The Siyafunda Conservation Initiative within
the Makalali Game Reserve is a unique conservation program to expand South
Africa's green frontier by re-establishing the ancient traditional wildlife
migration routes that linked the famous Kruger Park in the east to the lush Drakensberg Mountains in the west. One of South Africa’s premier
privately-owned conservation areas, Makalali currently comprises an amazing
61,000 acres (including a 5,000 acre clean buffalo breeding camp) in the
Lowveld region of the Limpopo Province of South Africa, a short distance
from the world-renowned Kruger National Park.
Over the past decade,
Makalali has reintroduced a variety of wildlife onto the reserve, including
lion, cheetah, leopard, elephant and rhino, making Makalali home to Africa’s “Big Five.” In the process of relocating wildlife,
Makalali has consistently contributed to conservation efforts to protect
endangered species. Elephants were relocated from Kruger sparing them from
Makalali’s research activities are fueled by
the support of the reserve’s rangers, together with the Siyafunda volunteer
program. The Siyafunda Conservation Initiative, located on the southern part of the reserve, was primarily
established to assist with existing research projects and to provide reserve
management with the necessary data needed to make well-informed decisions.
The two most important ongoing monitoring and research initiatives conducted
on Makalali are:
- Makalali recognizes the need for alternative methods of elephant
population control other than culling and translocation; with the
introduction of immunocontraception, a safe, effective and non-lethal
biological control method now exists. Since May 2000, Makalali has
implemented an immunocontraception programme on their elephant population
and 23 cows have been vaccinated to date. These
cows are individually recognized by means of identification templates and
photographs. Extensive records are maintained, including observations and
reactions to the darting and their behaviour thereafter. To date, no unusual
behaviour or side effects have been detected. As the Kruger trials proved
the vaccine’s efficacy, safety and reversibility, the aim of the Makalali
study is to determine the vaccine's reliability in controlling population
growth. Since August 2002, a 0% growth rate has been maintained indicating
very promising applications for population growth regulation of elephants on
- In all small game reserves, a delicate balance between prey and predator
species needs to be carefully managed and maintained because they exist in
closed environments. The aim of this project is to produce a GIS based model
that will act as a tool for correctly managing the predator population at
Makalali. This project will allow one to determine the ‘carrying
capacity’ of each large predator in the reserve and will also consider the
possibility of introducing more predators into the system.
The Makalali Game Reserve
provides volunteers with a stimulating and practical experience focusing on
wildlife monitoring and research projects, and a physical component through
reserve management activities. Daily activities are interesting and varied,
and may include assistance with some of the following projects:
contraception: behavioural and range utilisation monitoring of the
behavioural monitoring of targeted females and range utilisation of the
activity monitoring by traversing fixed routes within the reserve.
long-term monitoring program to acquire data on the ranging, foraging and
reproductive behaviour of released offspring in savannah environment.
identification and sexing of reserve individuals (lions, rhino, cheetah and
elephant) and continuous monitoring of these populations
with reference to predator/prey density, inter and intra-species relations
and the maintenance of identification kits.
•Sex ratio analysis:
repeatable routes to accurately record the sex/age
ratios of herbivore species for the optimal ratio to increase productivity
(in conjuction with annual game counts).
assistance with any Masters of Science student fieldwork and data collection.
•Alien vegetation & bio control
monitoring: identification and mapping of alien and invasive vegetation
within the river and reserve, spreading of biological and chemical agents,
and follow-up monitoring of problem areas.
•Community work: Siyafunda provides
support for the Holy Family Orphanage every 2-3 weeks. This is a
Catholic run HIV orphanage with approx 90 children under care. Volunteers
are welcome to bring old clothes, school supplies or food during visits.
collaborative research projects, volunteers make an important contribution
to the “bigger picture” of conservation in Africa - monitoring biodiversity processes and
addressing challenges created by the ever-increasing human population,
specifically fragmented and isolated habitats.
An average volunteer week generally consists of: 2 elephant monitoring sessions,
2 lion monitoring sessions, 2 rhino/cheetah drives, 2 nocturnal drives (late evening to
early morning) for tracking leopards and small predators, and bush
clearing/erosion control. Volunteers
will also have the opportunity to participate in bush walks and sleep outs
within the Reserve.
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.
double rooms (volunteers to share) with en-suite shower/toilets, supplied
with hot and cold water. There is a communal lounge and separate kitchen.
Volunteers participate in the creation of menus, the preparation of
meals and general upkeep of the Camp on a rotational basis.
For further information, visit
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.
1 week: GB£545 / US$895
2 weeks: GB£795 / US$1345
3 weeks: GB£1095 / US$1895
4 weeks: GB£1395 / US$2395
Extra weeks: GB£295 / 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£1395 / US$2395.
Volunteers receive a $100 discount when joining multiple Enkosini
uses USD rates as standard due to currency fluctuations. GBP rates
are indications of approx recent values. Currency convertor at
Volunteer contributions cover meals,
accommodation, activities, transfers from Hoedspruit/Tzaneen 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
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 R500 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 towns to Makalali are HOEDSPRUIT
and TZANEEN - nearly 500kms
from Johannesburg. Hoedspruit and Tzaneen are approximately 70kms, or an hour
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 Tzaneen Bus Station.
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
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 Tzaneen
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 Tzaneen at 15h40.
For bus reservations, contact Veena at
email@example.com - 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!
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 asked to rate my experience at Makalali, I'd simply say that it was
"off the charts". With elephant drives, leopard stake outs, hyena catches and
bush walks, along
with the constant monitoring of lions, hippos, cheetahs and rhinos, plus
other animal and bird sightings too numerous to mention, learning to read tracks, shoot a rifle and drive a safari four wheeler....
I was in heaven, albeit a dusty one! Thank you for letting me be
part of an important research project. I won't say that it was a
once in a lifetime experience, because I am definitely going to
-Michelle Janko, USA
I can I say about my Siyafunda Conservation experience, other than it was
fantastic! I was only there for 2 weeks, but in that time experienced a
great deal and learnt so much about the flora, fauna & people. We
would go on daily game drives, where we would go 'off road' to get close
to the animals and often spend up to half an hour watching them -
there is nothing like watching wild animals in their natural habitat up
close & personal! My most enjoyable and exhilarating experiences were
sleeping out under the stars, watching a male lion while on a game walk,
watching two cheetahs eat a kill and being visited by a rhino up close
while sitting in a hide around a water hole. I got some amazing pictures
and met some great people from all over the world. I was also lucky enough
to be there when we had a visit from a local orphanage - the kids were so
excited on the game drive and thanked us by singing for us. I would like
to thank Mike, Greg, Andrews & the team for a fantastic experience and
for being so friendly & accommodating. They are all extremely
knowledgeable & were always available to help in any way. I can't say
enough about my experience & so wish I had stayed longer than 2 weeks.
I am eagerly looking forward to my next trip!" -Kellie
"Audrey was a mind of information about
the Elephant project... we had some magical times following the ellies.
We also saw some truly amazing things while we were on animal monitoring
duties with Marius and Mike. I hope the data we collected and posted
onto the computer has been a small help in the overall picture, and the
broken dam may yield some vegetation in years to come. I would love to
come back to Makalali... the experience is very special." -Janice
"I had an excellent experience at
Malakali. Marius, their ranger, was so knowledgeable and so thorough
in pointing out and explaining the behaviours of the animals. He was also
excellent at birds and grasses and trees, which are a particular interest of
mine. I also very much enjoyed doing habitat reformation with Ross, and had
a wonderful experience with the elephants with Audrey and her telemetry
equipment." -Maxine Crook, UK
"I had a wonderful time at Makalali.
I think Ross and Audrey are doing a wonderful job - they were nice enough
to organize and include us in several projects that I felt really
contributed. Marius is a great guide and knew so much about the plants and
the birds -I was really impressed. I had a wonderful trip and I thank you
very much for all of your help getting me there!" -Jennifer Benjamin, USA
staff were absolutely awesome, they all seemed to know a lot about
everything and whenever they didn't know something they'd find out and let
us know. They were amazingly friendly and went so far out of their way to
make sure we all felt at home. I
really enjoyed following the herds of elephants while we monitored things
like their mood, the male's sweat excretions etc and the late night
frogging sessions were awesome."
-Ben Colagiuri, Australia