Living the life of a Wildlife ACT Volunteer in South Africa

Arriving at Wildlife ACTs Zimanga Game Reserve in Zululand, South Africa on the first night made me realize how much I don’t really enjoy roughing it and that I might be a slight princess…

The Saturday previous I had flown from New York to Paris where I had an 11 hour layover before my flight from Paris to Johannesburg. Once arriving in Johannesburg on that Monday I then flew to Durban where I was picked up by Iguala tours to be driven the rest of the way to the game reserve. It was another three and half hour drive to get there and by the time I finally arrived all I wanted was some food and a nice hot shower.

Zimanga Game Reserve

 A beautiful view of the Zimanga Game Reserve in Zululand, South Africa with sugar cane fields in the distance.

Wildlife ACT has only had volunteers living on the Zimanga reserve for the past two weeks so the other volunteers I met when I arrived were the first to live on that property. The house where we were to be living is placed a half hour drive into the reserve from the main gate. Another volunteer company had previously used the house and when Wildlife ACT moved in it was in a bit of disrepair.

Two weeks since Wildlife ACT took over and with a fresh coat of paint and some new bunk beds the house is coming together and has the bare minimums which is all you really need in such a beautiful place.

I was given my own room in the house with a bunk bed to sleep on however I realized that I didn’t have a bug net to protect me from the bugs at night or a towel for showers. (NOTE: bring these with you ) I did smartly have my headlamp, which came in great use after. Rebecca, one of the Wildlife ACT crew/filmmakers found me a hand towel to use and to solve the bug problem I keep my windows and doors locked at all times.

Knock on wood so far this has worked.

The Zimanga Game Reserve is owned by people who also own a large sugar cane farm on the same property, because of this the house has a great plumbing system, electricity, and drinkable water. However you can tell the house is old from the loud groans the hot water pipes make to the constant occupation of the hallway by several random frogs or toads along with the visiting mouse which has been named muffin, the scorpion that keeps appearing and the friendly bathroom centipede.

giraffes at zimanga

A journey of Giraffes wait to drink from a small spring. Perhaps the zillion of Giraffes make up for the scorpion in the kitchen?

Yes every morning I check the ground before I swing my feet over the edge of the bed and I stick my flashlight into my boots before putting them on. I also had one of the other volunteers remove the small toad from the shower for me this morning. Eeeeeeee!!

Since we are far from the nearby town and shops food is shopped for each week and then communally cooked together with the group sharing dish washing duties. I can only assume that by the end of the week the food choices become less of a choice and what you have is your only option.

wildlife act house at zimanga game reserve

Our humble abode. The Wildlife ACT volunteer house at the Zimanga Game Reserve.

However this is life in the South African bush. This is life for all of the amazing game rangers, monitors, and volunteers who do their parts daily protecting these lands and animals so that they will still be here some day for our grand children’s grand children.

I’m here for a week and although this isn’t the luxury that I have experienced previously in South Africa this is still a pretty cool experience. I realize to many this might not be roughing it because I have running water and a roof over my head, but I guess that just shows you how much of a princess I might be.

We go on game drives twice a day, generally starting at 4am for five hours and then again at 3pm for another four hours. On these drives we aren’t just searching for any animal we are actually tracking eight animals on the property who are wearing collars that can be tracked by a telemeter. There are two collared cheetahs, two collared elephants, one collared leopard and the most important to Wildlife ACT the three collared Wild Dogs. The second most endangered canine in the world and the rarest mammal in Zululand, South Africa with only roughly 400 of them left in all of South Africa.

african wild dogs at zimanga game reserve wildlife act

Four African Wild Dogs rest by a river at the Zimanga Game Reserve. This guys make the roughing it worth it.

If you like animals and wish to volunteer somewhere around the world with them then I highly recommend checking out Wildlife ACT.

Today is only my second day with them, stayed tuned for more photos and more from my experiences with Wildlife ACT coming soon.

Special thanks to Wildlife ACT for letting me come and pester them with questions and demands of daily rhino sitings. All opinions and views expressed are my own…. they can keep the scorpions.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it!


  • Reply
    Lisa Niver Rajna
    December 22, 2013 at 8:08 am

    I am also a slight princess but for hours of seeing wild animals–I could do it!
    Thank you for sharing your adventure. Wild Animals in Africa is totally on my bucket list!
    Happy Holidays!

  • Reply
    December 6, 2013 at 12:12 am

    Wow! I’m so jealous. Hoping we can make a trip to Southern Africa next year. Thanks for sharing your journey!

  • Reply
    December 2, 2013 at 10:40 pm

    Wild dogs!? LUCKY….Africa is such a magical place, worth the extra effort and fewer comforts!

  • Reply
    November 25, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    You are brave! If I saw a scorpion I wouldn’t be able to sleep. :)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.