Big 5 Wildlife Conservation In The Kruger Area Of
South Africa

Big 5 Wildlife Conservation In The Kruger Area Of South Africa
Teach English in Thailand TravelBud Enrollment Coordinators

Do you want to find out more about this volunteering experience? Fill out the form below and we’ll get back to you!

Highlights of this experience


Contribute to a project that works toward the preservation and conservation of the African Big 5 – the elephant, lion, leopard, rhino and buffalo.


Be part of daily game drives where you will be collecting and compiling conservation data used to protect animals from poaching, starvation and misinformed culling.


Get to see nocturnal animals in their natural environment, catching often unseen behavior on game-spotting night drives.


Live in the heart of the world famous Greater Kruger Area, in our very own private volunteer lodge situated on 18 hectares of land, surrounded by impala, warthog, bush pig, nyala and a great diversity of birdlife.


Have the chance to camp out at our overnight research camp – a truly African experience.


Get hands on with conservation tasks such as game counts, alien plant removal and snare sweeping.


Get stuck in with essential data collection which is used to protect these fascinating animals and their natural habitats.

Catch often unseen behavior on game-spotting night drives

Learn how to collect and compile data conservation data used to protect animals from poaching, starvation and misinformed culling

Volunteers collecting data on a daily game drive

Volunteers pose for a group photo at sunset

Game drives are the highlight of this volunteering experience


During your volunteer placement, you will stay within the Greater Kruger Area wildlife hotspot in South Africa, just 45-minutes from the world-famous Kruger National Park and the extraordinary Blyde River Canyon. 

The Greater Kruger area is filled with wildlife, acres of natural beauty, spectacular sunsets and captivating night drives.

You’ll get to see Rhino in their natural habitat

Photograph, track and collect data on Lions


  • We have 8 rooms which sleep up to 6 participants and 4 rondavels (a traditional circular African dwelling with a conical thatched roof) that can accommodate single occupancy or sleep up to 6 individuals.
  • Our rooms are en suite with an air-conditioning unit in each room.
  • The lodge also has an amazing outdoor area with a large pool, braai (barbecue) area and a courtyard for volunteers to lounge around on afternoons or evenings off.
  • A small cafe is available on site for participants to purchase some local snacks and necessities, the shop also hosts a small bar.
  • Wifi is available on site at an additional fee for you to keep in touch with friends and family back home.
  • We do offer an in-house weekly laundry service at a small additional cost.
  • We can accommodate most dietary needs

Dumela Lodge where you’ll be staying during your volunteering experience

Accommodation options at the lodge

The Lodge in Hoedspruit South Africa

Relax at the pool, have a drink at the bar, watch a movie or enjoy a games night with other volunteers.

Our Commitment to Offering Ethical Programs

We conduct extensive research before offering any program or project. All our programs must meet strict ethical criteria before we will even consider offering them to volunteers.

When selecting programs, we are committed to:

Not displacing local employment

We believe that no community development program should displace employment prospects for local members of any community.

Rigorous planning and ongoing assessments of the work carried out by our volunteers is done to ensure that prospective employment opportunities for local people are never displaced.

The work carried out by our volunteers has been carefully developed to increase local employment opportunities and empower local members of the community through educational development and upliftment. We work hand in hand with local community members and prioritize the employment of locals over foreigners as project staff.

Ensuring the program can present a proven track record

We believe in only promoting volunteer programs which have been running for more than 3 years where the proof of a sustained positive impact is clearly visible and where policies are in place to protect the safety and well-being of all stakeholders.

Respecting the Cultural Heritage of all involved

We believe in a respectful and responsible approach to cross-cultural experiences. Cultural immersion forms a fundamental part of all TravelBud programs, however, it’s vital that the cultural heritage, customs, and beliefs of the local people, as well as fellow volunteers and program staff, are approached with respect.

Cultural orientation and training is provided in all TravelBud programs to ensure cross-cultural awareness and understanding is developed in the most responsible way possible.

Clearly Defined Sustainable Goals

We believe in providing volunteer programs which have clearly defined immediate, mid-term and long-term goals in place.

We believe that these goals need to be obtained sustainably, where the impact achieved benefits the local population for the long-term and doesn’t only provide short-term relief.

Accountability for Consistent Positive Impact

We believe that all volunteer programs need to have a positive impact in the areas they’re located in and that consistent progress is being made towards achieving the immediate and long-term goals of the program.

This is why we publish regular Impact Reports to not only showcase the progress being made on the ground at each project but to hold us accountable for ensuring progress is consistently achieved.

Local Empowerment and Independence

We believe in providing the skills and educational development to local communities which will allow them to one day reach a level of independence and no longer require the help of international volunteers.

Furthermore, our programs are only located in communities where there is a true need for the impact our programs are designed to provide.

Essential Training and Orientation

We believe that relevant training and orientations are essential to making sure our volunteers are fully prepared to achieve the positive impact required of them and do no harm.

Protecting Children and Vulnerable Adults

We believe that well run community development programs should safeguard those they seek to serve.

Our Child Protection Policy and Code of Conduct ensure that the well-being and safety of all children and vulnerable adults are protected as a matter of priority.

Protecting the Welfare of Wildlife and the Environment

We believe that all our conservation programs need to provide real, sustainable safety and benefits to all animals and wildlife our programs set out to serve.

A strict Code of Conduct is enforced for volunteers on our animal and wildlife conservation programs to ensure all volunteers and program staff behave in a way which does no harm to the animals or their natural habitat.

Impact & Focus Areas

This program aims to assist local organizations with protecting and conserving endangered species in the Greater Kruger Area of South Africa.

While you will be going on fun and exhilarating game drives you will be doing very serious work, which is critical to the future survival of these animals and their natural habitat.

You will be learning some invaluable conservation and data collection skills and gain practical experience in this field through the work you’ll be doing throughout the program.

You’ll get your hands dirty with hands-on tasks like alien plant removal and snare sweeps, and you’ll also have the opportunity to get involved in community development initiatives.

These include teaching young local children in the nearby schools and assisting with the vegetable gardens they grow on the grounds, which provide much-needed nutrients for lunches.

The Project

With each of the ‘Big 5’ facing serious threats respectively, there’s never been a greater need for this type of volunteering.

From the rhino-poaching crisis, the continuous disappearance of lions and the misinformed culling of many of our wild animals, you will be helping to monitor and collect data to assist in conserving these precious animals.

Daily game drives

This is arguably the most exciting part of the program – getting to watch these phenomenal wild animals roam around in their natural environment – there’s nothing quite like it anywhere in the world.

While on these game drives with our awesome guides and research team, you will be given all the necessary tools and guidance to collect data which is critical for the better understanding and protection of wildlife in the Greater Kruger Area. This will include working with camera traps, GPS and various modern mapping tools.

Conservation work

This is where you really get down and dirty in the African bush. We’ll be removing alien plants and invasive species to help return the land to its original habitat for the animals to thrive on. Another important feature here is where we do snare sweeps, which is the removal of poaching traps which kill thousands of wildlife.

Community Development work

During this volunteer program, you’ll be involved with various community development initiatives. You will be involved in our insightful and exciting reading club, which helps local kids gain confidence in their English conversational and reading skills, all in an effort to give them a brighter future. Not only that but as part of our Farmers of the Future initiative, you will be looking after vegetable gardens in the local school, which help to provide lunches for the kids.

Data Collection

One of the major parts of this program is teaching you how to collect and compile data, which we study to make reports and the latest profiles for the animals we monitor. And in order to observe the Big 5’s movement and health for the foreseeable future, our expert guides will teach you to create ID kits using secret tools, only known in the African bush.

Travel Opportunities

Weekend trips volunteering with TravelBud

Use your free time to explore nearby sights and attractions such as the Blyde River Canyon, the famous Panorama route.

Lion at the Kruger National Park

Visit the world-renowned Kruger National Park for another tick off the safari bucket list

Daily Game Drive

Daily game drives in search of the Big 5 and other African wildlife.

Cultural presentations, poaching debates and star-gazing activities.

Cultural presentations, poaching debates and star-gazing activities.

During your time off, why not visit Hoedspruit just 30km from Dumela Lodge, where you will be staying. You will get a chance to explore, relax and do a bit of shopping.

This little town has a unique story which directly translates to Hat Creek. The name comes from a farmer who lost his hat in a flooding river so make sure you pack in a hat as it can get really hot – we’ll do our best to keep you out of any flooding rivers!

You’ll find coffee shops, restaurants, roadside markets and a supermarket giving you time to relax and taste the local cuisine.

TravelBud Staff

We understand it’s hard to take this all in.

With TravelBud, you’ll always be talking to someone who has taught or volunteered abroad before, so you’ll get informed, first-hand advice to guide and prepare you for your experience.



Currency Converter

Change to your currency. Default prices in US Dollar (USD). Please take note that the amount reflected above is based on the current exchange rate and may fluctuate due to exchange rate volatility on the day of being invoiced.


We recommend spending a minimum of 4 weeks to fully explore and experience all the program has to offer.

Program Costs

The fees below includes a $500 enrollment fee which secures your spot on the program.
The remaining balance is due 8 weeks prior to your chosen start date

12 weeks


What's included?
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2 weeks


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3 weeks


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4 weeks


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5 weeks


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6 weeks


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7 weeks


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8 weeks


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9 weeks


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10 weeks


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11 weeks


What's included?
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Why Pay to Volunteer?

It’s a really important question and one we get asked a lot! After all, you’re giving of your time and skills to help those in need, why should you then also pay for the opportunity to give?

Well, there are a number of big reasons, so let’s take a look at a few of the big ones:

  1. If you’re not paying for the expenses related to hosting you, someone else is – this would usually be someone in the community in which you’ll be working. Many of these communities are under serious financial strain, even without having to cover the expenses like food, utilities, transport, and lodging associated with hosting a volunteer
  2. There a bunch of people involved in making your volunteering experience a reality, for almost all of them, this is their full-time job and they get paid a salary. These can be people who manage the logistics of the project or those who provide emergency support or they could be staff who ensure the project runs continuously, to make certain that the communities continue to benefit even when volunteers aren’t available
  3. These programs require continuous development and that costs money – for many of the projects we work with, volunteer fees form the bulk of their income for operating expenses. These fees also ensure programs can develop further and adapt to the needs of the community as it continues to grow and evolve

A portion of your fees will also go towards the marketing and awareness generation for the project so that the most suitable volunteers possible can be recruited ensuring the positive social and environmental impact is the maximum possible.

So where does the money go?

We believe in being transparent about finances and only work with partners who can clearly show where the fees paid by volunteers go. For this program it looks as follows:

Volunteer Cost Breakdown


Operational costs are the major portion of any project and include everything from accommodation, food, and transport to staffing costs for stuff like 24/7 support and continuous operation of the project. Included here will also be tools and equipment needed, for example, teaching materials for schools.

Marketing and awareness

This will include all costs associated with generating awareness about a project and getting volunteers signed up to the right one for them. This helps us recruit the best possible volunteers and match them with the most suitable program while raising awareness for the needs of the environments or communities in which we operate.

Program Development

Profits made from volunteer projects are invested in the development of new projects. We spend a great deal of time investigating prospective projects and partners to work with, vetting each one carefully, according to strict criteria. These funds are then also used to set up new programs and ensure they’re ready to start advertising for and accepting new impactful volunteers.



We have intake dates running generally twice a month for this program but with limited availability on each intake and the popularity of this program, they can fill up well in advance.

It’s best to speak to our Enrollments Team about intake availability and reserve your spot on the program sooner than later.

Intake DateCan I still apply?
November 17th 2019Closed
December 1st 2019Closing September 29th
December 15th 2019Intake OPEN
December 29th 2019Intake OPEN
January 5th 2020Intake OPEN
January 12th 2020Intake OPEN
January 26th 2020Intake OPEN
February 9th 2020Intake OPEN
February 23rd 2020Intake OPEN
March 8th 2020Intake OPEN
March 22nd 2020Intake OPEN
April 5th 2020Intake OPEN
April 19th 2020 Intake OPEN
May 3rd 2020Intake OPEN
May 17th 2020Intake OPEN
May 31st 2020Intake OPEN
June 14th 2020Intake OPEN
June 28th 2020Intake OPEN

What’s Included

  • Airport pickup and dropoff
  • Transport to program activities
  • Accommodation for the duration of your stay at our volunteer bush house.
  • 3 meals per day cooked by our local in-house chefs (Monday to Friday only)
  • Thorough pre-departure support
  • 24/7 in-country support and 24/7 emergency contact number
  • All training relevant to this program
  • Destination and program orientation
  • Welcome meeting on arrival
  • Certificate of completion

What’s not included?

  • Flights
  • Travel
  • Meals on weekends
  • Visa
  • Travel insurance (we have great partners who can assist with the best insurance cover for your trip)
  • All personal items and toiletries
  • Criminal background check

Support & Safety

Our organization prides itself on health, safety, and security.

Upon arrival, you will receive extensive safety briefing regarding the dos and donts of the local area.

Our coordinators are there to provide you with 24/7 support given the fact that they live and work with you.

Our lodge is located within a game reserve and has secure fencing surrounding the property, as well as 24/7 security procedures in place.


TravelBud’s savvy safety tips:

  • A safe will be provided on base for you to store passports and important belongings.
  • Buddy systems are great when exploring.
  • You are tucked away in a reserve so do not wander around alone at night.
  • Hidden pockets and belt-bags are a must-have when keeping your valuables safe.
  • Hydration is of utmost importance so, keep those water bottles filled and close by.
  • Remember you are a guest within our wildlife habitat. Please be cautious, calm and collected at all times.
  • Be an active listener towards staff and be mindful of the cultural sensitivities and customs of the locals.
  • Be wary of the harsh African sun! Use sunscreen and wear a wide-brimmed hat daily.
  • Make sure your in-country coordinators are aware of your whereabouts and keep emergency numbers at hand.
  • Our Support team will share many more tips and advice to help you feel prepared for the experience of a lifetime that awaits you on this program.

Testimonials & Reviews

USA Flag Shelby

USA • Female • August 04, 2018


It was amazing!

“I cannot wait to come back! I had an amazing time volunteering to collect data and learning all about South Africa. It helped me to gain perspective on the world around me and inspired me to travel outside the US more.”

USA Flag Corrie Watson

USA • Female • April 05, 2018


Great experience

“I had a lot of nerves before arriving at the Dumela lodge, but after meeting the staff and the other volunteers, the nerves began to go away. The staff is extremely warming and always available to answer any questions we have. During the game drives, the guides were happy to answers questions about the animals we saw or if we had issues with our data sheets.

This was an amazing opportunity and an experience I will not take for granted. I learned more than i thought I would’ve about the ecosystem and animals in South Africa, and how important this program is.”

United Kingdom Flag Ella Brown

UK • Female • December 01, 2018


My African experience!

“I was a research volunteer for 2 weeks. When I arrived staff and volunteers were so friendly and welcoming, and the lodge is definitely somewhere I’ll miss. The volunteer work is early starts and long days but a once in a lifetime opportunity, and knowing what you might see on a drive makes it easier to get up in the mornings! Being able to get involved with the community projects as well as the research was eye-opening and a great experience. I’ve enjoyed my time here, and am leaving with so much more knowledge and awareness.”

United Kingdom Flag Clarissa

UK • Female • February 08, 2019


The best way to travel

“Where to start! This is entirely different from any sort of traveling I’ve done before and I couldn’t recommend it enough. I have been thrilled to be a part of the research and conversation project and see the amazing work the program does. You end up making a little family at Dumela, the staff and the other volunteers help to make what it is. It’s impossible not to have an amazing time out here in the African bush, with the awesome African wildlife and the beautiful people you meet along the way. Its the best feeling knowing you’ve helped make a difference. I’ve made memories that will last a lifetime.”

Belgium Flag Els VdK

Belgium • Male • February 08, 2019


Amazing and interesting experience

“I enjoyed my time at Dumela Lodge very much. It was interesting to see at first hand how research on wildlife is done and what the importance of it is for the conservation of wildlife. The staff is very friendly, the guides and research coordinators are very willing to share their knowledge with you. I also like the fact that we were included in the community work, this is a nice change of the research drives and gives you the opportunity to meet local people and help them to build a future. The vibe at Dumela Lodge is warm and familiar.”

Why Volunteer with TravelBud?

It can be scary and intimidating traveling to a foreign country and the complex documentation and requirements can be overwhelming and confusing.

With TravelBud, you’ll always be talking to someone who has volunteered abroad before, so you’ll get informed, first-hand advice to guide and prepare you for your experience.

Pre-departure support

Our support managers will assist with all planning, packing, visas, costs, documentation, booking flights and answering any questions you might have.

24/7 In-country support

Our in-country partners will be available for the duration of your volunteering experience. If you need any assistance or advice, or in the event of an emergency, we’ll be on hand!

Volunteering placement guaranteed

Destination and program orientation

Certificate of completion

Accommodation, transport and spending money

Chat to our enrollment coordinators for more specific details about budgeting.

Knowledge and advice

Our enrollment coordinators have volunteered abroad and have first-hand insights on our volunteer abroad destinations and programs.

Airport pickup

So you don't have to worry about getting to your accommodation.


Flight and Visa assistance

Travel insurance

We'll assist you with the additional purchase of your travel insurance via our insurance partners.



We believe in being fully transparent. TravelBud does not operate the programs on the ground but works extremely closely with our operations partners to ensure programs are responsibly run, offering volunteers an impactful, valuable and secure experience. We only partner with ethical volunteering operators who adhere to our commitments outlined in the section above.

Our focus is on extensive support, from prior to signing up to once you’re abroad, to (hopefully!) your next volunteer trip with us. This is a service we’ve crafted over several years and have an experienced team, dedicated to ensuring you are matched with the best program for your needs and are 100% prepared for the adventure ahead of you.

This leaves our partners free to focus on what they do best: ensuring that once you’ve arrived, your volunteer experience will be as impactful and life-changing as possible. You do not pay anything extra for the service TravelBud provides, we have matched our fees to those of our operations partners.


Very little research or conservation work is done on the iconic Big 5 animals and their habitats and yet these species are facing increasing threats through poaching, habitat loss and general incorrect management.

Volunteers on this program provide under-resourced local conservationists and organizations the vital research and data collection needed to conserve the local lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and buffalo populations and their habitats, and ensure a better future for them for years to come.


To support our local conservation partners to compile scientific papers which are used to create and enforce improved laws and policies to protect the iconic Big 5 species and their habitat. Through our fact-based and data-rich reports we aim to better equip reserve management to make informed decisions around the conservation of the Big 5.


Impact reports are published every 3 months to showcase the achievements and progress that has been made in achieving this program’s immediate and long-term goals. We publish these on our website and a summary is provided in the “Impact and Focus Areas” section of this page. We believe it’s critical for volunteer programs to be able to showcase a high level of impact being achieved on a regular basis.


In short, no. This is an extremely important question to ask as volunteer programs should empower local communities and not displace what could be an employment opportunity for local people. Our volunteers work alongside local members of the community to assist in areas of work, critical to the growth and development of the local community, where there are no funds to hire local staff and where unpaid volunteers are needed. The work carried out by our volunteers on this project focuses on educational empowerment and skills development to increase employment opportunities for all members of the community – young children, and both adult men and women.


In short, no. There is sadly very little funding and financial means to hire the amount of staff needed to conduct the level of research and data collection which the local conservationists and organizations require to protect the Big 5 species. Unpaid volunteers on this program thus play a vital role in providing understaffed local organizations with the research and data they desperately need to conserve the Big 5 species and their habitat.


A Child Protection Policy is strictly enforced to ensure that all children and young people are provided with the appropriate safety and protection whilst in the care of our volunteers and program staff. Our Child Protection Policy is based on the United Nations Standard for Child Protection.


We are very conscious about our environmental footprint. As part of our program we educate volunteers to be more environmentally responsible travelers.

We’re conscious of the meals we provide and the environmental impact of different food types, we avoid plastics as much as possible, insist on recycling, conserve water, amongst a range of other measures.

This program is designed to protect the local environment of the Big 5 animals so our environmental impact is constantly assessed to ensure it does just that.


All volunteers will be required to sign and agree to a Code of Conduct for this program which enforces responsible and respectful behaviour in terms of the local culture and people, the local environment and species, and fellow volunteers.


Thorough risk assessments have been carried out for this program and careful risk mitigation and control measures are in place in the event of an emergency. These are explained during orientation that takes place at the beginning of the program and are constantly reviewed.


The health and safety of both volunteers and local members of the community is extremely important. This is why we have fully trained project staff on hand and available 24/7 for all volunteers, regular risk assessments are carried out and health and safety measures are reviewed constantly to ensure our volunteers are protected at all times while participating in this program.

We’re Here to Help

We’ll answer all your questions and guide you every step of the way!

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