Big 5 Wildlife Experience

A unique experience in the African bush that gives you the opportunity to observe and be a part of the research and monitoring teams on the reserve. Special focus on elephants, lions & hyenas

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  • Duration: 7 Days
  • Moderate
  • Electronic voucher
  • Pickup available
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The Siyafunda Endangered Species Project will allow you to participate with on the ground, hands-on monitoring of some of Africa’s endangered species:  Rhino,  African Wild-dogs, 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.

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 the 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!


The Siyafunda tented Endangered Species Camp consists of four double, comfortable and spacious walk-in tents with twin beds. They are all built on wooden decks in the heart of the bush where you enjoy a beautiful view. Each tent has its own ablution facility with a flushing toilet and a bush shower. To heat your shower you will find large kettles to heat over the fire, making even a shower an adventure on its own.

The communal area next to the fireplace is made up of wooden decks, one which has the kitchen.  The other has a tented roof where you can sit to enjoy your meal in an open-air dining area, playing cards or just reading your book while you are listening to African wildlife. 

There is no electricity at the camp, but plenty of paraffin lamps are used for all lighting in and around the camp and it gives a true African romantic feeling in the bush. Sometimes the paraffin lanterns can be challenging while you are reading your bedtime story, so a headlamp and torch are recommended for this purpose.

The kitchen offers cooking facilities allowing you to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner. The gas fridge is always filled up with fresh veggies and fruit, cheese and a variety of meat. Help yourself with tea, coffee, cereal and toast in the morning. For a late brunch, you can do sandwiches or salads or have a tasty fry up.  In the evening, after the game drive, cook a delicious meal together or just braai (South African BBQ) over the fire.


  • Rhino Monitoring
  • Cheetah Monitoring
  • Ground Hornbills
  • Leopard
  • Game Drives & Walks
  • Alien Vegetation Control:
  • Habitat Rehabilitation
  • Reserve Management

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 www.rhinoprotectiontrust.comto 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.

Ground Hornbills

With less than 1500 of these birds left in the wild, we are lucky to have a family of Southern ground hornbills on the reserve.  The majority of our monitoring takes place during their breeding season from late October to February.  The ground hornbills are very slow breeders , fledging only one chick every 9 years.  The female will lay two eggs, but days apart from each other, meaning only one chick usually survives.  We observe their nests regularly in order to determine the dates that eggs are laid.  This enables us to harvest the second chick around hatching time to be sent to a hand rearing facility to ensure its survival.  We also work with the Ground Hornbill Research and Conservation Project to gather any information about this rare species.


We closely monitor the locations of leopards to determine territory extent as well as creating and updating ID kits to monitor individuals and determine total population size.  As with all predators, we also monitor prey selection and reproductive behaviour to effectively assist the reserve management. In 2014, Siyafunda teamed up with the Panthera Leopard Research Project, who are monitoring and determining the leopard population in the area.  This project is planned to continue for the next 10 years.  Working in conjunction with Makalali Research, you will assist with the setting and monitoring of camera traps during the key months of February and March.

Game Drives & Walks

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.

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.

Reserve Management: We are lucky enough to be situated on a large reserve but this also means that it needs to be constantly managed. Volunteers will have the opportunity to take part in assisting with reserve duties such as road maintenance to prevent erosion problems, encroachment of vegetation over the roads and fence clearing when needed.


Monday: Project start day. Town trip to pick you up 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 the 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 workbooks to help improve your tracking skills.  During the week there will be a series of talks on Siyafunda, data collection, bush skills and maybe even a Zulu lesson!

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.

In conjunction with Makalali Research, all sightings of leopard will also be monitored and recorded - the more eyes the better when trying to monitor this elusive animal!

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 to relax or head out on their own tour.

What’s included

Transfers for arrivals and departures on Mondays to/from Hoedspruit*  All food (except snacks, soft drinks and alcohol)*  Accommodation*  All linen (except towels)*  Monday to Friday housekeeping service*  All training for assistance with our research*  All travel within the reserve*  Assistance to organise travel in the local area*  An outing every two weeks to interesting local attractions outside of the reserve (entrance fees to be paid by participants)

What do I need to bring

 - Hiking Boots

- Hat

- Day Pack

- Neutrally coloured clothes (Not White)

- Water bottle

- Insect Repellent

- Flash-light

- Cameras

- Binoculars

Guided Language

  • English
R 0 7 Days , Moderate

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