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

This is an incredible and unique internship program for those interested in wildlife conservation. You will intern in Kruger National Park, where Reserve Management interns live amongst wildlife, assist with research, wildlife conservation and reserve maintenance.

This wildlife internship at world-renowned Kruger National Park (KNP) ranks among the best in Africa. The Reserve Management internship base camp is located at an amazing spot, right on the Olifants River in the heart of the national park. You can see the resident hippo from the camp, and elephants, buffalo, giraffes and lions are among the regular stream of animals constantly visiting the river.

Interns work closely with local staff, including the reserve manager and scientific coordinator, assisting with daily animal monitoring, research and maintenance tasks. This a hands-on wildlife internship in Africa, where interns get practical learning in a unique setting.

Reserve Management at Kruger National Park

Reserve Management interns accompany reserve staff on daily duties, and can get training and experience in reserve operations and management, data collection, bush ecology, and safety policies. You can assist with data collection from camera traps, biodiversity survey sites, and on a Cybertracker GIS project.

Research projects reveal important data on animal health and behavior, informing conservation activities that benefit some of Africa’s most iconic wildlife. Your experiences and specific projects will depend on the season and the needs and undertakings of the reserve at the time.

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 maintenance work.

As well as a unique learning opportunity for interns, this program directly benefits wildlife conservation in South Africa. Interns provide valuable assistance with reserve management in Kruger Park, as research assists the international Panthera Predator Monitoring Project, and the income generated is donated to non-profit research and conservation groups in the region.

Reserve management 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
  • Cybertracking GIS projects
  • Assessing animal health and behavior
  • Informing conservation activities
  • Reserve maintenance
Professional development opportunities:
  • Assist research projects on a range of African animals
  • Experience wildlife in a world-renowned reserve
  • Take part in real life reserve management tasks
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:
  • Kruger National Park
“I worked as an intern on the Intern Abroad HQ “Reserve Management - Kruger National Park” program for 12 weeks. During this time, I participated in daily animal transects, bird count and sign drives, and camera trap set-up activities. My passion as a conservationist is the study of predator activity, so my preferred focus during the internship was the proactive completion of Leopard I.D. project. I used camera trap image data to identify individual leopards (as accurately as possible) and put together updated information regarding the leopard population within the region where we were gathering data. I am confident enough to work on any such conservation activities within part of the world - especially where there are leopards! The personal gain of this internship for me has been my development into a more confident and committed human being. I successfully uploaded a lot of valuable data to the conservation logs, which provided the satisfaction of learning techniques for the software, but also of having personally contributed to the strengthening of a database that will help future interns and conservationists. My greatest achievement of all during this internship has been the successful completion of the leopard identification project that I undertook. This will be an asset to the conservation work but is also an asset to my own future as a career conservationist.” - Tumpa Saha, India.

Intern review: Sarah Leaman

South Africa - Reserve Management at Dinokeng Game Reserve

"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 weeks, up to a maximum of 12 weeks. O.R. Tambo Airport in Johannesburg (JNB) is the typical international gateway, from where interns 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 at 3:00 p.m. on the 1st and 15th of each month.

Accommodation

Interns are housed within the Rusermi Camp in Balule Game Reserve and it is not uncommon to see African wildlife grazing throughout the day. This riverside camp has awesome sweeping views over the Olifants River and distant Drakensberg mountains, with huge Jackalberry and Maroela trees providing ample shade from the afternoon heat. The camp has a true safari feel with abundant game and bird life all around. A number of sleeping quarters provide dormitory style accommodation with bunk beds, mattresses and sheets. Bed sheets are provided but interns must also bring their own towels, sleeping bags or duvets. 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.

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 Hoedspruit (50 kilometers via mostly unpaved road) is a very popular tourist stop and has many restaurants, pubs, shops and supermarkets. Camp supplies and groceries are bought in town every 2 weeks and interns are welcome to join these shopping trips, by arrangement with the Volunteer Coordinator. (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.