Eligibility requirement: This internship is perfect for those who are passionate about animals and wildlife conservation. Previous training or experience is not required, since interns are closely guided by Fields Guides and a dedicated Field Training Coordinator. However, due to the project work of this internship, it is recommended that all participants have some relevant academic background and willingness to apply themselves to the research components of the program, in addition to practical fieldwork activities. High School graduates aged 18+ are welcome to apply. All interns must have an adequate level of fitness given the physical nature of the work.

Language requirements: This internship is conducted in English.

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

Minimum duration: 2 weeks

Internship details

The Reserve Management & Research internship in Balule, Greater Kruger Park, combines reserve management experience with specialized project activities. This dynamic approach provides interns with a real-world opportunity to gain scientific mentorship and learn practical new skills related to fieldwork, data and ecology.

This is an in-country internship, with accommodation and meals provided.

This location of this internship, at Balule, Greater Kruger Park, provides a coveted wildlife experience, which could only be described as “once in a lifetime”. Base camp is located right on the Olifants River, where you have a prime view to spy the resident wildlife. Interns work closely with resident Fields Guides and a dedicated Field Training Coordinator, to assist with daily reserve management priorities, while tackling an especially assigned research project. This is a hands-on internship in Africa, where you should come prepared to gain practical fieldwork experience, in one of Africa’s most renowned environments.

Reserve Management at Kruger National Park

Reserve Management activities

A day-to-day component of this internship is related to reserve management activities, which you contribute to alongside wildlife conservation volunteers. These activities provide general insight into conservation priorities. You can expect to cover an introductory period at the beginning of your program, where resident Field Guides will teach you about life on the reserve. This involves learning about best practices for reserve management, basic bush ecology training, and gaining an overall understanding of how your efforts contribute to long-term goals and conservation priorities. Tasks are related to:

  • Bush craft (i.e. learning about animal identification and behaviour, dealing with potentially dangerous game, orientation and navigation techniques, and basic bush skills for health and safety).
  • Game drives and camera trapping (i.e. monitoring of rare and endangered species, location and mapping of injured animals by vehicle patrols, vulture nest monitoring, etc).
  • Reserve management general labor (i.e. assisting with road maintenance, assisting with bush and alien plant clearing, helping with erosion control measures, fence line patrols, disaster management strategies to mitigate drought, flooding, storms, wildfires, etc).
  • Vegetation sampling and habitat assessments.
  • Assisting with long term biodiversity surveys.

It’s important to keep in mind that reserve management activities include manual labour. The type of conservation activities you may be involved with is very dependent on dynamic variables, such as weather and environmental conditions, seasonality, animal behaviour, etc. All interns need to be flexible with the kind of reserve management activities you’ll be involved with. The above list provides a guide but activities are seasonal and day-to-day itineraries will be determined by the on-site Field Guides, who will plan according to conservation priorities, weather conditions, and other factors.

Specialized project activities, data collection and research

In addition to the general Reserve Management tasks, interns receive support from a dedicated (remote) Field Training Coordinator to complete specific activities and data collection tasks. For this, each intern is assigned a project that they must complete during their internship (over a minimum duration requirement of at least 4 weeks). These project activities contribute to research, provide interns access to scientific mentorship, and the opportunity to gain practical new skills related to data and ecology. In all cases, interns will be expected to produce findings that they will present. The presentation will be graded by the Training Manager (pass/fail). Interns are welcome to state their preferences for their desired project.

The current project options include:

1. Predator Dynamics Project

Aim: To create association and overlap charts and maps for a season, using predators, as well as main prey species. Interns utilize “WildLog” to produce maps and create a project about temporal and spatial overlap and competition. The maps that are developed will be presented, results and finding will be compiled and discussed.

2. Predator ID Project

Aim: To create and update identification kits for individual animals of the major predator species. Using Wildlog, individual animals will be given their own unique “creature ID” with the descriptions of identifying characteristics and links to the photo ID document. The document will use photos from WildLog with the identifying characteristics circled and described from the various angles (left, right, hind, front, head, legs, tail etc). The intern will need to create their report and include detailed summaries of each individual (sex, age, behaviour, territory, name, identifying characteristics, missing sides for identification, number of times seen, most common locations, etc).

3. Bird Point Count (BPC) Project

Aim: To create and update seasonal bird charts of sightings, and counts per species and feeding guild, as well as species lists and interesting sightings outside of BPCs. Interns will ensure that data entry is up to date and correct and will access the spreadsheets used for quarterly newsletters, where the graphs auto-update. Interns will create a report and presentation showing current graphs and compare them to historical data.

4. Game Transect Project

Aim: The aim of this is to create and update the trend analysis for the game transect data. Interns will ensure that data entry for Game Transects are up-to-date and correct. They will update data and reports which describe current conditions, while comparing them to historical trends.

5. Herbarium Project

Aim: The aim of this project is to create and update the plant collections for the area. This is both a physical collection and a digital collection process. The physical collection involves collecting, correctly identifying and pressing 10-20 plant species and placing them into the field herbarium. Correct labels for the samples must be fully completed, including descriptions. Findings are also catalogued into the datasheets. Older samples will be added to the herbarium library. Additionally, interns will need to upload 10-20 plants to the inaturalist project with the correct photos, and full metadata (GPS co-ords, descriptions, habitats etc). Interns will produce a report listing the plants that have been pressed, and the ones uploaded, with the photos and describe basic information for each species from the guidebooks.

Reserve Management & Research interns learn from a qualified and experienced supervisor, and can be involved in:
  • Reserve operations and management
  • Data collection
  • Bush ecology
  • Camera trapping
  • Conducting surveys
  • Learn about animal health and behavior in the wild
  • Informing conservation activities
  • Reserve maintenance
Professional development opportunities:
  • Experience wildlife in a world-renowned reserve
  • Take part in real life reserve management tasks
  • Undertaking a research project based on collected and supplied data
  • Gain practical skills and boost your employability, with guidance from Intern Abroad HQ’s Experiential Learning Curriculum to support your learning and cultural intelligence
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:
  • Experience life living on an operational game reserve
  • Learn from experienced reserve managers and scientists
  • Contribute to conservation efforts that aid some of the world’s most spectacular wildlife
Types of host organizations:
  • Balule Game Reserve, Greater Kruger Park

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Program fees

It’s free to apply for this internship. Once we have reviewed your suitability and accepted you onto this program, you’ll need to pay a deposit of US$449 to confirm your place. The remaining balance of your Program Fee (less your initial US$449 deposit payment) will be due no less than 60 days before your internship start date.

Internship Duration Program Fee (USD)
4 weeks 4 weeks $2,519
6 weeks 6 weeks $3,284
8 weeks 8 weeks $4,049
10 weeks 10 weeks $4,814
12 weeks 12 weeks $5,579

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 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 apply

Program fee for abroad internships

What it covers
  • Securing your internship placement
  • Personalization of your internship plan
  • International reference letter
  • 24/7 in-country support
  • Airport pick-up and return
  • Program orientation
  • Internship placement
  • Experiential Learning Curriculum
  • Accommodation & meals

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..." read more

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Arrival and Orientation

Reserve Management internships in South Africa begin on the first and third Monday of the month. Exceptions may be made to this schedule if a Monday start date falls on or near a public holiday. Note that the internship has limited capacity and we encourage interns to plan in advance, to secure your preferred internship dates. Interns may choose to spend a minimum of 4 weeks, up to a maximum of 12 weeks.

Airport pick up, drop off and accommodation are included in the Program Fee. The accommodation is covered from the Monday night of your start date - interns are required to arrive on their start date and are asked not to book flights until your placement has first been confirmed. Specific instructions will then be provided for arrival and departure logistics.

O.R. Tambo Airport in Johannesburg (JNB) is the typical international gateway into South Africa, from where interns need to connect onto a further domestic flight to Hoedspruit Airport (HDS), which is located adjacent to the Kruger National Park (and just outside the town of Hoedspruit).

Interns are met on arrival at Hoedspruit Airport and transferred to the reserve, departing as one group. Upon arrival to the site, interns will be welcomed and receive guidance in regard to orientation, safety, and getting settled in.

The last night of the accommodation is the Sunday night of your final week. Departing interns are provided return transportation into Hoedspruit, for departure from the Hoedspruit Airport, on the first and third Monday of the month.

Accommodation

Interns are accommodated in dormitory style accommodation at Rusermi Camp, located within Kruger National Park’s Balule Game Reserve. The camp is located about 50 kilometres from Hoedspruit and runs beside the Olifants River. The laidback site has a true safari feel - it is not uncommon to see African wildlife grazing throughout the day. There are sweeping views over the Olifants River and distant Drakensberg mountains, with large trees providing ample shade from the afternoon heat.

Sleeping quarters are provided for program participants (volunteers and interns). The rooms are equipped with bunk beds, mattresses and sheets. Interns must bring their own towels and sleeping bags. Expect to share the rooms with one to seven others. Efforts are always made to accommodate genders separately. However, same-sex dormitories cannot be guaranteed, as this depends on the gender ratio of program participants who are on camp at any given time.

Camp living is basic but comfortable. Bathrooms are separate and have warm and cold running water, as well as standard toilet facilities. There is an outside dining area and braai (barbeque) area (known as a ‘lapa’) where interns enjoy their meals and socialize in the evenings, as well as an outside swimming pool and open-air lounge.

Accommodation upgrades to double or single rooms, with private ensuite bathrooms, are available and can be arranged at an additional cost. All accommodation upgrades are subject to availability.

Local Field Staff reside on-site to provide supervision and support. Interns share responsibility for daily cleaning duties and are expected to maintain cordial relationships with fellow program participants and staff.

The facilities include a desktop computer, which is used for data entry. It can be used by arrangement with the Camp Manager to send basic emails. However, it is highly recommended that interns bring their own laptop, mobile phone or other device, to connect to the accommodation WiFi. Access to the WiFi costs R100 (approximately US$10) per week and is paid for directly at camp. You may also opt to purchase a “pay as you go” SIM card in South Africa (available from local stores and airports). 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

Meals are included in the Program Fee for this internship. All meals are prepared by interns themselves, from the groceries and food provided by our local team. A roster of duties is scheduled, so that interns can assist with cooking and cleaning as a group effort. The schedule (which can include various other important camp duties) is coordinated at the orientation.

It is important to be aware that vegetarian and other dietary requirements must be communicated in advance, so that we can cater for any special meals. There is an additional weekly surcharge if a gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian or vegan diet is requested. This is in order to provide specialty 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

This internship is located in a rural area, 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 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!

This being said, the nearby town of Hoedspruit (located 50 kilometers away, via mostly unpaved road) is a very popular tourist stop. There are many restaurants, pubs, shops and supermarkets. Camp supplies and groceries are bought in town and interns are welcome to join these shopping trips, by arrangement with the on-site Field Staff. (These trips also provide a good opportunity to topup your prepaid phone data).

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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 Kruger Park region also experiences wet summer months, from October through April. Hot and humid weather can be expected at this time, with average daytime temperatures reaching 90°F (32°C). It seldom rains all day, but the pattern is afternoon storms. The dry season is from May through September. During this time of year, it can cool off considerably at night and it’s advisable to bring warm clothing for early morning and evening activities. During June, July and August (“winter”) the average morning temperature is 48°F (9°C) but afternoons temperatures are pleasant - typically 79°F (26°C). Traditionally, the best game viewing is in winter when vegetation becomes sparse and water is restricted to rivers and water holes.