Themba Travel is a travel management company with its main focus on community building by offering educational, conservation and volunteering experiences within South Africa.
Our travel packages include trips that will take you to the most popular tourist attractions, but also give you an exclusive peek into the history according to the locals. We celebrate our different cultures and offer our travellers the opportunity to meet the local people who make South Africa great. We explore places of hope and introduce you to the communities who thrive amidst their everyday struggles.
Themba Travel in partnership with Ecology Africa offers a unique opportunity for hands-on, first-hand experience, working as conservation researcher with a chance to develop the required skills for working within the field, alongside a highly experienced and qualified team of Ecologists. Our ecological expeditions are ideal for those who want to spend a longer time in the bush with an eagerness to learn more.
Makgokolo Private Game Reserve is a unique destination set between Hoedspruit and Tzaneen in Limpopo province. The reserve was established 30 years ago after being converted from a cattle farm. The reserve comprises 12,000 Ha in total, with Big 5 present and completely free roaming. The reserve forms part of the greater Kruger conservation area. Though separately fenced from Kruger, the biodiversity protected inside the reserve from part of a source and sink system for conservation as a whole. The smaller scale of the reserve means theories are easier to test, without detracting from their value to larger scale projects. Fly into O.R.Tambo Airport and take an hour flight to Hoedspruit Airport. Here you will be collected by staff.
Makgokolo Lodge is set between trees that is built on a “Koppie” with high roofs to ensure cooling. All rooms have en-suite bathrooms and air-conditioning. There is a small pool and a large deck, perfectly positioned to watch the sunset. The open-air design of this lodge gives the feeling of complete freedom.
The program is ideal for students considering post graduate degrees. Through finding their area of passion and confidence in completing their own research project students grades and commitment to courses have improved significantly, as reported by previous course coordinators. The project is not designed to replace any theory of the course, but rather supplement it.
Research Africa is a conservation experience where data collection, analysis and reporting are applied to make a pragmatic contribution to conservation. Students will work through each aspect of the scientific method to answer questions relating to conservation.
Typically the project runs for 3-4 weeks. This allows students to become comfortable with the data collection methods and species identification, and collect enough data for their research topics. The first few days includes a few orientation topics to ensure that students are able to safely and effectively operate in the field. Towards the end of the expedition students are expected to conclude their analysis and present the findings to the reserve management and rest of the group. The work of students will continually be evaluated and feedback provided to them.
Students work five and a half days a week, with an average of 8 hours per work day. Around 2/3 of the time is spent on data collection. Depending on the season, midday usually has a relaxed pace to escape the heat. Mornings start early to catch the peak of animal activity. Evenings will be used for the structured discussions around a camp fire, or if exhaustion has not set in, a night drive.
Depending on the activity, students will spend most of the time in groups of 8 along with an E.A staff member and a Safety officer. The small numbers of of each group ensures that students have a personal yet diverse experience. The constant presence of E.A staff members ensure the safety of students and data integrity.
Students and group leaders will be returned to the airport after the expedition for return flights or as a great start point for those that wish to continue travelling. E.A will be available to assist with all aspects, before, during and after the expedition.
Material can be provided to students before arrival to minimise orientation time which facilitates field time. During the expedition a few lectures in the form of structured discussions will be held to broaden the view of students with regards to conservation. These include: finances of conservation, Biomimicry, wildlife trade and poaching, dangerous game behaviour, reserve or conservation management and data collection methods. These discussions are adapted to the level of the students.
Data collection methods depend on the research topics of the group, but usually includes vegetation assessments, game counts, and bird diversity surveys. These three methods form the basis of any ecological survey for a reserve.
As students have a limited time to learn the various species, students will be provided with an ID framework to identify species, both fauna and flora.
Bush craft training, tracks and signs and photography sessions, though more entertainment based, is another great way to appreciate the incredible environment around us that we as conservationists are protecting.
Depending on the preferences of the group there are some optional add ons, such as a 2-day Kruger National Park sleep out, still run by E.A. During these days we will visit some of the management and research aspects of one of the most famous national parks.
Bush craft training, tracks and signs and photography sessions, though more entertainment based, is another great way to appreciate the incredible environment around us that we as conservationists are protecting. Depending on the preferences of the group there are some optional add on, such as a 2-day Kruger National Park sleep out.
Students get to practically experience the aspects of being a conservation researcher, or working as a conservationist in the field. Students will work though their own research projects and experience all the troubles that go along with it. Time management, considerations on correct data collection, focus on most applicable analysis methods and efficient reporting.
The reserve is benefitted through the financial contribution of conservation levies and accommodation. Further, the expedition supplements some of the operational requirements of the reserve by assisting with the environmental management.
Students will, with the support of staff, provide feedback and recommendations to reserve management on conservation planning.
The reserve forms part of the greater Kruger conservation area. Though separately fenced from Kruger, the biodiversity protected inside the reserve from part of a source and sink system for conservation as a whole.
The smaller scale of the reserve means theories are easier to test, without detracting from their value to larger scale projects.
All data collected is contributed to any applicable atlas projects.
Ecology.Africa (E.A) is a Non-Profit Organisation founded to assist reserves and conservation areas with their conservation goals. Through doing this, opportunities for experiential learning is created for students to better prepare them for a career in conservation.
The end goal of E.A is to establish sustainable and profitable initiatives that benefit conservation, and thereby reduce the dependence on donations and sponsorships. E.A is completely self funded and ensures in all its projects that no other income streams to conservation are negatively affected.
E.A does not publish any of the collected data, as such the data is owned by the university or institution that collected it.
The excitement of travelling and presence of charismatic animals coupled with a very practical experience results in an incredible learning opportunity for students. All staff E.A staff are dedicated and experienced conservationists and therefore are passionate about sharing their knowledge with others.
Please contact us for any further questions or references.
The program is ideal for students considering post graduate degrees. Through finding their area of passion and confidence in completing their own research project students grades and commitment to courses have improved significantly, as reported by previous course coordinators. The project is not designed to replace any theory of the course, but rather supplement it with a practical experience.
All costs after arrival in South Africa is covered by the expedition fee: Transfers to reserve, Gate and conservation fees, accommodation, meals onsite, E.A Columbia T-shirt. Course coordinators are considered essential and therefore not charged a program fee.
Safety: From greeting you on arrival at the airport to departure an E.A staff member will be present with the group. Students are accompanied on the daily field work by FGASA trained armed trails guides or PH’s. The thorough experience of staff of working in Dangerous game areas coupled with strict protocols and comprehensive risk assessments ensures the safety of students. All guides have at minimum Level 1 First aid training. All participants are also covered under a comprehensive medical and evacuation insurance.