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Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve

Our Makalali project offers you a unique experience in the African bush and gives you the opportunity to observe and be a part of the research and monitoring teams on the reserve.

The focus of the Makalali project revolves around some of our key species; elephants, lions, hyenas and leopards.  You will also be involved with monitoring our breeding initiatives comprising buffalo, Livingston eland and nyala. Habitat work also plays an important part of the monitoring process.

The Greater Makalali Reserve is a vast Big 5 nature reserve covering an area of 25000 hectares.  Situated in the Lowveld area, the home of nature conservation in South Africa, your work is vital for accurate management of the animals within the reserve.  The data collected is also made available to students and researchers that we host, as well as a number of national conservation projects, including the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT). 

Whether on a monitoring drive, on foot, or observing the wildlife at a waterhole, all of your work will be done under the guidance of our qualified rangers.  As each activity has a pre-determined objective, you don’t just get to view the animals, you get to live with them for a little while.  There’s nothing quite like sitting in the dark next to a lazing lion waiting for it to start its nightly call, or being surrounded by a herd of elephants and being able to spend time observing their individual traits and family dynamics.

At the end of the day, you return to the camp to share your experiences over dinner around the open fire and then fall asleep to the sounds of the bush.  Join us for the experience of a lifetime!



Effective June 2015, there are new South African regulations for minors travelling on their own to South Africa (under 18).

It appears that unaccompanied minors will require the following documentation –

  1.       Copy of birth certificate
  2.       Notarized letters from both parents consenting to the trip, including contact details
  3.       Notarized identification documents for both parents
  4.       If one parent has full legal custody, then a copy of the court order stating as such
  5.       Letter from Enkosini containing contact details/address of host in South Africa
  6.       Copy of ID document for host in South Africa

It appears that minors accompanied by one parent will require the following documentation –

  1.       Copy of birth certificate
  2.       Notarized letter from non-traveling parent consenting to the trip, including contact details
  3.       Notarized identification document for non-traveling parent
  4.       If traveling parent has full legal custody, then a copy of the court order stating as such
  5.       Or death certificate of non-traveling parent, as case may be


Siyafunda Makalali has a minimum duration of 1 week.

Start dates:

All collections and drop offs of volunteers are done on Mondays throughout the year so please arrange your travel to coincide with this. If you are unable to do so, please advise us promptly and alternative transport can be arranged for you at your own expense.

Arrival and Departure:

•By Air: You can fly direct to Hoedspruit's Eastgate Airport on South African Airways Express. Make your bookings through

•By Transfer bus: Ashtons Tours departs from OR Tambo International every day. For arriving/departing on Monday please book to and from Hoedspruit. For off schedule arrivals/departures (Tuesday to Sunday) please book to and from Makalali/Karongwe.  For more information and bookings please go to:  State you are a Volunteer with us to get a discount. 

•By bus: City to City has a daily bus service between Johannesburg and Hoedspruit.  They can be contacted via

If you need to stay overnight in Hoedspruit before or after joining our projects at Makalali, we can arrange to pick you up or drop you off at the Blue Cottages Guesthouse.  For more information please go to


We do not take direct bookings at our Siyafunda Makalali Project. All arrangements are made through our trusted partners. For information on bookings and rates please email us at

Frequently asked questions

What kind of people volunteer at Siyafunda?

You don't have to be a wildlife expert to volunteer with us and we don't have an age limit either. You should be 18 years or older (if you are younger - you need permission from your parents) ...and you should be reasonably fit to join in with our activities.

What time do we start work?

Times do vary depending on the season. You must expect early starts in the morning and sometimes late nights. We work when the animals are out and about.

Summer: Leave at 5:30am and are out for 4 to 5 hours. In the afternoon we leave at 16:00 for another 3 to 4 hours

Winter: Leave at 6:30am and are out for 4 to 5 hours. In the afternoon we leave at 15:00 for another 3 to 4 hours

We also give lectures and presentations 2 or 3 times during the week over the lunch period. For the remainder of the time between monitoring, volunteers are required to enter all the data they have collected onto our databases.

What is the weather like?

Siyafunda projects are situated within the Limpopo Province which is characterised by very hot weather in summer, where temperatures may exceed 40ºC from September to April.

The cooler months are May to August with temperatures reaching as low as 5-6 ºC and average daytime temperatures around 20ºC. Check the actual weather for SA on

What should I pack?

Due to the fluctuating temperatures experienced during the day whilst out on activities, we recommend that you bring lots of layers, especially during the winter.  It can feel surprisingly cold on the back of a safari vehicle, even in summer!


We recommend that you wear neutral coloured clothes for drives and especially walks – khaki, green, brown and navy blue.  Black and white are not suitable, especially when walking, as they are most recognisable by the wildlife.

Closed-toe shoes such as hiking boots or trainers/sneakers are mandatory for all drives.  Open shoes such as flip flops/thongs are not permitted to be worn on the vehicles.  Hiking boots/shoes with good ankle support are also recommended for walking in the bush.

Habitat work involves some manual labour, so please bring some clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty or possibly ripped on thorns!

In addition, the following items are essential for all projects:




•Water Bottle/s 1Litre minimum

•Binoculars and Camera

•Insect repellent (DEET)


•Working gloves

•Day Backpack (for walks & drives)

•First Aid Kit (if you have one)

•Sleeping bag

•Bath towels

•Raincoat (if you're coming during summer: Nov-March)

•Scarf and gloves (if you're coming during winter: June-Aug)


•Batteries and/or charger for cameras


There are washing machines available for use at Siyafunda camps, washing powder is supplied. Clothes are line-dried, no dryers available.

What about electricity?

There is electricity at Siyafunda's Makalali research camp. If you are staying at the Endangered Species project you can charge batteries etc. at the Makalali research camp. South African electricity is 220/230 volts AC at 50 cycles a second, plug outlets are 15amp, three-pin (round). There are NO 2-point outlets for shavers.

Cell phone reception:

Your cell phone will automatically switch on to the South African Vodacom or MTN-service if you have international roaming activated. Alternatively you can purchase a South African SIM for your mobile phone or an international calling card.

Will I have internet access during my stay?

If you require internet access at the Siyafunda camps, you can arrange this for a small cost with the camp manager. On our weekly town trip you will also have the opportunities for internet access at the internet café in town to check your emails and do bookings.

Beverages & Food:

Cordial fruit drink, tea and coffee are provided. Soft drinks, alcoholic beverages (beers and ciders) and snacks like chocolate are not available in camp but you can buy them on the weekly town trips.  All food for breakfast, lunch and dinner is provided, as well as fresh fruit.  However, food is only re-stocked once a week so once it’s gone it’s gone!  If you have any special dietary requirements please inform us before your arrival so that we can accommodate them if possible.

Is the water safe to drink?

Fresh, drinkable water is available from the taps and is absolutely safe to drink at all the camps– we have our own boreholes. Bottled water is also available for purchase from town when we do weekly town trips.

Should I take precautions against Malaria?

Malaria is endemic throughout the Kruger National Park and surrounding private reserves including the Makalali Private Game Reserve. Note: The projects occur in a Malaria Low Risk areas. Peak transmission occurs between November to May, with little between June to October. Please consult your doctor with regards to a good and suitable malaria prophylactic. Best of all is to minimize your contact with mosquitoes by using repellent lotions, sticks or sprays such as 'Tabard' or 'Peaceful Sleep'. You can find more information about malaria on the internet:

What is the time difference?

The South African Standard Time is 2 hours ahead of the Greenwich Mean Time.

Can I Send Post/Mail?

Mail address:  Siyafunda Wildlife and Conservation, P.O. Box 635, Hoedspruit, 1380, SOUTH AFRICA.

Physical address:  Siyafunda Conservation Initiative, GREATER MAKALALI PRIVATE GAME RESERVE, Harmony 27, Gravelotte, 0895, SOUTH AFRICA

Please note post takes time, if you are sending something ahead do it well in advance.

Money / Credit Cards:

The South African currency is the Rand. For up to date currency conversions, visit . It is helpful to carry a small amount South African Rand (e.g. ZAR 500) with you; you will find a currency exchange bureau at the international airport or in Hoedspruit. In town you also have the opportunity to access ATMs with your credit card and purchase items with your card.


There is no concern about safety at the Siyafunda projects.  Our game reserves are guarded / fenced and town is also safe during our town trips. But, like everywhere in the world, security is everybody's responsibility.


Most visitors to South Africa receive a 90 day tourist/travel visa. However check with the South African embassy before you leave your country.

Feedback & Comments from Volunteers

First of all I want to thank you and your staff for making my 3 weeks at Makalali "the BEST 3 weeks EVER!" :-) I sure miss Makalali now that I sit at the office watching the snow fall outside the window.

You have a fantastic program going and I can't express how much I appreciated every moment spent on drives, walks and around the camp fire. I learned so much from all of you and still smile about the fact that we got so caught up by the dung beetle fight that we almost forgot we were out tracking rhinos. Emma Skold (Sweden) - January 2013

Best 6 weeks ever and I can’t wait to come back!! I really don’t have any negative experiences or comments. Everyone was professional when needed and fun and extremely knowledgeable. I can’t begin to say how much I learnt and experienced!! – Rachael Dolls (Australian) – October 2013

If you are prepared to get along and get involved, and can handle a moth in your jam, there are no problems with anything.  If you can’t live without hot showers, mothless jam, and someone to bring you a gin and tonic, you might have a problem…. But hey, you are in the bush… try it in Kenya and see how much you’d yearn for a Siyafunda cold shower!  I have no complaints at all. – Adrian Burton (UK) – October 2013

The information from the guides was excellent and helped set the scene. Kara and Andrew gave us lots of background and made things easy to understand. I enjoyed Mike's and John's talk, particulary John's which gave a compelling perspective to conservation. Monika is a good singer! – Bob Bagley (UK) – September 2013

I had a great time. The wildlife sightings were incredible. I never thought I would get to see the animals so close up. I have seen so much and learnt so much and I have memories to take away with me. The staff was outstanding! They were friendly and helpful and we learnt so much. They are very knowledgeable and passed that on in an interesting and entertaining way. – Susan Bagley (Switzerland) – September 2013

The team was incredible! They were all so friendly and helpful, it was a 10/10. They were so knowledgeable about absolutely everything they were showing us. They were open to suggestions but always planned the day perfectly. – Kirsten Shankie-Wiliams (Australia) – August 2013

Guides were exceptionally patient and knowledgeable, good communications. Committed to conservation, adapt at different learning styles and engaged my son in hands on learning regularly. – Bonnie Zinn (USA) – August 2013

Great stuff, loved the walks and drives. The best rating must be that I don't wanna leave this place. – Frida Höllgard (Sweden) – August 2013

It was incredible, an experience with so much learning, varied days, fun and excitement. I felt like I was giving something back rather than just 'taking' like a tourist sometimes does. Thanks Mike! I have had an unbelievably inspiring and fulfilling experience. You and all your staff do a wonderful job, keep it up. – Jane Freebaim (UK) – July 2013

I had a great time at Bushcamp, it was quite an experience and I greatly enjoyed it. The Siyafunda Team is very helpful and professional. – Daniel Groos (The Netherlands) – June 2013

It was overall an exciting and knowledgeable experience. Not only was it a fun adventure, but I learned so much about the wildlife here in the bush and was really able to understand the importance of the environment. – Jene Dupuis (USA) – June 2013

Absolutely amazing! My time at Siyafunda was the best way to experience Africa and would recommend it to everyone! – Kelsie Viloria (USA) – June 2013

It was fantastic. Loved every minute of it. It was far more educational than I thought. Loved it was so well structured so everyone knew what was happening and what was expected. Liked there were fewer volunteers. It turned out better than I thought, as 'older' travellers we thought everyone may have been young but pleased at mixed ages. – Carolyn Holsgrove (Australia) – May 2013

The team of rangers is very knowledgeable, I learned a lot more then expected. They are very nice, making effort to make everyone feel comfortable. A special thank you goes to Toko with whom I did not only feel absolutely safe, but who also has a great sense of humour, a huge store of knowledge and who also taught us a bit about the Zulu culture, which was very interesting. – Claudia Tschacher (Switzerland) – May 2013