Makalali Reserve,  Limpopo

Makhutswi Endangered Species Project


The Makhutswi Endangered Species Project will allow you to participate with on the ground, hands on monitoring of some of Africa’s endangered species:  Rhino, Cheetah and Southern Ground Hornbill. 

It is ideal if you want to truly experience the “wild” side of Africa.  Our camp is based in a Limpopo game reserve which is home to the 'Big 5'.  This means you will get to encounter, and live with, elephant, lion, leopard and buffalo while working with us.

You will also learn basic bush survival skills and how to navigate your way through the African bush!

During your stay, your days will be spent mostly on foot walking through the reserve, learning how to track the animals.  You will be approaching endangered species on foot and recording their behaviour, location and condition.  You will, quite literally, be walking in their footsteps!

The information collected is then used by the reserve management and anti-poaching teams, as well as national conservation efforts to help save these species.  You will also take part in vehicle based monitoring to see the amazing Big 5, as well as habitat work to help with the monitoring process. 

This is a unique experience for people who want to get more out of visiting a game reserve in South Africa.  Everyone who joins us on this exciting program will get to experience the African bush in its extremes, from elephants strolling through camp to the tropical heat or the surprisingly cold winter nights. 

If you have a love of nature and want to participate in helping to save Africa's endangered species, this is the project for you.  Come enjoy the simple life and let the bush seep into your soul!


Tented safari camp, camping, volunteers
Camp fire, stories, volunteer
Waterhole, lookout point
Tented safari camp



Your home during your stay will be in our eco-friendly tented camp set amongst the trees which overlooks a water course.  There are large, comfortable twin share tents set on raised platforms, ensuring each has its own unique view of the African bush! 


There are shared ablution facilities with flushing toilets and bush showers.  All meals are cooked by the group.  Your evenings will be spent hearing tales from your experienced ranger, listening to the sounds of the bush, before you fall asleep under the African sky.




1 week            $600         
2 weeks          $1200
3 weeks          $1750
4 weeks

Additional weeks at $500 p/ week



Whats included: Transfers for arrivals and departures on Mondays to/from Hoedspruit, all food (except snacks, soft drinks and alcohol), accommodation, linen (except towels), housekeeping service, training, travel within the reserve, assistance with travel in the local area, an outing every two weeks to interesting local attractions outside of the reserve (entrance fees to be paid by volunteers).





Makhutswi Makalali project has a minimum duration of 1 week.


Start dates

The project start day is every Monday throughout the year, with volunteers being collected from Hoedspruit.


Typical Project Schedule


Monday: Project start day. Town trip to collect new volunteers and restock supplies


Tuesday—Friday: Mornings will consist of monitoring walks to locate rhino and cheetah. You will learn how to identify and age their tracks and how to record this information. Once the animals have been located you will monitor their behaviour, environment and interactions in order to better understand them.  Meanwhile, you will also learn how to track other big game such as elephant, lion and hyena in order to better understand utilisation of the areas covered.   At all times you will also be on the lookout for potential sightings and nest sites of the Southern Ground Hornbill.


On return to camp, you will enter the data collected onto the computers.  You'll also get the chance to work through your bush knowledge work books to help improve your tracking skills. 


In the afternoons, you will set out on monitoring drives in order to cover more ground to determine new areas to locate rhino, cheetah and Southern Ground Hornbill. Once signs of activity and tracks have been located you will continue on foot to discover more. Whilst driving through the reserve you will also get the chance to see some of our other resident Big 5—elephant, lion and buffalo.


On Friday afternoon, your drive will meet up with the Makalali Research group for a sleep out under the stars.


Saturday: In the morning you will help out with some habitat work, either bush clearing, erosion control or road maintenance. On return from the afternoons monitoring drive, we may head out to the local pub or have a typical South Africa Braai (BBQ).


Sunday: Either an outing will be planned or it will be a free day for volunteers to relax or head out on their own tour.




Black rhino.jpg

Rhino Monitoring


With the ever present threat from poaching, close monitoring of these animals is crucial for the future of the species.  The rhinos are monitored to ascertain their movement around the reserve and interaction with each other.  This is done mostly on foot due to their secretive nature.  This also forms part of the anti-poaching measures in place, working closely with the reserve management and anti-poaching teams on the reserve to ensure 100% sighting and safeguarding of our rhino.   Our Siyafunda projects also work closely with The Rhino Protection Trust to raise awareness and funds to support our efforts to save these magnificent but vulnerable animals.


Cheetah Monitoring


As cheetah are one of Africa's most endangered large predators, the entire population is monitored on the reserve.  By tracking the cheetah on foot, we can observe their utilisation of the area, prey selection and reproductive behaviour.  By combining this with data collected on other predators we can track the effects on distribution patterns of the cheetah by the presence of lions, hyena and leopards.  With dedicated, long term monitoring we can be sure to effectively understand their lives and better protect them for future generations.


Cheetah at rest, volunteer, safari, endangered species

African Wild Dog Monitoring


African wild dogs are the second most endangered carnivora in Africa, with only a few hundred left in the wild. At Siyafunda Endangered Species Project you will be involved with monitoring a newly introduced pack. We will be observing them closely to see how they settle into the reserve and how they interact with the other species.



Game Drives & Foot Patrols


Game drives are a great way of covering distance within the reserve in order to see the larger African wildlife, observing their behaviour, movements and habits along the way.  After dark, they also enable the possibility of sighting the nocturnal animals such as African civet, black-backed jackal, large spotted genet, porcupine and aardvark to name but a few.

Monitoring walks also allow you to walk, quite literally, in the footsteps of the animals you are tracking.  You will learn how to identify the tracks of the animals you are monitoring, as well as any others they may have been following, or following them!  By determining age and direction of the tracks you will be able to help determine territory and, with any luck, current location.


Bush Skills


As well as monitoring the endangered species, you will also be taught basic survival techniques and how to navigate your way through the bush.  Our experienced rangers will show you some practical bush skills, Identifying tracks and signs left by animals, how to track animals, as well as identifying the myriad tree and plant species. 

During your experience here, you will also get to enjoy a sleep out under the stars.  We will set up camp in the bush and cook over an open fire.  After a delicious Potjie (a typical South African dish), you will take turns on night watch to guard the camp while the others are sleeping.  Nothing beats falling asleep under the stars while listening to the distant lion roar and whooping of hyenas.


clearing trees from road, volunteer
Clearing trash from the river after floo

Habitat Conservation


Alien Vegetation Control: Under the guidance of Working for Water (WFW), volunteers will assist with identifying and monitoring stands of alien and invasive vegetation within the river and across the reserve. Volunteers will participate in the mechanical removal and chemical control of these species as well as the follow-up monitoring of problem areas. This is an important project as alien invasive plants have the ability to encroach on areas and prevent other indigenous plants from growing, as well as using up large amounts of moisture from the soil. This has a detrimental effect on your ecosystem and therefore requires constant monitoring and removal.

Habitat Rehabilitation: Volunteers will have the opportunity to assist in ongoing habitat rehabilitation initiatives in the reserve, including erosion control, the construction of rock gabions, brush-packing and re-seeding.

Volunteer pictures