Samara‟s vision is to re-introduce the large diversity of animals that roamed these plains prior to European settlement 200 years ago. By volunteering at Samara you are making a valuable contribution to this ambitious and worthy cause. The programme has been designed with a strong focus on learning and hands-on involvement in the field. We hope you will learn to respect and admire the wonders of the African bush while you are here.
There are various ongoing land rehabilitation and wildlife research projects taking place at Samara in collaboration with conservation organizations and universities, and as part of the Samara research team volunteers will have the opportunity to make valuable contributions to these projects. We teach volunteers to be competent in all required field techniques, meaning the data collected can be used by management and affiliated organizations. Samara is also home to the SACT tracking academy run by one of only two Master trackers in South Africa, from which you will learn a wealth of bush knowledge, as well as the skills of tracking animals and interpreting their behavior.
You will leave Samara with a deeper understanding of the bush, as well as useful skills and techniques used in current scientific research, conservation and wildlife management. We also hope you will leave energized by the experience of living so closely with nature.
Role of Volunteer
The projects you will be involved with at Samara include management and rehabilitation efforts, which involve hands-on reserve work, as well as research projects which require data collection and analysis. Samara is currently working on several projects in collaboration with The Centre for African Conservation Ecology (ACE) at The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth (www.nmmu.ac.za), The Endangered Wildlife Trust (www.ewt.org.za) and Lethbridge University in Canada (www.uleth.ca).
This forms a large component of your daily activities as a volunteer and you will really get to know your way around all 27 000 hectares of the reserve.
Animal movement and population demography research
Land rehabilitation - Poor farming practices in the past, such as over-stocking livestock, have left severe erosion gulleys on some parts of the reserve. These areas need to be rehabilitated by means of soil erosion control methods e.g. stone and brush packing and tree planting projects. Volunteers also assist in removing old farm materials such as fence wires from the reserve, these materials can act as snares so their removal is of utmost importance
Game capture – Samara has eland, kudu, oryx and white rhino captures scheduled for 2010. Witnessing the suspense and intensity of a large game capture is an experience you want to be here for!
Game introduction – There is an ongoing game introduction programme at Samara to restore the mammal diversity that once existed on these plains.
Cheetahs are the world‟s fastest land animals! The cheetahs introduced at Samara were the first wild cheetahs in this area in 125 years. There are less than 900 cheetah left in the wild in South Africa. Samara has made Cheetah conservation a priority. Radio collared cheetahs are tracked by means of telemetry from vehicles and also by tracking spoor on foot. For reserve management purposes it is important to collect regular information on their habitat utilization and movement patterns, prey selection and social interactions. In collaboration with The Centre for African Conservation Ecology (ACE), Samara is contributing to an extensive study investigating the predator prey interactions of medium and large predators. Data collected by monitoring cheetah, as well as black jackal, and collecting faecal samples to be analyzed at ACE, provides valuable information to this study. The findings in turn provide essential information to Samara for managing our predator population.
Aardvark are secretive, nocturnal animals that play a very important role in arid ecosystems. The countless burrows they dig are a prominent feature of the Karoo landscape and provide important refuges not only for animals such as porcupines, bushpigs, warthogs, shelducks, springhares and more, but also provide ideal microhabitats for seed germination. Very little is however known about this peculiar animal. In April 2011 we are initiating an Aardvark behavioural physiology research project in collaboration with Wits University, Johannesburg. A small number of Aardvark will be implanted with GPS, activity and body temperature loggers. The information obtained from these internal loggers combined with behavioural observations will help us understand more about Aardvark behavioral adaptations to surviving the extreme environmental conditions of the Karoo.
Samara is home to the SACT tracking academy run by one of only two Master trackers in South Africa. The volunteer programme allows you to sit in on lectures with the trackers as well as accompany them on their excursions in the bush. Learning about the bush from one of the most knowledgeable men in South Africa is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Vervet monkey research
These small primates belong to a group of monkeys more commonly associated with the forests of tropical Africa. Yet, not only do they survive in the harsh Karoo environment, they positively thrive! This has drawn scientists from around the world to Samara to investigate the key adaptations these monkeys have made to survive in an environment not commonly associated with them. As a volunteer you will be given the opportunity to accompany the scientist in the field and learn about what they do.
Conservation also means acknowledging the people that have lived in this area for generations. The majority of Samara staff are employed from the local community and we have developed a good relationship with the Mayor of Graaff-Reinet, through which organize various community outreach activities.
Hiking and camping. The mountainous landscape of Samara is ideal for hiking and camping! Spending time disconnected from society and without our everyday luxuries is a very liberating experience and one of the best ways to get to know the bush.
Educational talks by the reserve manager, rangers and researchers.
Creating a nursery of plants important for the rehabilitation of the land, which can later be planted on the reserve.
It is possible to see a bit of the surrounding area on weekends, and through a local tour guide you can take a trip to the ocean, Addo Elephant National Park, river rafting or a cultural tour.
Requirements / Conditions
This programme is open to people from all walks of life, the only requirements being passion, enthusiasm and a willingness to work hard and learn.
We take volunteers 17 years and older.
As our work required being outdoors and walking around a fair amount, decent physical fitness is required
During your stay you will be living in our volunteer camp. The rooms are comfortable and may be single or shared with one other volunteer, depending on numbers (we currently have facilities for a maximum of eight students). We happily cater for couples or friends traveling together. There is a fully equipped communal kitchen and meals are cooked by volunteers and coordinators in teams. We have a homely relaxing area with couches, internet and TV, as well as an outside braai (BBQ) and fire pit overlooking the mountains, where we spend many evenings relaxing and socializing after a day in the field. In summer volunteers are able to swim in the nearby dams and river pools.
Monday to Friday are working days at Samara. The activity times differ in summer and winter but usually consist of a morning and afternoon activity. Weekends are free time where volunteers can relax and recuperate, visit the local town or organize trips to our beautiful east coast (aprox. 2½ hours from Samara), where there are endless beaches and fun coastal towns.
Samara Private Game Reserve is situated in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, 3.5 hours from the city Port Elizabeth. Transfers to and from the airport in Port Elizabeth are included.
Samara is situated in a malaria-free area and so no anti-malaria prophylactics are required. It is important to check that your vaccinations are up to date before you come (Hepatitis A&B and Tetanus). Please also ensure you have adequate travel insurance for your trip, we can unfortunately not accept you onto our programme unless you have adequate insurance.
Travel to South Africa for most citizens of the EU, United States and Australia do not require a visa for stays shorter than 90 days; while various other countries do require a tourist visa. To check whether you need a visa you can visit South Africa’s home affairs website at http://www.home-affairs.gov.za/visas.asp
The prices are listed in South African Rands. TO convert to your currency please visit www.xe.com.
The price includes accommodation, food, transport on the reserve and transport to Samara from Port Elizabeth airport and back at the end of your stay. Flights and medical insurance are NOT included. Additional spending money will only be required for personal items (alcoholic drinks, sodas, sweets, toiletries and curios) and excursions away from Samara (meals at restaurants in town or trips to the coast).
The volunteer centre is open for eight weeks at a time after which it closes for two weeks. This cycle runs throughout the year.
Please email us until we will send you a claendar of our open and closed dates.