Big Cat & Elephant Research and Conservation in Kenya

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Develop Wildlife Research Skills in One of the World’s Most Famous Wildlife Areas

This is a rare opportunity to join our team based in the Pardamat Conservation Area, a newly established dual-use conservation area and a key wildlife dispersal area and corridor in the Greater Maasai Mara Ecosystem. As a wildlife volunteer on this project, you will conduct applied wildlife field work (monitoring and data collection) on Africa’s most iconic wildlife in Pardamat Conservation Area and the neighbouring Naboisho Conservancy, including the largest living land animal – the majestic elephant. This wildlife conservation program gives you a unique opportunity to work in two diverse and equally important conservation areas in this vast biodiversity ecosystem in Kenya.

The two conservation areas are in different stages of their development and are based on two different conservation models. Naboisho Conservancy is a fully established community conservation area set aside and managed for wildlife conservation while Pardamat Conservation Area is a dynamic vast conservation area adopting the dual-use model of conservation where wildlife and livestock co-exist. This means the type of work differs in each location based on the differing models and their differing needs. You will witness spectacular displays of wildlife in their natural environment, while at the same time conducting important research that contributes both to long-term conservation and ongoing conservation management plans of these key areas.

Project Highlights

  • Travel to the world famous Greater Maasai Mara Ecosystem to conduct valuable research on some of Africa’s most iconic wildlife (lions, leopards, cheetah and elephants) using field-based monitoring and evaluation techniques
  • Assist with changing camera trap SD cards weekly and processing images in an research office based environment
  • Get hands-on and partake in physical conservation activities such as invasive species removal, soil erosion control, de-fencing and opening up of new game driving tracks as you work to develop and establish a premier game viewing area
  • Learn and develop first hand knowledge of different wildlife conservation models in the Mara ecosystem and importance of wildlife conservancies for both wildlife and livestock and local communities at large
  • Witness the iconic East Africa landscapes while out on wildlife monitoring drives through the Pardamat Conservation Area and Naboisho Conservancy

Quick Facts

Maasai Mara, Kenya

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi

Specific Start Dates

2 – 12 weeks

Impact: Wildlife Conservation

From $1648 per week

Project Destination

The Maasai Mara, part of the expansive Maasai Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, currently has 15
conservancies. These conservancies cover over 300 000 acres and provide connected critical wildlife habitats that complement the current protected area network, providing secure wildlife migratory corridors. The conservancies are established under the rationale of conserving the environment and its wildlife alongside a mandate to protect, empower and improve the livelihood of the local Maasai communities.

You will be based at the newly developed educational and research hub in Pardamat Conservation Area: The Wildlife Tourism College of the Maasai Mara. Most of the elephant research and big cat conservation volunteer work you will be conducting will be based within Pardamat Conservation Area, a dynamic dual use conservation area where 850 Maasai landowners have legally registered their 26,000 acres as a wildlife conservation area, while continuing to live and to care for their livestock within certain zones of the conservancy. Two days a week will be spent in the neighbouring Naboisho Conservancy, for further monitoring of wildlife in this area.

ACCOMODATION

Your accommodation will be situated at the Wildlife Tourism College in the heart of Pardamat, a dual-use conservation area, and nestled against the backdrop of the Pardamat Hills, offering a truly authentic and unique volunteer experience. You will be housed in comfortable permanent safari-style tents on a sharing basis, with magnificent views of the plains stretching away to the south and the rift valley escarpment to the west. There is also a library and an IT centre under development which volunteers will be able to access once completed. The Wildlife Tourism College and accommodation area is not fenced, allowing wildlife to pass through the area freely. As such, Maasai security guards (askaris) are employed to ensure our wildlife conservation volunteers’ safety by escorting them between the common area and their accommodations, especially after dark.

Meals are prepared by a local chef employed from the community and there is a common area where you can eat and socialise with other volunteers and Maasai students enrolled at the college. Three meals and drinking water are provided daily; Breakfast is continental style, and lunch and dinner are normally a hot meal, with a varied menu that incorporates local and international cuisines. Packed breakfasts and lunches are arranged when our wildlife volunteers are out in the field early or over lunch time. We can accommodate most dietary requirements if notified before arrival.

WiFi is available at the common areas of the Wildlife Tourism College, a short walk (about 200m) from the tented accommodation. Please note, it is likely to be much slower than your internet speed at home. If you wish to use the internet at night, you will need to purchase a local SIM card and internet bundles.

Traditionally, the wet season begins in November and goes on until May, but there are a couple of dry months in January and February. Days are often overcast, with showers in the afternoon, and chilly mornings with temperatures that hover around 13°C (55°F). The dry season is from June to October. You’ll enjoy warm weather during the day, although there may be a shower or two at times and cold weather at night in Kenya.

Participant Requirements

AGE

Our minimum age for this elephant and big cat conservation volunteer project is 18 years of age. We can also accept volunteers 15-17 years of age if travelling with a parent.

To travel to Africa, many people are required to obtain a visa either upon entry to the relevant country or beforehand. Please note different countries require different passport validity periods.

But don’t panic, our Journey Team will help direct you and answer your questions during our Pre-departure process.

Project Impact Areas

BIG CAT MONITORING

As a big cat conservation volunteer, the data you gather will contribute to the on-going work of the Mara Predator Conservation Programme, a flagship initiative coordinated by Kenya Wildlife Trust. Your involvement in the big cat monitoring project in Pardamat will play a crucial role in addressing the current lack of information about the population and distribution of big cats in this area. This marks the first-ever field monitoring initiative in this conservation area, making your contribution particularly significant. In addition to our work in Pardamat you will spend two days a week in Naboisho Conservancy focusing on big cat monitoring in the peripheral areas of this well established wildlife habitat, contributing to long-term and ongoing research in that area. Packs of wild dogs pass through Pardamat from time to time, so locating and monitoring them when they are in the area is important.

GAME COUNTS

You will conduct regular game counts along transects or within sample areas, in particular the wildlife corridors within Pardamat Conservation Area (10 established transects) and Naboisho Conservancy (8 established transects). In Pardamat, counts will include both wildlife and livestock. The game counts are conducted consistently on a weekly basis (including two days a week in Naboisho). This empowers conservation efforts in Kenya by measuring the trends in wildlife density and movement patterns in the conservancies, and the influence of livestock presence on wildlife, particularly in Pardamat, which operates as a conservation area with dual usage.

Program team member documenting information on clipboard

CONSERVANCY WORK

Pardamat Conservation Area is not immune to environmental problems. Soil erosion and invasive species can significantly impact and alter the environment in a detrimental way. Our conservation volunteers partake in physical conservation initiatives to enhance the health of the ecosystem for it to successfully support its inhabitants. These initiatives are conducted in cooperation with the conservation area’s management team and include: invasive plant species removal, soil erosion control, grass monitoring, game drive routing including identification, opening up of new game drive tracks, de-fencing exercises, collection of litter, road repairs, and joining the Pardamat Conservation Area rangers in putting up predator proof bomas for Maasai Mara herders to keep their livestock safe at night.

wildlife conservation interns in Greater Kruger Area

On-the-ground Project Support

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FLIGHTS & ARRIVAL

A friendly face from our Base Team will be ready to meet you at the airport and drive you to our Volunteer Accommodation. Just look out for the African Impact sign!

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SAFETY

On arrival you’ll have a comprehensive induction to prepare you for project work, the local culture, people and wildlife; and of course, how to stay safe!

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STAFF

24/7 support: Our base teams are on hand every day to make sure you have the most amazing and memorable time in Africa.

Program Experience

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RECOMMENDED ACTIVITIES IN KENYA

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KENYA BY AIR & FOOT

Take advantage of being in the most spectacular landscape and experience the Mara in a different way! During your free time you can take a two hour walking safari through the conservancy, guided by local Maasai wildlife experts. Choose either a sunrise or sunset walk – both times when the animals are most active. Or, why not enjoy an unrivalled view from above with a two hour hot air balloon safari over the Mara National Reserve? Champagne breakfast included!

SAFARI IN STYLE

Kenya is arguably the best place in the world to see wildlife, and Encounter Mara is a luxury tented camp situated on the edge of the savannah under the shade of acacia trees, in the heart of Naboisho Conservancy. It combines luxurious comfort and incredible nature, and is a sure way to have a relaxing moment over a weekend as you reflect on your volunteer experiences of the past week. Camp staff will be at your service to make this a truly indulgent experience.

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KENYAN COASTLINE

Kenya is home to some of the most surreal and exotic beaches on the continent. Before or after your conservation volunteer experience in the Maasai Mara, you can head to the coast and enjoy the sun-kissed sand and warm waters of the Indian Ocean at Mombasa Beach, Watamu Beach or Diani Beach. Mombasa Beach is excellent for swimming and tasting fresh seafood at the beach shacks, while Watamu Beach offers incredible snorkelling and scuba diving expeditions.

PROJECT APPLICATION

SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATION

After completing the below application form, one of our Destination Specialists will get in touch to discuss your volunteer experience and any questions you may have. When you are ready to book, we will send you a booking form after which a deposit will be required to secure your position.

STEP 1

Personal Information

STEP 2

When do you want to Volunteer or Intern?

(Optional)

Give us an idea of your travel plans, you can also say ‘I’m not sure yet.’ 
We’ll take it from there.

STEP 3

How long do you want to Volunteer or Intern for?

(Optional)

Select your preferred duration(s). The African Impact team recommend at least 4 weeks for a truly memorable experience!

PRICE

From $1648 per week. Your weekly cost will reduce if you stay for longer than 2 weeks, book with a friend or are a return volunteer.

PROJECT FEE INCLUDES

  • Backpacker style accommodation with swimming pool
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner (Mon – Sun)
  • Airport transfers on arrival and departure
  • All project transport, equipment and resources
  • Support from experienced local and international staff
  • Full orientation for responsible project contribution

PROJECT FEE EXCLUDES

  • Price excludes flights, visas, insurance, weekend tours and personal expenses.

Kenyan Big Cat Conservation FAQs

Why Become a Wildlife Conservation Volunteer in Kenya?

Kenya is a country facing significant conservation challenges. Your contribution, however big or small, goes towards protecting endangered species and preserving their habitats for future generations. This elephant research and big cat conservation volunteer project offers a unique chance to combine wildlife conservation with cultural immersion and personal adventure.

This East African country is a favourite travel destination for many global independent travellers – and for good reason. It has some of the best wildlife viewing on the continent, striking scenery (including the Maasai Mara), and many proud traditional tribes. With African Impact, you can experience responsible volunteering in Kenya whilst joining a purpose-driven expedition in a unique part of Africa.

This program brings together communities, conservancy rangers, and tourism partners across the Greater Mara’s conservancies in an effort to help secure the future of lions, leopards and cheetahs in these areas through tracking, monitoring, and understanding their behavior. You will go on daily game drives in Pardamat and Naboisho Conservancy to find, identify and monitor big cats in order to contribute to their conservation.

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