Richards Bay Tours
Award-Winning Wildlife Conservation Volunteering

Award-Winning Wildlife Conservation Volunteering

By Wildlife ACT
Get involved in award-winning conservation work being done in Africa to save endangered and threatened wildlife. Join our professionals in the field and support some of the most important and exciting work being done on the ground. It's an unforgettable experience and an opportunity to see how true conservation work is carried out. Ages 18 to 70+ AWARDS Fair Trade Tourism certified Second Place Winner for a World Responsible Tourism Award in the category “Best for Wildlife” Second Place Winner for an African Responsible Tourism Award in the category “Best for Habitat & Species Conservation” Finalist for a Global Youth Travel Award in the category "Best Sustainable Organization" Get involved in real endangered wildlife conservation and have the ultimate African wildlife experience while doing it!

Ages 18-70, max of 5 per group
Duration: 14 days
Start time: Check availability
Mobile ticket
Live guide: English

  • Breakfast
  • Coffee and/or Tea
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Bottled water
  • Use of wildlife tracking equipment
  • All Fees and Taxes
What's not included
  • Alcoholic Beverages

    Pickup details
    • We collect all arriving participants from RICHARDS BAY, which is the closest Airport. You will have to book your INTERNATIONAL FLIGHT to arrive at JOHANNESBURG, and then book a short internal connecting flight, from Johannesburg to RICHARDS BAY. For arrival, participants can choose to either fly in to Richards Bay on the SUNDAY, and to then overnight at a B&B close to the Airport, OR to arrive on either of the following flights arriving in Richards Bay on the MONDAY: at 09:15 AM, or at 12:50 PM, if they prefer not to overnight on Sunday.
    Airport pickup offered
    During checkout you will be able to select from the list of included airports.
    • Richards Bay Airport, Richards Bay South Africa
    End:This activity ends back at the meeting point.

      • Not wheelchair accessible
      • Near public transportation
      If you have questions about accessibility, we’d be happy to help. Just call the number below and reference the product code: 206507P1

      • Not recommended for travelers with back problems
      • Not recommended for pregnant travelers
      • No heart problems or other serious medical conditions
      • Travelers should have a moderate physical fitness level
      • This experience requires a minimum number of travelers. If it’s canceled because the minimum isn’t met, you’ll be offered a different date/experience or a full refund
      • This tour/activity will have a maximum of 5 travelers

      • For a full refund, cancel at least 24 hours in advance of the start date of the experience.

      If you have questions about this tour or need help making your booking, we’d be happy to help. Just call the number below and reference the product code: 206507P1

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      Popular mentions

      5.0 of 5 bubbles3 reviews
      Very good

      1 contribution
      5.0 of 5 bubbles
      Aug 2023 • Solo
      Wildlife Act is the 2023 winner of the Responsible Tourism Awards Africa in the category 'Nature-positive tourism'. I can only agree with that. The money you bring in will be used for conservation and you are able to join the skilled monitors during their daily work.
      This was my 3th time I volunteered with Wildlife Act and I love the monitoring of endangered species on a daily basis and putting up camera traps to monitor more elusive species. If you're lucky you might get the opportunity to help during dartings, collarings or relocations. You are in the African bush: it's not a zoo, so some days will be exciting and others long, tiring and without any visuals. But being in the African bush for two or more weeks will be an experience you never forget!
      Written September 13, 2023
      This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

      Northampton, UK3,718 contributions
      5.0 of 5 bubbles
      Jan 2023
      I often describe myself, using part of the title of a Simon Barnes book, as a bad birdwatcher. My inner birder was released by Godfrey Symons, my wife’s’ grandfather, on his farm road when he spotted a big bird sitting in a thorn tree. That bird turned out to be a marabou stork, the first he had ever seen on the farm in his seventy plus years. That afternoon we sat in his snug and I listened to all things birds. I learnt of his travels and expeditions and his passion for wildlife and wild places. On my bookshelf I still have ‘Barrier of Spears’ by R O Pearce, a gift from my wife, that features Godfrey. There is a chapter that tells the story of a team expedition into the Drakensberg Mountains in 1958. The team were there looking for proof that the bearded vulture, a then rare and endangered bird, nested in the KwaZulu Natal sections of the mountains.

      Reading that Wildlife ACT were launching the Southern Drakensberg Conservation Project I dropped them an email. I have spent time with them over the years on several of their projects in Zululand. I have been privileged to be on monitoring projects involving wild dogs, leopards, lions and cheetahs. But now here was a project dedicated to the monitoring of endangered and critically endangered vultures, most notably the bearded vulture. I have spent time in Drakensberg Mountains and had seen bearded vultures at Giants Castle and at Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge. But now here was the chance to get involved with valuable research and data collection and of course walk in the footsteps of Godfrey.

      Mountain weather is unpredictable, and this meant we had to wait for a window of opportunity before we could make any attempt to ascend into the heights of the Southern Drakensberg. When that opportunity came, we were up at 4am and at our start point before 5am. The forecast was for low cloud, clearing into the morning, with a chance of rain and storms rolling in early afternoon. Being a boy from sea level I often struggle at altitude. And this uphill hike was no different. Less than an hour in I was having to stop every few minutes and catch my breath. Philip, the project coordinator and my guide, was very patient and understanding. He continually waited and smiled and offered me encouragement. You do need a certain level of fitness here and mine was just enough. It is quite tough going, steep, and no path to follow. I was impressed with Philip as he took us further and further up using his knowledge of the mountain and his experience to get us where we needed to be. He began to point out our destination which for some time seemed to never get any closer. But when there my relief came in the form of beetroot-coloured cheeks and sweat.

      We sat on a rock plateau, nearly two thousand meters above sea level, and Philip assembled the optical scope complete with phone, camera, attachment. I made tea and took the weight off my feet. Philip then pointed out the location of a Bearded Vulture nest where a pair had recently and successfully raised a chick. The nest was in a crevice on a sheer cliff face approximately a thousand meters away from us. It was clearly marked by a thick line of white guano (bird poop). Our job was to observe, so I sat and watched the sky over the mountain peaks, above, and either side of the nest site. After an hour we rewarded as a vulture appeared directly over the nesting site. Even at a distance you can appreciate the sheer size of this old world vulture with a wing span of nearly three meters. Philip quickly identified and confirmed that this was a (Gypaetus barbatus) Bearded Vulture. After soaring and circling the bird landed on a ledge a few hundred meters to the left of the nest. Here through my binoculars and Philip’s scope we could clearly see the bird’s distinctive white face and forehead and golden-brown chest. This was a truly magnificent sight, and I could not help of think of Godfrey and the team he was part of. I was in some ways here in his footsteps.

      Philip has many responsibilities within the project including the upkeep of a vulture feeding site. Here he not only observes from a hide, but he also maintains the cameras that offer a live feed, and keeps the site stocked with food. The food here is generally donated by local farmers. It was from the live feed that we were alerted to vultures being there and feeding. On arrival we were greeted by approximately ninety Cape Vultures. This turned out to be the end of the first sitting, feeding session, and we sat and observed their final feeding before one by one they took to the sky. From within the hide I was amazed by the sounds of the woosh and beating of wings. I had never been this close to these huge and majestic vultures and the level of noise clearly reflected the power of their wings. I watched them all take the same flight path, away low to our right, they picked up a thermal and began to circle and climb. They formed the most amazing flock and looked spectacular set among the gathering storm clouds and distant mountain peaks. (Philip and I chatted and came to the conclusion that flock was an underwhelming term for such magnificent birds. Google now tells me that when resting as a group they are called a committee, when feeding they are a wake and when flying in formation, they are a kettle. I like the term a Vesuvius of vultures)

      The second sitting did not really happen as another fifty to sixty Cape vultures walked into view. They came closer and closer to the food on offer. However, after nearly an hour they followed the same flight path as the first flock. This created our second spectacular kettle, or to me Vesuvius.

      We spent time walking in the mountains on land being monitored by camera traps. Another key feature of the project is to operate, maintain, and check camera traps and record what they capture. Being on foot in the mountains means that when checking the traps you also get a real feel for the environment. The surrounding views and big and bold. There is open grassland, scree slopes, boulders and rocks of all shapes and sizes and of course distant peaks. The plant life varies hugely, many varieties of Protea, Everlasting daisies, Erica’s and delicate lilies. When back at the Wildlife ACT base all the memory cards from the traps are gone through and all wildlife is recorded. We got to see Eland antelope, Mountain Reedbuck, Jackals, Baboons, Porcupines, Servel cats and a large variety of birdlife. I do not normally, in my articles offer thanks, but thank you Wildlife ACT for establishing this project and for letting me visit. Philip, thank you for getting up and down the mountain slopes safely and being so patient with an overweight, not as fit as he thinks, man. Lastly, thank you to that Marabou Stork that created so much excitement with Godfrey which led to a bad birdwatcher being created, me.
      Written March 28, 2023
      This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

      Northampton, UK3,718 contributions
      5.0 of 5 bubbles
      Jan 2022
      Our vehicle slowed to a halt on the dirt road. It was still dark, pitch black, so dark I could barely see my hand in front of my face. “They are here, right by the side of the road” our Priority Species Monitor said. “Really” I asked her, my voice just above a whisper, just in case they were in ear shot. monitor shone her torch and sure enough there they were. Two big, magnificent, males and two females. The adults of the pride. Only one lioness lifted her head to check us out. The other three continued with their sleep with just occasional tail and ear flicks.

      I was back on the ground with a Wildlife ACT monitoring team after a long two-and-a-half-year gap. And I was back again in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a World Heritage Site. Last time it was the Eastern Shores Section, on a leopard and whale monitoring project, and now it’s an endangered species monitoring project in the uMkhuze Section. I was excited to be arriving here as it was a reserve, I had only visited a couple of times, was not very familiar with, and had not stayed in since 2006. It has all the iconic African big game species and is also a renowned birders hot spot. One of the very best in Southern Africa boasting over five hundred bird species.

      On arrival at the team’s camp I was warmly greeted, shown to my room, and over a cup of tea given some background information. There was a tour of the camp, including the communal kitchen, before going over the rules, regulations, and safety procedures. I listened intently to the emergency procedures and studied my info sheet as to what to do should certain situations arise. The monitor made me familiar with volunteers’ phone and radio. The camp is not fenced so wild animals come and go freely. Nyala, impala and warthogs grazed around us, and vervet monkeys watched us from their various vantage points. Monkeys are opportunist and I learnt, the hard way, a long time ago that leaving food out or a door open, is an invite to a monkey.

      Here in uMkhuze, the team with help from the volunteers, are responsible for the monitoring of all priority species within the reserve’s boundaries, as required and guided by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s reserve management. These include the focussed intensive monitoring of lion, cheetah and vultures, as well as elephant, rhino, leopard and spotted hyena. Since I was last on a project, technology has improved and evolved. Regular updates from collars, via a network of towers, send the positions of certain priority species to the team. This means that before heading out into the bush there is an indication of where animals could be. Then when out in the field telemetry takes over. A handheld antenna and receiver are used in conjunction with mobile apps to triangulate the VHF collars to pinpoint animal locations.

      Technology plays a big role in the teams’ work; however, visual observation of endangered species is key. Sightings and photographs allow monitors to assess the condition of the wildlife they are there to help conserve.

      During my stay we headed out twice a day on monitoring and observation duties. In the afternoons we left camp at 4pm and in the mornings it was 3.30am. I did get a lay in on my last morning as we did not leave until 3.45am. Times and durations of being out can vary, dependant on the season, what the days plan is, and of course what you encounter when out. We followed a structure with pre-determined targets for each drive. You learn to use the telemetry and mobile apps to do triangulations as you become part of the team. Your wild targets are not given names but coded identification number according to species and sex. On a couple of drives our target was not visible. A female cheetah remained elusive. On the move, but out of sight. You will need to be patient as often it is a waiting game. You may be required to sit for a couple of hours, regularly monitoring, to try and get a visual of a particular animal.

      On our drives we encountered many animals and birds outside of those we were monitoring. In the daytime elephants, giraffes, zebra, wildebeest and various eagles, to name but a few. On those early mornings it was hyena, scrub hares, nightjars and spotted thick-knees. I have to say I have never seen as many nightjars and scrub hares as what we saw on those early drives.

      We did have luck on our side on more than one occasion. Using our tracking equipment, we managed to catch up with a pair of cheetahs, two very healthy-looking brothers. They were using a stretch of dirt road that we could also drive on. Any cat sighting in the wild is very special. But with cheetahs listed as a Vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species it emphasises the importance of all the conservation work that is being carried out here, and in many other reserves, that you can play a role in.

      Back to where I started and the lions. They were located using technology and the monitor’s knowledge of animal behaviour, along with a slice of luck. They had decided to sleep in the open and not under the cover of thick bush. The very early start was also key to our success. We sat for some time, eyes adjusting to the low light levels. And as the light levels increased as the sun rose so did the heat. But the pride remained relatively settled and relaxed right up to just before sunrise. We needed good light to observe, in particular the two males, as when they were last seen they had small wounds on the backs of the hind legs. But always expect the unexpected when in the African bush. There was a familiar noise coming from behind the lions. A low-level rumbling, elephants were now here as well. And only minutes before dawn two huge elephant bulls came into view feeding right behind the thickets where the lions were laying. The oldest lioness was the first to make a sharp exit into thick bush. The last was one of the males who appeared to be a deeper sleeper and unaware of the fast-approaching elephants. I had never seen lions and elephants interact like this.

      The elephants forced the lions to take cover and disappear from our sight. We sat, patiently, and kept focussed on the bush where we last saw them. And we kept catching occasional glimpses. We were then more than surprised to see what happened next. We spotted a male lion, but he was also looking down into the bush. He had climbed a tree and now had a much better view than any of us. He was joined up there by one of the lionesses and it became a test of skills and balance. They exited the tree, one after another, with a leap from height. This was the first time this team had observed this behaviour from this pride.

      Active roles in conservation await us all in the African bush. There are many opportunities to join Wildlife ACT as a volunteer across several reserves and protected areas. Who knows, you may be lucky enough to see an elephant chase a lion into a tree.
      Written March 29, 2022
      This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
      Wonderful, thank you Mark!
      Written March 31, 2022
      This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

      Award-Winning Wildlife Conservation Volunteering provided by Wildlife ACT

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