Walking With African Wildlife 

Expedition Briefing


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The Research

Join this long-term wildlife census in the 960-square-kilometer Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP), the oldest game reserve in Africa. You’ll specifically be looking for the park’s many large herbivores: buffalo, bushpig, giraffe, white rhino, zebra, warthog, and many species of antelope (blue duiker, grey duiker, red duiker, bushbuck, impala, kudu, nyala, common reedbuck, mountain reedbuck, waterbuck, and blue wildebeest). Scientists want to get information about both the herbivores themselves, and also about the many predators in the park: lions, cheetahs, leopards, spotted hyenas, and African wild dogs (one of the continent’s most endangered large carnivores). Ecologists and managers need to monitor the effect of these numerous predators on prey populations in order to ensure that the park continues to maintain a balance between them, especially in light of increasing poaching within the park and increasing human populations around the park (reducing connectedness with other natural areas). The biennial census assists in refining the park management’s ability to most effectively manage and maintain species diversity and ecosystem functioning within the reserve’s boundaries.

The method used to control the population of endangered black rhinos is an example of effective management. At a certain population density, nearing the maximum that the park can hold, black rhino will reproduce at approximately 3% per year. If, however, managers maintain the population at 80% of this critical density (by relocating “excess” animals to other conservation areas) they can increase the annual reproductive rate to 8%. In other words, this simple action will result in an increased growth rate for the black rhino population.

The point is that the benefit of concentrating on optimizing growth rates rather than on population sizes can potentially buffer against other losses, such as those imposed by poaching. This project will contribute to the essential baseline information required for this type of decision-making.

Research Aims

The goal of this project is to provide the most accurate count possible of all the most common large mammal species in HiP. You will walk along cut line transects (pre-set paths) and record information on every animal seen. Scientists use the distance method of analysis (which you will learn more about in the field) to process the information and produce an estimate for the population size of each species. Volunteers play a crucial role in enabling the park to develop reliable census estimates for these herbivores by being directly responsible for the data collection and capture. The greatest advantage to the park of using volunteers is the amount of repetition, which can be achieved. This results in improved data quality and greater confidence in the estimates, which would not be possible if only staff participated.

How You Will Help

All census counting is done on foot by walking through the park, giving you the wonderful opportunity to walk in areas few get to see.

You’ll work on two major tasks during this expedition:


You’ll start walking transects after a day and a half of training on research equipment, methods, and focal species identification. (You won’t be totally on your own for identifying species: you’ll work with local rangers. Some of them only speak isiZulu, but you’ll have a list of both iSiZulu and English names to translate).

Volunteers rise before sunrise each day, and, at first light, set out to walk 10–15 kilometers (6–9 miles) over undulating to very hilly savanna thornveld and sometimes through closed canopy forest. Because the park contains populations of elephants, rhinos, buffalos, lions and other predators, you’ll partner with an experienced, armed field ranger on each walk.

Each pair will hike one transect per day. You will hike quietly along the transect at 2–3 kilometers per hour (11/2–2 miles per hour), making every attempt to observe animals. When a herd of one of the targeted species is observed, you will stop and record the species, the GPS point, the compass bearing of the transect, the compass bearing to the center of the herd, the distance to the herd from the point of observation, and the herd size. Other information about the vegetation and the weather conditions will also be recorded on the prepared data collection forms. You will continue in this manner until the end of the transect. The time taken to complete each transect will vary according to its length and the number of hills, but the average time is four to five hours. You’ll rotate through different transects each day, depending on the size of the group and logistical considerations.


Each day volunteers will help enter the census data and check it for accuracy. This will take approximately one hour. You will then have the rest of the afternoon for recreation. Data will be analyzed after all the teams have completed their expeditions, and used to produce the biennial game count report. The report is used to inform management decisions around the removal of animals to assist other conservation areas or for other management responsibilities.

Life in the Field

The expedition will begin with one and a half days of training. This will be followed by 12 days of hiking transects (excluding the recreational day). There is one planned recreational day after six days of hiking.


Weather and research needs can lead to changes in the daily schedule. We appreciate your cooperation and understanding.

  • Day 1: Meet in Richard’s Bay, travel to camp, settle in, and begin training
  • Day 2: Complete training, receive equipment, and prepare for walking
  • Days 3–8: Walk transects and enter data
  • Day 9: Recreational day (see Recreational Time below). For Team 1, this day is dependent on when the annual mountain bike challenge takes place.
  • Days 10–15: Walk transects and enter data
  • Day 16: Pack and depart
  • 4:30–5:00 a.m. Rise, shower, eat a snack/breakfast and prepare packed food
  • 5:00–6:00 a.m. Drive to drop off points at the beginning of the transects
  • 6:00 a.m.–noon Walk the transect recording data, wait for transport
  • 12:00–1:00 p.m. Travel back to camp (amount of time depends on length of transect, time taken to complete transect, and number of volunteers to be picked up)
  • 1:00–3:00 p.m. Wash, eat lunch, and rest
  • 3:00–4:00 p.m. Debrief, enter the day’s data into the database and confirm the next day’s schedule
  • 4:00–6:00 p.m. Time for relaxing and, possibly, game drives
  • 6:00–8:00 p.m. Drinks and supper
  • 8:00–10:00 p.m. Fireside chatting and relaxing, etc.

Due to logistical difficulties and safety concerns, the team will participate in the recreational day activities as a group. It will not be possible for volunteers to leave camp or go off on their own outside of planned group activities. Volunteers will be responsible for any additional expenses incurred during recreational time. Some options for the recreational day include:

  • A trip to iSimangaliso Wetland Park with a possible boat tour (approximately R150 per person) to look for hippos, crocodiles, and birds, and experience the St. Lucia Estuary
  • Snorkeling and swimming at the beach
  • A trip to the crocodile center to see a variety of crocs
  • Lunch at a local restaurant (R100–R200)
  • Staying at camp and relaxing

Accommodations and Food

* Please note that not every expedition has couples’ or single's accommodations available. Please call or email Earthwatch to check for availability prior to reserving your space(s) on the team.


Volunteers will stay at two camps within HiP. In the camp in the north of the park (Maphumulo), volunteers will be housed in dome tents, with one person per tent, although couples will be able to share a tent. In the southern camp (Sontuli), volunteers will share dormitory style accommodation, with volunteers of the same gender sharing dormitories. Couples may be able to be accommodated together in separate dormitories. Volunteers will be provided with firm foam mattresses, a single sheet and pillows in the tents, but must bring their own mosquito repellant, sleeping bag, and towels. We suggest bringing a warm sleeping bag that zips open the whole way for cooler nights and a sheet bag for the warmer nights. Volunteers will need to bring their own toiletries, and should also bring their own torches/ flashlights (a head lamp/torch is best). Please see the packing list for more details about what to bring with you.

* Earthwatch will honor each person’s assertion of gender identity, respectfully and without judgement. For both teen and adult teams, where logistics dictate single-sex accommodations or other facilities, participant placements will be made in accordance with the gender identity the participant specified on their Earthwatch Participant form and/or preferences indicated in discussions with Earthwatch.


Maphumulo Camp (to the north) has outdoor flush toilets and showers with water heated on a fire, placed into a bucket, and raised on a tree. Each shower area will be enclosed for privacy, although the shower and toilet facilities will not be separate for males and females. At Sontuli Camp (to the south), volunteers will have indoor facilities within the dormitories, separate for males and females. The water will be heated with gas geysers. Water resources within HiP are limited, and we request that volunteers use showers, cleaning water, and laundry facilities sparingly. Both camps are basic and remote, but comfortable.


At Maphumulo Camp, lights will be run off batteries charged by solar panels. As a result, lighting will be restricted. It will not be possible to plug in and/or charge electronic devices, but limited arrangements can be made for the camp manager to charge these elsewhere. Gas and oil lamps will be provided. At Sontuli Camp, there is solar electricity, which should be able to charge electronic equipment during most days. There will be on-site refrigeration at both camps, but there are limits to the quantity that can be stored. Most plug points take a rounded, large three-pronged plug (South African style, Type M), and the voltage is 220V.


Generally, communication with the outside world from the volunteer camps is difficult. There are telephones at the office and World Call cards can be used; these may be purchased before coming to South Africa or at the airport in Johannesburg. Volunteers may have limited access to these phones when in Maphumulo Camp, but should not rely on them as a definite source of communication. Currently there is no Internet access for either of the camps. In an emergency, it may be possible to use the Internet at the research center. However, this is a two- hour drive from Sontuli and a 20-minute drive from Maphumulo Camp. Volunteers may bring mobile phones, although reception is sporadic throughout the park. There is some mobile phone reception in the camps; Vodacom and MTN are the providers with the best coverage. Volunteers may not use mobile phones while walking transects or during other team activities.

Earthwatch has a communication plan in place with the lead scientist in case of emergency.


The transects will typically be less than 15 kilometers (about 9 miles) from the campsites, although some are further away, and volunteers will be transported in pick-up trucks with bench type seats. It may take up to one and a half hours to reach the start of your transect, if you are among the last to be dropped off. Once volunteers have finished walking their transects, they will have to wait until a vehicle can come and pick them up. Thereafter, it could take up to two hours before volunteers are dropped off at their camp again, depending on the time it takes other volunteers to finish their transects and the logistics of driving to the various end points.


There are a few camp rules that must be followed for the safety and enjoyment of the team:

  • For safety reasons, team members must stay within the fenced area of the camp. Participants are not permitted to walk outside of the electrified perimeter fence at any time.
  • Although the boundary fence of the camp is electrified, dangerous animals may still be able to get into the camp. Do not approach the fence if dangerous animals are seen outside the camp.
  • Volunteers may not use the radios in camp unless the camp manager, and assistant camp manager are incapacitated.
  • Volunteers may not pick up any animal(s), including snakes or scorpions, under any circumstances. If one is seen in camp, avoid the animal and alert the volunteer manager, or camp assistant.
  • Closed shoes must be worn in camp after dark to avoid scorpion stings and snake bites.
  • Minimize walking around in the camp after dark; if you do, be sure to do so in pairs and use a torch/flashlight.
  • Smoking is not permitted in the tents, buildings, on the back of vehicles or while others are eating.
  • Cigarette butts must be disposed of properly in the designated ash container.
  • Do not litter.

Volunteers will eat a simple breakfast before walking the transects. You will need to pack your own food in the morning prior to setting out into the field. It is important to bring plenty of water into the field, so be sure to bring a water bottle able to carry at least two to three liters. Once back at camp, a self- serve lunch will be provided. The camp manager and/or cook will be responsible for food preparation at lunchtime and in the evenings, but feel free to share culinary expertise with the team! All dishwashing and kitchen cleaning will be the responsibility of the camp staff. Camp staff will join you for all meals, and other staff or researchers may join from time to time.

There is one restaurant available in the park. On previous occasions, volunteers and staff have had dinner at the restaurant on one night (the cost of which would be at your own expense). Staff can accommodate requests to buy drinks, a limited amount of which can be kept cool at camp, and volunteers may choose to eat at a restaurant in St. Lucia during the recreational day. The research team will buy food during the expedition.

The following are examples of foods you may find in the field. Variety depends on availability. We appreciate your flexibility.

  • Breakfast: Cereals, yogurt, fruit, bread and spreads
  • Lunch: Buffet-style meals of sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, salads, eggs and bacon, cold meats and fresh fruit
  • Dinner: Variety of foods, such as stews, bakes, braais (barbeques), curries, local specialties (e.g. venison), and pasta dishes
  • Snacks: Sandwiches with cold meats, cheeses, savory biscuits, spreads, and fresh fruit
  • Beverages: Water, other cool drinks, tea, coffee, hot chocolate and milo will be available (volunteers must purchase and provide their own alcoholic beverages if desired). Volunteers are requested to carefully consider the amount of alcoholic beverages consumed after transects and in the evenings, as drinking can result in dehydration and difficulty in undertaking continuous strenuous activity for a number of consecutive days. Consumption of alcohol such that your participation in project activities may be affected will not be permitted.
  • Water: Maphumulo Camp: Drinking water is brought to camp in large water containers. Volunteers cannot drink the tap water. Sontuli Camp: Tap water is safe to drink.

Please alert Earthwatch to any special dietary requirements (e.g., diabetes, lactose intolerance, nut or other food allergies, vegetarian or vegan diets) as soon as possible, and note them in the space provided on your volunteer forms.

Accommodating special diets is not guaranteed and can be very difficult due to availability of food, location of field sites, and other local conditions.

Special Note to Vegans: Please be aware that it is often difficult to accommodate vegans. It may be possible to get meatless meals, but vegans may have a problem avoiding animal products altogether. If this is an issue, please carefully consider your participation in this expedition

Project Conditions

The information that follows is as accurate as possible, but please keep in mind that conditions may change. The topography of the area ranges from gentle undulating hills to steep and challenging inclines. The terrain is variable, with rocky, slippery, and steep areas. Remember that seasons in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres are reversed; volunteers coming from the Northern Hemisphere must be aware that they will be traveling from a summer to a winter climate. Although South African winters are mild, the early mornings can be very chilly especially when driving to the drop-off points for the transects. Prepare to experience some cold evenings.


For weather and region-specific information, please visit Wunderground.com and search for your project location.

Essential Eligibility Requirements

All participants must be able to:

  • Comfortably traverse up to 15 kilometers (about 9 miles) per day over mountainous terrain (while looking around for animals) without significant fatigue for a period of 12 days with just one day of rest in between. Transect-walking begins just after sunrise and is generally completed by mid to late morning. It generally takes three to six hours per day to complete.
  • Take immediate evasive action in the event of an animal encounter, e.g. by moving quickly and climbing a tree.
  • Those not able to complete the transects without difficulty or take evasive action can endanger themselves, their teammates, the field rangers and the animals.
  • Take an active role in your own safety by recognizing and avoiding hazards if and when they arise (including, but not limited to, those described in Earthwatch materials and safety briefings). Comply with project staff instructions and recommended safety measures at all times.
  • Be able to effectively communicate to the staff if you are experiencing distress or need assistance.
  • Be comfortable being surrounded by a language and/or culture that is different from your own.
  • Be able to get along with a variety of people from different backgrounds and ages, often in close proximity, for the duration of your team.
  • Follow verbal and/or visual instructions independently or with the assistance of a companion.
  • Independently follow and immediately comply with project/ park staff and field guide instructions, whether verbal or visual.
  • Enjoy being outdoors all day in all types of weather in the potential presence of wild and sometimes dangerous animals, snakes, and insects.
  • Hike or climb steep slopes for one hour per day, up to three hours per day on some transects. Most transects are over undulating to hilly terrain but several involve steep and lengthy hills. There are also deep ravines that will need to be navigated on certain transects.
  • Work comfortably alongside armed park rangers. Weapons are for your protection, and rangers are well trained in their use. Volunteers are NOT permitted to handle weapons at any time.
  • Be able to get along with a variety of people from different backgrounds and ages, often in close proximity, for the duration of your team
  • See clearly (with corrective lenses is fine) to a distance of 500 meters (1,640 feet), as well as close-up to read the instruments used during the project.
  • Hear well either naturally or with a hearing aid in order to follow instructions in the field, particularly in the event of an emergency.
  • Carry personal daily supplies, including at least two to three liters of water and some small field equipment (e.g. GPS unit, compass, rangefinder, binoculars, clipboard).
  • Search for wildlife while moving in single file, 2 meters/6 feet or less behind the guide, over rough, uneven, sometimes rocky terrain with areas of dense, thorny vegetation, while steering clear of obstacles and animal holes.
  • Complete all required transects in order to avoid putting strain on other team members, which can then increase their risk of injury and create tension between volunteers.
  • Get themselves up into and down out of project vehicles unassisted.
  • Sit or ride in project vehicles (pickup trucks fitted with bench seats), in close proximity to other team members, while traveling over rough and bumpy roads for up to approximately two to three hours per day.
  • Keep as quiet as possible while working in the bush.
  • Tolerate not having a reliable source of electricity throughout the night for the length of the project.
  • Comfortable to be trained in the use of a GPS, a rangefinder and a compass.

Health and Safety


Field rangers, research and management staff, and camp managers will carry two-way radios. Camp managers will also have mobile phones, but reception is limited. There are ranger posts throughout the park, so rangers may be of assistance for emergency communications.

Earthwatch has a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week emergency hotline number. Someone is always on call to respond to messages that come into our live answering service.


Please be sure your routine immunizations are up-to-date (for example: diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella and varicella) and you have the appropriate vaccinations for your travel destination. Medical decisions are the responsibility of each volunteer and his or her doctor. Visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization for guidance on immunizations.

If traveling from countries or region where yellow fever is endemic, you must have a certificate of vaccination.

Project Risks and Precautions


Roads may be corrugated, or dirt or gravel, and may be very bumpy and either dusty or muddy and slippery depending on weather conditions. Thorny brush can lead to tire punctures and/or scratches while driving past. Other road hazards in South Africa include fast and reckless drivers, livestock and wildlife, rains, poor or no lighting, and banditry. Traffic moves on the left side of the road. Project vehicles are pickup trucks fitted with bench seats. Volunteers will be exposed to the elements during drives. You should therefore bring appropriate clothing including warm, wind-proof clothing for the mornings when being driven to the start of transects (this clothing can be left in the vehicle when you disembark). Volunteers are not permitted to drive. Volunteers should remain quiet and not move around on the back of the vehicle when potentially dangerous animals are seen while driving.


The terrain is isolated, rough, and undulating, and can be quite steep along some transects. Vegetation, including areas of thorny acacia scrub, may be quite dense. Exhaustion and injuries such as scratches, sprains, and broken bones are possible. Well worn in (NOT NEW) hiking boots with ankle support and socks should be worn to avoid blisters and other injuries. Appropriate clothing (e.g. long trousers, a hat, etc.) should be worn during fieldwork. No bright or black or white clothing should be worn during fieldwork. Only dull colored clothing will be allowed (e.g. dark khaki, dark green or earth-toned colors). The walking pace is deliberately slow so that observers can maintain concentration and avoid disturbing animals. Be sure to walk slowly and carefully and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Closed-toes shoes are required in the evenings around camp.


There is a range of large and potentially dangerous animals, including lion, leopard, spotted hyena, elephant, black rhino, white rhino, buffalo, crocodile, a variety of snakes, and various scorpion species in the region. Any wild animal is potentially dangerous if provoked. Never approach, antagonize, provoke, or tease any animal. Well-trained and experienced armed field rangers will be in the field with volunteers to reduce the potential risks associated with encountering wild animals. It is of the utmost importance to obey the orders of the field rangers in the case of an animal encounter. When walking in the bush with armed rangers, volunteers should walk in single file and always behind the ranger. They should not linger behind but always keep within a meter or two of the ranger. Volunteers should be as quiet as possible and be dressed in dark khaki, dark green or earth-toned colored clothing. Volunteers will be trained on how to behave in the field and avoid incidents with wildlife. The best rule is to keep your eyes open, pay attention, and be aware of your surroundings at all times. The guards are instructed to avoid close encounters with wildlife, but they can still happen. Participants must be able to move quickly in the event that the team gets too close to a buffalo, rhino or elephant. Volunteers should not walk toward camp perimeter fences when potentially dangerous mammals are visible from the camp. Note that these fences are electrified due to the presence of wildlife within and outside the camps so team members should take care not to touch them in order to avoid the risk of electric shock.


A range of venomous snakes are present in the area (including green and black mambas, puff adders, vine or twig snakes, Mozambique spitting cobras, and others). Volunteers must not attempt to pick up, catch, approach, and/or provoke any snakes. Ankle-high, closed-toe hiking boots should be worn for protection while walking transects. Closed-toe shoes must be worn around camp at night and team members are encouraged to use a torch/flashlight when walking around at night. Training in snakebite prevention and what to do in the event of an incident will be given prior to fieldwork. Anti-venom is not held at camp, as most hospitals prefer to treat the symptoms rather than take a risk that the snake has not been identified correctly. In the rare event that a team member is bitten, he/she will be immediately taken to one of the hospitals in Richard’s Bay.

Insects and other invertebrates

Biting insects (e.g. ants, spiders, flies, centipedes, and mosquitoes) and stinging insects (e.g. scorpions, bees, and wasps) are present in the field areas. Care should be taken to prevent insect bites/stings, and volunteers with the potential for allergic reactions should bring medication (antihistamines, at least two Epi-Kits, etc.) as appropriate. Ticks, which are very small and can transmit tick bite fever, may also be present. To minimize risk, bring and use insect repellent, check your body daily for ticks, and wear proper neutral-colored field attire, including long pants tucked into socks. Thin, long sleeved shirts are also recommended. Ticks that are latched onto the skin should be removed with tweezers. Tick bite fever is treatable with antibiotics that can be obtained from the local doctor/pharmacy.


Walking in the African savanna, one can expect scratches on the legs and arms from vegetation. The area has a multitude of thorn trees. Staff will aid in the identification of potentially harmful plants. Wearing long trousers and sleeves can help protect against scratches. You need to keep your eyes open to avoid walking into these and causing injury. Antiseptic and plasters and/or bandages will be available. Some plants may also cause allergic reactions. If you have any known allergies, please inform Earthwatch and the research staff, and bring medication (antihistamines, at least two Epi-Kits, etc.) as appropriate. Even those without known plant allergies may have reactions, so you may wish to bring antihistamines. If you have allergies to antihistamines or other medications, again, please make sure you inform Earthwatch and the research staff.


Heat stroke, heat exhaustion, sunburn, and dehydration are possible when working in the sun. Appropriate clothing (including a wide brimmed hat and long sleeves/trousers) and high factor sunscreen are essential. Each volunteer should carry at least two liters of water into the field and be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Inform a staff member right away if you are feeling tired or ill. Exposure to rain and wind/cold may cause chills or overexposure, so bring warm layers. Participants will often be exposed to the sun for long periods of time, or to highly variable weather conditions, which may include large temperature differences between night and day and sudden storms or drops in temperature. Although it is usually cool at the start of the transect, it can be up to 35°C/95°F, by the end so you must be prepared for the sun, stay hydrated and be able to continue walking when hot. Wildfires are rare but possible. In the event of a fire, team members will be removed from any areas of danger and must follow staff and field ranger instructions at all times.


Field rangers will carry heavy caliber weapons for your protection. The rangers are well trained in safety and firing of these weapons. Volunteers will NOT handle the weapons at any time. Weapons are kept unloaded unless the teams are walking on the transects.


A few transects may require crossing rivers. Depending on the level of the water, this may be done on foot or by canoe (staff will paddle, and life jackets are required). Because the transects are conducted during the dry season, the water speed is very slow and water levels are usually low. If there is water in the rivers, it is usually in pools, which one can walk around rather than go through. Canoes will be used to take volunteers and field rangers across only if the water level is high and there is no other way around. Walking through water will be avoided, as there is risk of the parasitic infection schistosomiasis from standing freshwater bodies. Dangerous animals are also present near rivers, such as hippos and crocodiles. Again, never approach, antagonize, provoke, or tease any animal; be aware of your surroundings at all times; and carefully follow any instructions given by the field rangers.

Personal Security

Volunteers should heed camp policies at all times. Particularly when outside of the park, on the roads and in towns, there is a risk of hijacking and mugging. Being alert and keeping valuable items, such as cameras, binoculars, and jewelry, out of sight, can reduce this risk. Use sensible precautions, particularly when traveling in urban areas: avoid carrying money conspicuously (e.g. in bulging wallets or bum-bags/fanny packs); avoid walking alone whenever possible and ignore persons who approach to solicit for donations; avoid wearing jewelry, “tourist outfits” such as safari shorts, jackets, cameras and binoculars, and very short skirts or shorts, tank tops, etc. (more conservative clothing is recommended); always take a taxi when going out after dark; and select and use ATMs with caution. It is always wise to leave unnecessary valuables at home.


There is a swimming pool at a local tourist camp near the project’s north camp accommodations. There may be the odd opportunity to visit this pool during recreational time, but this is not guaranteed. Please note that there is no lifeguard on duty, so volunteers swim at their own risk. Always notify a staff member where and when you will be swimming and never swim alone or at night. Do NOT go swimming or wading in any of the natural water bodies in the area due to the risk of drowning, crocodiles, and schistosomiasis.


Political tensions in South Africa can often result in demonstrations, protests, strikes, or rallies usually in urban areas. These events can turn violent. You should avoid all protests, demonstrations, rallies, and areas where there is picketing.


When electricity is unavailable, gas or oil lamps may be available for use at camp. Participants should take extreme care when using such lamps to reduce the risk of fire or burns.

Distance from Medical Care

The nearest hospital is 150 km away from the project site, and it may take up to two hours to arrange transport and reach the hospital. If you have a chronic condition which could require immediate medical care (e.g. heart conditions, kidney problems, severe asthma, etc.), or if you are pregnant, please discuss your participation on this expedition with your physician.


Traveler’s diarrhea affects many international travelers.

Diseases found in South Africa include malaria, dengue fever, typhoid, rabies, West Nile virus, schistosomiasis, cholera, hepatitis, filariasis, chikungunya, tick bite fever, strongyloidiasis, tuberculosis, and the largest epidemic of HIV/AIDS in the world. Please see the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov) or the World Health Organization (who.int/) websites for more information on these conditions and how to avoid them.

You can decrease your risk of many diseases by avoiding mosquito bites, practicing good hygiene, and drinking only bottled or filtered water when appropriate.

If you feel ill once you return from your trip, make sure you inform your doctor that you have recently returned from a tropical region.

Malaria: Chloroquine-resistant malaria is present in this region, although there have been no malaria cases at the project site in years. Malaria is also present elsewhere in South Africa. Speak with your doctor about appropriate prophylaxis. Be aware that some medications may increase your sensitivity to sun and heat.

Rabies: Vaccinations are not compulsory for this expedition, as volunteers are not going to be handling any rabies-carrying wildlife as part of their assignments. However, volunteers may wish to consult with their healthcare providers about the rabies vaccine, given the regional prevalence of loose and stray dogs. Team members should avoid stray dogs at all times. The rabies pre-exposure vaccination consists of three doses over a 28-day period. Please be sure to consult your physician or travel health clinic well in advance to ensure you have time for the full vaccination series. If you have previously been vaccinated, you must have a medical professional check your antibody levels; a booster shot may be required. Rabies is a fatal disease. Treatment after rabies exposure requires immediate care (within 24 hours), and this type of rapid response may not be available to volunteers on this project due to the remote locations. Pre-exposure vaccination does not eliminate the need for post-exposure medical attention and treatment, but it does provide additional protection against the disease in the event of a delay in treatment. In addition, any bites or scratches should be immediately and thoroughly washed with soap and clean water and a topical povidone-iodine solution or ethanol.

Travel Planning

RENDEZVOUS LOCATION: Richard’s Bay Airport, Richard’s Bay, South Africa

* Additional information will be provided by Earthwatch to meet your team. Please do not book travel arrangements such as flights until you have received additional information from Earthwatch.


Earthwatch strongly recommends that travelers investigate their destination prior to departure. Familiarity with the destination’s entry/exit requirements, visas, local laws, and customs can go a long way to ensuring smooth travel. The U.S. Department of State's Traveler’s Checklist and Destination Guides are helpful resources. For LGBTI travelers, the U.S. Department of State's LGBTI Travelers page contains many useful tips and links.


Entry visa requirements differ by country of origin, layover, and destination, and do change unexpectedly. For this reason, please confirm your visa requirements at the time of booking and, again, 90 days prior to travel. Please apply early for your visa (we recommend starting 6 months prior to the start of your expedition). Refunds will not be made for volunteers cancelling due to not obtaining their visa in time to meet the team at the rendezvous. You can find up to date visa requirements at the following website: www.travisa.com.

If a visa is required, participants should apply for a TOURIST visa. Please note that obtaining a visa can take weeks or even months. We strongly recommend using a visa agency, which can both expedite and simplify the process.

Generally, passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of entry and a return ticket is required.


  • Any books by Dr. Ian Player
  • Pooley, T. Mashesha: The Making of a Game Ranger. Johannesburg: Southern Book Publishers, 1992.
  • Banister, A. South African Animals in the Wild. Cape Town: Struik Publishers, 1987.
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