The Big 5 Welgevonden Volunteer Project
If you want the Big 5 and you're passionate about Conservation & Research then this is the Volunteer project you have been looking for!
Welgevonden private reserve is 37,500 Hectares of vast, peaceful and incredibly beautiful scenery. This is a stunning destination filled with rich cultural legacy and immense natural beauty. Pack your camera and big lens!
You'll experience the Big 5 (White & Black Rhino, African Elephant, Cape Buffalo, African Leopard, and the African Lion) as well as many rare species such as the brown hyena, aardvark and aardwolf. You'll get the chance to be on your very own game drive daily just by simply travelling from one part of the reserve to another. No tourists!
You'll likely bump into elephants, rhinos, giraffe, buffalo, impala and zebra as well as the lesser known mammals, birds and reptiles. You'll always have a qualified ranger with you for safety but the cool thing about that is how much knowledge they can share with you about each animal you see.
The size of this place is incomprehensible
Welgevonden is a huge reserve and spread out over 36,500 hectares but is only a 2.5 hour drive north of Johannesburg. That's 365 square kilometres. Or - 3,650 Rugby fields. !! There is 565 kms of roads, 55 Lodges, 60 types of mammals, 43 types of reptiles, and of course the Big 5!
Basic translation implies “well found reserve” which is the ultimate description of this majestic piece of land that transforms at every opportunity. It offers breathtaking views of the African wilderness and offers memories that will last long after you have left.
Explore between cheetah-loved grasslands and savannahs to leafy wooded mountains cut by deep rocky ravines. There are perennial rivers that constantly flow throughout this reserve ensuring constant healthy vegetation and habitats for over 50 different types of mammals – without even mentioning the 250 species of abundant and prolific birdlife.
The Bushman rock art is a humbling experience as well. This reserve is privately managed and provides the spirit of true untouched wilderness. The reserve has never allowed legal hunting and limits the number of guests on the reserve at one time ensuring minimal human contact and the ultimate wilderness experience. The perfect balance of biodiversity, conservation, research and natural living is evident at here.
What will I get to do on the Big 5 Conservation & Research Project?
This project is very research focused and volunteers will be expected to assist in any projects that are happening when they arrive on property. All volunteers will be expected to report directly to the resident Biologist / Conservationist with their reports and observations. This is a very active project so volunteers have no need to get bored as they will be involved in the daily activities of the reserve and any exciting occurrences that may arise i.e. veld fire control, game capture, vet work etc. This project is introducing 3000 game animals like Impala and Zebra to the reserve over the next 3 years and you'll be able to assist with this if it coincides with your stay.
Tasks and Duties:
- Be under instruction of the Biologist and Nature Conservationist on property
- Assist with the research projects that are ongoing at the reserve e.g. leopard research
- Watch trip cameras for nocturnal animal activity
- Collect physical samples and data analysis for the weekly reports
- Help with the maintenance of enclosures / bomas and upkeep of facilities
- Participate in the daily running’s of the reserve [animal capture, animal release, veld fire control, anti-poaching]
- Animal tracking and monitoring. Report any unusual findings to reserve management for observation
- Be the eyes and ears of the reserve and get actively involved in every aspect to guarantee you receive the African Bush Experience of a lifetime
- Get involved with any veterinarian activities on property
This reserve has a huge team of security who are tasked with protecting the wildlife within the reserve against poachers and they take their job very seriously. Just by driving around the reserve as a volunteer you will also contribute to the anti-poaching efforts - seeing regular activity will deter poachers.
Accommodation and Meals
Volunteers are accommodated in luxury permanent tented sites that are enclosed by electric fencing – keeping the animals out or in we wonder? There is a main building where the volunteers have access to a kitchen, social recreation area, research labs, bathroom facilities with hot water, electricity and Internet accessibility.
The bird hide is wonderful to relax in, the braai area and fire pit are perfect for evening sundowners while in the distance watching and hearing nocturnal life come alive as the animals make their great trek home, or awakening, for the night’s festivities. The swimming “gat” often attracts the flying kind but don’t let this stop you from wallowing like the hippo downstream.
Meals are provided but just like camping at home you are expected to help with meal preparation and washing up. There is a laundry available for doing your own laundry at any stage, and bathrooms rather than long drops.
- Personal First Aid Kit and any medication for illness
- Plug adaptor
- Hat, towel, sun cream and water bottle
- Insect repellent
- Sleeping bag for colder months
- Clean Criminal Record
- Good Medical health & Fitness
- Drugs or alcohol abuse will not be tolerated
- Enthusiasm and flexibility in attitude so that you are able to muck in and be a team player
- Often you'll be out on the reserve all day with a packed lunch or breakfast or both so you need to have a good level of fitness.
Here are a selection of photos showing volunteers in action at Welgevonden Big 5 Volunteer Project.
What did you do today?
A Rhino capture. This rhino was on a neighbouring property and is being transported after a blindfold and earplugs to calm the animal for the move (with sedation). It was transported and released to the Welgevonden reserve where it will be safer. Any injuries (from fighting other rhinos) were treated by a Vet at the same time. Volunteers got to take part. (Claire from Auckland is in the middle).
Lion capture. Two lions had escaped from the predator part of the reserve into an area that is predator free so they needed to be darted by a vet, then blindfolded, monitored and relocated. Volunteers get to witness it all and then get up close to a wild lion.
During the winter months the animals are fed supplemental feed when needed. The buffalo are called away then the feed poured into feed bins then called back and running they come!
Simply driving from one part of the reserve to another is a never ending game drive - but tourist free!
Two female cheetahs were darted for relocation from the north of the reserve closer to food sources, and they are known to stop breathing when sedated so Kiwi Claire monitors the cheetah till they reach the vet around the bend. Next they blindfolded the cheetah as well.
Tracking and monitoring the animals health is vital at Welgevonden. Body Condition scoring, plus counts for new babies as well. All part of a weeks work at this project.