South Africa - Operation Wallacea

South Africa

The training course and survey options described below have been packaged as a series of 2 or 4 week expeditions. Please read the packaged expedition descriptions and then move to the constituent part descriptions for further details of what you will be doing.

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Expedition options

Expedition 1 – large mammal research and diving

Why choose this expedition? Taster of large mammal research and also diving

Start date expedition 1: Saturday 28th July        
Length expedition 1: 2 weeks (1 bush week, 1 week marine)

This project has a waiting list

This expedition is based in the Dinokeng reserve on the high veld and for your first week you will be based in a tented and fenced camp. The majority of your time will be spent in the camp where you will have daily lectures on an Introduction to African wildlife conservation and management. The other half of your days in this camp will be spent in the field helping with distance sampling of large mammals from vehicles and working on foot to complete bird point counts and estimate the level of grazing and browsing pressure on the vegetation. Back in camp there will be analysis of camera trap data for the abundance of nocturnal species such as leopards and hyena. For your last week you will be based in Sodwana Bay and will then complete a PADI Open Water dive training course or if already dive trained, an Indian Ocean reef ecology course by diving or snorkelling.

Expedition 2 – large mammal and fynbos biodiversity research

Why choose this expedition? Taster of large mammal and fynbos research

Start date expedition 2: Saturday 21st July
Expedition length: 2 weeks (2 week bush only)

This expedition is based in Gondwana Game Reserve in the Western Cape where the managers utilise several active management strategies to maintain both the grassland for the large mammal species and to ensure that the threatened fynbos habitat is also preserved. You will be based in a fenced tented camp in the reserve and will complete an
Intermediate African wildlife conservation and management course based on recently published research during your times in the camp. In the field you will be working with a
series of experts in different taxa examining the speed of recolonisation by higher plants and birds in areas with different burning histories. The aim of this research is to examine the effect of various management techniques on carrying capacity for large herbivores and also for the establishment of fynbos species and their associated biodiversity. In addition, you will be involved in vehicle based surveys of browsing usage of the reserve by species such as elephants and rhinos and in population estimates from distance based sampling of all the large mammal species in the reserve.

*Big 5 refers to African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard and rhinoceros.

Expedition 3 – large mammal research and diving

Why choose this expedition? Good option for large game research on the high veld and also diving

Start date expedition 3: Saturday 16th June
Expedition length: 4 weeks (3 weeks bush, 1 week marine)

This expedition is based in Dinokeng Game Reserve in the high veld. This reserve is home to the Big 5* and was formed through the donation of land from multiple small and large landowners in the area, many of whom still live within the reserve in fenced homesteads. The animals can roam freely around the individual properties within the reserve, which has had a spectacular impact on the price of properties in the reserve, so much so that surrounding areas are requesting that the fences are extended to include their land. The reserve has stumbled on a method of funding wildlife corridors which the Opwall teams are leading on provision of much of the data on how well this project is performing. On this project you will be involved in distance sampling from vehicles for elephants and other large mammal species, completing bird point counts, undertaking surveys of browsing and grazing pressure and analysing camera trap data for nocturnal species such as leopard and caracal. You will spend the majority of your time in the field with locally trained guides and guards, with the remaining time spent in camp completing an African wildlife conservation and management course. For your last week you will be based in Sodwana Bay and will complete a PADI Open Water dive training course or if already dive trained, an Indian Ocean reef ecology course by diving or snorkelling.

Expedition 4 – large mammal research and diving

Why choose this expedition? Good option for large game research on the high veld and also diving

Start date expedition 4: Saturday 7th July
Expedition length: 4 weeks (3 weeks bush, 1 week marine)

This project has a waiting list

This expedition is based in Dinokeng Game Reserve on the high veld and follows the same itinerary as for expedition 3. You will be based in a fenced tented camp within the reserve and will spend half of your time on site at that camp completing an African wildlife conservation and management course which is taught by experienced wildlife guides. After some initial training in how to operate safely in the bush you will then join the teams on foot with armed guards, completing bird point counts and quantifying vegetation levels to determining carrying capacities. Vehicle based surveys will also be completed to estimate herbivore populations from distance sampling and back in camp there will be analysis of camera trap data for the abundance of nocturnal species such as leopards and hyena. For your last week you will be based in Sodwana Bay and will then complete a PADI Open Water dive training course or if already dive trained, an Indian Ocean Reef Ecology course by diving or snorkelling.

Expedition 5 – large mammal and fynbos biodiversity research

Why choose this expedition? In-depth option for large mammal and biodiversity research

Start date expedition 5: Saturday 23rd June
Expedition length: 4 weeks (4 weeks bush only)

This expedition is based in Gondwana Game Reserve in the Western Cape where the managers of the reserve are trying to balance the conservation of large mammal species that have been reintroduced to the area, with protection of the hyper-diverse fynbos habitat within the reserve. These two objectives are potentially at odds given the low nutritional value of fynbos for browsing herbivores. The reserve therefore needs to maintain a balance between the plethora fynbos species and more nutritional grassland areas if the herbivore species are to thrive. The reserve is using a number of active management strategies, including regular burning, to find this balance and Opwall teams are working to monitor the success or otherwise of these techniques. You will be based in a fenced tented camp inside the reserve and will be working with researchers on higher plant and bird diversity in areas with different burning histories, for example. In addition, you will be involved in vehicle-based surveys of browsing usage of the reserve by species such as elephants and rhinos and in population estimates from distance sampling of all the large mammal species in the reserve. During the four weeks on site you will also complete an advanced African wildlife conservation and management course based on recently published research.

South Africa