Malawi Wildlife Conservation Experience

Malawi

Be a wildlife conservation volunteer in Malawi, the Warm Heart of Africa. Get involved with a conservation programme dedicated to uniting wildlife and local communities. Get back to nature and live in the heart of a tranquil game reserve.

Join one of Malawi's leading eco-tourism projects, where all proceeds are returned to the project and the surrounding communities. Volunteer work makes a real difference to the wildlife, the reserve and the people who call this stunning part of Malawi their home.

This wildlife conservation programme is a unique project that showcases how conservation can benefit local people as well as animals. The 2,000 hectare reserve is relatively small, so every volunteer makes a huge contribution towards achieving the project goals. Volunteers make a real difference to the future of Malawi and are part of something very special. Enjoy the experience of a lifetime and take home memories and friendships that will last forever.

Get involved in all aspects of game park management, from game counts and individual animal monitoring to wetland regeneration, tree planting and reserve maintenance. Learn wildlife observation, identification and tracking skills and help develop a robust wildlife management plan for the park. Volunteers work closely with permanent staff members and get a truly holistic game park experience.

The reserve is closely linked with the Malawi Wildlife Sanctuary and many rehabilitated animals from the Sanctuary have been successfully released onto the reserve to live the rest of their lives in the wild. We encourage volunteers to spend time on both projects to see conservation from two different but very important perspectives.

Quick Facts

Who can join: Volunteers from 18 years (families welcome)
How long can I stay for: 2 weeks - 12 weeks (extensions are available)
Accommodation: A-frame lodge
Transfer time: 2 hours
Pick up from: Lilongwe (Kenyatta) International Airport
Meals: 3 meals a day included
Project numbers: 12
Start dates: Tuesdays including Christmas and New Year
How much: from $1,595 (2 weeks)

Background

Malawi is known as the Warm Heart of Africa for its stunning natural beauty and friendly people. It is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa and the 10th poorest country in the world, which puts enormous pressure on its natural resources. Habitats are increasingly being lost to a fast-growing population, and this increased pressure on natural resources and the human-wildlife conflict is putting the lives of wild animals at risk, with the illegal bushmeat and pet trades still commonly practiced.

The reserve is a 2,000 hectare property approximately an hour and a half from Lilongwe and it is as important for local communities as it is for the wildlife that lives there. The main goal of the Trust which runs the reserve is to inspire people to live in harmony with nature, and they have set up education and outreach programmes as well as sustainable livelihood programmes in local villages. 

As a not-for-profit organisation, all the revenue generated goes back into the project and helps to fund community micro-projects such as borehole maintenance and well-digging, and also funds the community project work which volunteers get involved with. In the last 12 months the project has funded a pilot eco-education project, planted 30,000 trees in school and village plots and set up relationships with fishermen to fund sustainable fish farms.

There is a fully trained wildlife scout team which perseveres to protect the reserve with anti-poaching techniques and patrols. The reserve works hard to maintain a good relationship with the police and local chiefs and educates within local communities, working to slowly change habits that have been practised for generations. A combination of education, sustainable alternatives, incentives and law enforcement are helping to bring the surrounding communities towards a mutual aim to protect the reserve. 30% of all visitor income is directed straight into community projects and is also used to fund income generating schemes within the local community to promote sustainable conservation and develop local skills.

The reserve is a haven to a huge variety of free-roaming wildlife, with large mammals such as giraffe, wildebeest, sable, kudu and impala through to primates, reptiles and hundreds of bird species. There are no large predators or dangerous game on the reserve so you can explore and take in your surroundings at your own pace, without the need for a vehicle or scout.

Highlights

The volunteer programme at this project is not a gimmick. Your work is invaluable to the operation of the game park and the wellbeing of its wildlife.

  • Experience life on an African game reserve and live amongst local Malawians
  • Learn to live sustainably, use solar energy and work on sustainable livelihood projects
  • Get up close to animals on the reserve and learn wildlife observation and identification techniques
  • Carry out conservation surveys and learn to identify individual animals and their personalities
  • Join the front line of wildlife conservation and patrol the park with trained wildlife scouts
  • Help in wildlife release projects and follow the animals progress as they are returned to the wild
  • Work on research projects, ecological surveys and mammal censuses to support wider conservation efforts in Malawi
  • Help the reserve to become a leading eco-tourism destination
  • Make a difference in village communities as you work on community and education projects
  • Explore Malawi - visit the Lake of Stars, just half an hour away or climb Mount Mulanje
  • Experience living in the peaceful African bush, exploring the wilderness at your own pace, without the need for a vehicle or armed ranger
  • Eat breakfast with giraffe, jog accompanied by an ostrich and watch zebras graze in the garden
  • Wake up to the sound of the wilderness and watch stunning sunsets every single night
  • Have a fantastic African adventure as you enjoy safaris, sandy beaches and amazing scenery

What sort of things will I be doing?

This is truly a volunteer programme with something for everyone, as there is a huge range of projects for volunteers to get involved with. Acting on your initiative and giving ideas is always valued and if you have a special skill or interest, you can have a massive unique impact.

Conservation and ecology:

  • Help implement and develop the reserve’s wildlife management plan:
  • Conduct data collection using a variety of methods - animal sightings, transect surveys, individual animal monitoring and bird surveys
  • Help develop individual profiles for each animal in the park
  • Track population changes and movements and assess the effectiveness of security
  • Improve your wildlife tracking skills and learn track and spoor identification
  • Learn to identify individual animals and understand group dynamics and social behaviour
  • Learn orientation skills using GPS, compass and park maps

Habitat and wildlife protection:

  • Assist scouts and rangers with anti-poaching patrols
  • Undertake game park work including fireguard management and fence maintenance
  • Get hands-on with regenerating wetlands which have been damaged by fishermen
  • Train rangers in English communication and conservation to ensure they are fully aware of the importance of protecting the reserve

Wildlife release and reintegration:
The reserve is often used for wildlife release projects and volunteers are always needed to conduct specific species research, locating good release sites and designing enclosures.

  • Help feed and observe animals in an enclosure prior to release
  • Continue to feed when the gates are opened
  • Help with radio collaring and tracking free-roaming animals

Environmental education:

  • There is a newly decorated education centre on site which needs posters and educational displays
  • Develop materials or give lessons at school camps using the Eco Schools Programme
  • Help with visits from local schools to expose as many children as possible to wildlife
  • Teach local children about environmental issues and encourage sustainable living

Community outreach:

  • Join construction teams as they do community maintenance and building projects including boreholes, schools and orphanages
  • Work on sustainable livelihood projects to generate an income for communities
  • Work with local schools and women’s groups
  • Help with tree nurseries and replanting to combat deforestation
  • Learn to make mbaula eco-stoves and fuel briquettes to reduce the demand for firewood
  • Join the wetland project and help educate fishermen on overfishing and fish farming

Local eco-tourism projects:
Tourists are able to visit the reserve and stay in the lodge and volunteers are needed to help develop the reserve for visitors. All suggestions and input are welcome!

  • Build trails and repair roads
  • Make maps, signs and field guide documents

Learn about wildlife and the environment:

  • Go on bush walks and learn to track animals
  • Identify the trees and plants around you and learn about their uses in traditional medicine and legends
  • Learn about the constellations and the stunning night skies
  • Relax and enjoy bike riding or jogging through the reserve, reading by the river or hiking the wildlife trails

There are opportunities for volunteers to add on an additional week or two at the projects partner programme in Lilongwe at the Malawi Wildlife Sanctuary. We highly recommend a combination programme of volunteering at both projects. 

Details

Do I need any experience to volunteer on this programme?

We welcome volunteers with a passion and interest in wildlife and conservation and the ability to communicate suitably in English. It is always those who have a positive attitude, enthusiasm and flexibility who leave the biggest mark. You should be of reasonable mobility and fitness and if you have any concerns about things you can and can’t do, please just let us know.

If you have experience in marketing, photography, film-making or PR and would like to offer your services during your stay, please let us know when making your booking!

For volunteers staying longer than 4 weeks there is options to set up your own project or study to complete during your stay.

How do I get to the project?

Included in your programme price is a collection from Kenyatta International Airport in Lilongwe on a Tuesday and transfer to the reserve, and return transfers when your project is finished. We can organise transfers on other days but they will incur an additional charge.

A day in the life

Malawi is a magical place. Wake up in the moorings to the sound of the bush and drink your morning tea in the graden surrounded by zebras - an unforgettable experience.

The work is sometimes demanding but is always rewarding and you will be welcomed into the team by the super-friendly staff - a reflection of why Malawi is the Warm Heart of Africa. You will work 6 days a week, with one long weekend off per month. Usually you will start work at 7.30 and finish around 4.30, depending on what projects are going on. Lake Malawi, the “Lake of Stars” is only 30 minutes away and volunteers often get together to organise a day of snorkelling and sunbathing.

Finish the day with a sundowner on Sunset deck - probably the best sunsets in Malawi!

Pricing and Dates

When can I volunteer?

Volunteers can begin this wildlife conservation project on any Tuesday throughout the year.

Feedback from volunteers suggests that a 2 week programme is just not long enough to experience the project to its fullest. We highly recommend a minimum 4-6 week stay on this programme, incorporating at least a week in the Malawi Wildlife Sanctuary. Volunteers must stay at the conservation programme for at least 2 weeks prior to any stay at the Malawi Wildlife Sanctuary.

Project pricing 2016:

2 weeks: £1,038 (approx $1,565)
3 weeks: £1,197 (approx $1,800)
4 weeks: £1,353 (approx $2,040)
6 weeks: £1,656 (approx $2,495)
8 weeks: £1,957 (approx $2,950)
10 weeks: £2,260 (approx $3,400)
12 weeks: £2,563 (approx $3,860)

Please note that all fees for this project are to be paid in GBP (£ sterling) - the USD ($) prices shown are estimates based on today’s exchange rate.

You may pay a supplement to stay in the luxury villas which is an additional £50 per night - ideal if you are coming as a larger group.

We recommend you bring a little extra money to spend on drinks, meals out and souvenirs - £15-£20 a week should cover this, depending on your lifestyle! There are a number of excursions which are definitely worthwhile - click on the Excursions tab for more details.

What does the cost include?

  • Programme fee - financing which goes back into the programme your are involved with; this includes funding for equipment, supplies, vehicles and foodstuffs etc
  • Transfers to and from Kenyatta International Airport to the project on a Tuesday
  • Full board and lodging for the duration of your programme including laundry (exc. any snacks, alcoholic or fizzy drinks)
  • Three meals per day
  • Full 24 hour support and training from your programme co-ordinators during your stay
  • All programme-related transport and equipment required to do your work

The programme cost excludes:

  • Flights to Lilongwe
  • Visas fees (initial 30 day visas are usually £75, thereafter approximately £10 / month)
  • Any expenses prior to your programme start date
  • Any personal items such as alcoholic drinks, snacks, additional food or souvenirs
  • Excursions and trips outside the volunteer programme
  • Internet charges and telephone calls
  • Personal medical and travel insurance, which must cover the entire duration of your programme and should include cover for repatriation, air evacuation and any activities you may undertake or plan to undertake

View our booking terms and conditions

Family Volunteering

Volunteer with your family!

As the project is at a park which is open to the public,  it is absolutely ideal for families who wish to volunteer together. The project takes you back to basics, back to nature and to an appreciation of the wildlife and nature which surrounds you.

The volunteer programme and game park staff are a close and friendly team who provide a fantastic family experience - all they ask is a love for wildlife, a zest for life and buckets of enthusiasm! The children will be able to get involved in most of the activities in the programme; there may be some which are not suitable but there will be plenty which they love!

Families will sometimes have a different itinerary to other volunteers to ensure that everyone gets the most out of their project.

Sample family prices based on 2 adults and 2 children sharing an A-frame lodge:

2 weeks: £2,377
3 weeks: £2,702

Upgrades to private lodges are available, subject to availability and for an additional $60 per night.

Accommodation

Volunteers on this Wildlife Conservation project stay within the reserve, with zebras in the garden, in an A-frame lodge which sleeps four, two upstairs and two downstairs. There is basic solar lighting in the rooms and the communal boma is close by which has solar lights and a cash bar. Showers and flushing toilets are on site, camping-style, not in each lodge) and there is hot and cold running water for showering. together in a homely volunteer house in the heart of the sanctuary, surrounded by the animals.

Three meals a day are prepared by the resident Malawian cook, Stafford, who will teach you how to make breakfast on a camp fire using fuel-efficient briquettes. You are living in rural Africa so while accommodation is comfortable, it is basic so be prepared for a rustic experience. This is one of the factors our volunteers enjoy the most! Water, juice, tea and coffee is available through the day and drinking water is also provided. Vegetarians and those with dietary requirements can be accommodated - please just let us know on your booking form!

You may choose to supplement your visit and upgrade to a private room. Your own A-frame lodge is available for an extra £10 pppn and our luxury villas are available for £50 per night extra. These sleep up to six people and are ideal if you are coming in a larger group.

Reviews

My best moment was cycling around the game reserve with the sun rising, looking for zebra, only to find them in the volunteer house garden upon our return! Other memorable moments were laying out on blankets by the campfire talking and looking up at the starry African skies feeling that anything is possible, attending a chief initiation ceremony as guests in one of the surrounding villages and seeing the Gule Wamkulu dancers.

I felt that volunteering on this project really benefited local people and supported conservation efforts -they invest profits into many surrounding community projects, including sustainable income generation and education programmes regarding sustainability and responsible use of natural resources.

The overall experience has far surpassed my expectations and I have some memories that will stay with me forever!

MELANIE B, UK
Malawi Wildife Conservation Experience

I volunteered on this project for 4 weeks. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, you get up close and personal with the wildlife in a way which very few places can offer. Going to the sunset deck is amazing and the sunset is incredible no matter the weather. I would love to back again but i would be scared i would be unable to leave!

FRANCIS J, UK
Malawi Wildife Conservation Experience

As a volunteer who has experienced this project for four absolutely amazing weeks, I can truly say that this place is a place for those who want to experience untouched nature, wild animals in the best possible habitats and people who give all they have, to help and preserve the animals.

Whether you are going for a bike ride around the park, or just sit and enjoy the amazing sunset at Sunset Deck you're going to enjoy every second of your stay. They have some amazing villas with everything the heart desires in the middle of the wildlife and with almost no potentially dangerous animals you can relax and enjoy nature to the fullest.

Things you definitely need to do is: Take a walk / bike ride around the park, enjoy a drink at Sunset Deck, take a bike ride to the local town Salima where you can eat at the Ice Cream Shop and afterwards go for a walk around the craft markets, and many more things. Generally everything is really cheap, soft drinks, beers, A frames, the villas and so on. And if you are ever in doubt, don't hesitate to ask the always smiling scouts or manager of the place. I am positive that i will soon be going back to the place that has given me so much, and hopefully I can give it something back someday.

RUNEL L, DENMARK
Malawi Wildife Conservation Experience

Destination

Volunteering in Malawi

The “Warm Heart of Africa” is a cliche which is hard to ignore in Malawi. It is home to some of the friendliest, most joyful people in Africa, despite their often extreme poverty. This laid-back, landlocked country is the proud host to an unparalleled blend of magnificent blue waters, rolling landscapes, lush forests and abundant wildlife.

It is Malawi’s variety of attractions that is its greatest asset. Whilst Lake Malawi dominates the country, this is not a country of a singular attraction. It is the mixture of beautiful landscapes, fascinating wildlife, the alluring Lake Malawi, and rich culture that combine to make this small country such a wonderful place to visit.

The Malawian people are, without doubt, its greatest asset: friendly and welcoming to a fault. Every visitor is met with a smile and the warmth of the welcome is genuine and long-lasting. Alongside a number of places of particular cultural and historical interest, and all travel will include some element of cultural experience as interaction with local people is very much part of any stay.

The project is based close to the town of Salima which has all amenities including ATMs, supermarkets, pharmacies and a market.

Malawi is part of Africa’s Great Rift Valley, which provides the vast chasm that Lake Malawi fills. “Discovered” by David Livingstone, this inland sea is a scenic wonderland which provides water sports activities for the thrill-seekers as well as stunning sandy beaches, snorkelling and diving. Fishing villages are dotted around the lake shore and between these are long stretches of uninhabited, golden sand, lapped by crystal clear waters. Enjoy kayaking, sailing and water-skiing or go join local fishermen in a traditional canoe. Relaxing at one of the lodges at Monkey Bay is a definite must for visitors to Malawi!

The best wildlife viewing is in Liwonde National Park in the South of the country wich is home to elephants and the countries largest populations of the endangered black rhino. Visitors to Malawi’s nine National Parks will enjoy unspoilt scenery and an abundance of animals, especially hippos!

Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe is a bustling African city with two distinct parts - the hustle and bustle of the Old Town, a traditional African settlement and the Capital City, with gleaming modern building set in spacious gardens. Both are well worth a visit especially for street food and unique souvenirs.

To the west of the Lake is the Central African Plateau which is characterised by a series of dramatic escarpments, rugged unspoilt wilderness areas and evergreen forests.

What will the weather be like?

Salima, where the project is based, is the warmest district in Malawi with a noticeable difference in temperature from the capital, Lilongwe.

April – August: These are the cooler months and temperatures can be slightly chilly in the evenings and early morning. The weather remains dry and sunny in the daytime. You will see the green of the wet season gradually turning brown and the animals will become easier to spot.

September – November: Temperatures gradually increase, as does humidity in preparation for the rainy season.

December – March: Wet season. Days and nights can get very warm with the rains usually only lasting an hour or so a day. You need light clothes and lots of sunscreen for when the sun is shining, and a good raincoat, especially between mid-November and mid February. On the arrival of the rains the reserve is transformed into a green lush paradise once more and the zebras will come to eat on your front lawn!

Excursions

Do I get some time off?

You will normally work from 7.30-4.30 6 days a week with one long weekend off every 4 weeks, although hours are flexible if volunteers want to take longer excursions. The project is a 30 minute drive from Senga Bay which is a beachside village on the shores of Lake Malawi, providing good swimming, snorkelling and other water activities. Car hire is very affordable and volunteers often club together to rent a car and see more of the country.

Lilongwe is a clean and relatively quiet and safe African city with just the right amount of nightlife and restaurants which you are more then welcome to visit! It is about 1.5 hours from the project and has larger craft and food markets for buying curios and haggling for vegetables!

It is well worth considering a safari to Liwonde in south Malawi or South Luangwa in Zambia - one of Africa’s least-known and most prolific game viewing destinations. Volunteers are entitled to a discounted rate from a local safari operator and 4-day experiences are regularly enjoyed. The tour price is approximately £315 ($480) which includes meals, accommodation, game drives, transfers, guides, park entrance fees and Zambian visa fees.

Combination Projects

We highly recommend making the most out of your trip to Africa and consider combining two or more volunteer projects into your trip.

We highly recommend combining this project with the Malawi Wildlife Sanctuary in Lilongwe to get a total conservation experience. The Santuary is Malawi’s only accredited wildlife sanctuary and works closely with the reserve on animal rehabilitation and release.

Project Gallery - Malawi Wildlife Conservation Experience

Testimonials

Malawi Wildlife Conservation Experience I volunteered for four weeks and what an amazing experience that was! The place is so relaxing with its bar looking out to the beautiful sunset. Working with the Zebra, Giraffe, Antelope, visiting community outreach projects, teaching in a local school and weekend trips to Lake Malawi! Cooking over a fire was all part of the fun but most of all it was an absolute privilege to work with the staff! For volunteers: The A frames and ... Naomi F, UK Read More
Malawi Wildlife Conservation Experience As a volunteer who has experienced this programme for four absolutely amazing weeks, I can truly say that this place is a place for those who want to experience untouched nature, wild animals in the best possible habitats and people who give all they have, to help and preserve the animals. Whether you are going for a bike ride around the park, or just sit and enjoy the amazing sunset at Sunset Deck you re going ... Runel L, Denmark Read More

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