We understand that by applying to be a volunteer with SUF, you may be stepping out of your comfort zone, so we've put together some FAQs which we hope may alleviate any concerns or answer any questions you may have.
Why volunteer with SUF?
There are any amount of “expert-led” wildlife conservation programmes in Africa – each have their respective merits. The SUF experience is not aimed at people who want or expect everything handed to them on a plate. This will be a gritty, fully immersive, eye-popping, exhilarating experience designed to let you know, for sure, what you are talking about when you return home…and we know you will want to tell people all about what you have learned, what you gave back, what you achieved whilst in the thick of it.
Why am I paying to be a volunteer?
Your donation will go towards the cost of keeping you safe whilst you're on the reserve; board and lodging; and expert-led activities, lessons and excursions. This is not so much about getting you to do stuff what we would otherwise have to pay for. What we really want is as many people as possible able to talk from hands-on experience about what it takes to get conservation work done. You will be so much more effective as an ambassador and fundraiser once you have been there and done it yourself. You might be working in our nursery to help the biodiversity of the reserve’s vegetation; you might be working in the office helping with admin – in particular working with images, classification and so on; you may be out repairing fences, roads, bridges and drainage or irrigation infrastructure; you may be constructing or renovating bird hides, or watering holes.
Will I need a visa?
Not if you are from the UK or any other country that has similar rights of entry. Although you will be classified as an employee, you won’t need a working visa if your stay is less than 90 days. Watch out though. Overstaying your visa can give rise to great difficulties later, and it takes years before the slate is wiped clean. Check with your passport issuing authority before booking your trip.
We recommend that you follow the travel advice of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office www.fco.gov.uk when travelling to South Africa.
Do most volunteers travel on their own or in groups?
Mainly in pairs but as a single traveller in search of great hands-on experience, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people. Once there you will all be working as a group mucking in and getting your hands dirty.
How safe are the projects?
No-one has been eaten yet, but you must respect the fact that you will be based in pristine wilderness and you become part of the food chain. You will be well briefed by qualified and experienced experts. Listen to what they say and do as you are told and you’ll come back in one piece. Fit, able-bodied, reasonably careful people would be unlucky to sprain an ankle or get blisters on the hands or feet, but there are no guarantees. Every visitor to every wildlife park is expected to sign an indemnity waiver – Shared Universe is no different.
Is the volunteer work dangerous? Will I be working in a group?
You will be working in groups and under supervision of experts. There is a wide variety of work that needs to be undertaken and despite best-laid plans, every day can bring a surprise. What we really want is for you to experience what it takes to adapt to this harsh environment and from that experience know deep in yourself whether this is a life for you. At the same time you will develop a bond with and a healthy respect for the people who dedicate their live to living on the front line. Tough, enlightening, but not what I would call dangerous.
I've heard there's a lot of crime in South Africa, will I be at risk?
Walking the streets in Johannesburg might be unnerving for some, but our game reserve is miles away from that kind of danger.
How much money will I need?
We recommend you bring a small amount of money if you want to purchase snacks or soft drinks, or alcoholic drinks which are available at Mopane Bush Lodge, Practically all fuel stations have ATMs where you can get local cash with an oversea’s credit or debit card, so if you want to buy yourself additional snacks and drinks or provide tips to the locals then use this facility.
Can I use a credit card?
Are there any hidden extras?
No. You will be watered, fed, transported and housed once you have made it to the Reserve. There is a transfer fee from and to Polokwane.
Do I book my flights through SUF?
No, but we can point you in the right direction.
What happens when I arrive at Johannesburg airport?
You need to go through customs and immigration and transfer to the Domestic terminal – about five minutes’ walk from the international terminal, and it’s all undercover. If you encounter a long and very slow moving queue and are worried about making the connection to the domestic flight, follow the signs for disabled passengers and explain your concerns at the gate. We’ve never known anyone to be turned away or miss their connection.
What happens when I arrive at Polokwane airport?
If you have asked SUF to provide the transfer, then you will be met by one of our employees or agents with an SUF Log and ID. It’s a small airport with a great local feel.
Is there any risk of contracting HIV, yellow fever or malaria?
Check out World Health Organisation's (WHO) web site and you should see that Yellow Fever in SA is extremely unlikely. You will also be able to confirm that you can’t catch HIV just by touching someone – you actually have to exchange bodily fluids – hence get yourself travel and medical insurance that ensures you get access to fully screened blood in the event of a blood transfusion. Mapesu is in a malaria free zone so you should be OK on that front too. But remember, if you are going on after your time at Mapesu, to an area where you do need to take prophylactics, then you will need to start taking them during your stay with us.
How much free time will I have to travel around?
You will have free time to wander around Nekel Farm, but you shouldn’t venture out into the reserve unaccompanied or at night.
Is food provided? What can I expect?
You will be well fed and watered. It’s important to stay hydrated so there will always be plenty of bottled water available without charge. If you want to purchase alternative soft drinks then that can be catered for too. The diet will be simple but wholesome. SA has a voracious appetite for meat so expect plenty of meat plus vegetables and mealie.
Can I call home?
Landlines are something or a rarity in the bush. Everything operates on mobile phones and wi-fi – so bring your phone and depending on your provider, select the right plan for you.