KwaZulu-Natal community reserve
Discover life in the wilderness, sleep in a local village and be exposed to the monitoring and research activities of the Big 5 inhabitants that roam this vast landscape. You will be staying in a community-owned game reserve where local people directly benefit from your participation in this programme.
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Get some friends together or organise a group from your school and embark on this incredible adventure!
during school term or holidays
7 or 10 days
Volunteer certificate to add to your CV and school service requirements (depending on the programme)
Immersed in a wilderness area, you will learn bush skills, embark on research and conservation activities and have the opportunity to engage and contribute to village life. Your itinerary can be as focused or as diverse as you want it to be with an emphasis on Discovery or Volunteering or both!
You will be exposed to a wilderness area that provides an ideal opportunity to learn about the sights and sounds of wild Africa that surround you. Bush walks, tracking, animal identification, nocturnal sounds and night skies all provide a means to learn and appreciate the value of this wild place. A key component of this experience is simply engaging with the natural environment in a meaningful way without the distractions of everyday life.
One’s experience in a game reserve is enhanced by the knowledge that wild animals call this home, and you have the opportunity to observe them in their natural habitat. Whether you hear them, see them, or just know that they are there, it is a privilege to share this time with them. Africa’s big 5 (lion, leopard, elephants, rhino and buffalo), the African wild dog, zebra, giraffe, buck, and hundreds of birds and smaller animals roam this landscape. Evidence of their presence is what lends magic to your stay.
Learn what it takes to manage a game reserve and contribute to the conservation activities that are needed at the time. Whether it is repairing roads, fixing fences or removing alien invasive trees, this is your chance to make a positive contribution to this wilderness area. Volunteer activities lead to a sense of achievement at the same time as providing tangible impacts on the ground.
Conservation organisations and scientists work together to undertake a variety of research activities in this nature reserve. You will be directly involved in monitoring Africa’s keynote species, including the big 5 and the beautiful African wild dog. Some of these species have radio collars, which allow researchers to collect data and track them through telemetry. Other research activities vary depending on what is happening at the time, but you have a unique opportunity to learn about wildlife research, data collection techniques and the importance of research for achieving conservation goals.
You have the privilege of engaging directly with the communities who own this game reserve. Homestays have been developed for schools to participate in village life, including contributions to local projects and activities that give back. Included in this experience is the privilege of sleeping in traditional homesteads, cooking with local families over the fire and maybe even a friendly football match! This is an enriching experience and provides insight into the lives of the Gumbi people.
A highlight of any wilderness experience is the adventure of sleeping in the bush, under the stars and exposed to the elements of nature. Whether it is hearing nocturnal sounds, spotting an owl in a tree or losing yourself in the vastness of Africa’s night sky, this is an experience not easily forgotten. Small groups will take turns keeping the fire burning throughout the night and the first rays of sunlight will awake you to a new day.
The student tented camp is a series of basic 2-person safari tents with comfortable beds and linen, located within a fenced area of the reserve. There are shared ablutions with flush toilets and hot and cold showers. A highlight is the common area with a raised platform overlooking a waterhole, a refreshing swimming pool and a lovely firepit for evening gatherings. A large covered area is provided for shared meals, which is adjacent to the kitchen where healthy food is prepared for the duration of the camp.
OPTIONAL: COASTAL EXCURSION
How about ending your bush adventure with a three night excursion to the coast? This is an exciting add-on where you can explore the areas around either Kosi Bay or St. Lucia. This is your chance to snorkel in the sea, hike along the coast, observe turtles during season, volunteer with crocodiles and be exposed to intertidal and marine life. More detailed itineraries can be provided on request.
OPTIONAL: FUNDRAISING OPPORTUNITY
For those schools who have an interest and the means, you can embark on a fundraising mission to sponsor specific conservation projects. Get creative through bake sales, sports events or use social media to raise the needed money to purchase camera traps, radio collars for monitoring or fundraise for a rhino de-horning experience!
OBJECTIVES & IMPACT
Youth 4 Conservation works with Somkhanda Community Game Reserve to make this experience possible. The Gumbi community won a land claim in 2005 and made the groundbreaking decision to create a game reserve to promote conservation and to catalyse economic development in their area. Thus, every participant in this programme brings direct economic benefit to the local people who own Somkhanda.
The reserve is located in a biodiversity corridor of great conservation importance, and has therefore been instrumental in reintroducing important wildlife species. The research and conservation projects that are undertaken through this experience also contribute to the long term goals of wildlife and habitat protection. This is a hands-on opportunity to directly contribute to both conservation efforts and local livelihoods, while gaining a unique perspective into the valuable role of the Gumbi people in protecting and maintaining this valuable wilderness area.
Photos courtesy of Somkhanda