We work with volunteer projects that offer meaningful learning experiences and the space to experience the remarkable wildlife you’ll be supporting. Most projects only take between 10 and 20 volunteers, so the earlier we start planning your trip, the better. The best time to start making arrangements is six to eight months before your planned departure date – especially if you want to volunteer during peak seasons, including around school holidays.

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