ABOUT THE FIVE RESERVES:
Unlike other projects, The Zululand Conservation Expedition is not
focused on only 1 reserve, but stretched across 4 of most famous
reserves in Southern Africa. Depending on how long you stay with us, you
will get the opportunity to experience the work done on all these
reserves. The Zululand ecosystem is among the most productive wild lands
on the planet, with wildlife as diverse as its landscape.
The reserves you can work on are one or all of the following:
Somkhanda Game Reserve is a community-owned game reserve managed
by “Wildlands Conservation Trust”, in partnership with the Gumbi
community. Somkhanda is the first community-owned reserve to be
proclaimed under the Protected Areas Management Act, meaning
that this community has committed their land to biodiversity
conservation for the foreseeable future.
Somkhanda is supported by the WWF “Black Rhino Range Expansion
Project”, and has a healthy population of both Black Rhinos and
White Rhinos, that the project funds help to monitor. Besides
breathtaking scenery and pristine bushveld, a number of
naturally-occurring game species can be found on Somkhanda, such
as Nyala, Impala, Wildebeest, Zebra and Kudu, as well as some
rarer species such as Leopard, brown and spotted Hyaena,
Aardvark, Honey Badger and Caracal.
Wildlands Conservation Trust has assisted with re-introducing a
number of different species into the reserve to boost game
numbers. African Wild Dogs were introduced to the reserve in
2014 to fulfil the conservation objective of saving endangered
species, and reintroducing natural predation into the system.
Planned future introductions include Buffalo, Cheetah and
Somkhanda has a critical need to ensure daily sightings of the
Wild Dog pack. The pressing need to track this particular pack
of Wild Dogs is due to the fact that Somkhanda Game Reserve
suffers from an influx of poachers from local rural communities,
who consistently trespass onto the reserve to set snares with
the intention of catching bush meat (mostly antelope).
Tragically, these snares have a large unintended by-catch, which
includes any unsuspecting animal that walks into the snares –
including Rhino, Elephant, and very often the Wild Dogs since
they cover such large distances daily in search of food.
this reason it is absolutely vital that the monitoring team
devotes the majority of their time to locating the Wild Dog pack
each morning and evening, to ensure that all the dogs are
accounted for and unharmed. This does involve early starts to
the day, and getting back late to camp in the evening, but is a
crucial part of the work we are doing!
SOMKHANDA RESEARCH CAMP ACCOMMODATION: Somkhanda volunteers are
housed in a large house within the reserve, and the camp offers
twin rooms, an indoor bathroom and toilet, a large kitchen and a
braai (barbecue) area. The water is good for drinking, and the
house has electricity and hot water. Due to limited cellphone
(mobile) signal in the area, the “Cell-C” mobile network
receives the best signal.
The main focus on Somkhanda is to
assist with the daily monitoring of African Wild Dog and Rhinos,
as well as general biological monitoring of other priority
species (Vultures, Hyaenas, Leopards) and the compilation of
Mkhuze Game Reserve
A place of great beauty and high contrasts, Mkhuze is renowned for its
astonishing diversity of natural habitats, from the eastern slopes of
the Ubombo Mountains along its north western boundary, to broad
stretches of acacia savannah, swamps, a variety of woodlands and
riverine forests as well as a rare type of sand forest. The Mkhuze
River, with a beautiful stretch of fig forest along its banks, curves
along the Reserve's northern and eastern borders.
The Mkhuze Game Reserve constitutes the north western spur of the
recently declared World Heritage Site: the Isimangaliso Wetland Park.
The Reserve offers an abundance of wildlife including Endangered species
such as Black Rhino, Cheetah, African Wild Dog and Suni. Other animals
to be found in the Reserve include White Rhino, Elephant, Buffalo,
Giraffe, Leopard, Nyala, Blue Wildebeest, Hyaena, Warthog, Zebra, Kudu
and other smaller antelope. Mkhuze has no Lions on the Reserve. Mkhuze is also famous for its rich birdlife
and attracts ornithologists from all over the world.
Two beautiful pans, Nhlonhlela and Nsumo, which lie in the north and
east respectively, support large communities of Hippos, Crocodiles,
Pinkbacked and White Pelicans, as well as a diversity of storks, ducks,
geese and other water birds which gather in spring. Nsumo Pan is host to
one of only two major Pinkbacked Pelican breeding colonies in southern
The main focus on Mkhuze is the monitoring of the African Wild Dog,
Cheetah, Elephant herds and Vultures.
Tembe Elephant Park
Tembe is comprised of 30,000 hectares – the land was
historically owned by the Tembe tribe, the ancestral custodians
of the area. Nkosi (Chief) Mzimba Tembe donated the land for the
formation of this Game Reserve, and it is now 50% co-owned and
managed by the Tembe tribe, while its precious bio-diversity is
managed by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife; the KwaZulu-Natal conservation
Although Tembe has no Cheetah on the Reserve, it is home to a
rich diversity of other wildlife - including the “Big 5” (Lion,
Leopard, Black and White Rhino, Buffalo and Elephant), Hippo and
various antelope species, from the majestic Giraffe which stand
at 5 metres tall, down to one of the smallest antelope in Africa
- the Suni, at only 35 centimetres high! The area now known as
Tembe Elephant Park is real wild country.
The park is situated within the sand-veld ecological zone and
consists mainly of closed woodland and secondary thicket
formation. The zone falls within a transition area between
tropical and sub-tropical forms and therefore is home to a great
diversity of vegetation as well as over 340 bird species, making
it a delight for bird lovers.
The main focus on Tembe is the monitoring of the Lion,
African Wild Dog and Elephant populations.
Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (established in 1895), is one of the
oldest Game Reserves in Africa. It is very large (960 km² /
96,000 ha) and contains an immense diversity of fauna and flora.
Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park was originally three separate reserves
that joined under its current title in 1989, and since then they
have been managed as one park. The two sections are not
separated by fences and they are still managed as one natural
system, however due to the size of the protected area,
logistically it is divided into two Management Sections.
Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park is home to a rich
diversity of wildlife, including the "Big 5" (Black and White
Rhinoceros, Elephant, Buffalo, Lion and Leopard), as well as
species such as African Wild Dog, Cheetah, Hyaena, Jackal, Blue
Wildebeest, Giraffe, Zebra, Nile Crocodile, Hippopotamus,
Bushpig, Warthog, Mongoose, Chacma Baboons, Vervet Monkeys, as
well as various antelope species including Waterbuck, Kudu,
Nyala, Impala, common and mountain Reedbuck, Bushbuck, Duiker,
Steenbok and Suni, and a variety of Tortoises, Terrapins, Snakes
and Lizards. The park is also a prime birding destination, with
over 320 recorded bird species.
Due to the vast size of the reserve, we have
2 projects situated within the 2 separate management sections of
Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (one in the northern “Hluhluwe Section”
and one in the southern “iMfolozi Section”).
The northern section of the park (known as the Hluhluwe section)
has hilly topography where altitudes range from 80 to 540 m
above sea level. The high ridges support coastal scarp forests
in a well watered region with valley bushveld at lower levels.
The accommodation at the research camp in
Hluhluwe is in the form of rooms each with 2 single beds. You
may therefore have to share with one other volunteer of the same
gender, for these 2 weeks.
This camp also houses some other research
staff and visiting staff members for the park, (although their
rooms are separate from our volunteers). This does provide the
opportunity for socialising and interesting discussions with
these other researchers in the evenings.
The main focus in the Hluhluwe Section of
the park is an extensive Cheetah population survey using remote
camera traps, and includes the monitoring of the African Wild
The topography in the southern iMfolozi section ranges from the
lowlands of the Black and White iMfolozi River beds, to steep
hilly country which includes some wide and deep valleys.
Habitats in this area are primarily grasslands, which extend
into Acacia savannah and woodlands. iMfolozi was the home of the
now famous “Operation Rhino” in the 1950's and 60's, which
resulted in the saving of the Southern White Rhino
(Ceratotherium simium) from extinction. iMfolozi is also famed
for its Wilderness Trails which originated in iMfolozi in the
1950’s, and the Park’s renowned Game Capture unit.
The accommodation at the research camp in
iMfolozi is in the form of rooms, with 2 single beds and with 3
single beds. You may therefore have to share with another
volunteer of the same gender, for these 2 weeks.
*Just a note: the accommodation at the
iMfolozi camp is basic, isolated and reliant on a generator for
electricity. At times the power supply can be somewhat
unreliable, so please ensure that you have enough spare
batteries to rely on in case you cannot recharge there as often
as you would like.
This will be a time for you to truly “switch
off” and enjoy the bush! It is a very beautiful location, with
numerous sightings; a truly special place.
The main focus in the iMfolozi Section of
the park is a new animal track/spoor identification project, as
well as the monitoring of the African Wild Dogs
Zululand Rhino Reserve (ZRR) lies within the Msunduzi valley in
northern Zululand, in the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal, South
Africa. The area falls under the Mkuze Valley Lowveld vegetation
type, varying from open Savanna thornveld, bushveld to riverine
woodland, characterized by Acacia’s and Marula tree species. The
reserve has over 70 Mammal species and an exceptional diversity
The Zululand Rhino Reserve was
established in 2004 and comprises of 17 landowners who have
dropped their internal fences to create a big 5, endangered
species reserve. The WWF Black Rhino Range Expansion Project was
the conduit for the formation of the reserve. The Reserve was
chosen as a release site for the WWF Black Rhino Range Expansion
Project and in 2005 a founder population of black rhino were
released into their new home. In 2009 the reserve was proclaimed
as a Nature Reserve under the Protected Areas Act 57 of 2003
acknowledging the reserve as a site of biodiversity importance
that makes essential contributions to the conservation of
species and habitats and is an important system that provides
Volunteers are housed in a large,
beautiful and secluded house within the reserve, and the camp
offers twin rooms, a large kitchen and a lovely patio dining
The main focus on Zululand
Rhino Reserve is monitoring of the Cheetah, Elephant and Rhino,
as well as some population surveys, conducted via remote camera
ANIMALS TO LOOK OUT FOR:
The African Elephant is the world's largest land animal, and a male can
reach 3.3 metres in height and 60 metric tons in weight. This powerful
creature used to live anywhere south of the Sahara that water and trees
occurred. Since the massive decline in numbers during the 1970s and
1980s from ivory poaching, the Elephant has become less widespread.
Elephants roamed the Karoo in large herds up to the late 1700s.
The White Rhinoceros or Square-lipped rhinoceros is one of the five
species of rhinoceros that still exists. Behind the elephant, it is
probably the most massive remaining land animal in the world, along with
the Hippopotamus, which are of comparable size. It is well known for its
wide mouth used for grazing and for being the most social of all rhino
species. The White Rhino is the most common of all rhinos.
It is the mouth-shape and size of the Black Rhino, and not its skin
colour, that distinguish it from the White Rhino. The Black Rhino is
smaller, with the male weighing 1000 - 1350 kg. It has a pointed,
beak-like upper lip, which it uses as a grasping tool - unlike the
square mouth of the White Rhino. The distinctive horns (the collection
of which has been the main reason for the Rhino's threatened status) are
used for breaking branches and digging up mineral earth.
The Leopard is Africa's largest spotted cat, with the average mass of a
fully grown male being around 60kg. The female is considerably lighter
at an average 32kg. Leopards generally have a golden coat, with brown to
black spots on the head, legs and tail, and larger 'rosettes' on the
main body. It has a wider distribution than any of the other large cats
due to its ability to live anywhere - from rocky hills and mountain
ranges to forests and semi-desert areas. Predominantly solitary, this
animal hunts by stalking and pouncing rather than using a Cheetah-style
The African Buffalo differs dramatically from the American Buffalo,
which is actually a Bison, but was erroneously referred to as Buffalo by
early American settlers with limited scientific knowledge. The African
Buffalo is similar in shape to a bulky cow, with sparse hair. Adult
males are black to charcoal grey whilst the females and young have a
reddish tinge. Both sexes have horns that flare sideways and down before
curving up to the tips. The African Buffalo is an unselective grazer
that eats leaves and grasses, favouring areas with shady trees and ready
The fastest moving land-based hunter in the world, the Cheetah's lithe
grace and speed are legendary. Its almost uniform buff colouring with
black spots is broken only by distinctive dark tear-shaped markings on
the face, and by the black bands and white tip of its tail. It lives on
open grassland and savannah
woodland, extending into arid areas. The Cheetah preys on small to
medium antelope and will take smaller mammals when available. Hunting
takes place during the day, and usually involves a high-speed chase.
Wild dog's are an interesting species in that no two
individuals have the same pattern of coat. Individuals
can easily be recognized on the basis of their differing
coat patterns. The coat is an irregular pattern of
black, yellow, and white. Adults typically weigh between
17-36 kilograms. Wild Dogs are pack hunters. Their main
prey varies among populations, but always focuses on
medium sized ungulates such as impala . A few packs,
however, will also include much larger animals, such as
zebras, in their prey.
Hyena's have a distinctly bear-like gait due to their
front legs being longer than their back legs. Hyenas
have powerful carnassial teeth adapted for cutting flesh
and crushing premolars for crushing bone.
Hyenas are highly intelligent animals.
One indication of hyena intelligence is
that they will move their kills closer
to each other to protect them from
scavengers another indication is their
strategic hunting methods.
Suni are around 12-17 inches high at the shoulder and
weigh 10-12 pounds. They are usually reddish brown,
darker on their back than their sides and legs. The
belly, chin, throat and insides of legs are white. The
nostrils are prominent red, and there are black rings
around the eyes and above the hooves. Males have horns
3-5 inches long, that are ridged most of their length
and curve backwards close to their heads. Females do not
have horns. Suni can make weak barking and whistling
sounds. Suni feed on leaves, fungi, fruits and flowers,
and need almost no free water. They are shy, most active
at night, and sleep during the day in a shady, sheltered
The giraffe is the tallest of all land-living animals.
Males can be 4.8 to 5.5 meters (16 to 18 feet) tall and
weigh up to 1,360 kilograms (3,000 pounds). Giraffes can
inhabit savannas, grasslands, or open woodlands. They
prefer areas enriched with Acacia growth. They often
drink, and as a result, they can spend long periods of
time in dry, arid areas. When searching for more food
they will venture into areas with denser foliage.
Hippos are very large, barrel-shaped animals with short legs. The skin
is naked and predominantly greyish-brown, with a yellowish-pink tinge at
the throat, belly and inside some skin folds. It lives in open stretches
of permanent water or riverine pools with gently sloping sandbanks that
are convenient resting places. It typically grazes on grass during night
and rests in or near the water during the day.
Yes, this is the one that South Africa's national rugby team is named
after - however, its 'kit' is somewhat different in style and hue… The
four-legged Springbok has dark-brown stripes on its flanks behind a
white body. Found in dry grasslands, it grazes on the leaves and sprouts
of Karoo bushes, including those of several pungent herbs that grow in
the area. It is believed that in the late 1770s herds of up to 30 000
Springbok roamed these plains.
A narrow white stripe down the back to the flanks together with a white
bar across the face at eye-level make the Kudu easy to spot. It also has
particularly large ears. The male is a brown-grey colour while the
female has a cinnamon tinge, however only males have horns, and these
rise from the top of the head in wide spirals. Found in savannah
woodland, including rocky areas and slopes, the Kudu browses on a wide
range of plants, with the Acacia species being particular favourites.
Records from 1875 confirm the presence of Kudu in the Klein Karoo.
Mkhuze Game Reserve is a photographer's dream. Due to the perfect
light conditions, during the twilight hours of sunrise and sunset it is
advisable to use 100 ASA film for exquisite photographic opportunities.
A 100 - 300 lens is a good choice. There are also many opportunities to
use Macro photography
to capture close-ups of the smaller species.
For the avid birdwatcher, Mkhuze Game Reserve is home to 420
Due to the unobtrusiveness of Mkhuze Game Reserve, the birds are at
ease, affording one with good viewing.
With the absence of artificial light, the stargazing at the Reserve
is phenomenal and amongst the best in Southern Africa. The prominent
Orion's Belt, also known as the three Kings, forms part of the
Constellation of Orion, the tragic lover and great hunter who in turn is
hunting Taurus, the bull. Orion's faithful hound, Canis Major, guards the
hare, Lepus lying slain at Orion's feet.
The navigational Southern Cross displays its magnificent facets such as
the incandescent Jewel Box, the Coal Sack and it's two pointers, Alpha
Centauri and Beta Centauri.
Depending on the time of year, Venus, the Goddess of love will greet you
at dawn or dusk, while Sirius, the brightest star in our heavens keeps a
constant vigil. The Lord of the Rings Saturn, the God of War Mars and
the Sky God Uranus are some of the planets that can be viewed with the
naked eye, depending on the time of year.