Welcome to South Africa - The Big 5 Nature Project

Lisa-Marie Bolin Big 5

The Big 5 Nature Project

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Introduction

This project lies on the border of one of the most famous wildlife areas in Africa, Kruger National Park. As a volunteer with this project you will learn all about the Southern African wildlife, as well as be involved with the daily running of a bush camp. This project provides an unforgettable experience filled with fun and learning, as well as providing you an opportunity to see the Big 5.

“The Big 5 Project is the best place I’ve ever been to. Everyone should go there!! - Amanda, 21

Your role as a Volunteer

As a volunteer at this project you will be based in South Africa in the Balule Nature Reserve, which is part of the Greater Kruger National Park and open to the famous Kruger National Park itself. As mentioned before, Volunteering in the Greater Kruger National Park you have the possibility to encounter the “big five” along with a host of other animals, but you must remember that this is not a zoo and nothing in nature is guaranteed!. As a volunteer, you will learn not only about these animals but also the importance of a sustainable ecological environment and how to achieve this in practice. This makes the daily schedule varies to adapt to high temperatures or heavy rainfall or drought. The project is set for a 2-week stay.

As a volunteer at the Big 5 project may one day look like this:

  • Bush Walking 1-3 hours, either morning or afternoon with observations of droppings, animal tracks and various plants
  • Game drives in an open safari vehicle, either morning, afternoon or night, to find animals and observe them in their natural habitat
  • Lessons in conservation, ecology and different animal species behavior from 1.5 to 2 hours
  • Physical bush conservation work – anti erosion work, road repairs, branch clearing, alien plant control, etc

The Project’s Mission

Balule Private Game Reserve was established to create a safe place for these animals to live in their natural environment. As a volunteer you will learn all about these animals and how they depend on their habitat. The project aims to teach you as much as you can learn about the wildlife and environment found in this reserve and be able to take it with you wherever you might go.

Partners

The Big Five project is run by a local organization with extensive experience in animal care, ecology and conservation training, as well as volunteering. The project is located in Balule Nature Reserve adjacent to the famous Kruger National Park in South Africa. Thanks to this cooperation, we can offer you a well-organized and safe experience. It's a guaranteed to be a meaningful and exciting stay.

How do I book a trip?

You can book your trip with Volunteer Travels by calling us on (+46) 08-23 93 00 or by booking through our website www.volunteertravels.com by clicking on “Book a trip”. You can also email us on info@volunteertravels.com. When you have registered yourself we will send you an invoice with a registration fee of £200.00. The registration fee is later incorporated into the trip price and the amount is then deducted from your final invoice. When you have paid the registration fee you are formally registered. You will then receive preparatory information from us in good time to plan your trip.

Your Everyday Life

During the summer (October - April) the temperature can reach 30-40 degrees. During December to February, it is rainy season and can have medium to heavy rains. The rest of the year, it is generally very dry. Therefore, depending on what time of the year you travel to the project, your daily schedule will vary to adapt to the weather conditions.

Orientation

You will be met at the airport in Hoedspruit and transferred to the reserve and your project site. Once in place, you will get an overview of how things work at the reserve and what kind of park chores you will be involved with. Given that you will be staying among dangerous animals, much of introduction will be about safety and how to behave around these animals.

Accommodation and Food

The project is located less than two miles north of Hoedspruit, inside Balule Private Game Reserve. Volunteers are accommodated in either the traditional round stone houses or a mobile caravan. An observation tower is also available to sleep in, where you can stay safe under the open sky while roosting in the bush. Running water and electricity is available at the camp. If you did not bring your own towels they are available for purchase at the camp, along with mosquito nets. Food is included in the tour price. Volunteers will need to organise their own breakfast and lunch with the food provided, while dinner is cooked and eaten together. At the camp’s classroom there is also a pool which can be used during your free time as well as free internet, to stay in touch with the outside world. Volunteers can also get their clothes washed in camp, for a small fee.

Local Transport

Along with other volunteers, you will go to the Hoedspruit for joint activities and shopping. Please note that due to the location of the project, there is no local transport, such as taxis. Transport in connection with the project itself and its activities will also be provided. Remember this is the bush and most roads will be small and rather bumpy.

Leisure

South Africa is known for its many different destinations. There are a lot of attractions nearby, waiting to be discovered.  Why not take a ride in the African wilderness on a nearby horse farm? Activities such as these will be arranged for you either once or twice a week. These activities are optional and will also be an additional cost and can range from between R150 to R1500.

Many exciting activities are included during your work on the project, below you will see a selection of the activities you can enjoy:

  • Two-day visit into the world famous Kruger National Park
  • Half day reptile course
  • Full day in the Blyde Canyon
  • Half-day wildlife rehabilitation center tour
  • Bush walks
  • Night Excursions
  • Lectures / seminars
  • Full day - During your two week adventure you will spend one day helping and caring for community dogs together with the organisation HALO.

About South Africa

South Africa is one of Africa's most exciting countries. It is an interesting mix of Europe, Africa and Asia. Some of the challenges South Africa faces is to reduce poverty and injustice, to consolidate democracy and promote respect for human rights. The landscape is as diverse as the cultural characteristics, aptly named the “Rainbow Nation”. South Africa provides the excitement of Africa with the luxury of the “first world”.

The country's democratization process has been on-going since the early 1990s, and although much progress has been made there is still much to do. Some of the challenges that South Africa still faces is poverty and injustice, to consolidate democracy and promote respect for human rights. But the biggest challenge is the HIV/AIDS epidemic that is ravaging the country.

With regard to the animals, poaching is probably the largest threat with many species being the victims to the trade in exclusive products and animals skins, causing devastating consequences on the biodiversity of the country.

Practical

Flight

Flight tickets are not included in the tour price. You can book flights through a travel agency of your choice, please just be sure to arrive in Hoedspruit on your allocated start date (Arrival day and leave day: Tuesday). Make sure to double check this and let us know of your travel arrangements.

Visas

If you are going to be in South Africa more than 90 days you will need a visa. A visa takes about two months to apply for so be sure to apply for it when you arrive in the country. If you volunteer for more than 90 days, the visa cost will be included in the tour price. Please visit the South African embassy website to check up on the latest information regarding visas, http://www.saembassy.org/

Insurance

You are responsible to get insurance that covers you for illness, injury and theft while working as a volunteer in South Africa. You can get these options from the travel agent you book your flight ticket through. Included in your tour price with Volunteer Travels is insurance called “Living Abroad”. This is classified as liability insurance and will cover you for time when you as an individual are required to pay for damages you unintentionally have caused, either to someone or to someone’s property. Please feel free to email us at info@volunteertravels.com for more information about this insurance.

Infectious diseases

HIV / AIDS and TB are common diseases in South Africa and they appear on all of our health care and social-oriented projects. During the introduction, training about how infection is passed on and how to protect yourself from infection is taught. It is very important that you are aware of the risks and that you follow the instructions given.

Vaccinations

For any questions about vaccinations, you should contact a vaccination centre close to you or consult your doctor. We do recommend however, that you get Hepatitis A, B and tetanus (these are normally recommended when traveling abroad). During the dry season (June-September), there are few mosquitoes in the area, however, the project is located in a high risk area for malaria, and most choose to take malaria prophylaxis during their project period. Please consult your doctor on this as well.

 

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