Volunteer & Travel In South Africa, Private Game Reserve On Your Gap Year

Enter the Greatest Wildlife Playground on Earth

Leap to the tip of the world’s most epic continent and experience first-hand the thrill of encountering Africa’s big game, up close and personal.

This program is based on a private game reserve near the Krugar National Park. It provides the perfect opportunity to live 'on safari' whilst helping conserve some of Africa's wildlife and contributing in the local community.

The 10 week program includes an adventure over in Mozambique to wash away the dust in the Indian Ocean and to show you another part of this amazing continent.

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Places You'll Visit

Our programs in South Africa are based in a single game reserve bordering the Kruger National Park
Kwa Madwala
Kwa Madwala: A Private Game Reserve

Nestled along the Southern border of the world famous Kruger National Park is Kwa Madwala, a private ‘Big 3’ (leopard, elephant and rhino), game reserve, between Swaziland and Mozambique. 

In the middle of the reserve you'll find the renowned safari lodge, Manyatta, cleverly built into the sides of local kopjes popular for elephant and horseback safaris.

This is an area of outstanding natural beauty - from drinking in panoramic views of the nearby Drakensburg Escarpment at ‘God’s Window’, to enjoying a sundowner on Fort Rocks - you’ll be surrounded by landscapes to take your breath away.

Our base, bush house, is in the heart of the reserve, surrounded on all sides by wildlife and offers a completely immersive safari setting. (In fact it has a little plunge pool to help wash away the dust!). From here you’ll be treated to encounters with game almost every day during bush walks, open vehicle safari’s and whilst traveling to and from your projects.

Mozambique Coast
Mozambique Coast: Deserted Beaches on the Indian Ocean

Part of the itinerary and cost is four days over on the deserted beaches of Mozambique experiencing an entirely new country and a different side to African culture, influenced heavily by the Portuguese.

Calm seas, clear skies, beautiful lagoons and white sands are just a four-hour drive away from the bush of Kwa. The perfect spot to indulge in seafood and tackle some watersports.

How You'll Contribute

Check out the volunteering projects that you could help us work on whilst you're in South Africa
Anti-Poaching Work
Fight Against Poaching

Poaching is a huge problem in Africa, and Kwa Madwala is not immune to the hunting of rhino horn, elephant ivory and the trapping of animals for the bush meat trade. Due to on going efforts, which include regular tracking, and in some cases the de-horning of animals, Kwa’s rhino and elephants are relatively safe from hunting, but snaring for the bush meat market is an ever-present threat.

On arrival at Kwa you’ll be given an introductory lecture by experts and with your help, poaching will be tackled on two fronts.

Firstly through our community work where we aim to build up good relationships with the local townships. When there is a good relationship, there is better co-operation in the anti-poaching efforts.

Secondly, with fieldwork involving snare patrols and anti-poaching walks.

Animal Welfare
Care for the Animals on the Reserve

It’s a huge task for Kwa’s rangers to keep tabs on all the animals within the reserve - so your extra eyes and ears makes all the difference.

During regular game tracking activities, you will quickly learn to identify and interpret animal spoor and help rangers keep tabs on the behaviour and health of resident wildlife.

You will also help observe and occasionally assist veterinary staff called to the reserve to care for sick animals, tag endangered species and introduce new animals brought in to balance Kwa’s delicate ecosystem. Over the past few years, Leapers have played a vital role in providing ground support when animals have needed to be anaesthetised for treatment or tracking purposes.

Reserve Management
Assist with Management of the Reserve

Maintenance of the reserve’s infrastructure, land and equipment is of paramount importance to the smooth running of Kwa Madwala and is ongoing.

You are needed to help with the daily fence and road patrols, their maintenance and with controlling the ever-encroaching bush.

Support Childcare Centres in Mijane

We work with two daycare centres for kids up to five years old in the neighbouring township of Mijane.

We have been visiting one of the centres for more than six years, so it is fairly well-established, but the other is new, only recently opened to cater for the expanding community.

The kids love their Leaper visits, who find time to play, whilst contributing to any maintenance work that may need doing. Obviously this changes all the time and will be determined at the start of each program. In the past, Leapers have built a kitchen and play areas. Tough, but rewarding projects, guaranteed to get your hands dirty!

Horseback Conservation
Track & Conserve Wildlife on Horseback

Kwa has a selection of hardy bush horses to offer the unique opportunity to explore, track and conserve wildlife on horseback through this stunning African bush environment.

So, if you’re a confident rider, you can split your time between daily morning rides in search of game and identifying reserve management issues, and afternoons spent helping with the township community projects and equine care: grooming, feeding, watering down and cleaning tack etc.

The horses are a breed commonly known as ‘Boerperd’ – directly translated ‘farmer’s horse’. The result is a strong, lively, yet even tempered, hardy and sickness resistant horse that can happily cope with living in the African bush and accommodate different riders.

Horseback conservation activities are limited to Leapers on our horse riding programs, so if this is of particular interest then be sure to check out the horse riding programs first.

Awesome Things You'll Do

Of course, volunteer work is just one part of The Leap. When you're not doing that, you'll be doing some of these...
Mozambique Coast
Relax on Macaneta Island, Mozambique

Your four-day break away from the reserve. You’ll stay in rustic, self-catering chalets just a five-minute stroll from the beach.

Here you can feast on prawns, crayfish and fish cooked in the traditional Portuguese way, in one of the beach side restaurants before chilling, body surfing, snorkeling or for the intrepid, deep-sea fishing.

Elephant Ride
Work With Two Orphaned Elephants

Twali and Mujaje, two orphaned elephants, have found sanctuary at KWA. They are invaluable in teaching the local people how gentle and intelligent they are and therefore, worth protecting.

Kwa Madwala has a program in place where local schools are regularly treated to a day with the elephants and you’ll be asked to help facilitate this, but more importantly, you will get the chance to stroll through the reserve with these magnificent creatures at your side.

Microlight Flight
Soar Over Africa in a Microlight

Kwa Madwala offers this complimentary flight to all Leap volunteers - one 15-minute flight all over the reserve.

Flying low over the game and high to capture the fantastic views.

Backpacker Favourites
Heaps of Other Popular Backpacker Activities

You‘ll be busy volunteering 5 days a week, and for pretty much most of the day, but the evenings and weekends are your own for down time or exploring with some of our favourites:

Hazyview Backpackers An adventure centre offering river tubing, abseiling and paint balling.

Kruger National Park Arguably the world’s best known National Park, spanning a mind boggling 2 million hectares (dwarfing it’s little neighbour Kwa Madwala!) and home to over 140 species of mammals - this is THE place to spot big game in South Africa.

Moholoholo Wildlife Centre Home to animals and birds who have been orphaned or injured. Home to rescued lions that once performed in an Egyptian Circus and the famous Cheetah’s Jolly and Jubah.

God’s Window Giving unrivaled views of Blyde River Canyon - at 33km long, it is the largest 'green canyon' in the world – breath taking.

Swaziland Tour A few hours drive from Kwa Madwala is the border with Swaziland, a Kingdom which has independent culture and laws to South Africa and has maintained much of it’s traditional heritage.

Gap Year Programs in South Africa

If this looks like your dream destination, the next step is to pick one of our programs
Can't Wait to Get Started? Fantastic.

We have four different teams departing for South Africa each year: January, April, July and September. Typically programs are ten weeks long, taking in all the sights and experiences you'll find described on this page with plenty of downtime for you to explore the country as you please.

The exception to this is the July departure date, which is a six-week program and aims to pack as much into that shorter period as possible. It's an ideal fit for that gap between A-Level exams and results day, or for those on university summer holidays.

Want to join a ten-week program in January, April, or September and leave early, or even arrive later ? No problem, get in touch and we'll help you sort something out.