Wildlife Warriors - Anti-Poaching Training
10 or 14 days
Up to 8 people
Up to 8 people
What's the project about?
Poaching of rhino in South Africa has increased 10-fold during the last decade, and the rhino again faces mass extinction. This anti-poaching course is run by one of South Africa’s most experienced and decorated field guides, and a recognised anti-poaching expert. The course aims to give participants an in-depth understanding of conservation challenges, strategies and ethics. Learn practical anti-poaching techniques and join patrols in one of South Africa’s finest wilderness areas.
What will I be doing?
The course is 20% theory and 80% practical, so most of your time will be spent in the field, learning first hand about the environment around you. The course will cover wildlife identification, animal behaviour and big game tracking skills, plus anti-poaching techniques and procedures, firearms handling and the background behind the poaching industry and trade in illegal wildlife, from local communities to international organised crime syndicates. You will also learn about ecological relationships, wildlife law and bush survival.
What makes this project ethical?
By participating in this course, you are directly contributing to the conservation of African wildlife. Learn about the economic and environmental aspects of poaching, and engage in active measures to prevent poachers from targeting wildlife. Your instructor and guide are active participants in the poaching fight in South Africa, and your contribution ensures they are able to continue their work in the battle against the illegal wildlife trade.
This anti-poaching programme gives volunteers an in-depth understanding of conservation strategies, ethics and practices. You will gain experience in the critical environmental factors involved in successful wildlife protection and long term conservation, focusing on South Africa’s iconic and endangered rhino population.
This bush school has been running for more than 20 years, and your instructor has upwards of 30 years experience in specialist anti-poaching training and advanced safari guiding. He works alongside SANParks to deliver ongoing training to National Parks rangers, and conservation professionals throughout Africa. You are in the best hands.
The goal is share an appreciation for the challenges facing those who dedicate their lives to anti-poaching, and for you to contribute to their ongoing operations, while gaining an in-depth understanding of conservation solutions.
You will learn advanced anti-poaching techniques and take part in real life wildlife operations. This is a serious wildlife course based in the heart of the African bush, where you have the opportunity to actively contribute to the protection of vulnerable species.
Poaching of Africa’s rhino increased 10-fold between 2001 and 2016, and once again this ancient animal faces extinction. In 2007 there were just 13 rhino poached in South Africa; by the end of 2017 that number had risen to 1,028, with the illegal killing of rhinos spreading from South Africa into neighbouring Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Namibia.
Increasingly, private organisations and individuals are supporting the Department of Environmental Affairs in focusing on rhino protection and security, in the hope that the species may be left in peace to thrive once again.
This anti-poaching course is based in the game rich Waterberg region of Limpopo, in northern South Africa (approximately 4 hours north of Johannesburg). The region is home to a variety of big game including white rhino, leopard, hyena, buffalo, giraffe, wildebeest and a variety of antelope. You will study a huge range of mammals, birds and reptiles in their natural environment.
Your anti-poaching instructors
The bush school has been running for more than 20 years, and your instructor has more than 30 years of experience in specialist anti-poaching training and guiding. His experience, qualifications and training are the culmination of decades of learning during his time in the South African Special Forces and South African Police Service. His specialist area of knowledge is dangerous game, and he has instructed on bush survival and anti-poaching courses for many years. His bush school is accredited by the South African Wildlife Society and the Department of Environmental Affairs, and all staff are leading training providers, responsible for the instruction and ongoing advanced training of rangers, conservationists and students from around the globe.
The anti-poaching course is 80% practical, so the vast majority of your time is spent on patrol in the field, learning first hand about the environment and wildlife around you.
Learn about all aspects of poaching, including the illegal bushmeat, ivory and rhino horn trades, and about the economic factors involved in small and large scale poaching. You will engage in active anti-poaching measures to prevent poachers from attacking wildlife.
The course covers:
Wildlife identification and tracking
Volunteers undertake daily foot and vehicle patrols, and go on night drives to discover and monitor the kingdom of the nocturnal creatures.
- Big game and mammal identification and behaviour studies
- Bird and reptile identification and behaviour studies
- Learn big game tracking skills, focusing on rhino tracking
- Learn human tracking skills and carry out practical exercises
- Tracks and spoor identification
- Understand signs of animals and humans in the bush
- Monitor the movement of endangered and threatened species including nocturnal animals such as leopard and hyena
- Develop an understanding of poachers and the poaching industry – learn about what has driven the increase in large animal poaching in recent years and what can be done to counter it
- Anti-poaching techniques and patrol procedures – learn about patrol planning, identifying poaching hotspots, the art of camouflage and surveillance, and ambush planning
- Undertake snare patrols and the removal of traps and snares
- Learn day and night navigation skills
- Advanced firearm handling
- Arrest and search procedures – learn how to undertake a legal arrest, a vehicle search and man a road block
- Ecology – learn about the relationships between plants and animals, and the impact of one on the other. Study the different ecosystems in the area and learn about the consequent distribution of wildlife
- Conservation practices
- Wildlife law
- Basic first aid and snake bite treatment
At the end of the course you will receive a certificate of participation recognised by the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF).
Our 10-day anti-anti-poaching courses follow the same basic itinerary:
Meet your instructor and the other members of your group. You will be met at Centurion Gautrain station, about 20 minutes north of the airport. Please aim to arrive before midday. From there you will transfer by car to your first stop, a game lodge 1.5 hours north of Johannesburg.
Afternoon: Orientation, briefing and welcome.
Depart after breakfast to your base in the Waterberg region (approximately 3-4 hours by car).
Afternoon: settle in and game drive.
Days 3 to day 8
The course will include a mixture of classroom learning, (bear in mind your classroom could be a chair under a tree, or around the fire!) and practical field work in the bush. The programme is very hands-on and you should be prepared for lots of foot-based tracking and walking across different terrain. Some nights you will go on a night patrol, and there may be early mornings for big game tracking.
Transfer to the game lodge to relax before your journey home. At the end of the course there will be a short exam to recap all you have learnt, and a certificate presentation, followed by a farewell dinner.
After breakfast there is an opportunity to purchase souvenirs from the local market. You will be transferred back to Johannesburg in time for your return flight or onward travel from O.R. Tambo Airport.
Shorter courses are available if you have less time. Should you wish to extend your anti-poaching course, that may be possible, depending on your dates and instructor availability. In either case, please enquire for possible options.
On the first and last night of your course you will stay in a safari lodge approximately 1.5 hours north of Johannesburg, for your initial orientation and final presentation.
For the remainder of the course, you will stay in the bush in a permanent tented camp, around a 3-4 hour drive from the lodge. The military-style camp is basic but comfortable. Each tent has beds, mattresses and pillows, and a small area for storage. Participants must bring their own sleeping bag, and we recommend bringing a liner as well, especially during winter. There are shared ablutions, hot and cold running water and flush toilets.
The camp is unfenced and allows the free movement of animals such as rhino, buffalo, hyena and even leopard, who have been know to roam through the camp.
You will receive three meals per day during your stay, prepared for you by the camp’s resident chef. Tea and coffee are available throughout the day, plus juice and water. The camp has limited access to other drinks, but alcohol is available in moderation at an extra cost. Any snacks should be purchased before your departure from the safari lodge.
There is no electricity in the camp, but should you need to charge phones or cameras, this can be done occasionally at the main camp, about 2km away. There is also WiFi at main camp if required in an emergency, and there is usually phone signal in the area. However, we say, it’s the perfect time to get away from it all and enjoy being off grid!
“The accommodation was perfect and very convenient. Great food. Even hot showers, even proper toilets, flushing, walls and doors and curtains for some privacy. Definitely something I did not expect being in the middle of the bush!”
When can I join?
Courses run throughout the year, including Christmas and New Year. Dates are flexible to suit, but solo travellers may be asked to join an existing group if possible.
2020 course dates:
We have confirmed courses starting on the following dates, but should you wish to travel outside of these times, a new course can be created. Please enquire with your preferred dates.
10th January 2020
19th February 2020
13th May 2020
1st June 2020
26th August 2020
2020 pricing: 10-day course / 14-day course:
Solo travellers: $2,095 / $2,895
Groups of 2-6 participants (including families): $1,895 / $2,695
All prices are in USD. Please enquire if you have a group of more than six people.
What’s included in the cost?
- Course fee: this goes straight to our project partner and contributes to their running costs – enabling them to continue funding their anti-anti-poaching operations
- Accommodation and three meals per day
- Return transfers (from Centurion station in Johannesburg)
- Comprehensive instruction – the course is conducted by a highly qualified SA Special Forces expert
- Certification – the course is recognised by the South African Police Service and the IAPF
- Conservation levy (paid directly to the reserves where you are based)
- Full orientation and supervision
- Equipment and materials required to do your work
What’s not included?
- Flights or travel to Johannesburg, South Africa
- Visa fees (variable depending on nationality)
- Travel insurance (compulsory)
- Personal expenses such as souvenirs, drinks, snacks, activities
- Pre and / or post course accommodation (if required)
- Additional excursions
- Local SIM card and data / airtime bundles (optional)
- Administration fee ($40)
For the latest travel advice for South Africa, please visit our South Africa destination page.
Who should join this course?
No wildlife experience is necessary, but a passion for the outdoors, an adventurous spirit and a desire to contribute to the protection of endangered and vulnerable animals are absolutely required. You should be able to communicate reasonably well in spoken English.
The course is perfect for bush craft companies, youth groups or individuals who want an adventurous and educational international experience. The course has previously accommodated groups of scouts and cadets, school and college students, ex-military groups, rugby teams and private companies. The course can be tailored to suit the age range, skill level and interests of particular groups.
What special equipment do I need to bring?
Please bring a sleeping bag and liner and 1-2 litre re-usable water bottle (not glass!). A good pair of binoculars and a bird book are also useful, plus a small rucksack / daypack for carrying your water and other items during days out in the bush.
How fit do I need to be?
There is a fair amount of foot-based tracking and hiking through different terrains. A moderate level of fitness and all-round good health will make your time more comfortable.
How old do I need to be?
The minimum volunteering age for solo travellers is 18 years. Student and youth groups can be catered for on a bespoke programme. Families are also very welcome, and we suggest that the course is best suited for children aged over 12 years. There is no upper age limit, but for volunteers aged over 65, we do require your medical form to be signed by a doctor.
How many people will there be?
Individual students and groups of all sizes can be catered for. If your group is larger than 10 people, additional instructors may be required to provide adequate attention and supervision. Solo travellers are extremely welcome, as are groups and families.
When can I join?
Start dates are flexible throughout the year. The project runs year-round, including Christmas and New Year. We advise that participants arrive into Johannesburg the day before their course starts. We can recommend a number of convenient accommodation options.
When is the best time to come?
Summer is from October to March when average high temperatures in the Pilannesberg can regularly be over 30oC and days can be humid. The highest rainfall is in December and January when you get spectacular thunder and lightening shows. Winter months of April – September are dry, with bright, clear sunny days and cooler evenings. Nights in June – August are particularly cold, with temperatures dropping to around 5-7oC. Game viewing is at its best during the winter months, as animals move in search of water and the bush thins out.
What animals will I encounter?
The Waterberg region of Limpopo is an area teeming with wildlife and home to spectacular scenery. The isolated nature of the plateau makes it an ideal refuge for threatened species, and the area is home to good numbers of black and white rhino. In addition, there are populations of giraffe, buffalo, hyena, roan and sable antelope, wildebeest, eland and kudu. Leopard and cheetah are rare sitings.
Do I get some time off?
The course is 10 days long. You will get breaks during the heat of the day to relax and recharge, and your final day and a half is allocated for travelling and leisure.
How much spending money should I bring?
We recommend bringing around R1,000 in local currency to cover personal expenses such as drinks, souvenirs, snacks, tips and internet usage.
Do I need a visa?
We recommend you have at least four blank pages in your passport, and it must be valid for at least 6 months after your arrival date in South Africa. Many nationalities can get a 90-day tourist visa upon arrival into Johannesburg. However, it is your responsibility to check your visa eligibility prior to arrival.
What vaccinations do I need?
Please consult your GP or travel clinic for detailed medical advice. Malaria – the project is regarded as a low risk malaria area, but please consult your GP for guidance.
All volunteers should make sure their Tetanus, Polio and Hepatitis A and B are up to date.
Please visit this UK government website for more details.
Who are the instructors?
You can be very sure that you are in good hands.
Your lead instructor, Les, has 30+ years experience in Africa working in countries including Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. He is an advisor to many international private and public sector organisations who need guidance when travelling and taking part in expeditions in Africa, and is one of the very few Level 5 Specialist Game Ranger & Survival Experts, specialising in Dangerous Game. He has gained his qualifications, experience and training from being a former member of the South African Special Forces and Police Service, and is a SASSETA (Safety, Security, Sector Education & Training Authority) Accredited Skills Development Facilitator.
Les has supported and trained HM Armed Forces (UK), HM Customs & Excise (UK), US Special Forces, the British Lions, the England rugby team, the British Scouting Association and the British Schools Exploring Society.
If necessary, other experienced instructors will assist your course leader.
Covid-19 - how you can help
South Africa's rhinos need you
This project directly funds the night feeds of 24 rhinos in the Waterberg region of South Africa, including two babies born in April 2020. As the dry winter months begin, with a number of mothers with calves and one heavily pregnant mother-to-be, the supplementary feed given by the project every day, has become even more critical.
The cost of feeding these rhinos comes to R42,000 ($2,400) a week. Ordinarily, volunteer and guiding fees cover the vast majority of this cost. If you are able to donate to this programme, please let us know.
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