Join our team on the edge of the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya for a rare chance to conduct wildlife research on 3 of Africa’s most iconic big cats – lions, leopards, and cheetahs. This program gives you a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the wild hinterlands of East Africa and witness spectacular displays of wildlife while conducting important wildlife research that contributes to long-term wildlife conservation and reserve management plans.
This volunteer program is ideal for big cat lovers, wildlife enthusiasts, and aspiring conservationists or zoologists.
Your home during your stay in Kenya is a unique location in the middle of the African bush. You will live at our volunteer base in Naboisho Conservancy, a vast savannah wilderness that is part of the Serengeti / Maasai Mara ecosystem. This special ecosystem is a wildlife hotspot, so you can expect to fall asleep to the sound of lions roaring, hyenas laughing, and thousands of wildebeest and antelope roaming the great plains.
Naboisho Conservancy is located in the Great Rift Valley in the South Western region of Kenya and shares a fenceless border with the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Mara, as it is known, has the highest densities of wildlife on the continent, including all of Africa’s big cats and significant elephant and giraffe populations. Naboisho Conservancy is home to rare species such as aardvarks, caracals, aardwolves, and honey badgers.
As a volunteer, the data you gather will contribute to the Mara Predator Conservation Program; a flagship initiative by Kenya Wildlife Trust. This program brings together the community, conservancy rangers, and tourism camps in Naboisho Conservancy to help secure the future of lions, leopards, cheetahs, and wild dogs in the Mara conservancies through tracking, monitoring, and understanding wildlife behavior. You will go on daily safari game drives to identify and monitor big cats, as well as notable elephant bulls and matriarchs moving through the conservancy. Data will then be input to relevant databases to inform conservancy management plans and wider conservation policy.
Conduct regular game counts along transects or within sample areas to monitor the distribution of wildlife across the conservancy and their trends over time. This empowers conservation efforts by measuring the improvements in wildlife density and movement patterns in the conservancy. In particular, volunteers collect data on elephant sightings, including the location, size, and composition of elephant groups. Elephants require huge dispersal areas and move between Maasai Mara National Reserve, neighboring conservancies, and community land. This data is reviewed regularly by the conservancy management and is also shared with researchers to ensure coordinated ecological monitoring efforts spread across the Greater Mara landscape.
Like all wild areas, the Naboisho Conservancy faces problems such as soil erosion and invasive species which can significantly impact and alter the environment in a detrimental way. Volunteers partake in conservation initiatives to enhance the health of the ecosystem for it to successfully support its inhabitants. These initiatives are conducted in cooperation with the conservancy management team and include, alien plant species removal, soil erosion control, grass monitoring, game drive routing, road identification, litter picking, and road repair.
Koiyaki Guiding School is a facility that provides a quality education in guiding and conservation to local Maasai youth who want to get involved in the tourism industry by becoming safari guides. Through the school, Maasai guides can obtain certification with the Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association. Over the last decade, hundreds of Maasai youth have graduated and found employment in the ecotourism industry. Through teaching, you will help open up employment opportunities for community members, promote and encourage conservation of the Maasai Mara ecosystem, and meet and talk to locals who will offer an intimate insight into their community, culture, and country. Some of the topics volunteers cover includes customer service, guiding principles, languages and culture, and many more.
Community education and empowerment are inextricably linked to efforts to protect wildlife. There are several schools in the vicinity of the conservancy, but many of them lack basic facilities and are plagued by a shortage of teachers. Volunteers engage with students at the local primary schools to raise awareness of the importance of conservation.
Volunteers develop teaching plans and implement them at Wildlife Club at the primary schools every week. This has led to a 70% increase in participation by students in their school wildlife clubs – thus instilling a passion for wildlife in the next generation.
“Two weeks that I will never forget. Having always wanted to go on safari, I have managed to do just that and so much more for a fraction of the price, whilst contributing to wildlife research. Seeing such a variety of wildlife in their natural habitat is something that money can’t buy and it was amazing to get so close.”
“I had such an amazing experience on this project. Of course, the wildlife was incredible and I thoroughly enjoyed the monitoring and game drives. What made the biggest impression on me, though, are the incredible people I met while there—both on staff and in the community.”
“The grass is green, lush from overnight rains. Multiple animals in herds or alone, often with many babies, filled our monitoring sheets, cameras, and dreams. Game drives in the evening with the Guiding School students were a delight of interactions. I don't think there was a day we didn't spot a pride of lions, or a leopard, or cheetahs. A highlight was a family of cheetah cubs playing while mom feasted on an impala. I sadly leave the project because of the Coronavirus shutting down the schools, camps, and airline restriction of flights.”
Once you have submitted your application, a Destination Specialist will be in-touch to discuss the project with you.
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