A 21-day wildlife conservation, safari and adventure trip in South Africa!
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Duration: 21 days
Trip code: SABA
Enjoy 21 days of wildlife conservation, safaris and adventure in South Africa! Stay on a private game reserve, enjoy game drives, and see animals up close as a member of a wildlife conservation team. Volunteer with kids at local community projects, experience horseback safaris, and go on guided bushwalks through gorgeous South African landscapes. Enjoy both a day safari and a 2-day camping adventure in world-famous Kruger National Park. Take a day trip to Swaziland, visit wildlife sanctuaries, and try adventure activities. This unique South African wild adventure will take your breath away!
Average group size 10, maximum 20.
On this 21-day trip to a private South African game reserve, you'll be taking part in a unique experience that combines an amazing mix of culture, conservation projects, safaris, volunteering and adventure activities. Whether you're helping to protect the local African wildlife, supporting community projects, going on safaris and game drives or enjoying adrenaline adventures, you'll discover the many faces of stunning South Africa!
Buddy list: Travellers on this programme will be given access to a buddy list, so you can connect with other travellers going on the same trip and start to make friends before you go!
Please note: The itinerary below is a guideline, sample itinerary only, to give you an idea of the activities you will take part in during your South Africa Wild Adventure. However, the itinerary will vary depending on weather conditions and the needs of the project at the time.
Day 1: Arrival and Orientation
You'll arrive at Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport between 10am-2pm, where you'll be met and transferred to the game reserve. En route, you'll stop off at the local town to stock up on supplies for the next few days. There won't be chance to get anything extra until day 6 so think carefully about what you'll need! You'll have a welcome meeting and orientation with the game rangers, meet your group and settle in to life on this stunning South African game reserve.
Day 2: Introduction to the reserve and conservation activities
The rangers will introduce you to the reserve and you'll take part in your first conservation volunteering activities, which may include tracking and monitoring the wildlife or maintenance and repair duties at the reserve.
Day 3: Community volunteering and anti-poaching patrols
The game reserve is closely linked to local daycare projects. As a volunteer, you will play games and engage in activities with the kids, help to prepare meals, and muck in with any maintenance or building projects. You will also head out on anti-poaching patrols, searching for and removing illegal wire snares or damaged perimeter fences to help protect the reserve's wildlife.
Day 4: Game drive and bush walk
Enjoy a game drive around the private reserve, spotting all the wonderful wildlife and getting up close to some of the animals in the area. You will also head out on foot around the reserve, led by your ranger, where you will learn about the flora and fauna, insects and birds and keep an eye out for signs of animal tracks.
Day 5: Elephant interaction and horseback safari
Meet the tame elephants who call the reserve home. Get up close to these majestic creatures and help the reserve staff care for them. Then opt to to head off on horseback to see the reserve and spot more amazing animals on safari, or head back to base for some down time.
Day 6: Trip to local town of Melalane
You'll be taken into the local town of Melalane, where you can stock up on any supplies, go shopping, find internet access to check your emails and just enjoy some free time away from the reserve. You can eat out at a local restaurant today so allow around R150-300 (approx. £6-12) for food. Return to the reserve in the afternoon to chill out by the pool, play some volleyball, or take an afternoon nap!
Day 7: Chimp Sanctuary and Sudwala Caves
An exciting day trip today! Head over to a wonderful sanctuary for chimpanzees that have been displaced from their natural habitats. Take a look at some chimps lazing around in the sun and wander the beautiful surroundings of the reserve. Then visit Sudwala Caves, an impressive network of underground chambers dating back to prehistoric times. Marvel at the amazing aragonite crystals and flowstone features that line the walls. Then journey back to relax back at camp.
Day 8: Rhino conservation, bush walk and night safari
It's all about the wildlife today as you begin the day tracking the endangered white rhino on the reserve. This is an important part of the conservation work which takes place at this project. Go on a guided bushwalk focused on learning about the reserve's birds, reptiles, trees and grasses. In the evening you'll head out on an unforgettable night safari experience!
Day 9: Community and conservation volunteering, 4x4 driving
Take part in a combination of community and conservation volunteer duties today, before driving around the reserve in a 4WD vehicle!
Day 10: Elephant encounters, target shooting and horseback safari
Spend some more time with the reserve's friendly elephants and enjoy another safari on horseback. Try your hand at target shooting with a .22 calibre rifle.
Day 11: Full day safari in Kruger National Park
Go on a full day's safari adventure in incredible Kruger National Park, where you will see an even wider range of amazing wildlife and explore this world-famous location on exciting game drives. Spot wildlife and take some snaps on this magical and memorable day. As you are leaving the reserve very early today you will eat out. Allow around R500 for food.
Day 12: Cultural walk
Explore the area around the reserve as you go on a cultural walk, climbing up the boulder strewn hillside to a local fort. Enjoy epic panoramic views from the top! In the evening, you'll have the option to sit down to a delicious group dinner (approx £10).
Day 13 & 14: Camping in Kruger National Park
Immerse yourself in the amazing location of Kruger National Park as you spend 2 days camping out in this sensational spot. It's a unique safari experience! Dinner is included, but you should allow some spending money for breakfasts and lunches.
Day 15: Visit to cheetah project and wildlife centre
Get up close to even more incredible animals today as you visit a cheetah breeding project and encounter these beautiful big cats. See how animals are cared for on a visit to the fascinating Maholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. Also get the chance to hand feed vultures! Not for the faint hearted! Allow around R250 (approx. £15) for breakfast and lunch out.
Day 16: Town visit and free time
Another opportunity to visit the local town of Melalane, followed by free time around the reserve. Chill by the campfire, play games, and hang out with your newfound friends in this natural paradise.
Day 17: Paintballing, quad biking, and white water tubing
Today is all about awesome adventures, as you lock and load for some paintballing, and then jump on the back of a quad bike to roam the indigenous forest trails and blue gum plantations, before ending up at a spectacular waterfall. Round off the day with some adrenaline-pumping white water tubing down the Sabie River Gorge! Lunch will be eaten out, so allow around R150-300 (approx. £6 -18) for food.
Please note: Adventure activities are subject to availability and may change dependent on the season and the weather.
Day 18: Panoramic Tour
Today is dedicated to the natural beauty of South Africa. See rolling green mountains from God’s Window, intricate rock pools at Bourke’s Luck Potholes, and the breathtaking Lisbon falls among other incredible natural wonders that pepper the South African landscape. Allow around R250 (approx. £15) for breakfast and lunch out.
Day 19: Day tour of Swaziland
Hop across the border into the neighbouring country of Swaziland today, for a fun tour of this compact African country. Drink in the scenery while driving over the Maguga Dam Wall and see the Nsangwini Rock Art - incredible Bushman paintings dramatically perched above the scenic Komati River. This tour includes a visit to the Ngwenya glass factory, which is a great opportunity to pick up some souvenirs for your friends and family! Then enjoy a traditional lunch at Matsamo Cultural village and show off your moves with some authentic tribal dancing! Your day ends with a tour through the village, during which you’ll learn about Swazi culture.
Day 20: Game Drive and farewell dinner
You will get to experience both a morning and evening game drive to spot various game species on the reserve. In the evening, you'll get the chance to sit down to an optional farewell dinner, and celebrate all the amazing experiences you've had over the past 3 weeks. If you wish to take part in the farewell dinner, this will be at an extra cost of around £10.
Day 21: Departure day
Depart from the reserve after breakfast and transfer back to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (Nelspruit) to catch a flight between 10am-2pm.
Please note: The entire itinerary is subject to change and is for guidance only. Sometimes activities will be done in a different order to what is listed above. Please bear in mind that some activities and days could change depending on weather conditions, time constrictions, or on general participant feedback.
To get here, you’ll need to arrange a domestic flight from either Johannesburg or Cape Town into Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (Nelspruit) and you must arrive between 10am and 2pm on your start date (Monday). You will be met at the airport by a local staff member, where you will wait for the rest of your group to arrive, before being transferred to the game reserve by minibus, which is located about 1.5 hours drive from the airport.
If you wish to travel into Nelspruit by a different method of travel other than flying, you will either need to make your way to the airport pickup point to be met by our local representative, or alternatively you can be collected from the local Greyhound station. Please discuss your options with your travel advisor.
Return transfers are included and you must book your flight to leave Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (Nelspruit) between 10am and 2pm on your end date.
20 nights’ accommodation is included on the South African Wild Adventure, staying in a lodge with a plunge pool on a private game reserve. You will be sharing with other travellers, as well as possibly with other longer-term reserve volunteers. Your ranger lives close by on site, so is on hand if you need them. 1 night will be spent camping in beautiful Kruger National Park.
Accommodation on the reserve is in basic single-sex shared dorms, sleeping 4-10 people, with shared bathroom facilities. There are communal indoor and outdoor areas including a Boma (campfire) area, which is also lit up at night, and where everyone gathers as a group. The lodge is situated in lovely surroundings.
Internet and mobile phone network availability is limited at your camp, although you’ll be taken to the local town once a week where you can find an internet signal to check your emails and find some signal for your phone. You will need to bring your own phone or tablet device to access the internet. If you wish to get better mobile network coverage it is advised you purchase a local SIM card with data at Johannesburg airport when you arrive in South Africa.
There are coin-operated laundry facilities on site where you can do your own laundry. Lockers are not provided. We recommend that you bring a torch with you, as the outside areas at the reserve can be very dark at night.
During your downtime at the reserve camp, there are few activities available on site, so you may wish to bring books, music, DVDs, cards or games with you to pass away your leisure time.
South Africa is known for warm weather, but please bear in mind that the temperature can drop at night, and it can be cold during the winter months, so you are advised to pack some warm clothing. You may also want to bring a sleeping bag if you are travelling to South Africa during their winter as an extra layer may be welcome throughout your stay if the weather is cold. You will be given a full recommended kit list once you book onto the programme.
Although you'll be doing your daily activities within a group of no more than 20 people, led by one ranger, during the evenings and weekends you'll get a chance to meet and mix with a wider group of other volunteers and visitors to the reserve.
Please Note: The accommodation areas on the reserve are not fenced, and the odd animal has been known to wander close to the camp: If this occurs, the rangers will ask you to remain inside, and there are radios at the accommodation to notify rangers of any animals straying too close.
Most meals are provided during your stay at the private game reserve, apart from during your game drive to Kruger National Park, where breakfast and lunch will be at your own cost. In the third week, dinners while camping in Kruger are included as well as a meal at the Matsamo Cultural Village. All other meals during your day trips away from the reserve are at your own cost. Snacks and extra drinks can be purchased on trips into the local town. You will need to bring some spending money to cover the cost of some meals, especially on days when you are away from the reserve.
There is a shared kitchen area at camp. During your stay at the game reserve, everyone is expected to get hands-on helping out with daily cooking and washing-up duties, and your ranger will allocate a rota for this, distributing the daily tasks fairly and efficiently. The rota will be written up on a board and is supervised by your ranger. You will be expected to wash up your own dishes after each meal. When you arrive at camp you will each be given an individual set of plates and cutlery named after different animals, so it’s easy to spot who isn’t doing their own washing up afterwards!
Breakfasts mainly consist of yoghurt, fresh fruit, toast, cereal, tea and coffee, and are usually served either out in the bush (in the Boma area), or under a thatched dining area at the accommodation. On some days, a South African cooked breakfast will be prepared around the fire. Lunches include fruit, pizzas, pies, sandwiches, hamburgers and sausages. Occasionally some lunches will be a packed lunch. For dinner, good wholesome South African meals will be eaten, usually around the fire. These are usually dishes such as stew, BBQ’s, casseroles, vegetables and salad, so you'll never go hungry! There are also vegetarian options available.
If you wish to take part in the farewell dinner on day 20 this will be at an extra cost of around £10.
Tea, coffee and fruit juice will also be available daily at breakfast and lunch. Safe drinking water is provided from large water tanks, although you will also have a chance to buy bottled water and other drinks on your weekly trip into the local town, where you can stock up on supplies. It is advised that you bring a proper water bottle which you can take out with you on daily excursions, as these are not provided.
Alcohol is not provided on site - you will be able to purchase this during your weekly trips in to town, and on the first day when you stop for supplies en route to the reserve. Please drink alcohol responsibly. South Africans enjoy a social beer or two around the campfire, but please have consideration for the rest of your group when it comes to the excess use of alcohol while at camp.
The minimum age for this game reserve trip is 18 and the trip is suitable for participants between the ages of 18-30.
Nationals of the EU, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand don’t require a visa to enter South Africa. South African Immigration does ask that you have two completely blank consecutive pages in your passport, though as long as you hold a valid passport (and a valid return ticket) you will be granted a temporary visitor’s permit on arrival, allowing visitors to stay in South Africa for up to three months. You should also ensure that your passport will still be in date for six months after you return.