Eligibility requirement: A love for nature and wildlife is a must, with a desire to make a difference in conservation. Come fit, healthy and prepared to work hard!

Associated career paths: Environmental Scientist (Policy/Planning/Law), Environmental Impact Assessment Specialist, Research Scientist, Ecologist, Biologist, Geologist, Ranger, Education and Outreach Program Coordinator, Soil and Plant Scientist, Climatologist, Eco-Tourism Guide, Marine Oceanographer

Minimum duration: 2 weeks

Internship details

Gain hands-on reserve management skills and learn about conservation in game reserves at Dinokeng Game Reserve in South Africa, home to lions, elephants, leopards, rhino and more.

The Dinokeng Game Reserve serves as a pioneering model for conservation initiatives in South Africa, particularly in areas where animals live in close proximity to humans. Around 170 families live on the 18,500 hectare reserve, which is home to lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino, elephant, cheetah, antelope and other game species. Reserve management plays a major role in allowing wildlife and people to co-exist in such a way.

Dinokeng Game Reserve Wildlife Conservation internship

Reserve Management interns work closely with field staff and reserve managers on a range of tasks, including monitoring elephant and lion herds in order to understand habitat utilization and movements around the reserve. Interns also help with animal contraception, behavioral and predator studies, and camera trapping.

Interns can learn about bush ecology, animal behavior, navigation, GPS and GIS mapping techniques. You can help with identifying animals, plants and birds that give feedback on species populations, and learn bush skills such as spoor identification and tracking.

Reserve management is not solely about working with animals, so interns will also get experience in assisting with other general tasks around the reserve. Erosion control, road maintenance, bush clearing and manual labour are all core duties of reserve management that interns can be required to assist with. It is always endeavored to balance exciting wildlife-related activities with everyday work in the bush.

Dinokeng Game Reserve Wildlife Conservation internship

Depending on your skills and the needs of the reserve, interns studying in relevant areas of interest (i.e. conservation and wildlife, environmental and natural sciences, biology and botany, etc) may be assigned to specific tasks related to practical components of your studies. This can be arranged with your supervisor when you’re in South Africa.

Reserve management learn from a qualified and experienced supervisor, and can be involved in:
  • Monitoring elephant or lion herds
  • Animal contraception
  • Behavioral and predator studies
  • Camera trapping
  • Bush ecology studies
  • Navigation
  • GPS and GIS mapping
  • Spoor identification and tracking
  • Population data collection
  • Self-driven research in your own field of interest
Professional development opportunities:
  • Shadow and assist real reserve managers at an operating reserve
  • Get experience monitoring and observing park wildlife
  • Learn bush skills and techniques
  • Gain a rounded understanding of park management
Typical schedule:
  • Mostly full-time Monday to Friday, depending on weather, season and research requirements. Interns may be required to assist research outside normal work hours or on weekends on arrangement.
Internship highlights:
  • Intern in a game park with some of Africa’s most spectacular animals
  • Learn practical reserve management skills across a range of areas
  • Get understanding of animal behavior and bush ecology in South Africa
Types of host organizations:
  • Dinokeng Game Reserve
“I chose this specific internship because it aligned perfectly with my particular career goal and path. I learned so much about strategies and practices, and so many valuable skills to address and improve the dilemma of the rise of endangered species and extinction epidemic. The skills I was so grateful to learn and improve on consisted of learning all about savannah ecology, animal behavior, GPS, GIS, and other navigational skills, biodiversity survey techniques, habitat assessments, bird point counts, monitoring the range and activity of wildlife species, and ways in which to mitigate human to wildlife conflict. Everyday started in the early morning just before the sun came up as many of the bird species started to come out and ended just after the sun would set as many of the other native species are crepuscular, mostly active in the cooler temperatures of dawn and dusk. It was truly a beautiful, wild, and wonderful time that I will forever cherish.” - Sarah Leaman, USA. Read more stories here.

Intern review: Sarah Leaman

"Once winter break commenced, I happily packed my backpack (binoculars included) after my last final exam of fall semester, headed to the airport, and thirty-some hours later (San Diego to Johannesburg) landed in South Africa. There I interned at Dinokeng Game Reserve focusing on a comprehensive understanding of wildlife conservation. I chose this specific internship provided by IAHQ because it aligned perfectly with my particular career goal and path. I am extremely passionate about wildlife and consequently the conservation of wildlife. While there, I learned so much about strategies and practices, and so many valuable skills to address and improve the dilemma of the rise of endangered species and extinction epidemic. The skills I was so grateful to learn and improve on consisted of learning all about savannah ecology, animal behavior, GPS, GIS, and other navigational skills, biodiversity survey techniques, habitat assessments, bird point counts, monitoring the range and activity of wildlife species, and ways in which to mitigate human to wildlife conflict. Everyday started in the early morning just before the sun came up as many of the bird species started to come out and ended just after the sun would set as many of the other native species are crepuscular, mostly active in the cooler temperatures of dawn and dusk. It was truly a beautiful, wild, and wonderful time that I will forever cherish."

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Program fees

Internship Duration Program Fee (USD)
2 weeks $930
4 weeks $1420
6 weeks $1860
8 weeks $2300
10 weeks $2740
12 weeks $3180

Please note that program fees for all South Africa Environmental internships include return transportation to the airport. This transportation service is scheduled on specific dates and times. To ensure the schedule works for you, check with your Internships Manager for details before booking your departure flights.

  • To convert these prices to your local currency visit the XE currency converter.
  • All Intern Abroad programs attract a Registration Fee of US$299 in addition to the Program Fee.
  • All payments attract a 5% transaction fee to cover international banking fees and currency charges. International wire transfer payments attract a minimum fee of US$75.
  • * Terms and Conditions do apply

What extra costs will I have?

  • Visa, flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check.
  • Souvenirs + tourism/leisure activities during free time.
  • Personal spending money to cover basic expenses such as drinks, snacks, laundry, and public transportation. Interns generally find US$50 per week to be sufficient.

Registration fee

What it covers
  • Dedicated intern support
  • Personalized internship abroad plan
  • International internship reference
  • Experiential learning curriculum
  • Affordable internship fees
  • Flexible booking options

Program fee

What it covers
  • 24/7 in-country support
  • Airport pick-up and return
  • Program orientation
  • Internship placement
  • Learning support service
  • Accommodation & meals

Keen to get started?

Taking the first step is easy! Our team is here to provide friendly assistance, from your initial research and planning phases, right through until your internship completion. To get started, submit an application. It is free to apply and takes just 5 minutes.

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Arrival and Orientation

Once interns have arrived at their accommodation and the internship site - after having received the airport pick up - there is time for introductions and settling in, which is followed by orientation. Orientation covers important details concerning schedule, support, safety, program rules and expectations, and more.

Return transportation is provided for all interns, according to a set schedule. All interns are advised not to book their flights until they have first confirmed their participation and received further guidance on making travel arrangements.

Internships begin the 1st and 15th of every month. Interns can choose to spend a minimum of 2-4 weeks, up to a maximum of 12 weeks. O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg (JNB) is the international gateway, from where interns are collected and transported by vehicle on a 100km journey to the camp (about 90 minutes driving time). Dinokeng Game Reserve is located approximately 45 kilometers north of the urban center of Pretoria, Gauteng. Airport pick-ups are coordinated to occur on the 1st and 15th of each month only, departing at 1:00 p.m.

Accommodation

Interns are accommodated in a comfortable and spacious research house, which is located inside the reserve and it is not uncommon to see African wildlife grazing throughout the day. The accommodation provides four shared bathrooms and seven large bedrooms. The bedrooms are fitted with 2-3 double bunks in each and there is ample storage space. The bathrooms provide warm and cold running water and standard flush toilets. Comfortable beds, bed sheets, pillows and pillow cases are provided but interns must bring their own sleeping bags and/or duvets. Common spaces include a large dining area, lounge, kitchen, outside verandah, swimming pool, and ‘braai pit’ for barbecues. The fully-equipped kitchen has a stove, oven, microwave, fridge and freezer.

On all of the Environmental Internships, the local team stay on-site in order to provide supervision and support. This provides an ideal opportunity for interns to gain firsthand knowledge from experienced staff about the challenges and rewards of living and working in Africa reserve areas. Interns are required to share accommodation (same sex sharing cannot be guaranteed) and private rooms are not available. Interns are also responsible for daily cleaning of their own living space. As everyone on reserve camps live together in a group environment, interns are expected to maintain cordial relationships with fellow program participants and reserve staff.

Accommodation camps have a desktop computer onsite (used for data entry), that can be used by arrangement with the Camp Manager to send basic emails. However, is highly recommended that interns bring their own mobile phones and then purchase a “pay as you go” SIM card and airtime vouchers (available from local stores and airports) as a means to stay in touch with family and friends. Data charges are very reasonable and MTN and Vodacom are preferred network suppliers. Cell phone signal is typically good but can sometimes be intermittent. There is electricity available at all of the program accommodation camps, so mobile phones, cameras, iPods and laptops can be easily charged.

Meals

On the Environmental Internships, all meals are prepared by interns themselves from the groceries and food provided by our local team (the program fee covers the cost of the food). Interns will be scheduled to assist with cooking and cleaning duties as a group effort during their stay and this schedule, along with any other important camp duties, are typically coordinated at the program orientation. For interns participating on the Sodwana Bay Marine National Park internship program, packed lunches may sometimes be made in advance and brought down to the beach.

Vegetarian and other dietary requirements must be communicated in advance, so that we can cater for any special meals. Note that there is an additional weekly surcharge if a gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian or vegan diet is requested. This is in order to provide speciality grocery items, which are often more expensive in South Africa (i.e. soy milk, gluten free bread/pasta, protein supplements, etc). The extra cost is US$30 per week if a gluten-free, dairy-free, or vegan diet is required. For vegetarian diets, the surcharge is US$20 per week. This amount will be included in the internship Program Fee quoted to you by Intern Abroad HQ when you apply.

Activities and tourism

It is important to know that South African Environmental internship programs are located in rural areas, where there are limited social activities and attractions. Distances between towns are great and public transport is very limited. The typical work schedules on these programs keep interns pretty busy throughout the week - and sometimes over the weekends too - but shorter work days can sometimes occur if weather conditions are not suitable for various activities. We recommend that interns bring ample reading material, card / board games, iPods, and similar personal entertainment items, for periods when there is “downtime”. If you feel the need to be in or near a big city, then these programs might not be for you. But if you have a passion for the great outdoors, you’ll have the experience of a lifetime!

The nearby town of Pretoria has many restaurants, pubs, shops and supermarkets. Interns will be allowed the opportunity over weekends, and by arrangement with the Camp Manager, to spend 1-2 nights at a back packers lodge in the city. There are a number of adventure activities offered by tourist suppliers on the reserve which may interest interns. The Camp Manager can assist with such accommodation, tour arrangements or adventure activities, but interns will sign off the project and have to pay for such tour services at an additional cost. For example, our local team recommends a budget of approximately R1500 – R2500 (US$100 - US$200) for a 2-night stay at a Backpacker Lodge and weekend activities, such as restaurant meals, evening entertainment, etc.

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Country profile

Capital Pretoria (Executive), Bloemfontein (Judicial), Cape Town (Legislative)
Population 55.91 million
Languages Afrikaans, English, Zulu, Xhosa, Swati, Tswana
Currency South African Rand (ZAR)
Time zone UTC+02:00

Weather and climate: South Africa is generally temperate, however due to varied topography and oceanic influence, a great variety of climatic zones exist. This ranges from the extreme desert of the Namib (northwest South Africa), to the subtropical climate along the Mozambique border and the Indian Ocean (eastern South Africa).

The Dinokeng Game Reserve, located in the Gauteng province, falls within the savanna biome, where the climate is humid and subtropical. The warm season, from September through March, is hot and rainy (most rainfall occurs during the afternoon). The colder months, May through July, are dry and cool. The average lows during winter are mild, but it can get cold due to the clear skies, bringing temperatures in the range of 36 °F to 23°F (2°C to -5 °C). The average annual temperature in the region is 65.7°F (18.7 °C). The Dinokeng Game Reserve and Gauteng region is a malaria free area.