Oyster Reviews: Volunteer with elephants in South Africa

Find out what Oyster volunteers in South Africa have said in these reviews of our elephant conservation and research programme:


A volunteer enjoys meeting and working with the elephants in South Africa“It’s been absolutely wonderful down here so far. It’s a beautiful country with amazing landscapes and very nice people. The project is very fun, I enjoy every minute of it. The elephants are magnificent and the staff and other volunteers are helpful and friendly. It’s a lot of hard work but it is completely worth it and I love it here..”

Vroni Johnson, 4 weeks May 2018

An elephant stands in the morning light“It was amazing to get so close to the elephants. The work is amazing and the elephants are well look after which was great to witness. All the staff were so friendly, made you welcome and shared knowledge and stories. The other volunteers were great too. Thank you for all your help.”

Joanne Davies, 4 weeks March 2018

This elephant enjoys her newfound freedom at the elephant park in South Africa“Everything is just fantastic. We had a very warm welcome when we arrived at George airport. The next day, we first had an induction tour and then met the elephants. Sooo wonderful. They are so gentle and cute and just amazing. Wednesday was followed by some more training and on Thursday we could already really practice what we learned so far, ie recognising the elephants and recording what they are doing, for example feeding and grazing, or walking or standing. We were so happy to see Shungu and Madiwa sparring, just so wonderful moments to see these gentle giants walking, playing or just, what the do almost all the time, eating. My favourites might be Mashudu and Shungu since they are so cute and naughty at the same time, though I all love them.”

Ulrike Krausenbaum, 3 weeks February 2018

South Africa Elephants“All was great while I was away. Everyone was very helpful and the staff made it easy to slot into life at the park.

Thank you for helping me to arrange this amazing experience. You have made it an ‘easy’ process to do something out of the ordinary, by guiding me through and giving advice when needed.”

Claire Orridge, 3 weeks April 2017

young-elephant-on-a-game-reserve-in-south-africa“I am having a great time here in South Africa! I struggled a bit with homesickness to begin with, but this last week has been so much fun – even when you’re working it’s good fun. I have been getting to know some of the elephant guides and learning where they’re from and what language they speak – they’re desperately trying to teach me some Xhosa which they find hilarious! We are very busy on the weekends as there is so much to do here! We have been renting a car at the weekends, which is very cheap and much easier for getting around than taxis – a car is around 60 pounds for the whole weekend. Thank you so much for sorting this trip for me, I’m loving it more and more each day!”

Samantha Comber, 4 weeks February 2017

South Africa Elephants“The experience of being in the park will be unique to everyone, and it’s difficult to set expectations about how it will make you feel. For me, it was a chance to escape everyday life, be out in the open and be part of something I feel passionate about. I learnt so much and also felt that I contributed to their work and research.”

Debbie Nevard, 4 weeks December 2016

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“It was the most amazing experience – meeting new people (and elephants!) and I would love to go back! Researching the elephants’ behaviour, and getting to know each elephant, was amazing because they are such incredible animals! Also, getting to meet new people from different countries was super interesting! Doing this project gave me so much more independence and confidence! Also, knowing you are contributing to such a big project is very rewarding!”

Hannah Hurt, 4 weeks August 2016

Thandi“Working so closely with elephants, as well as gaining insight into each one of their personalities, was a highlight. Another key highlight definitely includes sleeping in the lodge over the ‘no a’ where the elephants sleep. It is such an unbelievable experience that allows you to see up close how these elephants have been rescued and trained using positive reinforcement. This is a perfect experience for anyone who loves elephants, as you work so closely with them during your research.”

Alex Rhodes,  4 weeks July 2016

Hannah Hurt 2“My first week has been amazing! It’s the best getting to spend everyday watching the elephants! The other volunteers are all so nice (there are 6 of us), and we all get along so well and have such a laugh together; we attempted to make banana bread tonight…
The guides are so knowledgeable and are more than happy to help out with anything any of us need! All the staff here are really friendly and were all very welcoming and helpful when I first came. I now know all the elephants and can recognise each of them, which feels pretty special!! I have a soft spot for Keisha as she is so gentle and sweet, but I also love Shungu, because he’s so cheeky!! I spent the first weekend whale watching and then we went to Monkeyland, birds of Eden and Jakumi (big cats). We have plans for this weekend to skydive, go to Plett Game Reserve, and myself and two others are going cage diving with Great Whites!! I’m having an amazing time and even after just one week, I know I won’t be wanting to go home!!”

Hannah Hurt,  4 weeks August 2016

“I’ll newebver forget the feeling of touching an elephant for the first time. Time spent with the guides on the field was another huge highlight. Being able to watch the reunion between Harry’s herd and Sally’s herd under an incredible sunrise was also so special. Finally, jumping out of a plane at 10,000 ft over Plettenberg Bay was unforgettable.”

Janie Latchford, 5 weeks June 2016

web“The experience with the elephants is surreal to say the least. The fact that we get to interact with the gentle giants on a daily basis is extraordinary, and I would definitely place this as one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. The park is fantastic and highly esteemed in the elephant and animal conservation research community, making the roles and responsibilities of the volunteers very important. This means that the work we do actually makes a difference.”

Priyesh Kara, 4 weeks July 2016

elephant new 2“I have had a fantastic and awesome time with the elephants. The group of volunteers here have been great. We have all been doing some fun stuff on our weekends. Some of us just got back from swimming with the seals, which was totally awesome, and some went diving to see the Great White sharks. I am so happy to spend some time with these magnificent animals and their caring and informative guides.”

James Mitchel, 6 weeks April 2016

Linda Sacklyn“I just can’t describe how wonderful it all is and have just fallen in love with the place and people. It’s true that it’s hard work, sometimes physical and long days, but so worthwhile. The elephants are just as I thought they would be, amazing and beautiful. We are lucky enough that our group of volunteers are like a family and we cook together, go down to the beach and we all went on the most fantastic safari. The co-ordinators are extremely friendly, as are all the guides. I have learnt so much valuable information about elephants in general – my memories will last for a lifetime.”

Linda Sacklyn, 4 weeks April 2016

Christina Tholander

“I absolutely love it here! It’s such a magical place and it feels like HOME! The team of volunteers are just lovely! We are hitting it off like we have been friends forever.”

Christina Tholander, 12 weeks April 2016

pic for review“Thank you so much. I honestly had the best month of my life and I can’t believe it’s already over! One month felt like a week. I settled in at the park so quickly and became so close to all of the other volunteers who are now friends for life. I wouldn’t change anything about the experience at all. Getting so close to the ellies and spending so much time with them every day was priceless. I can’t believe how much I am missing the park already – I’m already thinking of going back next year for longer! I can’t thank you enough for all of your help with this project; you made the planning so easy and I definitely wouldn’t have gone if I didn’t have you to talk me through it and help me. :)”

Elin Thickpenny, 4 weeks March 2016

web review“Being able to observe the elephants every day and learn about their relationships was amazing. They’re beautiful, intelligent creatures which we can learn from. It is an amazing experience that will stay with you for a lifetime. The park is very concentrated on research and welfare management of the elephants, and it’s fulfilling to know that you have contributed to this.”

Kirsty Spencer, 3 weeks February 2016

reviewDuring her trip: “I’m having an incredible time here. I’m getting on well with my roommates and I found it really interesting to meet all the other volunteers who are from so many different places, including Germany and the U.S. My favourite part is, of course, working so closely with the elephants, but I’m liking the other work we do here as well because it’s pretty clear how much of a difference the volunteers here are making with everything we do. It’s pretty tiring as the days are quite long, and mostly stood on your feet, but it’s worth it. There have been a few challenges presented to me that I’m not used to and I sometimes have to deal with these, but I’d say that it’s all part of the experience that I came for. I really enjoy meeting the local people, especially the elephant guides, who are so friendly and know everything that there is to know about the elephants. Thank you for all your help in preparing me for this trip!”

After her trip: “The friends I made really stand out as a highlight for me. This is because not only did they make my experience
overseas better, but I will continue to keep in touch with them now that I’m home, and it’s something I’ll always have with
me from the project. The independence it gave me was also brilliant – before, I hated the idea of staying away from
home. The elephants too, of course. That’s what I went there for!”

Robyn White, 3 weeks February 2016

12371031_10204960021713277_3079829080427221096_o“I have loved every minute out there and would go back without hesitation. Thank you for all your guidance throughout the time of me booking my trip. My only regret is that I couldn’t do it for much longer. I have met many friends out there and hopefully we will keep in contact. I have had the best experience of my life and only wished I’d done it years ago. Thank you so much for all of your help Anne.”

Sharon Prest, 6 weeks December 2015

12377942_10204959940711252_7184494197250825351_o“I had an incredible time, and really really enjoyed myself. I loved the elephants and all the amazing people I met, so it really was a great trip. Thanks a lot for helping me to organise it all!”

Miche Pears, 4 weeks November 2015

Elephant convervation“I had an amazing time. I absolutely loved it and am really missing South Africa and the ellies. I’m looking at hopefully going back next year!! Just want to say a big thank you to you and everyone else at Oyster for helping me with everything, you’ve been a great help 🙂 I’ll hopefully be in touch soon to arrange my next trip!!!”

Louisa Graham, 2 weeks October 2015


Volunteering with elephants“To anyone who is volunteering with elephants, you will have a fantastic time. It’s such a beautiful place and the people out there are so lovely! For me it was a life changer and I’m planning on returning. This time for a lot longer as two weeks wasn’t enough for me. Enjoy people! Thank you Oyster for helping me with this amazing experience!”

Sarah King, 2 weeks October 2015

Clara Harvey Hunt“I knew that the project would be an excellent experience, but as I had never done anything similar before, I approached it with an open mind with few expectations. I was not disappointed!”

Clara Harvey-Hunt, 2 weeks August 2015

“My highlight wAnna Farrellas spending so much time with the elephants and learning so much about them from the guides. Seeing the bond between the elephants and their guides was so special, and I was so pleased that the elephants are treated so ethically. It was fantastic to know that I was contributing to the research of the welfare of captive elephants and helping to make a real difference.”

Anna Farrell, 4 weeks August 2015

Vicki Richards“My time overseas was absolutely amazing – genuinely the best month of my life and I’m so glad I was able to do it! I miss waking up to the sound of elephants trumpeting and having them just there all the time. All of the guides and staff treat the elephants so well, I’m really glad I could help out. This place is absolutely beautiful – thank you very much for organising my trip! :)”

Vicki Richards, 4 weeks August 2015

Elephant volunteering“It is such a fun and informative experience being a volunteer here. The elephants are, hands down, amazing to be around. It’s been so rewarding to learn about their different personalities and places within the herd. I’ve met really funny and amazing people. The volunteer staff, including the park management such as the elephant guides, are so friendly and helpful with day to day activities. I’ve learned so much about elephants and their behaviours within the first week, and I can’t wait to learn even more. It is also nice to know that the daily data concerning elephant behavior, which we take, is put towards the elephants’ welfare at the reserve.”

Olivia Newman, 4 weeks August 2015

Elephant volunteerI am missing South Africa and the park so much! Before coming out I thought five weeks was a long time, but half way through my stay I realised that it certainly isn’t. I thoroughly wish that I spent 2+ months there! I made some amazing friends and met so many people from all across the globe I wouldn’t have otherwise. The ellies were so phenomenal – I remember the first time I saw them, they were walking with their ears all over the place excited to get fruit. It was amazing to watch their individual personalities come out the longer I stayed there. I fell in love with the boys and Keisha – who has a not so good past, but is so loving to the little ones. Whenever it got windy she would get crazily excited and start rolling around, throwing branches and chasing zebras! Definitely a trip I will never ever forget.”

Kai Lyu, 5 weeks July 2015

Elephant conservation“It is very strange being home – I can’t believe how much I adapted to South Africa in a short space of time. I had an awesome time with the Ellies. I was initially worried about my age, as when I arrived I was the eldest, but this did not appear to matter to the group. My only regret is not staying longer. Anne, thanks again for arranging my placement, I feel so lucky to have been so close to the elephants, and fulfilled one of my bucket list wishes.”

Tracey Fazakerley, 2 weeks June 2015

Volunteer with elephants“I really did have a wonderful time. I miss the ellies so much!! It is hard for me to understand that I am now back to reality, sigh! If people want to have a good time, be constantly surrounded by animals and animal lovers, they should do it for sure.”

Alexandra Sammons, 4 weeks June 2015

Elephant conservation“My time was fantastic, although definitely far too short! It was lovely getting to meet all the ellies, and see the work that was being done with them. Definitely missing them though…Being able to spend so much time up close to these incredible creatures is fantastic. I learnt so much about elephants in my short time there. It is also a great opportunity to experience a different culture.”

Gemma Down, 2 weeks June 2015

Elephant volunteering“I have had the most amazing two months in South Africa, I enjoyed every single second! I miss all the elephants more than anything, and I miss all the staff, the guides, the volunteers and the country as a whole. It was just amazing. Can’t wait to go back!! Thank you so much for all your help, I couldn’t have done it without you!”

Amy Standen, 8 weeks May 2015

Volunteer with elephants in South Africa“My time in South Africa was just amazing, I can’t really put it into words and I already miss all of it so much. I’m now thinking about studying Animal Behaviour – Africa has made me want to have a career change! Thanks for all your help.”

Faye Hoar, 4 weeks May 2015

Ayla Ramadan - volunteer with elephants“I had a great time in South Africa. The people I met and the country was beautiful. The elephants were breathtaking. It’s a huge shame I could only go for 2 weeks as I had to come back to work.”

Ayla Ramadan, 2 weeks April 2015

Sophie Rainbow- volunteer with elephants“It’s a very rewarding experience to feel like you’re contributing to such a worthwhile project, and the park feels like home after a few days. Spending time with the elephants every day was great, as well as meeting new people and forging new friendships.”

Sophie Rainbow, 4 weeks March 2015

Volunteer with elephants“I had the most amazing time of my life, and am so sad to be home. Thank you so much for all your help with everything.”

Amy Wallace, 4 weeks February 2015

Elephant research South Africa“My time is South Africa was incredible. I had no idea I would fall in love with the country, the ellies, the people. I loved it so much I’m already saving to go back for even longer! I’m missing the ellies so much – they were so amazing to observe and hang out with. It’s made me realize that I really enjoyed researching animals and I’m going to start looking into something similar as a career.”

Brianna McDonnell, 3 weeks January 2015

Elephant volunteering in South Africa“I definitely already miss the park and the elephants. I enjoyed my time there thoroughly.”

Lauren Blackburn, 2 weeks December 2014

Elephant conservation volunteeringI am truly, truly thankful for this incredible opportunity to volunteer my time and energy towards working with elephants. Working with the ellies was absolutely incredible, it was so hard to leave this morning! I miss them all already!”

Rachael Rosenberg, 4 weeks November 2014

Volunteer with elephants“It’s a great trip for elephant lovers – you learn so much and really get to bond with the animals. The area is beautiful and the staff are all so friendly. It’s just an eye opener to different cultures and ways of living. It was the best time of my life.”

Kirsty Wilson, 12 weeks September 2014

Volunteer with elephants“I’m missing South Africa enormously, and the ellies even more. I had the most incredible time and met some wonderful people who I have stayed in touch with since I got back.”

Alice Paterson, 5 weeks August 2014

Elephant conservation volunteering“Honestly, it was the most amazing experience of my life, I only regret not staying longer!I miss the ellies so much, it’s so strange waking up and not being able to go and visit them.”

Stephanie Littler, 2 weeks August 2014

“Best month of my life! I can honestly say I’ve absolutely fallen in love with this country! I’ve learnt so much over this month and done more than I could have imagined, not to mention being with the elephants everyday and learning so much about them, I just adore them! I’ve gone out of my comfort zone and taken risks, and that’s honestly the only way. I did the world’s highest bungee jump, jumped out of a plane, walked a cheetah, swam with seals, seen some unbelievable views and experienced some indescribable feelings. I would not change one minute of it for the world! I know I will be back one day. Thank you everyone who’s made this experience so incredible!”

Ellie Paull, 4 weeks July 2014

Volunteer with elephants“I think this experience was in a word: phenomenal. Every day was a new adventure and everyday I fell in love with the elephants again. There are so many reasons for people to do this. You have to look after yourself and become independent, and then you have responsibilities for these great creatures. People need to do this and become aware of how much the ivory trade needs to stop. Elephants are gentle giants and it broke my heart to learn that most of the elephants there were orphaned due to poaching. That should never happen to a baby elephant.”

Lily Vosper, 4 weeks July 2014

Elephant reflection in the evening, South Africa” This was my most exciting trip ever. The work with the elephants was invaluable. Meeting the elephants for the first time was so memorable.”

Ailish Scanlon, 2 weeks June 2014

Elephant volunteering“I absolutely loved every minute with the elephants and will definitely be going back.Thank you so so much for all of your help with organising the elephants project, you’ve been fantastic and it was even better than I imagined.”

Samantha Ivory, 2 weeks June 2014

Volunteer with elephants“South Africa was amazing and two weeks was definitely not enough! I just wanted to say thank you for your support and answering my million questions! It was my first trip alone so it was very useful that I had someone to help me plan my trip! Working up close with elephants and meeting like minded people was just amazing!”

Sacha Laws, 2 weeks June 2014

Animal welfare project in South Africa“I really, really miss the park. I miss the ellies the most, but I miss the people as well. I was surprised at how naturally and easily I blended in, it just felt so easy. I had a fantastic time with the ellies, other volunteers and the guides as well. It’s just such a great place. Many thanks for all your help organising this trip!”

Darina Brejtrova, 4 weeks May 2014

Elephant conservation in South Africa“Thank you so much for all your help. I had such a great time! I would love to go back to South Africa and the project at some point!”


Catherine Hulme, 4 weeks February 2014

Elephant volunteering“Elephants are such amazing animals and I could spend all day long observing them, which I did, even on some of my days off. Taking essential data may well help these elephants and help us to have a better understanding of them. I like to think that I have contributed something, even if only in a small way. I loved it. It was the best thing I have ever done and I can’t wait to plan another trip.”

Kim Mackie, 2 weeks December 2013

Elephants in South Africa“I would say a particular highlight is the fact you are so up close with the elephants on a daily basis – there really are not many places in the world at all where you can be so close to elephants. I also loved my night in the elephant lodge, you could hear them all through the night, it really was amazing to sleep next door to elephants.”

Ben Dart, 8 weeks August 2013

“I feel I contVolunteering with elephants in South Africaributed greatly to the research and data of the South African elephant project and overall really enjoyed my experience. It’s an experience that I shall never forget and it gives a better understanding of elephants. I would definitely recommend booking with Oyster. They were extremely helpful and provided me with any information that I needed and required!! Book for 3 weeks at the least!”

Donna Aspden, 2 weeks August 2013

Volunteers cleaning out the elephant enclosures in South Africa“This is great if you want to just get away – it’s such a different place, culture and environment from the one at home… The elephants are amazing and you learn so much about their life, their behaviour, and how they interact – you respect them a lot more afterwards, they are such amazing creatures! I have come back a different person and for this I am most grateful for having had the opportunity to go on this project!”

Giuliana Sinclair, 4 weeks August 2013

Volunteering with elephants in South Africa“I had an amazing time in South Africa. One of the best experiences! I had lots of highlights. The main one would be walking with the elephants at sunrise and meeting new people. Enjoy yourself and get involved with all the activities, and get the most out of your free time!”

Faith McCullough, 2 weeks July 2013, June 2013

Volunteering with elephants in South Africa“I just wanted to say a huge thank you for everything you and Oyster have done for me in helping to organise this trip. I expected I would enjoy the experience, but it surpassed my expectations. You will learn a lot – not just about how to look after elephants, but how to work together with people in a team. Take Oyster’s advice on booking flexible flights back – I wish I had done that! It will be the trip of a lifetime, guaranteed!”

Elle Mason, 2 weeks July 2013

Oyster elephant reviews “It was an absolutely incredible trip and one of the most rewarding and memorable experiences of my life. I loved the other volunteers and the lifestyle out in South Africa, everyone is so much more laid-back and friendly. I would love to visit again! You get to see a whole different culture and different way of life and it’s fantastic. Do it for one extra week than you think you want to. Gutted I only did it for 2!”

Saranna Harris, 2 weeks July 2013

ant volunteer in South Africa“I have one more week of my three week stay here, and I am making the most of every moment.  What a fantastic and memorable opportunity.”

Della Barbato, 3 weeks May 2013

Volunteer with elephants in South Africa“I was very lucky to have worked closely with a baby elephant whilst volunteering for a month. Unfortunately her mother rejected her at birth, so staff and volunteers looked after her every day. We also visited a nearby school once a week to help out for an hour and to show our passion about wildlife and ellies! It was my dream to work with elephants. It really was a trip of a lifetime.”

Melisa Dora, 4 weeks April 2013

Volunteer with elephants in South Africa“It was amazing being around elephants all day, being part of the research team, watching the elephants at night and the people I met were great. It was ABSOLUTELY AMAZING and would recommend that people book for longer – I wish I did!!!”

Maxine Bingham, 4 weeks February 2013

“Other people sVolunteer with elephants in South Africahould do this placement because the elephant park provides the experience of a lifetime. It is an experience that gives you a chance to work closely with these majestic creatures. It also offers you a look into a different culture. This placement was the greatest experience I have ever had, and it is my proudest accomplishment. This placement is a huge part of who I’ve become.”

Maxine Bingham, 4 weeks February 2013

Oyster volunteer with elephant in South Africa“I loved the whole adventure and was very excited by the trip. Just sitting out in a field monitoring the elephants was such a highlight. The people I met from around the world were amazing. I also think that I got to meet people who were like myself, and at the weekend I got to do other things in the area with others who shared my likes. This was by far the best thing I have done in my life.”

Mandy Holling, 2 weeks September 2012

Volunteer with elephants in South Africa“I had an amazing time. It was incredible to be able to spend time with the elephants and work so closely with them. I also thought the team at the park were great and I made some great friends with the other volunteers. There was also so much to do in the area, which we took advantage of at weekends. One particular highlight for me was going skydiving.”

Hannah Grigson, 3 weeks August 2012

“Obviously voluOyster volunteer with elephant Sallynteering at the Elephant Park was a huge highlight. Learning the elephants by name and getting to know their personalities was something special. This was the first solo trip I’ve ever taken…and it was the best thing I could’ve done for myself. I challenged myself every day. Best experience of my life thus far.”

Marissa Donnelly, 5 weeks July 2012

Volunteer feeding an elephant milk in South Africa“Being able to get so close up to the elephants at the park was awesome! The guides acted like brothers to me which was amazing. If I could, I would take all my friends and family out there just to experience it!”

Andrew Barnsley, 6 weeks June 2012

“I’m so sad to beOyster volunteer with elephant Harry leaving South Africa and the elephants. It took me a little while to settle in, but everyone was so fantastic- thank you for all your help and support, I really appreciate it! I love it here with the elephants!”

Cassandra Evans, 4 weeks November 2011

“The programvolunteer with elephantsme as a whole was very good. All questions in the UK were answered very promptly. Highlights included spending most of the day around the elephants and observing them for research purposes, which helped gain a real insight into each elephants’ characteristics. It was very hands on.”

Karen Davies, 4 weeks November 2011

“I really loved tOyster volunteer with elephanthe elephants and working closely with them. I met some amazing people and did things that I never thought I would do, such as going paragliding!”

Tom Concannon, 12 weeks September 2011

“I stayed wiVolunteer with elephants in South Africath the ellies for 8 weeks, which felt more like 8 days as time flies by. My best thing about the park was meeting new people, co-volunteers and the guides alike. Although touching, feeding and interacting with an elephant for the first time are also memories that I will remember forever. My time here exceeded my expectations and I would recommend volunteering here to anyone.”

Gethin Wyn Jones, 8 weeks September 2011

“The past 3 weeksOyster volunteer with elephants South Africa that I have spent with the elephants have been among the best I’ve ever had! I decided to go as I have always loved elephants 🙂 and wanted to do a small bit of traveling before starting university in October. I wish I had been able to spend more time there, but the time I did have was amazing. I will 100% be coming back in the future!!”

Hannah Church, 3 weeks September 2011

Oyster volunteer with elephants“Everybody here; volunteers and staff alike have been so friendly and I’m going to miss them. There are far too many memories for me to write down, but I am proud to have helped with the research– particularly involving the GnRH vaccine. My only regret is that I only spent 4 weeks here – it’s really not long enough! Hopefully one day I will come back to visit the ellies and everyone involved in caring for them.”

Katie Seal, 4 weeks July 2011

For more information on this project, check out the elephant conservation and volunteering page of the Oyster Worldwide website

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