Feel the heartbeat and rhythm of Africa at our Amakhala Game Reserve, which has quickly become one of the finest malaria-free "Big 5" destinations in the Eastern Cape wilderness of South Africa. Amakhala is a 15,000 acre game reserve that will refresh your soul and leave you in awe of life’s abundance, beauty and spectacular scenery. Sunlit grassy savannah plains, a mosaic of Valley Bushveld plants including the Aloe from which Amakhala derives its isiXhosa name, the gently dappled light of the sand forest, many watering holes and the wide spellbinding Bushman’s River. This is home to great African mammals (including lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino) as well as an wide variety of small mammals, birds and insects. It will humble and fascinate you.
As a conservation "Pride" volunteer, you are the veins and arteries behind the heart beat of reserve management at Amakhala. All aspects of conservation are addressed on this program - the longer your stay, the more in depth your experience will be.
When assisting with our community program, you may battle across language barriers, cultural differences and socio-economic backgrounds, however the reward for the local community from our volunteer efforts is enormous. It may even be a life-changing experience for you - seeing the smiles and heartfelt appreciation for your small efforts is absolutely unforgettable.
The reserve is continuously monitoring and managing game throughout the year. Volunteers assist "behind the scenes" on various ongoing conservation projects and reserve priorities. Our duty is to provide accurate and up-to-date scientific information on the reserve and its animals to the people who make the life changing decisions within the reserve.
Managing the newly-introduced lions is a primary responsibility for the volunteers at Amakhala, however you will also have the chance to assist with many other short and long term projects on the reserve including some of the following:
• Game capture, counts and monitoring
• Animal tracking using telemetry
• Wildlife identification (elephant/rhino/predators/birds)
• Territorial ranges and feeding ranges
• Lion health and breeding monitoring
• Erosion control / road maintenance
• Wetland rehabilitation
• Fence patrol and maintenance
• Vehicle maintenance
• Alien plant control and bush cleanups
• Boma maintenance
• Navigation and compass orientation
• Target shooting
• Taxidermy - hunting discussion "conservation or not"
• Guided bushwalks, tracking and trails through reserve
• Bush survival - camping under the stars (weather dependent)
• Report writing and updating project data
• Kayaking/boat trips on Bushman's River
Reserve priorities at any one time may continuously change dependent on many external influences, therefore your involvement in certain projects may be affected. As such, the longer your placement, the more in depth your involvement across many facets of conservation and reserve maintenance.
This program provides an insight into the environmental issues and management of a game reserve. Volunteers are acquainted with the techniques for collecting, analyzing and disseminating information on ecological aspects. The main focus is having FUN while contributing towards conservation and rehabilitating the land back to its natural habitat.
Community Development Work
Amakhala prides itself on its strong involvement with the local communities and this work is a highlight for many volunteers.
• Children Aids Orphanage - The Paterson Children's AIDS orphanage has between 12-30 children of ages 4-12 at any time. Two dedicated locals run the orphanage, providing hope, love and life to these children. Amakhala volunteers generally visit the orphanage several times a week - organizing game days, assisting with fundraising or just playing with the kids. Both the volunteers and orphans love these visits - it is amazing to see the children's happiness when the Amakhala vehicle arrives!
• Food 4 Thought Program - Amakhala volunteers recently began a herb and vegetation nursery by the AIDS orphanage and have plans to train the community to become self-sustaining - providing food for themselves as well as making income by selling their goods. Volunteers are currently responsible for the fertilizing and maintenance of this nursery.
• Animal Welfare and Animal Care - This latest community project undertaken by the volunteer program is still in its early stages. Animal care is nearly non-existent within the rural communities. Costs of having pets spayed or neutered are simply unaffordable, and therefore overpopulation and sickness are rife. We are in the process of setting up relief and educational program whereby pets from the community can be washed/treated/spayed at a fraction of the normal vet cost and locals can be educated about pet care and diseases.
No previous experience or knowledge is necessary to join the Amakhala program. The vision behind the volunteer program is to provide people with the opportunity to give something back to the environment and have a life changing experience, while providing the reserve with invaluable conservation assistance.
Amakhala 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!
You will be accommodated in an eight-bedroom house in the nearby town of Paterson (10 minutes from the reserve). The house is a beautiful converted railway station, overlooking a large garden and within "crawling" distance of the local drinking hole. Some of the rooms are single rooms, however please be prepared to share if necessary. A communal dining room and living room with TV are situated centrally within the house, leading off to a kitchen. Internet is available in the sunroom. The house also has an outside braai (BBQ) area which has seen many festive nights!
The program only accepts 8 volunteers, therefore ensuring a unified, highly personalized experience. The house also accommodates several of the Amakhala rangers and administrative staff, further contributing to a great family-orientated atmosphere. Volunteers participate in the creation of menus and the preparation of meals on a rotational basis.
Weekends / Free Time
The working week at Amakhala is Monday to Friday. Working hours are dependent on the season and the heat - there are often earlier mornings and longer mid-day breaks in the hot, summer months. Evenings and weekends are at your own leisure. Volunteers generally relax in the evenings at the local pub or around the open fire at the volunteer house.
Weekends can be used by volunteers to explore some of the surrounding areas. Volunteers are welcome to hang around the volunteer house on the weekends, but many people choose to head off in groups - favorite outings include Jeffrey's Bay for great beaches and surfing, Grahamstown for shopping and festivals, and Port Elizabeth for amazing nightlife!
Volunteers are treated to a one night 4-star guest experience at the Safari Lodge at the Amakhala Game Reserve (R1500 value). The Safari Lodge is tucked away in a valley of indigenous bush, its location is ideal for the best wildlife viewing. The intimate thatched lodge with unique safari huts offers an undisturbed retreat where you can regenerate your soul and tune into the sounds of nature. Four course dinners of traditional dishes are cooked safari style over the coals. After a luxurious bubble bath, a good night sleep awaits you before another active Amakhala day in the African bush.
1 week: GB£595 / US$795
2 weeks: GB£895 / US1195
3 weeks: GB£1095 / US$1495
4 weeks: GB£1395 / US$1895
Extra weeks: GB£295 / US$395 per week
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 at www.xe.com.
The volunteer contribution covers accommodation, meals, activities and donation to the project. Flights and travel/medical insurance are NOT included. The only additional spending money required will be for personal purchases (curios, alcohol, soda, luxury/imported goods, chocolates, sweets, toiletries), weekend excursions away from Amakhala, and pre/post project travel.
Please bear in mind that the sooner you apply, the better your chances of securing your placement!
There are no set arrival/departure dates for this project. 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 towns to Amakhala are Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth - approximately 600-700 kms from Cape Town.
Flights and buses are available from Johannesburg/Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. Arrangements will be made for the Amakhala staff or JC Shuttle Services to collect incoming volunteers from either the Port Elizabeth airport or bus station (R900 South African rands each way paid directly to staff). Amakhala is approximately 70 kms (45 minutes) from Port Elizabeth.
Amakhala is based in a malaria-free area and there are no formal vaccination requirements for entering South Africa, however it is incumbent upon each person to get their own medical advice on vaccinations and on whether or not to follow a malaria prophylactic program (especially if you are planning onward travels into malarial zones). See FAQs for complete packing list.
“Amakala was a very interesting program because it combined animals, conservation and community involvement. A week was too short a time but I thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of the program even a stay at the fancy lodge!” - Ruth Cohen, United States
“If you are looking for excitement, adventure and a lot of fun on your trip then read on. I have been a volunteer at Amakhala for four weeks now and it has exceeded my expectations. Being an ecologist, I was looking forward to getting up close and personal with South Africa's wildlife and I have not been disappointed.
The main focus of each day is the family of lions on the reserve so we normally go out and find the male (he has a collar) at the beginning of each day and record the behavior of all five lions before moving on. This is my favorite part of the day. Even if you are not a morning person (I am not) I am eager to get up at whatever time necessary. Wednesdays are the earliest starts before dawn as that is game count day. We are responsible for recording data on the game in two zones on the reserve which can mean counting every animal depending on the type of count. The impala can be very tricky to count. Binoculars are well worth investing in before you come.
Twice a week we spend time at the orphanage in Patterson so come prepared to give the children there plenty of hugs and organise fun activities. Last week we set up an obstacle course for them. Even something as simple as ring a round the roses brings out lots of laughter. One of the best days here so far involved helping the vet, William, dart two eland bulls before they were transported to another area. Things did not go quite according to plan with both animals escaping from the boma once darted and we had to take cover in the vehicle. The eland is the biggest species of antelope and it was a privilege to be so close to these animals. You learn very quickly that a call from William always leads to an exciting day. A lot of other activities also occur during the week such as game drives, maintenance work (alien vegetation removal, road maintenance etc) so bring some sturdy gloves and plenty of energy. You will be shown what to do for the practical work so do not be worried if you have not done this sort of thing before.
A trip here would not be complete without some sort of camping experience. You need to watch out for the local wildlife of course including the off-duty rangers who like to play practical jokes on us gullible volunteers!!! You have been warned.
You have the weekends to yourself but it is easy to hire a car or organise to be picked up and dropped off at places by the local shuttle service. A group of us spent last Saturday in Port Elizabeth which has some fantastic beaches. Addo Elephant National Park is also well worth a visit and you can hire one of the Amakhala Rangers to take you round in one of the safari vehicles. The local pub is just over the road and it stays open until the last person leaves. Food wise everyone helps out and you just need to remember to fill in the food order each week. You will meet a wide range of people during your stay which makes things interesting but do not let that put you off as you often learn a thing or two. I am having a great time and I will definitely be coming back to Africa again and again. If you choose to spend time at Amakhala, I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.” - Claire Vetori,
“We arrived in Amakhala four weeks ago not knowing what to expect. Some of us had travelled alone and were quite nervous about meeting the rest of the group.
After meeting for 5 minutes we set off to track the lions and were all blown away by seeing Mufasa, Scar and the three 5 month old cubs. We noticed our facilitator was using what looked like a television arial to find the lions but we soon learned that this was called telemetry. Every day we used the telemetry it to track down and monitor the lions. By the end of the four weeks we were experts in using telemetry and compete every day to get the quickest time. The record currently stands at 9 min 30 sec- beat that! Monitoring the lions was a key activity which we did every day. Doing this is critical for the future success of Amakhala and its sustainability.
Other animal activities which we were involved in included elephant monitoring, jackal count, game counts, crocodile capture and animal relocation. One of the main highlights was coming eye to eye with Norman the 36 year old elephant bull. He was so close that if we reached out of the land rover we could have touched him. It was a breath taking experience!
We were also involved in community based projects which included giving a life science lecture to the children at the local school and undertaking some maintenance on the school building.
Twice a week we visited the local orphanage. This was one of the most rewarding experiences durng our time here as we got the opportunity to bond with the children there. Every time we went we played different games with them and did some arts and crafts which they enjoyed.
Other activities we took part in included camping under the stars in the reserve, a survival challenge where we had to construct our own shelters and had minimal provision, canoeing on the bushman’s river, rifle handling, alien tree removal, and fence and road maintenance. Another opportunity we were lucky to have was behind the scenes tour of the Born Free Foundation.
During our time off we socialized with the locals and the rangers at the nearby pub or at the volunteer house. The house we live in is situated in the small town of Paterson, a short drive from the reserve and has a resident dog called Odie who likes to join in the fun. At the weekend there was lots to do in the surrounding area. From sky diving to horse riding in Addo National Park. We even took on the worlds highest bungee jumping at storms river.
Last but not least we have Ettiene our facilitator, to thank for all the amazing experiences we had and the knowledge he imparted to us. His enthusiasm made our stay interesting, fun and memorable and we all went away with fond and happy memories of our time spent at Amakhala. It has been an experience of a lifetime and we all plan to return in the near future.” - Vicki Holden