What did past volunteers have to say about the programme?

Who will you work with?

Directly with field guides and scientists specialised in conservation, ecology, animal behaviour and zoology.

Your volunteering adventure awaits!

We are very much looking forward to meeting you and we know for certain that you will have a life-changing experience in a unique part of the South African bush. Whilst obtaining valuable field experience for your future careers, you will provide valuable assistance to the reserve in creating an area specialising in protecting endangered species. A win-win for all involved!

Read all about the details to your volunteer trip below.

Mapesu is in the process of rewilding the land to create optimum biodiversity and to be a centre for endangered species conservation. Volunteers will assist in all forms of research and monitoring of important species, to keep the ecosystem healthy and sustainable. Volunteers will provide baseline data on the species, ecology, interactions of all organisms in the area. The baseline data is essential in knowing that we are creating a safe, enriching and efficient space to protect endangered species.

Mapesu’s goal is that each volunteer leaves a small legacy behind. By volunteering at this project it is safe to say that you believe in conservation, providing a protected area and to save endangered species. The project aspires to become an epicentre for conservation in South Africa.

Volunteers contribute to the reserve in a meaningful way by assisting the reserve in essential research, important species monitoring and reserve tasks. This project needs help from willing and able volunteers to achieve their goals. Volunteering at Mapesu will not only provide an unforgettable experience in the wilds of Africa but also provides biological students with vital field experience for their future careers.

All activities are ethically minded for the protection of the community and the fauna and flora of the area.

Mapesu is a 7200ha reserve in the northern part of Limpopo, South Africa. Mapesu was created specifically to combat the growing endangered wildlife crisis by protecting animals and restorating the ecosystem by enriching its biodiversity that was once dominated by cattle farms.

The Area

The reserve is opposite the Mapungubwe National Park that borders Botswana and Zimbabwe and is separated by the great Shashe and Limpopo Rivers. Mapesu is incorporated into the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area; an area that is managed in a sustainable way with its ethos on conservation of biodiversity.

It is also an area rich in archaeological significance being home to one of the largest indigenous kingdoms between 900 and 1300 AD, as well as having a large collection of San rock art dating back several thousand years, some of which can be found on the reserve.

We welcome veterinary students to Mapesu, we can only receive non-clinical placements. The programme is very hands-off; we firmly believe in only interfering with nature when necessary. This programme is not recommended for students wishing to gain experience in animal handling or clinical veterinary practices. It is however, ideal for first and second year vet students who wish to learn more about animals in the wild, animal behaviour and how to create a healthy, balanced ecosystem.


5:00 – breakfast and prep for the morning
6:00 – early morning activities to take advantage of the cool weather, as well as to have the most optimum time to see more elusive animals
10:00 – continue with research data entry, check camera traps, free time, use Wifi
12:00 – prep for lunch and enjoy a meal
13:30 – free time, play games, whatever you feel
15:00 – research activities
19:00 – prep for dinner and enjoy the remainder of the evening


Wednesday: Pick up and drop offs every other week, rest day for those who are not leaving.
Wednesday evening: Induction and chat for the new volunteers

Thursday morning: Introduction game drive and bush skills/ Reserve tasks if no new students
Thursday afternoon: Monitoring important species and learning to use the telemetry

Friday morning: Bird surveys/dam surveys/game transects/vegetation surveys
Friday afternoon: Carnivore trackplots/transects Saturday morning: Carnivore trackplots/dog tracking/transects/monitoring important species

Saturday afternoon: Bird surveys/dam surveys/game transects/vegetation surveys
Saturday evening: braai night or pizza night

Sunday morning: Off Sunday afternoon: Data entry/meeting/talks/workshops

Monday morning: Bird surveys/dam surveys/game transects/vegetation surveys
Monday afternoon: Carnivore trackplots/dog tracking/transects/monitoring important species

Tuesday morning: Carnivore trackplots/dog tracking/transects/monitoring important species
Tuesday afternoon: a visit to Mapungubwe National Park/Kaoxa Rock Art

The volunteer house is about 20 minutes’ drive from the main gate and is a farm house with views over the whole of the reserve. There is a fully equipped kitchen, 6 showers and 6 flushing toilets.

There are 5 bedrooms: two bedrooms have 2 single beds then the others have either 4 or 5 beds in. The largest bedroom has an aircon unit, the others electric fans available. The house is designed to have separate male and female rooms and there is no guarantee of a private bedroom can be available.

All linen for the beds is supplied but bring towels and a sleeping bag for the survival course. Free wifi is available (please do bear in mind, it may get slow if too many people are using it at the same time).

There is a washing machine available in the volunteer house. Volunteers are responsible for doing their own laundry.

There is no fence around the volunteer house, there is an outside dining area and a braai with incredible views of the reserve.

All collections and drop offs of volunteers are done every alternative Wednesday, throughout year on specific dates so please arrange your travel to coincide with this.

We do transfers to Polokwane every other Wednesday. Please make your own arrangements to Polokwane; we can assist you with the relevant information. The best option is a domestic flight from OR Tambo Johannesburg airport. We will pick you up at 11:35 from Polokwane airport and drop you off in Polokwane at the end of your visit at 10:30 am for a flight departing at 11:55.

If anyone has a delayed flight, we will assist you to make new arrangements but it will be at an extra cost.

Anyone wanting to do an alternative plan to get to Mapesu, you will have to arrange yourselves (we can possibly assist in coming up with a plan) and it will be at your own expense. Our transfers have a set arrival time in Polokwane and departure time from Polokwane, anyone travelling outside of these times will have to make your own arrangements to get to/from Mapesu.

Students will be able to buy supplies from either Musina or Polokwane (if there is a pick-up or drop off).

Health Care

Mapesu is in a low risk malaria area, consult a GP on potential prophylactics. Daily spraying of insect repellent is advisable. Consult a GP on vaccinations but Tetanus is advised. We cannot give you advise on what vaccinations you require as we are not qualified doctors. You will, however, not be handling animals and will not be exposed to unsanitary water/food. Please bring a small first aid kit and any medicine you may require. Doctors are in Musina, approximately one hour away and a large hospital is in Polokwane. We have medical emergency procedures in place. All staff are first aid trained.


Accidents can happen to anyone. Make sure you get comprehensive travel and medical insurance. Shop around and make sure it’s right for you. Think about activities you may be doing, even spur of moment ones, and make sure you’re covered for these. Your policy also needs to cover medical costs. If you do not take out proper insurance, you will have to foot the bill.


Safety procedures are in place and there is a designated security manager on the property. The property is surrounded by an electric fence. The house can be locked and a safe is available if a volunteer would like extra security for passports and money. There will always be a member of staff with a vehicle present at the volunteer house for emergencies. Emergency numbers are visible in the house. Fire extinguishers are available. All staff members are first aid trained.


We recommend that you wear neutral coloured clothes for drives and especially walks – khaki, green, brown and navy blue. Black and white are not suitable, especially when walking, as they are most recognisable by the wildlife. Closed-toe shoes such as hiking boots or trainers/sneakers are mandatory for all drives. Open shoes such as flip flops/thongs are not permitted to be worn on the vehicles. Hiking boots/shoes with good ankle support are also recommended for walking in the bush. Habitat work involves some manual labour, so please bring some clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty or possibly ripped on thorns!


All food to be provided to the volunteers, however, volunteers will need to rotate and take turns preparing cooking and cleaning, as needed. Water, coffee and tea are free. Weekly menu and any food preferences or allergies need to be determined prior to enrolling. The meals are basic, home cooked meals such as burgers, pasta bake, chilli and a braai on Saturday. ‘Luxury’ items will not be provided such as snacks, chips, biscuits, fizzy drinks and alcohol. Volunteers will have an opportunity to buy snacks on their way to Mapesu and on the weekly shopping trip on a Wednesday. Alcohol and fizzy drinks can be purchased at the lodge and wilderness camp on Mapesu.


It is recommended that you bring local currency (Rand) with you rather than exchange foreign currency here. It is sometimes a labourious task exchanging money at a bank in South Africa and the airport may not give you a fair rate. Bring extra money if you would like to visit Mapungubwe National Park, buy souvenirs and snacks. All shops, Mapungubwe and Mopane Bush Lodge accept card payments. For those staying a long time on Mapesu, we advise on getting a Revolut card which means you have no bank charges. – Extra costs include: Mapungubwe visit R450, rock art R400 – Example cost: big bag of crisps R13, chocolate bar R15, can of coke R20.


Mapesu is situated within the Limpopo Province which is characterised by very hot weather in summer, where temperatures may exceed 40ºC from September to April. Rainy season is between November to April. The cooler months are May to August with temperatures reaching as low as 5-6 ºC and average daytime temperatures around 20ºC. Check the actual weather for SA on

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*R 0
Per person per week

*Minimum duration of visit is 2 weeks – includes ALL activities & food but excludes transfers

Game Reserves in South Africa | Mapesu Private Game Reserve

For more information contact Amy Auret

Tel: (+27) 604292888