Addo Elephant National Park

About Addo Elephant National Park Project

Project Details

The Addo Elephant National Park lies deep within the shadows of the dense valley bushveld of the Sundays River region of the Eastern Cape.  Here, the evenings are punctuated by the strident howl of the black-backed jackal, while the francolin's call heralds each new dawn.

Safe from relentless persecution in the past, the African elephants of the bush now roam in peace.  The original Elephant section of the park was proclaimed in 1931, when only eleven elephants remained in the area – today this finely tuned ecosystem is sanctuary to over 450 elephants, Cape buffalo, black rhino, lion, leopard, zebra and a variety of antelope species, as well as the unique flightless dung beetle, found almost exclusively in Addo.

In addition to the elephants, the resident Big 5 species include lions, which were introduced in 2003 along with spotted hyena, 500 head of buffalo, a well-established population of black rhinos and leopards in the mountains and coastal forest regions.

But the Addo story has only just begun.  Plans to expand the park's 164 000 hectares, resulting in a 360 000 ha mega-park, are moving forward at an exciting pace.  Future plans include a proposed 120 000 ha marine reserve, including islands supporting the world's largest breeding population of Cape gannets and second-largest breeding population of African penguins.

Volunteers must remain flexible about the type of work to be done and will be involved with all sorts of work activities, including tasks that, while not directly animal or wildlife-related, are critical in conserving the environment.  



Volunteers are housed in basic wooden huts in the staff village of the Addo National Park.  The wooden huts are comfortable and consist of one room with two single beds, electrical plug points (240V), bedside tables & lamps and cupboard space.  The kitchen / lounge hut is fully equipped with couches, television, fridge, stove, washing machine, microwave, kettle, toaster, pots, pans, cutlery and crockery.  There is a separate ablution block with a shower, basin and two toilets which are shared by all volunteers.  On average 4 volunteers are accommodated in the huts.  

The staff village is also shared with permanent reserve staff members (rangers and field guides) who are accommodated in their own permanent buildings in the village.  This is an ideal opportunity for volunteers to gain firsthand knowledge from experienced staff about the challenges and rewards of living and working in the African bush. 

Volunteers are required to share rooms with each other (same sex sharing cannot be guaranteed).  Volunteers will have the services of a char twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) to clean huts and do laundry and ironing.  Bed linen is provided.  Volunteers prepare their own breakfasts and dinners, which are usually shared between volunteers as a group. 

Transport to town is available by means of an open top bakkie (pick-up truck) when a staff member goes to town for other chores or duties.  Volunteers live in a group environment and are expected to be able to maintain cordial relationships with fellow volunteers and reserve staff.  Please remember that the reserve is located in a rural area with only a small town nearby.  There are limited social activities and attractions in the area and it is not ideal for volunteers who feel the need to be in or near a big city!  It is recommended that volunteers take ample reading material, card / board games, ipods, walkmans etc to entertain themselves.  There is a restaurant located in the park which is within walking distance of the staff village. 

What will you do?

Your volunteer placement at Addo Elephant National Park will see you working long hours in the African bush alongside dedicated conservationists.  Volunteers will be involved in all sorts of work activities, including tasks that are not animal or wildlife-related but are critical to conserving the environment, e.g. erosion control measures (rock packing dams, building gabions), tourist patrols, fence patrols, checking water points and some hard manual labour.

Optional experiences may include: Local Community Liaison work; Environmental Education to school groups and surrounding communities; Celebration of Environmental Calendar days (e.g. beach clean-up days); Guided Game Drives and Horse Trails with rangers and field guides; Monitoring and Behavioural studies on Elephants and Red Bishop birds (seasonal in summer); Front Office and Reception duties at the park's lodge facilities; Housekeeping and Maintenance (optional).

South Africa, Eastern Cape
Minimum Duration:
4 Weeks
Maximum Duration:
12 Weeks
Airport Pickup
Arrival Orientation


Past Volunteer Comments

Charlene Southon (United Kingdom)

"There are many animals all around. You are hands-on doing real work helping the environment and with conservation. It has changed the path of my career. I don’t ever want to leave!"

Samantha Weight (United Kingdom)

"I had a magical time in the National Park. It is a pity my stay was so short and I have to go home - still, it was exactly what I needed!"