Big 5 Welgevonden Volunteer Project

Wildlife Combination 101 Africa Volunteer Adventures

If you want the Big 5 and you're passionate about Conservation & Research then this is the Volunteer project you have been looking for!

37,500 Hectares of vast, peaceful and incredibly beautiful scenery, this is a stunning destination filled with rich cultural legacy and immense natural beauty. Pack your camera and big lens!

You'll experience the Big 5 (White & Black Rhino, African Elephant, Cape Buffalo, African Leopard, and the African Lion) as well as many rare species such as the brown hyena, aardvark and aardwolf. Most of which you can see in the plains next to your fenced off camp within the reserve as you sit by the BBQ watching the sunset. 

The reserve is spread over 37 500 hectares and is only a 2.5 hour drive north of Johannesburg. That's massive!

The reserve has it's own private security 007 Team to protect the Rhinos from poaching. 

Basic translation implies “well found reserve” which is the ultimate description of this majestic piece of land that transforms at every opportunity. It offers breathtaking views of the African wilderness and offers memories that will last long after you have left. 

Explore between cheetah-loved grasslands and savannahs to leafy wooded mountains cut by deep rocky ravines. There are perennial rivers that constantly flow throughout this reserve ensuring constant healthy vegetation and habitats for over 50 different types of mammals – without even mentioning the 250 species of abundant and prolific birdlife. 

The Bushman rock art is a humbling experience as well. This reserve is privately managed and provides the spirit of true untouched wilderness. The reserve has never allowed legal hunting and limits the number of guests on the reserve at one time ensuring minimal human contact and the ultimate wilderness experience. The perfect balance of biodiversity, conservation, research and natural living is evident at here.

What will I get to do on the Big 5 Conservation & Research Project?

This project is very research focused and volunteers will be expected to assist in any projects that are happening when they arrive on property. All volunteers will be expected to report directly to the resident Biologist / Conservationist with their reports and observations. This is a very active project so volunteers have no need to get bored as they will be involved in the daily activities of the reserve and any exciting occurrences that may arise i.e. veld fire control, game capture, vet work etc.

Tasks and Duties:

  • Be under instruction of the Biologist and Nature Conservationist on property
  • Assist with the research projects that are ongoing at the reserve e.g. leopard research
  • Watch trip cameras for nocturnal animal activity
  • Collect physical samples and data analysis for the weekly reports
  • Help with the maintenance of enclosures / bomas and upkeep of facilities
  • Participate in the daily running’s of the reserve [animal capture, veld fire control, anti-poaching]
  • Animal tracking and monitoring. Report any unusual findings to reserve management for observation
  • Be the eyes and ears of the reserve and get actively involved in every aspect to guarantee you receive the African Bush Experience of a lifetime
  • Get involved with any veterinarian activities on property

Accommodation and Food? 

Volunteers are accommodated in luxury permanent tented sites that are enclosed by electric fencing – keeping the animals out or in we wonder? There is a main building where the volunteers have access to a kitchen, social recreation area, research labs, bathroom facilities with hot water, electricity and Internet accessibility.

The bird hide is wonderful to relax in, the braai area and fire pit are perfect for evening sundowners while in the distance watching and hearing nocturnal life come alive as the animals make their great trek home, or awakening, for the night’s festivities. The swimming “gat” often attracts the flying kind but don’t let this stop you from wallowing like the hippo downstream.




  • Personal First Aid Kit and any medication for illness
  • Plug adaptor
  • Hat, towel, sun cream and water bottle
  • Insect repellent
  • Sleeping bag for colder months
  • Clean Criminal Record
  • Good Medical health & Fitness
  • Drugs or alcohol abuse will not be tolerated
  • Enthusiasm and flexibility in attitude so that you are able to muck in and be a team player


If you have any questions we are happy to provide you more information.


International Working Holidays has been sending adventurous young people to amazing OE programs all over the world since 2001 - so we have a great reputation for safe, legal and interesting programs in alot of different countries.


Plus we've been around a while so we know what we are doing. We only work with the best and trusted partners around the world. 

Lion watching the pryde

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What did you do today?

Here are a selection of photos showing volunteers in action at Welgevonden Big 5 Volunteer Project.

Rhino capture Claire Welgevonden Big 5 Volunteer.jpg

A Rhino capture. This rhino was on a neighbouring property and is being transported after a blindfold and earplugs to calm the animal for the move (with sedation). It was transported and released to the Welgevonden reserve where it will be safer. Any injuries (from fighting other rhinos) were treated by a Vet at the same time. Volunteers got to take part. (Claire from Auckland is in the middle).

Lion Capture Welgevonden Big 5 Volunteer.jpg

Lion capture. Two lions had escaped from the predator part of the reserve into an area that is predator free so they needed to be darted by a vet, then blindfolded, monitored and relocated. Volunteers get to witness it all and then get up close to a wild lion. 

The buffalo are hungry.jpg

During the winter months the animals are fed supplemental feed when needed. The buffalo are called away then the feed poured into feed bins then called back and running they come!

giraffes Welgevonden.jpg

Simply driving from one part of the reserve to another is a never ending game drive - but tourist free!

Claire with Cheetah Welgevonden.jpg

Two female cheetahs were darted for relocation from the north of the reserve closer to food sources, and they are known to stop breathing when sedated so Kiwi Claire monitors the cheetah till they reach the vet around the bend. Next they blindfolded the cheetah as well. 

Claire body condition scoring herbivores.jpg

Tracking and monitoring the animals health is vital at Welgevonden. Body Condition scoring, plus counts for new babies as well. All part of a weeks work at this project. 

Some more photos from the Project