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"Maybe it's animalness that will make the world right again:
the wisdom of elephants, the enthusiasm of canines, the grace
of snakes, the mildness of anteaters. Perhaps being human
needs some diluting." ― Carol Emshwiller


The Siyafunda Endangered Species Project will allow you to participate with on the ground, hands on working as an assistant Field Ranger with some

of Africa’s endangered species:  Rhino, Cheetah, African wild-dogs and Southern Ground Hornbill. 

It is ideal if you want to truly experience the “wild” side of Africa.  Our camp is based in Greater Makalali Nature Reserve which is home to the

'Big 5'.  This means you will get to encounter,

and live with, elephant, lion, leopard and buffalo while working with us.

During your stay, your days will be split between monitoring on vehicles and on foot walking through the reserve, learning how to track the animals. 

You will be approaching endangered species on foot and recording their behaviour, location and condition.  You will, quite literally, be walking in their footsteps!

The information collected is then used by the reserve management and anti-poaching teams, as well

as national conservation efforts to help save these species.  You will also take part in vehicle based monitoring to see the amazing Big 5, as well as habitat work to help with the monitoring process. 

This is a unique experience for people who want to get more out of visiting a game reserve in South Africa.  Everyone who joins us on this exciting program will get to experience the African bush in its extremes, from elephants strolling through camp to the tropical heat or the surprisingly cold winter nights. 

If you have a love of nature and want to participate

in helping to save Africa's endangered species,

this is the project for you.  Come enjoy the simple life and let the bush seep into your soul!

Rhino Monitoring


With the ever present threat from poaching, close monitoring of these animals is crucial for the future of the species. The rhinos are monitored to ascertain their movement around the reserve and interaction with each other. This is done mostly on foot due to their secretive nature. This also forms part of the anti-poaching measures in place, working closely with the reserve management and anti-poaching teams on the reserve to ensure 100% sighting and safeguarding of our rhino.  

Our Siyafunda projects also work closely with The Rhino Protection Trust to raise awareness and funds to support our efforts to save these magnificent but vulnerable animals.


Cheetah Monitoring


As cheetah are one of Africa's most endangered large predators, the entire population is monitored on the reserve. By tracking the cheetah on foot, we can observe their utilisation of the area, prey selection and reproductive behaviour. 

By combining this with data collected on other predators we can track the effects on distribution patterns of the cheetah by the presence of lions, hyena and leopards. With dedicated, long term monitoring we can be sure

to effectively understand their lives and better protect them for future generations.



Southern Ground Hornbill Monitoring

With less than 1500 of these birds left in the wild, we are lucky to have

a family of Southern ground hornbills on the reserve. The majority

of our monitoring takes place during their breeding season from late October to February. The ground hornbills are very slow breeders, fledging only one chick every 9 years.  The female will lay two eggs,

but days apart from each other, meaning only one chick usually survives.  We observe their nests regularly in order to determine the dates that eggs are laid. This enables us to harvest the second chick around hatching time to be sent to a hand rearing facility to ensure

its survival. We also work with the Ground Hornbill Research and Conservation Project to gather any information about this rare species.


African Wild-dog Monitoring

Over the years African wild-dogs have moved through our game reserve. 2017 a pack settled here for 1 year but after having puppies they moved off our reserve, we do see them on occasion but their new home range is on the properties South of the reserve. In 2019 Makalali  introduced a new pack onto the reserve and will be attempting to establish their home range within the reserves boundaries. 


Game drives
and walking trails

Game drives are a great way of covering distance within the reserve in order to see the larger African wildlife, observing their behaviour, movements

and habits along the way.  After dark, they also enable the possibility of sighting the nocturnal animals such as African civet, black-backed jackal,

large spotted genet, porcupine and aardvark to name but a few.

Monitoring walks also allow you to walk, quite literally, in the footsteps of the animals you are tracking.  You will learn how to identify the tracks of the animals you are monitoring, as well as any others they may have been following,

or following them!  By determining age and direction of the tracks you will be

able to help determine territory and, with any luck, current location.


Habitat Conservation 

Alien Vegetation Control: Under the guidance of Working

for Water (WFW), volunteers will assist with identifying

and monitoring stands of alien and invasive vegetation within

the river and across the reserve. Volunteers will participate

in the mechanical removal and chemical control of these species as well as the follow-up monitoring of problem areas.

This is an important project as alien invasive plants have

the ability to encroach on areas and prevent other indigenous plants from growing, as well as using up large amounts

of moisture from the soil. This has a detrimental effect

on your ecosystem and therefore requires constant monitoring and removal.

Habitat Rehabilitation: Volunteers will have the opportunity

to assist in ongoing habitat rehabilitation initiatives in the reserve, including erosion control, the construction of rock gabions,

brush-packing and re-seeding.

"In Africa, the Game Ranger goes by many different titles - Field Ranger, Game Warden, Conservation Officer, and many more,

yet all are essentially the wildlife managers and the field force in Africa, working at the "coal face" of conservation. In Africa the prime responsibility of the Game Ranger is to ensure the territorial

and biological integrity of the conservation area under his/her management.

When you join our Field Ranger Experience at Siyafunda you are joining us at the "coal face" on Makalali Nature Reserve, helping
meet all the challenges we face daily managing our reserve
and the animals that call it home, while helping us meet the
financial burden that comes with keeping them all safe.

Their tasks are multi-faceted and include; ensuring the day to day health and well-being of the wildlife, research and monitoring,

game capture and introductions, population management, burning programs, infrastructure and equipment maintenance, public relations, environmental education, and, crucially, local community relations, liaison and involvement. Added to these are the normal

day to day financial controls, human resource planning and administration, which must also be carried out." - GAME RANGERS ASSOCIATION OF AFRICA,


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Siyafunda Makalali project has
a minimum duration of 1 week.

Start Date

The project start day is every Monday throughout the year, we do our shopping in Hoedspruit and drop off and collect our participants.

Typical Project Week

Monday: Project start day. Town trip to pick up our Participants and restock supplies.


Tuesday:  Early start setting out on a foot patrol

to follow up on the latest rhino movements and

to report their well being to the anti-poaching team.

In the afternoon we depart for a monitoring drive

to locate one of our key species of interest; Cheetah, Leopard or possibly the Ground Hornbills.


Wednesday:  In the morning foot patrol monitoring

to determine species utilisation of the area. We set off for a drive in the afternoon to the Northern section

of the reserve to monitor the Cheetah male coalition.

Thursday: Habitat work; we could be busy with exotic plant removal, erosion control or bush clearing.

In the afternoon or evening, we head out on Wild-dog monitoring and night patrol.

Friday: Early morning start and we will be out on another foot patrol locating the rhino we have

not seen in the past few days . The afternoon we will

set out to monitor Leopard on our way to a sleep out under the stars with the Main Research Camp volunteers.


Saturday: Assist the man camp in the morning

getting this years Hippo census done, followed

by an afternoon monitoring drive focussing on our Wild-dogs and Cheetah. On return in the evening,

we may head out to the local pub or have a typical South African braai (BBQ).


Sunday: Either an outing can be arranged for you with a local tour company or you can hire a car for self drive tour or it will be a free day for volunteers to relax.


In between activities, volunteers will receive a series

of presentations on the work of Siyafunda, or how

to approach dangerous game on foot, or possibly history lecture. This time will also be used to transfer

all data collected onto the computers and compile

the weekly research report, as well as helping out with vehicle checks and cleaning.


Your home during your stay will be in our eco-friendly tented camp set amongst the trees which overlooks

a water course.  There are large, comfortable twin share tents set on raised platforms, ensuring each has its own unique view of the African bush! 

Each tent has 2 comfortable single beds, with duvets, blankets and hot water bottles for the colder winter nights.


There are shared ablution facilities with flushing toilets and bush showers.  All meals are cooked

by the group.  Your evenings will be spent hearing tales from your experienced ranger, listening

to the sounds of the bush, before you fall asleep under the African sky.


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