Lion and Black Rhino Monitoring Programme

African Lion close up

WATCH: Lion and Black Rhino Monitoring Programme Video from Blue Lizard Adventures

Having very recently relocated to a Big 5 Nature Reserve, this volunteer wildlife research programme provides a fantastic opportunity to work alongside professional researchers, assisting with the long term studies of lion ecology and behaviour. Additionally, you will also have the pleasure of monitoring and recording data on other species such as leopard, cheetah, elephant, white rhino, black rhino, hyaenas and other special species. Here volunteers will learn necessary field research skills and techniques, use specific equipment (especially radio telemetry, GPS and map reading) and also learn about flora/fauna identification and issues relating to conservation in the area. The data collected plays a vital role in the conservation and management of, not only this reserve but for management of conservation areas throughout South Africa. Data is analysed weekly and monthly and annual reports are sent to the reserve management, in order to make the right decisions in terms of maintaining the ecological balance in the ecosystems of the area. The research base is located on a 30,000hectare private game reserve which is full of an array of Southern Africa’s most spectacular wildlife.

Long terms volunteers might also want to consider studying for a FGASA qualification (minimum 8 week stay required).

A Typical day on the reserve would involve an early research drive with refreshments in the bush. It is a very early start, as the carnivores are mainly active during the night and early mornings and also to avoid the heat of the central hours of the day!).  Arriving back for a hearty breakfast/lunch, followed by spare time to organise and enter data, partake in various tutorials, prepare for the next drive or just relax. Late afternoon early evening sees another research drive, arriving back at base in the evening, around 19.30-20.00 for dinner in the boma.

We are proud to announce that beginning in 2013, we  introduced an exclusive black rhino monitoring project where the volunteer and our guides will be tracking our black rhino on a specially designed quad bike . The Game Reserve was the first private reserve to be chosen in the black rhino range-expansion project where the rare black rhinos were removed from national parks onto safer private land for protection. The reserve is privileged to be home to these critically endangered animals. We are passionate and dedicated towards the conservation and protection of both black and white rhinos, which are under increasing threat from poachers for their horns.

African Safari Binoculars

leopard collaring on volunteer Africa

Volunteer Role:

  • Determine and monitor predator numbers in the including lions, leopards, cheetahs and spotted hyaena.
  • Monitor the feeding behaviour, prey selection, kill frequencies, and the ecological impact of lion and other predators in the reserve
  • Monitor the social dynamics of the reserves resident lion population
  • Monitor the spatial movements and territories of predators and mega herbivores in the reserve
  • Habituate elephants and develop their identification kits
  • Monitor the conditions of white rhino in the reserve.
  • Collar and habituate resident leopards

Your volunteer work will have a significant positive impact on the conservation policies and practices in South Africa. The data that volunteers and staffs collects goes towards valuable wildlife management reports and well respected academic institutions databases. Conservation areas will be able to make decisions that affect the balance of ecosystems and help them to restore farmland to wilderness in a sustainable way.

Accommodation: Volunteers live in a comfortable farmhouse in a secluded location inside the reserve. The view from the boma is of the magnificent hills and plains of this nature reserve in Limpopo Province: no roads, no pylons, no factories and no other people – just you and the African wilderness. The house contains communal same sex bedrooms. There is also a private room with a double bed, for couples, without additional charges, or for single person with a little additional charge. There is also a communal lapa and braai area. Hot water is supplied by a wood-fired boiler and the house is equipped with solar electricity and paraffin lanterns. Volunteers are provided with ingredients but are expected to prepare meals for the group and complete house duties on a daily rotary basis. Town trips are every Tuesday and according to the space on the vehicle, to the departures and arrivals, volunteers can join in the town trip.

The house gets frequent visits from elephants and nocturnal wildlife – the lion’s roar or the hyenas whoop is often your sunrise wake-up call.

Spare time can be spent socialising in the lapa; reading (there are two 2 libraries books on nature, and general readings at the volunteer accommodation) taking photos and enjoying the sounds of the African bushveld. There are other local activities and trips, such as Blyde River Canyon and Gods Window. These are to the volunteers own cost. Kruger National Park is also not too far away.

The programme runs throughout the year with a maximum of 12-14 volunteers at a time. The minimum volunteer duration is 2 weeks and the maximum is 12 weeks; if you stay for 8 weeks or more you have the options of undertaking FGASA level 1 training (see website for further details).

As part of our new black rhino project initiative, you will have the opportunity to accompany and aide a staff member on the reserve, with the primary objective of tracking, locating, gathering and logging information on black rhinos. By keeping an active eye on our rhinos, their behaviour and their health, you help increase their protection while contributing to the knowledge of our overall rhino population.

You and your guide will travel around the reserve on a quad bike for the day, enjoy a packed lunch from one of our amazing vantage points and also help remove remote alien plant seedlings you find on the way. While gathering information on black rhinos will be the main focus, en route you may be fortunate enough to track and monitor other key species on the reserve, such as leopards, all while enjoying nature and having a guide all to yourself- the advantages of a private game drive! The black rhino monitoring project is an additional, exceptional adventure that allows you to genuinely experience the African bush and animals more intimately.

This is an optional activity and it’s up to the volunteer if they wish to participate. The rhino monitoring activity is available throughout your stay on a rotary basis with other interested volunteers. The traditional volunteer project will continue to operate as normal and we will still conduct the regular two game drives per day to monitor our lions, elephants, white rhinos, leopards and other species of interest.

Outside back of the volunteer house in Africa

lioness in Africa

The volunteer programme runs throughout the year. The minimum volunteer duration is 2 weeks and the maximum is 12 weeks; if you stay for 8 weeks or more, you could be trained on all the FGASA modules and have a chance to complete your Level 1 theory qualification through staff support and independent study.


  • Accommodation
  • Food
  • Training and equipment
  • Transfers to and from Phalaborwa airport on a Tuesday
  • 2 drives per day


  • International Flights and domestic flights
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Personal items
  • Volunteer activities outside of the project
  • Travel insurance
  • Visas

Arrivals and Travel Information: Volunteers must fly to Phalaborwa airport in South Africa, where they will be met by on the team. At the end of the stay, volunteers will be dropped off at the same airport. Volunteers may also take the bus from Johannesburg with Translux – It leaves Phalaborwa at 9.00 am and arrives in Phalaborwa 4.30pm.

Radio track lions in Africa