Research and Conservation: Big Cat & Elephant

Quick Facts

Maasai Mara, Kenya

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi

Every second Monday

2 – 12 weeks

Impact: Wildlife Conservation

$3295 – $8795

This is a rare opportunity to join our team in the Pardamat Conservation Area, a newly established conservancy and a key area in the Greater Maasai Mara Ecosystem. As a volunteer, you will conduct applied wildlife research on three of Africa’s most iconic predators – the lion, cheetah and wild dog. You’ll also conduct research into the largest living land animal – the majestic elephant. This program gives you a unique opportunity to volunteer in one of Africa’s foremost biodiversity hotspots. 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 conservancy management plans.

Some highlights include:

● Helping research big cats, elephant, and wild dog
● Using field-based monitoring and evaluation techniques
● Living in the greater Maasai Mara Ecosystem
● Engaging with and learning about the Maasai Culture

Project Highlights

Travel to the world famous Greater Maasai Mara Ecosystem to conduct valuable research on some of Africa’s most iconic wildlife

Volunteer alongside like-minded individuals, in one of the most beautiful places on earth

Get your hands dirty and partake in physical conservation activities such as alien species removal and erosion control

Witness the iconic East Africa landscapes while out on daily safari game drives through the Pardamat Conservation Area

Learn about the Maasai culture and the importance of wildlife conservancies in East Africa

Meet trainee Maasai guides at the Wildlife Tourism College, listening to their life stories and helping them to gain employment in the tourism industry through training and engagement

During term times, visit local schools and get involved with local Wildlife Clubs, with the intention to inspire future generations to respect and look after their natural environment

The 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 volunteer work and research you will be conducting will be based within Pardamat, 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.  There will also be occasional visits to neighboring conservancies such as Naboisho Conservancy, as well as the opportunity to visit the Maasai Mara National Reserve.

Your accommodation, situated at the Wildlife Tourism College in the heart of the wilderness and nestled against the backdrop of the Pardamat Hills, offers a truly authentic and unique experience. You will be housed in comfortable permanent safari-style tents 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 center which you will be able to access.  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 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 socialize with other volunteers and Maasai students enrolled at the college. Three meals and drinking water are provided daily. Breakfast is continental style. Lunch and dinner is normally a hot meal, with a varied menu that incorporates local and international cuisines. We can accommodate most dietary requirements if notified before your arrival.

WiFi is available at the common areas of the Wildlife Tourism College, a short walk (about 200m) from the tented accommodation. 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.

Project Impact Areas



As a volunteer, the data you gather will contribute to the Mara Predator Conservation Programme, a flagship initiative coordinated by Kenya Wildlife Trust. 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, cheetahs, and wild dogs in these areas through tracking, monitoring, and understanding their behavior. You will go on daily game drives in Pardamat and some of the surrounding conservancies to track, identify, monitor and record big cats and wild dog.
Program team member documenting information on clipboard


You will conduct regular game counts along transects or within sample areas, in particular the wildlife corridors within Pardamat Conservation Area to monitor the distribution of wildlife across the conservancy, their movement, and 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 large dispersal areas and move between Maasai Mara National Reserve, neighboring conservancies, and community land as part of their migration route. This data is reviewed regularly by the conservation area’s management team and is also shared with researchers to ensure coordinated ecological monitoring efforts spread across the Greater Mara landscape.

wildlife conservation interns in Greater Kruger Area


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. 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, alien plant species removal, soil erosion control, grass monitoring, game drive routing, road identification, de-fencing exercises, collection of litter, road repairs, and joining the Pardamat Conservation Area staff in putting up predator proof boma’s for Maasai Mara herders to keep their livestock safe at night.

Recent Reviews

Other Activities

While living in the middle of a wild East African conservancy there are endless opportunities to experience the wonder of the African wilderness. Movie nights under the stars, campfire nights, and bush dinners will be regular events during your stay. If you want to explore further afield, you could visit the nearby luxury safari camp – Eagle View – for a drink, dinner or even an overnight stay if you feel like splurging. If visiting for the day, you can sit back and watch the resident wildlife visit the watering hole from the terrace. The world famous Maasai Mara National Reserve is also nearby, and you could spend your free time going on safari through its wild landscapes in search of elephants, lions, rhinos, and other iconic African wildlife. How about witnessing the Mara from the sky on a hot air balloon safari? An experience you will never forget!

Nairobi’s in Kenya’s capital city and is where the international airport is located. If you arrive a day early or decide to leave a day or two after your program finishes, you could explore this bustling city and take a trick to the famous Elephant Orphanage set up by the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. It is a rescue and rehabilitation centre for orphaned elephant and rhino, whose mothers have often been killed by wildlife poachers. The orphanage is open to the public for 1 hour every day, during which time you can watch the orphans getting bottle-fed and taking a mud bath. You will also learn about the threats facing elephants in Kenya and the work being done to protect them.


Kenya is home to some of the most surreal and exotic beaches on the continent. Before of after your conservation 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 snorkeling and scuba diving expeditions.

Apply Now

Step-by-step program application process instructions

Once you have submitted your application, a Destination Specialist will be in-touch to discuss the project with you.

Step 1
Select your Start Date
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Select your Duration
2 weeks $3295
3 weeks $3945
4 weeks $4395
5 weeks $4945
6 weeks $5495
7 weeks $6045
8 weeks $6595
9 weeks $7145
10 weeks $7695
11 weeks $8245
12 weeks $8795

Project Fee Includes

  • Accommodation throughout your stay
  • 3 meals a day cooked by a local chef
  • Airport pick-up and drop-off
  • Monday morning transfer to and from the Mara
  • 24/7 support from experienced international and local staff
  • Full orientation to ensure you contribute responsibly
  • Project equipment and resources

Project Fee Excludes

  • Flights (Sunday arrival to qualify for airport pick-up)
  • Travel insurance
  • Visa-related costs
  • Weekend trips or tours before/after your program
  • Snacks, soft drinks, gifts, and souvenirs
  • Mandatory contribution of US$25 that is donated to the African Impact Sustainability Fund

Get your hands dirty and partake in physical conservation activities such as alien species removal and erosion control

Learn about the Maasai culture and the importance of wildlife conservancies in East Africa

Learn about the Maasai culture and the importance of wildlife conservancies in East Africa