The Siyafunda Endangered Species Project is ideal if you want to truly experience the "wild" side of Africa. The program is based in the 61,000 acre Makalali Game Reserve, home to Africa's "Big Five" - lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino. The eco-friendly tented camp is set deep in the bush overlooking a watercourse, providing a real Hemingway-style wilderness experience. Hot water for showers is supplied by gas/fire methods and hot meals are prepared by the open fire. Makalali's Siyafunda Bush Experience is an amazing project on its own or in combination with spending 2 weeks at Makalali's Siyafunda Conservation Initiative.
By day, walking safaris through the reserve, approaching wildlife on foot and learning skills essential for surviving in the bush. By night, cooking food and telling stories around an open fire, listening to the melodious sounds of the bush and sleeping under the African sky. You will definitely walk away from the Siyafunda Bush Experience with a feeling of true intimacy with Africa and its wildlife...
The Siyafunda Bush Experience provides practical experience on living in the bush. The programme is very hands-on with plenty of staff/volunteer interaction. Daily activities are interesting and varied, including:
•Bush survival skills (how to find food & water, how to stay warm & dry, how to make fires, etc).
•Bush orientation/navigation skills (finding your way day & night)
•Approaching animals on foot and walking amongst dangerous game (theory & practical)
•Field work methods (game census, carrying capacities, game capture, etc).
•Sleep-outs and bush-walks
•Big Five game drives
•Biodiversity conservation and history of the area
•Plant and tree identification, uses and mirths/traditions
Sundays are generally off-days to just relax in the bush!
Makalali is remote and there is no public transport to town. However, volunteers will have an opportunity to visit town approximately once a week (Mondays) in coordination with trips to collect food and pick up/drop off volunteers. The nearest town, Hoedspruit, is small but has all the usual amenities, including medical doctors, supermarkets, restaurants and Internet cafés.
The tented camp is situated on the banks of a tributary of the Makutswi river. The camp has 4 semi-luxury double tents (with interior dividers) built on wooden decks - each tent with two comfortable cots, linens/duvets, dressers and deck chairs. There is no electricity in the camp, but there is hot water and plenty of paraffin lamps as well as gas stove/fridge/freezer. The camp is wonderfully rustic!
Volunteers participate in the creation of menus, the preparation of meals and general upkeep of the Camp on a rotational basis. Electronics can be charged at main camp every couple of days.
Training / Qualifications
Training will be given in all aspects of the African bushveld, including wildlife conservation, tracking and research.
Makalali accepts volunteers of 16+ years of age. Volunteers under 16 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. Families are welcome!
1 week: GB£595 / US$795
2 weeks: GB£975 / US$1295
3 weeks: GB£1345 / US$1795
4 weeks: GB£1695 / US$2295
Extra weeks: GB£375 / US$495 per week
Volunteers can also choose to experience both camps at Makalali (2 weeks at Research Camp, 2 weeks at Bush Camp) for a discounted rate of GB£1495 / US$2495.
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 atwww.xe.com.
Volunteer contributions cover meals, accommodation, activities, transfers from Hoedspruit to Makalali, 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 Makalali, 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!
There are no set dates for this project, although we always organize arrivals/departures on Mondays to coincide with weekly town trips for food/supplies/etc. There is no charge for Monday transfers, but off-schedule transfers will cost R650 South African rands. Volunteers just need to inform Enkosini Eco Experience of the date they are planning to arrive. Volunteers are required to sign an indemnity form acknowledging and accepting the consequences of working in close contact with wild animals.
The closest town to Makalali is HOEDSPRUIT - nearly 500kms from Johannesburg. Hoedspruit is approximately 70kms, or 45 minutes away from Makalali.
Flights and buses are available from Johannesburg to Hoedspruit. Arrangements will be made to collect incoming volunteers from either the Hoedspruit Eastgate Airport or the Hoedspruit Bus Station.
If you need to overnight in Hoedspruit either before or after your program, the Makalali staff can pick you up or drop you off at the Blue Cottages Guesthouse (www.countryhouse.co.za).
By Plane – Jo'burg to Hoedspruit Eastgate Airport
Flights leave from the domestic terminal at Johannesburg International Airport. The flight is ± 1hour, 15 minutes. These flights are conducted by SA Express (www.flysaa.com).
By Bus - Jo'burg to Hoedspruit
Buses leave from the Johannesburg Park Station or Pretoria Bus Station. To get to these stations, you will need to organize transport with your hotel/backpackers or catch a taxi.
Translux buses depart every day from Jo'Burg at 09h30 and Pretoria at 10h30, arriving into Hoedspruit at 15h40. For bus reservations, contact Veena at firstname.lastname@example.org - email her with your name, dates of travel and where you will be traveling to/from. Volunteers need to arrive at the bus station at least 30 minutes before departure to pay for your bus ticket or the ticket will be forfeited. Try to book your bus ticket at least a month in advance as they definitely fill up!
The Hoedspruit area borders a malarial zone and it is incumbent upon each person to take medical opinion on vaccinations and whether or not to follow a malaria prophylactic programme. There are no formal vaccinations requirements for entering South Africa. See FAQs for complete packing list.
“I was at the Siyafunda Bushcamp for 1 week and 2 weeks at the Makalali Camp in January 2015 and was overwhelmed with all the new experiences I made! Staying at the bushcamp was truly a Dream come true as you stay in tents and without any electricity or any other conveniences. It definitely makes you feel you are in the bush...with all the roaming of the wild animals outside at night.The rangers are wonderful - you feel safe and taken care of all the time. Before my departure I had a great help with the Enkosini staff who with excellent guidance introduced me into what I could expect. I can highly recommend Enkosini for their arrangements as well as Makalali and Siyafunda for their rangers and skills. It was more than I could ever expect! So - GO LIVE YOUR DREAM, I DID IT!!!” - Pernilla Sanstrom, Sweden
“I've just completed a month at Makalali, staying at the Siyafunda Bush Camp and had the most fantastic time of my life. A month in the African bush has had a long lasting and positive effect on me. I don't want to use the word 'amazing' as it overused and doesn't even come close to accurately describing my experience. I have met some fantastic people who have become good friends and some incredible wildlife. The back to basics lifestyle at camp was brilliant and has made me realise just how easy we have it back at home but also just how wasteful we can be. The game rangers are quite outstanding at what they do and they have a perfect mix of professionalism and friendliness that really puts you at ease. They too have become good friends. It was my first time in Africa and the first time I have ever done anything like this and will certainly not be the last. I can't wait to return. Thanks to everyone who helped me arrange the trip and to everyone I met along the way who made bush camp and the Siyafunda Bush Experience such an unforgettable time.” - Luke Harding, England
“I just wanted to let you know what an absolutely amazing time I had at Siyafunda. The set up there is fantastic and Patson, Andrews, Mike and Hannes are brilliant. They were so welcoming and taught me so much. Thank you for your help in organising my stay and I hope to return next year” - Silvia, Seattle, WA, USA
“Just back from Africa. What a marvelous adventure! Especially enjoyed 'Bush Camp' and learning from Patson. Everyone at Siyafunda was lovely. I will share my experience with others and encourage them to see Africa this way!” - Robin Retrey, USA
“My trip to South Africa was great! The 2 projects I volunteered for, Siyafunda and ORCA, were full of experiences I will never forget. It was very interesting and all the people working for the organizations and the other volunteers were friendly, sincere in their efforts and helpful in many ways. Thank you for all your help and for having a great website that helped inspire me to make it happen. I went over with no expectations other than see and experience some of South Africa's wilderness, its creatures, its conservation programs and its culture. I did. Hopefully , I gave something back to the projects and helped further their conservation initiatives. It was nice hanging out with like minded people who truly care about the animals, mammals, birds, fishes, insects, trees and the general well-being of all life on this planet. Everyone's willingness to share their knowledge and to share in experiences made for a relaxing and educational time.
At Siyafunda, I felt like I was in Africa. Seeing my first lion as we walked along the dry river bed made my senses alive and my heart pound. Seeing so many healthy animals in a reserve of this size showed me the efforts are working. Marius was awesome. He was extremely knowledgable in all areas of nature and made each day interesting and purposeful. He also had a good sense of group dynamics and kept things flowing. Considering that I was only there for 2 weeks, it was a great way to both understand and help with the efforts at Siyafunda and the overall big picture of South Africa's wildlife.” - Dana Kimball, USA
“I spent 2 unforgettable weeks (late October to early November) with Siyafunda, and left teary-eyed wishing I had more time. It is the kind of experience for those who really want to be in the authentic South African bush. We went on game drives to collect data twice-a-day that were always incredible-- we managed to see the entire Big 5 (and many more) in my first two days! Aside from the breath-taking wildlife, the staff and guides were exceptional. Their ability to connect with the volunteers, all while constantly educating us on everything in sight and making us feel safe in our surroundings made me feel immediately at home at Siyafunda. I was fortunate enough to spend some time at both the Bush Camp and the Research Base Camp, and I recommend doing both. Bush Camp is as authentic Africa as it gets, and it worth the experience. There is truly nothing like sleeping with Hyenas howling right outside your tent at night, which will inevitably happen at bush camp. Though you do maintenance or a project at least once a week, it is still something to look forward to, knowing that you are helping maintain the reserve for both people and animals alike. One of the best things about Siyafunda is their drive to educate and immerse you with the wildlife around you. Unlike fancy lodges where you arrive at a sighting and spend maybe 2 minutes with an animal, Siyafunda guides let the volunteers determine how long we stayed at a sighting to watch the animal, which lended to some incredible sightings. Because we were able to stay at sightings, we were able to see things like a two lions and leopard fight over a warthog kill, and hyenas bravely stealing a kill from a male lion. Siyafunda leaves you feeling as though you made a difference and are connected to nature. There is no doubt that I would recommend this program to anyone of any age, and I know that you will leave with indescribable memories, lasting connections, and wishing you had more time.” - Kensie C, Petaluma, CA, USA
“I spent 4 weeks at Siyafunda in January 2014 which were some of the best of my life, it went beyond my expectations. I have been particularly impressed by the rangers' knowledge and patience with us volunteers. Whenever you have a question they would take the time for you or stop the vehicle in order for you to take a great picture, available in case of emergency also. I have felt safe at all time thanks to them (although some experiences with the elephants have been pretty impressive).
You learn, discover and experience something amazing almost every day ! Spending 2 hours observing and monitoring a female leopard with 2 cubs, tracking the elephants which then come so close you could touch them, walking in the bush tracking rhinos and learning how to behave in case of danger, having elephants so close to your room you can hear them breathing and eating trees, observe lion families during hours, fall asleep with lions roaring a few kilometres away, eat by the fire with the whole team at night, etc...
Great great fun, but also tough work such as cleaning and maintaining the reserve (clearing trees from roads, etc..), building hides, help with maintenance of cars and camp, cooking and washing up. As a volunteer you are expected to take notes on animal behavior, population, health, numbers and to register them in a computer, take pictures for ID Kits. All this information is then compiled by us in a weekly report. Also, be ready to wake up very early (4:30 - 5:30 a.m 6 days / week), sometimes to have a cold shower, to get dirty and very sweaty (depending on season).
In the end the investment is well worth it, just make the most of it, learn as much as you can and enjoy every moment.
I can only thank Mike, Andrew, Emma, Jamie and every one I met for making this experience unforgettable. They couldn't take care any better of their volunteers. I truly recommend it, it is life-changing !” - Michel Jenk, Lausanne
“We spent one week in the bush camp and one week in Goronga. It was really an amazing experience: we saw the big five but also many other animals. We learnt a lot about birds and it developed my interest for them. What I liked most was that we could observe a pride of lions or a foraging elephant for hours!
The staff was very enthusiastic, spontaneous and professional. I remember that we jumped in the car at 11pm because we heard a roaring lion and we wanted to observe him !! That means that they are very flexible and spontaneous !
The best place for me was the bush camp. The tents are comfortable, there are open showers and toilets and you really feel the wild around you. We did two bush walks with a ranger and encountered a pride of lions during one walk ! We also slept in the bush one night, which was fantastic because hyenas came very close to our camp, so close that we had to chase them away !!!
This is an opportunity to see a lot of animals in the wild and an alternative to all these unethical projects where you can pet lion cubs which will end on canned hunting farms !!! In Makalali you can see them in the wild where they are meant to be and it is much more rewarding ! I highly recommend this place.” - Valerie, Switzerland
“Where to begin... I spent 3 weeks at Siyafunda 2 summers ago and the experience feels as fresh as ever. It was amazing! The knowledge, patience and friendliness of everyone in Mike's team was second to none. I learned a lot, more than I expected to in such a short time. I'm sure people will go into far more detail than me; but if you want to learn, are prepared to work hard and embrace every experience then Siyafunda is the place for you. I cried my eyes out at the airport when I had to leave; if it wasn't for the cost of flights to SA I'd go back in a heartbeat! One day, I definitely will.” - Jand F., Cambridge
“GO TO SIYAFUNDA!!!
This where adventure happens, and this is where you can take part in experiences that will not only make an impact on wildlife research and conservation, but in your life as well!
I've have been to Siyafunda 3 times now, in the last 3 years, and because of the unforgettable experiences I've had on the reserve, with fantastic rangers and staff, and of course with the AMAZING wildlife, my life is changed forever, and the Bush has absolutely stolen away my heart! Go to South Africa!!! And go to Siyafunda Conservation!!! You will never regret it, truly amazing people, amazing wildlife, and an amazing experience!” - Savannah
“I volunteered at Siyafunda back in May-June of 2013. I found this program through Enkosini EcoExperience - they are hand's down the best company to help you find the perfect volunteer abroad program ever! My dad and I went together on this trip, and Enkosini made the arrangements so easily!
When my dad and I arrived to Siyafunda, we were given a tour of everything at the base camp, and then we went off to where we were staying out in bush camp. The living conditions are very different than main camp (they call main camp "Twines") because you are in a tent sleeping in a small bed with sheets (However, I would definitely recommend a sleeping bag and lots of layers because the nights get very cold!!) There is running water, but only cold water. For warm, you need to boil water over the fire or mini stove. There is a toilet and a shower, but the shower is a large bag with a dispenser that you fill up with water then open the nozzle for the shower. There is a kitchen as well, but when it gets dark the only lights you have are the campfire, lanterns and your own flashlights or headlights, so expect to cook dinner in the dark. At research camp, you have a room and a bathroom with a shower that will have warm water, but it's solar powered. If you have a cloudy day (which really doesn't happen too much during their winter) then warm water is scarce. Think of it as camping - your in AFRICA! The fact that you are roughing it makes the experience all that much better! All the food is provided for you, and every night cooking duties switch off amongst volunteers. For those that aren't cooking, they help clean up afterwards. For the actual activities you are doing, you will go on bush walks where you will walk with a ranger, who is always armed with a rifle, and they will teach you tons! Within the first few seconds of the bush walk, your already learning a lot!! You will identify tracks, poop, bird calls, plants, etc. They will go through all the survival and safety procedures first and foremost, so I felt 100% safe the whole time I was there. On game drives you will answer to radio calls and track where the animals are. When you see them you record your coordinates, how many animals there are and their sexes, their behavior, etc. And of course take millions of pictures! There are other things you will do, such as maintenance for camp (we expanded the volleyball court and gathered sand to add to it) and then bush clearing along the roads. After a long day of adventures you typically will end it by the fire hanging with all the volunteers, learning about all the different people and where they are from, then fall asleep to the sounds of the bush. Every night I fell asleep to the sound of hyenas and lions off in the distance. When we were sleeping in the tents at bush camp, we even had hyenas come through camp and rummage through the remnants of our chicken scraps in the fire - VERY COOL EXPERIENCE.
I had always wanted to go to Africa ever since I was a little girl - the fact that I finally took the initiative as an adult to go, and then share the experience with my dad was the best decision I had ever made in my life. Doing a volunteer abroad program while being in Africa allows you to really see Africa for what it truly is - a wild, thriving world! You get the privilege to be just feet away from lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, buffalo, and so much more. You could wake up one morning, and you will have impala or kudu or even an elephant or leopard literally walking through main camp - because YOU ARE LIVING IN THE BUSH! This is the true was to experience Africa, and I would recommend this company to anyone and everyone. I can't wait to get enough money saved up again and do even more projects in SA!
Don't wait any longer - GO TO AFRICA!” - Kelsie Blysma, Woodinville, WA