South Africa Field Trip | Centre for Veterinary Education

South Africa Field Trip

It’s on again!

Close encounters with the Big 5.

In collaboration with Dr Derek Spielman of the University of Sydney and Wildlife & Ecological Investments (WEI), the Centre for Veterinary Education presents this innovative opportunity to explore the wonders of South Africa.

Only a small group of vets will have the opportunity to join this journey of a lifetime, so don’t hesitate to register today to secure your place.

See what adventures the past participants got up to:

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Previous Field Trip Participants:

“What a privilege to be seeing a game park as more than a tourist. I woke up most mornings to zebras in my garden, was surrounded by interesting and fun people all day and spent my time looking at, counting and even touching African wildlife! Who else gets to go to Africa and build a boma in the company of cool Afrikaner conservationists, a friendly wildlife vet and my best friend!”

Glynis Kuipers, South Nowra

“Very enjoyable experience. Some necessarily long days, ending midnight on lion nights. No time to get bored! No complaints at all. My non-veterinarian daughter was able to fit in without any problems and had a great time.”

Ken Davidson, Berrima District Vet Hospital

Program Outline

The program will consist of standard field activities which form part of a long-term biodiversity research project; veterinary activities in partnership with the reserve and state veterinarians; as well as a supportive lecture series which covers the theory behind wildlife management and introduces some key ecological concepts behind the research program.

Wildlife and Ecological Investments (WEI) offers a range of course material geared towards a comprehensive understanding of conservation biology and resource management in South Africa. WEI has a mandate with game reserves to assist with conservation and management work that is required by the reserve but challenged by the man-power available. This includes monitoring of herbaceous and woody vegetation, bird diversity, impact by megafauna and herbivore population size and distribution.

Dinokeng Game Reserve presents some unique research opportunities around Human-Wildlife Conflict, as the reserve is the only reserve within close proximity to an urban centre which houses free-roaming big 5. Some of these opportunities have led to intensive monitoring of problem elephants, and their eventual translocation, and similar adaptive response projects may arise during the CVE course.  Some of the continued specialised needs of Dinokeng Game Reserve includes monitoring of key species such as lion and rhino. Given the size of the reserve and the predator capacity of the reserve, the lion population requires management. For this reason, several activities regarding lions will take place, the nature of which depends on the current needs of the reserve. Previous activities have included contraception of lions and collaring of both lions and cheetah. Additionally, Dinokeng is a conglomeration of many land-owners with varying land-use history and management regimes, which allows for an evaluation of management effects on both faunal and floral diversity and ecosystem functioning.


Dinokeng Game Reserve (DGR) is an 18,500ha reserve, which is a unique ecosystem that is home to free roaming wildlife (lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino, elephant and cheetah) within a unique urban setting where the wildlife co-exists with humans. The ecological needs and the care of animals both on and off the reserve are of key importance to maintaining the wellbeing of the reserve. Leopard research, lion management, elephant grazing and tree damage, changes in bird populations and predator impacts are just some of the programs being conducted on this reserve.

For more information and image gallery visit

Accommodation & Meals

Accommodation is basic, with 6 two-bedroom en-suite units in a bush-camp. Linen and pillows are provided. There is a communal house that will be used for meals and lectures and an outdoor (BBQ) area. There is also a small pool for those that want to cool off, so please pack swimming gear. Note: Accommodation is subject to change.

Towels will be provided, but we always advise bringing a travel towel. There is electricity and running water in camp. The water is safe to drink. Please remember to bring a convertor from Australian plugs to the SA 3-Point plug.

Catering will be provided by a chef for your main meals, though breakfast is a simple self-service option (cereal, toast and fruit). There will be opportunity to purchase speciality items and alcohol at a shop in town before arriving at the reserve, as well as half way through the expedition.

There will be two nights where we will dine out. For these we will visit one of the a-la carte restaurants. You will need to pay for these meals.

Travel Details


International travel, visas and health requirements are the responsibility of each participant.


Please arrange to arrive at the O.R. Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg no later than 9am on Friday 7 December 2018. If you require overnight accommodation, please contact the CVE for recommendations.  


Transfers to and from the game reserve will be arranged by WEI.  


Please book a flight that will depart the O.R. Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg no earlier than 4pm on Friday 21 December 2018.

Bring your partner or friend

Bring your partner or a friend and enjoy this educational journey together.

Qualified veterinarians will be given first preference however places are available for partners or friends at the discretion of the CVE. All participants should be prepared to become active participants in the full program. Please contact the CVE for further information.

Early Bird Special Offer

Register by Sunday 30 September 2018:

To go into a draw to win a Canon EOS 750D with 18‑55mm IS STM and 55-250mm IS STM valued at $1,375. Think of the amazing photos that you will take on this South African Field trip.



1.  If my partner is not a vet, can I bring them with me?

WEI: While the field trip is designed for veterinarians, some partners may be able to join the programme so long as they are prepared to become active participants in the full program, as WEI are not able to run a parallel tourist program for non-vets.

2.  Will there be opportunities for game viewing?

WEI: Game transects are done as part of the survey work on the reserve. Habitat assessments and other sampling take place all over the reserve, which means a lot of time is spent in vehicles driving around the reserve. So there will be more than enough opportunity to encounter and view wildlife and game animals.

3.  Will we get to see a lot of different wildlife?

WEI: Dinokeng Game Reserve is a Big 5 reserve with not only these enigmatic species but it is also home to most other African savannah species and antelope. Participants will regularly sight antelope and plains game but we cannot guarantee sightings of enigmatic species; however, there is a reasonably good probability that you will over the 2 weeks. 

4.  If my partner comes along and he/she doesn’t want to attend all the CVE talks and activities, will there be other things they could do there?

WEI: In theory they can hire a vehicle and get in and out of the reserve by themselves and/or do their own ‘self-drive’ game routes.  However, the practical constraints are that we wouldn’t be able to shuttle them to and from the nearest vehicle rental depots in Pretoria. There are limited tourist attractions in the immediate area other than game viewing on the reserve.

5.  If I come with another vet friend, are we in a shared room, cabin, dorm?

WEI: Participants must be willing to share accommodation in dorm style rooms with other vets. There are limited double rooms which will be allocated on arrival.

6.  Is there any flexibility in the program to take a day trip anywhere before / after / during the field trip, or will we be busy all the time?

WEI: Pre- and post-trips are definitely bookable from tour operators in Pretoria and Johannesburg. The free day is not structured and is mainly for relaxing around camp as our staff also requires the break from normal activities.

7.  Will I have mobile phone service?

WEI: Mobile phone service is available in large areas around the reserve as well as at our base camp. We recommend participants get a mobile phone card at the airport or a stop can be made at a service provider en route to the reserve credit and internet data can be purchased.

8.  Can I rent a vehicle?  

WEI: If you wish to rent a vehicle then you would need to pay daily conservation levies of R30.00 pp/day and R250.00 per vehicle/day in order to drive on the reserve.  We can arrange for the vehicle to remain at the camp albeit not in a closed or lock up facility. There may also be other complications with gate access at different points but we might be able make a plan.

9.  Can I bring my family?

WEI: This may be reviewed in the future but please know WEI are not tour operators and their core function is to provide valuable resources for reserve management, research, students training and our academic partners; this is not a tourist/holiday/hospitality product.

10. What are the room amenities like?

WEI: There is electricity in the camp and hot water geysers for bathrooms and the kitchen. The rooms either have overhead fans or pedestal units to ventilate the sleeping areas. 

11. Do I need to organise vaccinations?

WEI: Download the South Africa Fact Sheet a pdf detailing the recommended health considerations when visiting South Africa. Due to your expos

Limited places remaining


Friday 7 - Friday 21 December 2018
Early Bird Special Offer
30 September 2018
Game Reserve
South Africa


MVSc PhD MACVSc (Australasian Wildlife Medicine) GradCertTertEd

Derek has extensive training as a veterinarian, wildlife biologist and a teacher. The topic of his PhD was conservation genetics. He has worked as a zoo and wildlife veterinarian in Australia and internationally and has extensive experience in both in situ and ex situ wildlife conservation programs for over 20 years. Derek is currently a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney where he teaches veterinary pathology, conservation biology and is the unit of study coordinator for the Ex situ Conservation Unit of Study in the Wildlife Masters. He is a consultant to the International Student Volunteers, having led student pre-vet projects at the Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand, and in large game reserves in South Africa which includes examining and treating local village animals, mostly dogs. Derek is also the Vice President and Chief Veterinarian of WAIF, an organization that provides veterinary care to Australian native wildlife and advises on the husbandry and care of Australian wildlife to practicing veterinarians and wildlife care organisations such as WIRES and Sydney Metropolitan Wildlife Services in Sydney, rural NSW and Queensland.

Derek has many wildlife related interests including wildlife diseases in general, the health of captive and free-ranging marine mammals, wildlife rehabilitation, the pharmacology of drugs in native Australian marsupials, and managing kangaroo populations in urban settings. He is actively involved in research relating to a number of these fields and supervises honours and postgraduate students at the University of Sydney.

Course fees
Member TypeRate
Non-member / eMember$4500

Member* includes: Practice, Professional, Part-time Professional, Recent Graduate, Student & Academic members.

All course fees will be charged in Australian dollars. Qualified veterinarians will be given first preference for places. Limited places may be available for vet nurses or adult family members at the discretion of the CVE – apply directly to the CVE for further information:

Note: The CVE is not responsible for any international travel costs, visas or health requirements – these are the responsibility of each participant.​

To gain access to the discounted rate, you must be a CVE Member.

To find out more or to join, visit: