Thanda Safari, the private game reserve located in South Africa’s KwaZulu Natal province, has launched a volunteer research programme for professional career breakers, university graduates and gap year students.
Meaning The Place of Learning in isiZulu, the Ulwazi Research Programme offers Volunteer Research Assistant positions lasting between 2 and 12 weeks depending on the level of experience being sought – those wanting to contribute to conservation whilst on a visit to Africa, seeking field experience in wildlife and conservation or looking to carry out doctorate level research.
Activities are varied, days are full and the work is engaging, allowing volunteers to gain valuable research experience whilst also providing new life skills and enhanced career opportunities. Thanda Safari’s experienced wildlife and ecology team partner with a number of leading conservation organisations and universities locally and worldwide, which require sound, substantial and pioneering research. Volunteers participate in these research projects which contribute to an ever greater understanding of wildlife and environmental management.
Depending on the timing and duration of their stay, volunteers may have the opportunity to be involved in projects such as the Hyena Population Density and Space Utilisation project or the Nocturnal Animal Survey which was set up to gain a greater understanding, insight and knowledge base of the Aardvark, Honey Badger, Leopard, White-tailed Mongoose and Serval. This requires combining data from camera traps with data from night-drive monitoring.
Volunteers will also participate in the day-to-day management of the reserve, including the monitoring of endangered species and habitat management involving practical field work as well as general data collection and analysis. They are also encouraged to engage in community support activities with the neighbouring Zulu communities, notably through Thanda’s Star for Life initiative and those supported by the Thanda Foundation Trust.
Safari-style accommodation is provided in thatched chalets at Thanda Safari’s Intibane Research & Training Centre. Each chalet (double occupancy) offers an en-suite bathroom and views over the reserve with wildlife viewing opportunities from the chalets’ decks. Facilities include a restaurant, cash bar, swimming pool and boma. Wifi is available. Chef Nonnie offers delicious, freshly-cooked meals and all dietary requirements can be accommodated.
A two-week volunteer programme costs R17,000 and includes introductory volunteer activities, accommodation and meals.
Thanda Safari is a 14,000 hectare Big Five private game reserve situated in the heart of Zululand, widely known for offering award-winning guided safari experiences to guests staying in the exclusive-use Villa iZulu, the luxurious Thanda Safari Lodge or the non-electrified Thanda Tented Camp. The Ulwazi Research Programme is run alongside but independently to this core offering.
Thanda Safari’s vision from the outset has been to advance conservation on the reserve by restoring the balance between the wildlife populations, natural habitats and ecological processes. In 2014 Thanda Safari was officially proclaimed as a Protected Environment within South Africa’s Biodiversity Stewardship Programme. This is a major achievement given that the reserve is just over ten years old.
In addition to being a protected environment and world-class private game reserve, what further distinguishes Thanda Safari is that it partners with the neighbouring Zulu communities in a range of educational, job creation, skills upliftment and cultural preservation programmes. Many of the people from these communities are part of Thanda Safari’s wildlife and management teams. It is a fine example of conservation and communities coming together for the benefit of people and wildlife.