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Help conserve a vanishing way of life by partaking in the best volunteer programme in South Africa: the Shamwari Conservation Experience

The Shamwari Conservation Experience welcomes participants from all walks of life. Volunteers, adventure-seeking travellers, gap-year students, adults taking work sabbaticals… Anyone with a passion for nature conservation!

What to Expect From the Ultimate in Wildlife Volunteer Experiences

Do you want to take part in Shamwari’s Conservation Experience? Participants get a taste of the numerous daily aspects involved in conservation management. It leaves them with a better understanding of the inner workings of a private game reserve.

During your stay, you will be exposed to our short- and long-term projects. These projects were designed to create sustainability for generations to come. Tasks participants are likely to engage in include physical duties, as well as fascinating and interactive lecture-based content. The reserve is home to a number of monitoring projects whose aim is to capture crucial information used in researching and managing the species within the grounds.

Please note that, as we work with and around wildlife (and have to consider prevailing conditions), volunteer activities cannot be pre-scheduled. The experience does, however, remain diverse and structured.

General Conservation Activities to Look Forward To

Both the Born Free Foundation Charity and Shamwari are committed to wildlife conservation, as well as education and raising awareness on the topic. We aim to promote the protection of habitats while maintaining a compassionate, humane approach to caring for any captive animals.

Strictly no wildcat breeding is undertaken at the centre. It acts as a sanctuary for big cats who are unable to return to the wild.

Interactions with the Born Free team can range from:

  • Behind the scenes tours
  • Maintenance assistance
  • Cleaning enclosures
  • Feeding the animals
  • Etc.

Shamwari’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre was founded to aid injured animals discovered on the reserve, as well as the surrounding areas. The main goal of the centre is to provide short-term care to injured animals and release them back into their natural habitat.

Because the centre is not a sanctuary, volunteers only help out here when necessary. None of the animals are kept for breeding purposes. They are temporarily hosted here until they can enjoy a second chance at life in the wild.

To Shamwari, conservation also includes looking out for local, impoverished communities through education. Communities get educated about the role and benefit of conserving our biodiversity. This education also stresses the importance of conserving natural resources.

Further help is provided by making weekly trips into the communities and assisting in various projects. Community projects include:

  • Creating/maintaining vegetable gardens
  • Recycling
  • Painting classrooms
  • Building jungle gyms

When taking on new research projects, the Shamwari team focuses on ones with the potential to add value to the reserve and conservation efforts as a whole. Projects are often a collaborative effort, with both local and foreign researchers/academics taking part to collect data or run tests on less well-known species like the brown hyena.



  • Orientation and nature walks
  • Sleeping outside on the Big 5 reserve
  • Helping out with night and anti-poaching patrols



  • Rhino poaching in South Africa
  • Elephant conservation
  • South African lion industry
  • Eastern Cape biomes
  • Control of alien/invasive vegetation
  • Ecological management of game reserves



  • Wildlife signs and tracks
  • Animal behaviour
  • Medicinal trees and plants
  • Astronomy
  • Anti-poaching methods
  • Basic principles of wildlife conservation ecology and management

Why Choose the Shamwari Conservation and Veterinary Experience?

There are multiple reasons why you should opt for a Shamwari conservation and veterinary experience:

  • The Shamwari team is globally recognised for its conservation efforts, living up to our motto of ‘conserving a vanishing way of life’
  • Shamwari’s conservation experience is diverse, exposing volunteers to real and challenging conservation situations
  • Our reserve is situated in the malaria-free Eastern Cape, features five of the country’s seven biomes and spans a vast 23 000 hectares
  • Shamwari plays host to the Born Free Foundation’s Big Cat Rescue and Education Centre, which acts as a sanctuary for formerly exploited/captive big cats
  • The Shamwari Wildlife and Conservation Department consists of ecologists and a wildlife veterinarian that has access to a state of the art wildlife rehabilitation centre; facilities include an anti-poaching unit and animal hospital
  • Your hosts are highly skilled and qualified wildlife coordinators who have experience in a variety of conservation-related fields, ensuring you get the most out of your experience.
  • Shamwari is located around a one and a half hour’s drive from Gqeberha’s Chief Dawid Stuurman International Airport; a range of leisure and adventure activities can be found close by, including bungee jumping, horse riding, canoeing and surfing

Facilities, Accommodation and Meals During Your Conservation and Veterinary Experience

Individual participants stay at our comfortably furnished Madolos Retreat. It’s located in Shamwari’s far Northern area and can host up to 20 guests. The 10 twin rooms are shared by members of the same gender unless prior arrangements have been made for couples. Each room features an en-suite bathroom, fitted with a toilet, basin and shower.

Madolos Retreat’s communal amenities include a shared lounge, swimming pool and dining area. An outdoor boma makes for the perfect spot to relax around the fire and admire the expansive night sky.

Proctors Safari Lodge, also situated in the Northern region of the reserve, usually hosts larger conservation and veterinary experience groups. Here, 3-4 individuals of the same gender share a comfortable room. Shared rooms come with en-suite bathrooms featuring a toilet, basin, shower or bath.

Other amenities at Proctors Safari Lodge include:

  • Shared cupboard space
  • Individual trunk for every participant
  • Communal safe
  • Shared dining room and lounge area
  • Communal plunge pool
  • Shared fireplace
  • Study/lecture room

Participants receive three meals per day. Depending on what the daily programme looks like, meals will either be served at the lodging or as a pre-packaged serving, to be enjoyed while out and about. Our Veterinary Experience participants can expect mostly packed lunches, due to their early starts.

A variety of local meals are prepared, exposing participants to the country’s traditional fare. Meals are ordinarily enjoyed on a self-service basis. Coffee, tea and fruit juice is available. Soft drinks, as well as bottled spring and still water, are available on-site. A greater selection can be found at the local trading stores.

Fridays are usually reserved for the once-weekly cooked breakfast, this is, however, subject to change depending on the programme.

Should you have specific dietary requirements, please notify our team in advance and we will gladly cater to your needs. No on-site facilities are available that meet Kosher or Halaal requirements, although the supply of such meals can be arranged on request (subject to availability).

Please note that no alcohol is sold on-site. You are welcome to bring along your own alcohol, snack foods, special coffee or water. Filtered rainwater is supplied.


  • Cereal and toast
  • Muesli and yoghurt
  • Muffins and toast
  • Cooked breakfast


  • Sandwiches, wraps and potato salad
  • Quiche and pasta salad
  • Burgers and chips


  • Macaroni and cheese, served with a green salad
  • Roasted chicken with vegetables
  • Traditional meals like potjiekos and braaivleis

Participants’ laundry is done, on average, once per week. Laundry bags are provided. Although great care is taken with our guest laundry service, we encourage you not to bring any valuable or delicate clothing. We won’t be held responsible for any damaged clothing due to colour runs, markings caused by chemical cleaners, shrinkage or hard water.

Please note that participants do not have access to facilities to do their own laundry. Keep this in mind when packing.

Extra Services and Weekend Activities for Volunteers

While on your Shamwari Conservation or Veterinary Experience, you may want to make use of some of the extras and services we have available. There are also many exciting activities in the surrounding area for you to enjoy over weekends.

Your lodgings have access to wireless network services, so you can purchase Wi-Fi vouchers for personal use. Keep in mind that the facilities/lodgings are situated in a relatively rural area, impacting the internet speed’s quality. However, our internet speed has proven to be more than sufficient for access and communication.

It is advised to bring along a device with data capabilities such as a smartphone or tablet for communication. Ensure that your mobile device’s international data roaming capabilities are enabled. Alternatively, we recommend purchasing a Vodacom SIM card upon arrival at the airport or at a local general store. The local Vodacom mobile network has proven to be the most reliable communications network.

An on-site landline is available, should you prefer making use of it instead of your mobile device. Be sure to purchase World Call Card telephone cards upon your arrival at the Chief Dawid Stuurman International Airport, at any Vodacom shop or post office outlet.

Participants can purchase various small consumables on-site, including crisps, chocolates, as well as soft and energy drinks. A percentage of your purchase will go towards championing local communities. SCE branded curios, hand made by these local communities and in support of their projects, can also be purchased.

Treat yourself to an indulgent facial, manicure, pedicure or massage with our therapist – trained as part of Shamwari’s local community support projects. There is no better way to unwind after a hard day’s work in the bush!

During weekends, you might want to explore the surrounding Eastern Cape area and close by regions of the Western Cape, where there is plenty to do and see. Leisure activities include whale watching (seasonal), surfing, bungee jumping and exploring the local forests and coastlines.

You will find literature/information about adventure and leisure activities, as well as operators readily available on-site. Our team will happily make recommendations, give advice and provide support.

Packing for the Shamwari Conservation Experience

Participants can use their own discretion, but we highly encourage packing the following kinds of clothing and other items:

  • Long and short work pants
  • Long and short sleeve t-shirts
  • Fleece or sweatshirt
  • Rain jacket or windbreaker
  • Underwear and socks
  • Trainers, hiking and/or work boots
  • Sun cap (year-round); warm hat for winter
  • Working (and winter) gloves
  • Casual clothes for evenings
  • Bathing suit for summer

Please take into consideration that your work clothes need to be of a suitable style and colour while on the reserve. Stay away from scant or skimpy fashion and stick to neutral and earthy tones – no brightly coloured outfits should be worn on the reserve!

  • Binoculars
  • Rucksack or daypack
  • Beach towel
  • Sunscreen
  • Hairdryer
  • Toiletries
  • Personal first aid kit
  • Enough of any personal medication
  • Water bottle
  • Rehydrate drinks or powder
  • Torch
  • Camera with spare batteries
  • Note- and reference books
  • 3-point round or adaptor plugs, suitable for South African use
  • Playing cards and/or games

Conservation or Veterinary Experience Documentation for Signature

Participants of either the Shamwari Conservation or Veterinary Experience are required to sign four documents on or prior to their arrival. These documents are the:

  • Shamwari Waiver and Indemnity
  • House Rules and Regulations
  • Born Free Indemnity
  • Filming and Photographic Release and Agreements

Should you have any questions or queries, please do not hesitate to contact us for advice. We would like to make the process as seamless as possible.

We advise all participants younger than 18 to contact their nearest South African Embassy, to confirm any required visa regulations, need for dual parental consent or to produce an unabridged birth certificate. Under-18s need the approval and signature of their legal guardian on the four documents mentioned above. Without a legal guardian’s signature, under-18s won’t be allowed to enter the property or participate in any of the activities offered by both Shamwari’s Conservation Experience and their service providers.

Individuals over 18 years old who haven’t completed and submitted their four documents before arrival will need to sign them all if they want access to the property or wish to partake in any of the activities offered by Shamwari’s Conservation Experience and their service providers.

Adherence to the Code of Conduct

When signing up for the Shamwari Conservation Experience, participants are required to comply with the centre’s rules and embrace the spirit of the programme. Should any participant compromise the group or another individual’s experience, appropriate action will be taken. The participant in question can, after receiving a suitable warning, counselling, as well as following a disciplinary process, be pulled from the programme and be returned home.

In such cases, no refunds will be issued. Any additional costs the participant incurs will be for their own bill.

Participants will also be held responsible for covering the costs of any breakages caused due to negligence or unruly behaviour.

Code of conduct considerations include:

All participants are expected to behave in a non-offensive manner towards staff, guests, visitors and fellow students. Your behaviour has to be conducive to group cooperation and teamwork.

Because participants have access to areas of the reserve that overlap with those occupied by hospitality guests, you are urged to dress in a manner that is appropriate for the activity or task at hand. Please don’t dress in a scantily clad or revealing manner – outfits will be reasonably assessed whether or not they are offensive.

Safe facilities are available on the premises but participants are advised to leave high value and sentimental pieces of jewellery at home. Wearing jewellery during the experience isn’t advisable from a health and safety standpoint. This is due to the nature of the work environment and the kind of activities you will take part in.

English is the recognised and primary language used. Translators may be arranged on availability but at an additional cost to the participant.

Indecent, offensive and foul language won’t be tolerated.

Possessing or using narcotics and other recreational drugs is strictly against the law. Any participants suspected of breaking this rule may be removed from the experience and sent home (should it be found that they acted in contradiction to the law).

You are advised to notify staff of any scheduled drug usage, prior to or on arrival. An accompanying doctor’s note or prescription is preferred – especially when used to treat a life-threatening illness.

Any participant that wants to use alcohol while on the grounds is expected to do so sensibly and act responsibly. No guests, visitors, staff or other participants should be left feeling offended. Consuming alcohol during working hours is strictly prohibited unless approved by management. Management reserves the right to prevent any intoxicated participant from taking part in Shamwari Conservation or Veterinary Experience activities.

Only participants aged 18 years and older are legally permitted to purchase alcohol in South Africa.

Shamwari Conservation Experience Options and Durations

Whether you wish to sign up for the Shamwari Conservation or Veterinary Experience as part of a group or an individual participant, for two weeks or longer, we have an option that’s right for you.

Go behind the scenes and experiencing numerous daily aspects of conservation management first-hand with Shamwari’s long or short term Volunteer Experiences for Individuals.

Our participants are exposed to both short and long term projects during their stay. All our projects intend to create sustainability for future generations.

Participants’ daily tasks may range from physical labour to interactive lecture-based content. Shamwari has several active monitoring projects that help with capturing valuable information used in both the research and management of all of the reserve’s species.

You’ll find the experience diverse and structured, yet not prescheduled – this is due to the nature of working with wildlife, as well as relying on prevailing conditions. Participants will visit and complete tasks at our Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre and Born Free Foundation as needed. Here, wildlife is saved and rehabilitated, with the ultimate goal of releasing them back into the wild.

The Individual Volunteer Experience is operated out of any one of our accommodation facilities, which feature common/lounge areas and dining facilities.

The average stay can vary anywhere from 2-12 weeks. Recommendations for longer stays are available as well. Although facility and room changes are averted, participants may have to move throughout their stay.

Participants have to sign up for a minimum stay of two consecutive weeks. The experience starts on any available Monday and the daily schedule usually runs from around 08:00-17:00, Mondays to Fridays. Evenings are typically enjoyed at leisure but this can be dependent on which early morning or late night tasks need to be done. Occasionally, you may need to assist with or conduct activities over the weekend, as required by Shamwari’s conservation operations.

Shamwari caters to various common interests and specialist group requirements. These include specialist veterinary courses for vet nursing and science students under our Vet Eco Experience. The Vet Eco Experience exposes you to a variety of behind the scenes veterinary and ecological wildlife management issues. Here the main focus is on educating all participants through related lecture material. These lectures can be tailor-made according to the group’s specific year of study. Participants may also be exposed to practical veterinary exercises, as required, during their stay.

The average duration of a Specialised Group Conservation Experience course is two weeks. The experience is structured by nature and functions with specific educational, as well as experimental outcomes in mind.

Shamwari’s Conservation Experience has run multiple custom experiences for schools, colleges and universities. Participants are exposed to a host of diverse wildlife, conservation, community and sport aspects. Interactions can be tailored to suit the group’s specific needs or outcomes, based on requirements ranging from learning basic bushcraft and survival, identifying animal signs and tracks, to wildlife management and other team building activities. Our team also assists with any environmental sciences data collection for school curriculum projects.

Shamwari has been fortunate to successfully host several Duke of Edinburgh challenges, thanks to the wildlife, community and sport that our resources allow.

The Shamwari Conservation Experience offers students in the veterinary nursing and science fraternity a golden opportunity to interact with and work alongside the reserve’s award-winning Wildlife and Conservation Team. Shamwari’s specialist team are pioneers in their field. They have 25 years of history and success reintroducing and managing local Eastern Cape wildlife, fauna and flora. Because of their experience, the team offers participants a balanced upskilling and learning experience. The experience is focussed on hands-on participation by taking part in practical tasks and work, as well as through observation.

The Shamwari team has played a significant role in establishing and hosting specialised focus veterinary courses/experiences for both local and international veterinary nursing and science students. This lead to the development of a more personalised experience that is limited to only 10 students. It offers participants a far more focused group experience.

Interactive talks and lectures presented during this course are hosted by members of Shamwari’s Veterinary and Anti-Poaching Teams. The Veterinary Work Experience Course aims to offer participants a combination of conservation and veterinary activities to take part in. A core focus of the experience is becoming part of the community through upliftment projects. We assist these rural communities by providing veterinary relief to domestic animals in need. Participants who sign up for this experience receive a kit that includes a copy of the prized veterinary handbook, Chemical and Physical Restraint of Wild Animals. Rates include shared, set-time airport transfers from Gqeberha to Shamwari.

Please note that anyone wishing to participate in the Veterinary and Conservation Experience has to provide proof of registration for a veterinary nursing, science or related field of study course/diploma/degree.

Shamwari Conservation Experience Rates and Payment

Discover the latest rates for the Volunteer, Specialised Group and Veterinary Work Experiences below.

Please note that Shamwari Private Game Reserve reserves the right to amend any and all terms and conditions.

  • Programme: Volunteer
  • Rate Sharing: R11 814 per week
  • Rate Single: R17 721 per week
  • Validity: 3 January 2022 – 20 December 2022,

Shamwari Volunteer/Gap Year Student rates are:

  • Applicable to new bookings only
  • Quoted, invoiced and payable in South African rand (ZAR)
  • Quoted per person sharing per week
  • Inclusive of all on-site meals, linen/bedding, accommodation, cleaning twice weekly, laundry once weekly, all on-reserve activities, coffee, tea, tourism levy and 15% VAT
  • Exclusive of transfers, beverages, guest supplies/toiletries, internet/Wi-Fi and telephone costs, as well as additional activities
  • Subject to change without prior notice
  • Non-commissionable

If you missed your 2020 booking due to COVID-19 restrictions, Shamwari Conservation Experience honours your booking. The original rates remain in place for these bookings for up to a year after the original booking.

Shamwari caters to various common interests and specialist group needs. Please get in touch with us, supplying details of what you’re looking for from your specialist group experience. We will promptly provide you with the relevant rates.

For group and agent enquiries, contact:

  • Rate Sharing: R46 585 for two weeks
  • Rate Single: R69 878 for two weeks
  • Validity (2022 bookings): 30 May – 13 June 2022; 27 June – 11 July 2022

Shamwari Veterinary Work Experience Rates are:

  • Applicable to new bookings only
  • Quoted, invoiced and payable in South African rand (ZAR)
  • Quoted per person sharing per week
  • Inclusive of all on-site accommodation, meals, linen/bedding, cleaning twice weekly, laundry once weekly, all on-reserve activities, coffee, teas, tourism levy and 15% VAT
  • Exclusive of all transfers, beverages, guest supplies/toiletries, internet/Wi-Fi and telephone costs, as well as additional activities
  • Subject to change without prior notice
  • Private, confidential and non-commissionable

Should you have missed your 2020 reservation because of COVID-restrictions, Shamwari intends to honour your booking. Your original rates remain in place for up to a year after your initial booking.

For direct client payments:

  • A 50% deposit is required within 14 days of making the reservation
  • Your balance is required 60 days before arrival
  • Full pre-payment is required when making a reservation/booking within 60 days of arrival

For non-account holders:

  • Your full pre-payment is required 60 days before arrival
  • Shamwari Private Game Reserve reserves the right to release bookings, in the event of non-payment by the required date
  • Discrepancies on the proforma/confirmation invoice has to be addressed when booking
  • The tour operator is responsible for covering all bank charges – these charges won’t be covered by Shamwari Private Game Reserve

In the event of cancellations:

  • Strictly written cancellations are accepted. Please ensure that you, in turn, receive written acknowledgement, as well as verification of your requested cancellation from the Shamwari Reservations Office
  • 50% of the full experience cost is charged for cancellations received less than 120 days before arrival
  • 60% of the full experience cost is charged for cancellations received less than 60 days before arrival
  • 100% of the full experience cost is charged for cancellations received less than 30 days before arrival

COVID-related travel terms, conditions and cancellations (valid for new and existing bookings for the period of 1 June to 29 November 2021):

  • All bookings within the specified period may be postponed without penalty to a more suitable date, 12 months from the original date of arrival; all bookings will be honoured (i.e. 2020 rates for 2021, 2021 rates for 2022 – seasonal rates will, however, apply)
  • After 29 November 2021, all cancellations will be managed on a case-by-case basis
  • Cancellations less than 7 days before arrival will be charged 100% of the full experience cost

No cancellation fees are applicable under the following conditions (COVID pandemic-related):

  • You contract COVID-19 before arrival or while in-country, making (further) travel impossible – a positive PCR test result would have to be returned 48 hours before arriving at Shamwari
  • Your home/destination/transit country’s government imposes a travel ban, making travel impossible
  • International flights are cancelled due to a pandemic, making travel impossible
  • Shamwari has to close due to the pandemic and is unable to fulfil obligations

Directions to Shamwari Volunteer Experience

On your way or want to orientate yourself with the Shamwari Conservation Experience’s location?
Take a look at the Google Maps coordinates below.

Contact Details

Do you have any questions, comments or queries you want to discuss regarding the Shamwari Conservation Experience? Get in touch with the relevant team member now!

Our student communal telephone line is +27 (0) 42 235 1119.

Questions, Comments and Queries Regarding the Program

Questions, Comments and Queries Regarding Rates and Reservations

Postal Address

Shamwari Conservation Experience
P.O. Box 91
South Africa

Download Conservation and Veterinary Experience Fact Sheets

For your convenience, we’ve prepared both Individual and Veterinary Experience Fact Sheets. Print them out, have a read through and get in touch today.

Individual Fact Sheet
Veterinary Fact Sheet


Looking for an answer to a frequently asked question? We’ve got you covered.

Shamwari Private Game Reserve’s conservation initiatives are focused on and driven by sound, ethical wildlife and ecological principles. Our day to day tasks usually don’t require any human intervention or interaction. However, in crises or cases where true intervention is needed, you may get the opportunity to safely observe, get close to or even participate in more hands-on work with the wildlife.

Veterinary Experience participants will get up close to and work hands-on with the wildlife.

Participants usually have the opportunity to go out and buy personal items/sundries on Fridays, while visiting the local community (as part of our social responsibility work).

The local general dealers might not have the widest selection but should have all your basics covered in terms of toiletries, cold drinks and other necessities.

We advise all participants to carry the least amount of foreign/local currency possible at all times. This is for your own safety. We also advise you to make use of ATMs and to cash your traveller’s cheques at a registered foreign exchange outlet at Chief Dawid Stuurman International Airport or a major local bank in Gqeberha (should your transfer allow it).

Shamwari Conservation Experience, our suppliers and service providers all respect your privacy and need for keeping your personal information safe. We meet local POPI Act regulations, as well as other core foreign requirements such as the EU GDPR – all in an effort to keep your personal information and details protected.

We pride ourselves on offering a diverse, behind the scenes experience, where participants can immerse themselves in a host of wildlife and modern-day conservation operations. These operations include dealing with various ecological, wildlife and species management issues.

Shamwari’s Conservation Experience lodgings can host and expose groups to different forms of wildlife, conservation, community and sports experiences. The arrival of specific common interest groups varies according to specific requirements and seasonality. Thus, our facilities can host various experiences of a different nature simultaneously – whether for groups or individuals.

Ages and backgrounds of participants may differ, necessitating tolerance, acceptance and mutual respect for one another and the shared communal resources.

We are unaware of any vaccinations or treatments that are deemed necessary either pre or post-arrival in our reserve’s region of the Eastern Cape. However, we do encourage participants to consult their physician before arrival for advice on diseases/risk factors such as rabies, as well as to learn about any other beneficial vaccinations. This is because of the occupational hazards that tend to go along with working in the veterinary and related fields.

You may also want to do your research about any vaccinations your country of origin (or the one you reside in) recommends prior to travel. Again, your doctor should be able to inform you about this.

During participation in either the Veterinary or Conservation Experience, you will generally have free time during the evenings and over weekends. We do, however, recommend that you enjoy several on and off-site adventure/leisure activities after completing or prior to attending the experience. Once your Conservation Experience begins, the arduous and intense nature of the daily programme may leave you wanting to do something more relaxing during your free time.

On-site activities include:

  • Playing table tennis/pool/volleyball
  • Using the swimming pool
  • Playing board games (provided)
  • Catching up on some reading in the library – filled with reference books
  • Birding
  • Bonfires
  • Watch a movie/sports (participants of legal age can join in on the occasional social gatherings held at a local rural pub/restaurant and watch a game together)

When considering off-site activities, most participants opt to share costs, making the average spend more affordable. Oftentimes, the friends you make during your Conservation Experience will be making weekend plans to go on some adventurous trips along the gorgeous Garden Route coastline.

Fun and excitement are all around you in the region. Simply speak to one of the Shamwari Conservation team members for advice and brochures on reputable operators.