Lydenburg, South Africa


The word wilderness derives from the notion of "wildness" — in other words, that which is not controllable by humans. Wilderness areas are the most intact, undisturbed, wild, natural areas left on our planet — those last truly wild places that have not been developed or significantly modified by human activity.

Wilderness areas are important for biodiversity, species survival, ecological studies, conservation, solitude, and recreation. Wilderness is deeply valued for cultural, spiritual, moral and aesthetic reasons. We at Lapolosa believe wilderness areas are also vital for the human spirit and creativity. 

Simply, being a wilderness area is the primary goal of Lapolosa.  When the land is protected, then the wildlife, the flora, the entire ecosystem flow naturally from there.

Lapolosa (la-puh-lo-sah)

Lapolosa Wilderness is a bushveld haven, offering a unique malaria-free bush experience for nature lovers.  Steeped in history and beauty, Lapolosa is a spectacular 20,000 acre preserve located on a magnificent escarpment of rolling mountains and plains in South Africa.  It is home to a myriad of indigenous wildlife, birdlife and flora, and the atmosphere provides an antidote to the stresses of everyday living.  Coming away from Lapolosa, one is left with a feeling of true intimacy with Africa.

Lapolosa Wilderness was formed in 2001 to protect and preserve Africa's wildlife and habitat.  Lapolosa (derived from the Sepedi word meaning “place of rest") was established as a conservancy, by joining together large South African farms with the aim of restoring the environment back to its natural state and establishing a larger preserve for the benefit of African wildlife. 

The area Lapolosa encompasses was hunted clean in the late 1800s to feed the inrush of miners when gold was discovered.  South Africa has the highest gold producing ore-reserves in the world, and the first discovery occurred in the Lydenburg area. Later Lapolosa was home to as many as 11 cattle ranches.

Lapolosa is a unique conservation initiative to restore the land to its original state as wilderness.  Lapolosa is re-introducing indigenous wildlife onto the land they once naturally roamed, ultimately re-establishing all of the original flora and fauna to the area. Lapolosa will also continue to acquire habitat to expand the wilderness as funds allow.

Lapolosa strives to create a self-sustaining model of responsible conservation that preserves Africa's natural heritage (habitat and wildlife); enhances the South African economy through overseas capital infusion, voluntourism, and job creation; and promotes education and awareness of conservation issues. 


Volunteers are an integral part of Lapolosa's conservation initiative. The work can be unglamorous, challenging and physically demanding at times, but the camaraderie, team spirit and beautiful surroundings make it a rewarding experience and adventure. Volunteering at Lapolosa is best suited to those who don't mind getting their hands (and more) dirty and are prepared to undertake any task or challenge thrown at them! 

Volunteers participating in the program all have a common ambition – to see, feel, and smell the African bush while developing a practical knowledge of wilderness management.  You will leave with a greater knowledge and understanding of Africa, and a feeling that you made a positive contribution to conservation.

Volunteers will get to experience firsthand the early stages of restoring the wilderness area and be involved in various aspects of conservancy management, including some of the following:

• Restoration and rehabilitation of damaged habitat

• Anti-poaching efforts, specifically snare removals

• Alien plant and soil erosion control

• Removal of old cattle fence lines

• Boundary patrols for breaches in perimeter fencing

• Vegetation management with fire breaks and block burning

• Re-introduction of wildlife (releasing and monitoring)

• Building wildlife bomas / ramps for reintroductions

• Animal capacity analysis for habitat size and vegetation

• Construction of facilities, camps, bridges, and roads

• Education / sports outreach with local schools and communities

• Bird, insect, snake, wildlife and tree identification

• Nature conservation, fencing and law requirements

• Horse trail, hiking trail and bush camp establishment

• Development of renewable energy system

The upcoming years are going to be a fantastic time at Lapolosa. Werecently began wildlife reintroductions, and releases are planned each year. Reintroductions have been scheduled in three phases: 1) plains game (giraffe, zebra, eland, nyala, wildebeest, blesbok, impala); 2) large herbivores (rhino, buffalo, hippo); and 3) large predators (cheetah, spotted hyena, leopard, wild dog).  We are targeting for releases of rhinoceros, eland and nyala in 2013.  Volunteers will be actively involved in the preparations for these reintroductions.

Lapolosa is currently home to the following wildlife species, though some are quite elusive - leopard, hippo, brown hyena, jackal, serval, genet, caracal, civit, honey badger, African wildcat, mongoose, porcupine, pangolin, aardwolf, aardvark, baboon, vervet monkey, bushbaby, ostrich, zebra, giraffe, red harteebest, kudu, waterbuck, duiker, bushbuck, impala, black wildebeest, mountain reedbuck, steenbok, klipspringer, bushpig, warthog, otter, crocodile and an amazing variety of birdlife (approximately 250 species), reptiles and smaller creatures.  

Other Activities

Relaxation is an important part of the Lapolosa experience, and there will be time on weekends to explore the beautiful wilderness. Lapolosa is a hikers paradise. Rockpools and waterfalls provide for great swimming, the Buffelskloof Dam offers fishing, and horseback riding is available for experienced riders.  The horses live wild at Lapolosa, though they do often come into camp on their own for treats.  

Volunteers may also have opportunities to enjoy sleep-outs in the bush and excursions to Kruger National Park and surrounding communities / schools, providing a wonderful mix of wildlife and cultural experiences.

The nearest town, Lydenburg, is an hour drive away and visited once a week by the Lapolosa staff for supplies.  Volunteers do not join these supply trips, but will have an opportunity to visit town before/after the excursion to Kruger National Park.  

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The volunteer camp is completely eco-friendly and "off the grid."  We strive to maintain harmony with nature by using solar power and fire-driven water heaters.  Drinking water flows from one ofLapolosa’s many natural springs and there is no permanent electricity, although limited solar power will be provided for charging cell phones, camera batteries, laptops, etc.  A good flashlight / headlamp is strongly recommended. Volunteers may also stay at other camps depending on reserve activities.   

Volunteers may bring personal laptops for internet (3G datacard with usage cost).  Cell signal is also available.  Laundry can be done by hand.

Accommodation is simple and rustic.  Volunteers sleep in comfortable dorm style rooms, with shared bathrooms.  Pillows and fitted sheets will be provided, however volunteers must bring their own sleeping bag.  This program will suit people who enjoy natural places, simplicity and practical work.

Couples, friends or families volunteering together who wish private accommodation may reserve a lovely private chalet with amazing valley views and outdoor "safari" shower for an additional $95 USD per person per week (1.5x single supplement). 

Program Coordinators

Our program coordinators are responsible for each volunteer during their time at Lapolosa, from arrival until departure. The program coordinators are the point of contact to allocate work projects, act as guide and mentor, and generally look after your well being. 

Age Requirement

Lapolosa accepts volunteers of 14+ years of age.  Volunteers under 14 years old are only considered when accompanied by a parent/guardian.  There isn't a maximum age limit, though a reasonable fitness level is necessary.

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Volunteer Contribution:

1 week: GB£395 / US$495

2 weeks: GB£595 / US$795

3 weeks: GB£945 / US$1195

4 weeks: GB£1245 / US$1595

Extra weeks: GB£295 / US$395 per week

For an additional US$195, volunteers can enjoy a fantastic 2-day, 1-night camping safari to Kruger National Park during the Lapolosa experience. This safari includes everything (guide, transport, camping fees, daily conservation fees, etc) except meals in the Park. A minimum of 4 participants is necessary.  

Please Note:

Volunteers get discounted rates when joining 2 or more Enkosini programs!

Enkosini uses USD rates as standard due to currency fluctuations. GBP rates are indications of approx recent values. Currency convertor

Volunteer costs cover meals, accommodation, activities, transfers from Lydenburg to Lapolosa, and project donation. Flights and travel/medical insurance are NOT included. The only additional spending money required will be for personal purchases, social excursions away from Lapolosa, and pre/post project travel.  We do not have discounted rates for partial weeks.

Please bear in mind that the sooner you apply, the better your chances of securing your placement!

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Lapolosa dates are flexible, though we prefer to run the one-week program on Monday to Sunday schedules with the Kruger safari over the long weekend.

Please bear in mind that the sooner you apply, the better your chances of securing your placement!

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Volunteers take the Bushveld Link Shuttle, departing from the Johannesburg OR Tambo Airport to the town of Lydenburg (discounted rate of 220 ZAR for Enkosini volunteers  The Lapolosa team will collect volunteers from Lydenburg on the start date.

Training / Qualifications

From all ages, from all walks of life, and from all over the world, Lapolosa volunteers have the experience of a lifetime while making a lasting impact on the environment.

No previous experience is required, however all volunteers should have a love of nature, positive attitude, reasonable level of fitness, sensitivity and respect for other cultures, willingness to help and learn, and strong sense of humor. The sanctuary is run in a spirit of co-operation, and all are expected to give their best.  There is no typical day at Lapolosa - each brings its own magical moments, trials and tribulations - all adding to the adventure and spirit of living and working in Africa.

Families and groups are welcome to join!


Lapolosa is based in a malaria-free area. There are no required vaccinations for joining the program or entering South Africa, however it is incumbent upon each person to get their own medical advice (it is possible that volunteers may enter malarial zones during the safari to Kruger National Park).  See FAQs for complete packing list.

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 “It is difficult to know where to start when talking about my visit to Lapolosa. It was one of the most amazing things that I have ever experienced. The way that the staff have built up such an incredible relationship with the animals left me "open-mouthed" ....Lapolosa itself is my idea of heaven. To someone born and brought up in the centre of London, the quiet, the darkness and the beauty is almost impossible to describe to someone who has not experienced it.... I am so grateful for the day that I was in the AfriCam chatroom and someone mentioned the existence of Lapolosa.” -Sheila Knight, England

 “A huge thank you for welcoming me into your home and giving me the most amazing opportunity and experience... I have never felt as happy, comfortable and complete as I did at Lapolosa.  In the best way I don't think my life will be the same.  Lapolosa has made me realize things about life and the direction I would like my life to go in... I think you guys are doing a wonderful thing, and I am proud that I was a able to contribute something to it.”-Rebecca Dicks, England

 “I had a really wonderful time at Lapolosa... your animals and your mountains and your crisp, fresh air and your shuddering sea of tawny-colored bushgrass and that lovely spectrum of colors which paint the land in every direction you look... when I cry or joke about staying forever, it's not because home is so bad but because Lapolosa is that good.  It is magical and addictive and worth fighting for.”-Kathleen Graham, USA

 “Just wanted to let you know that we arrived home safely. We had such a wonderful time in South Africa and the highlight of our trip was spending time at your sanctuary… you are the ambassadors for those that will follow in your footsteps. Knowing now what your “big picture” plan is, I think that Lapolosa is going to be the most beautiful, tranquil sanctuary for wildlife in all of Africa!” -Jeff & Trina Gawron, Vancouver B.C., Canada

 “I don’t know where to begin in thanking you for all of your hospitality while I was in South Africa. Visiting Kruger, the Baboon Sanctuary and the Elephant Sanctuary were highlights of my life… More importantly, you have introduced me to the serious threats that South Africa’s wildlife faces and I plan on doing as much as I can in the future to promote programs such as yours. I truly admire the life that you have chosen and know that wildlife is in good hands if it has you to look over it… I am looking very forward to my next visit and thank you again!” -Kelly Loyd, USA

 “I'm now back from South Africa and I wanted to say THANK YOU. I had the best time ever, you're doing a great job. I'm seriously thinking of coming back for a longer period of time, four to six months!” -Sophia LeRoy, France

“A week has passed since me and my father returned home from South Africa. Our visit to Lapolosa was certainly a highlight to our trip, as my father and I have spent more than a few nights telling family and friends about our experience.  The relaxed atmosphere you provided was appreciated…. getting to know local people in an informal environment was a highlight for both me and my father.” -Richard & Charles Pace, USA

 “Just wanted to write and say thanks for the amazing experience I had with you at Lapolosa! Everybody here is so jealous of what I did and fascinated by what you're doing.” -Charlie Sabey, Channel Islands

 “Hi everyone! I am home safely and yet I feel sick for Africa and I can’t wait to jump on a plane and come back! Thank you so much for your hospitality and friendship while I was there. I really did feel at home with you. I am really looking forward to raising money for the local school…” -Sarah Stares, Australia

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