Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve is located in Malawi’s Northern Region and makes up part of the Malawi-Zambia Transfrontier Conservation Area which spans over 30,000km2. Habitats range from large miombo woodland to open wetlands, and the reserve is home to plentiful wildlife including the largest elephant population in northern Malawi.

In 2018 we opened Malawi’s Wildlife Reserve Institute, a joint initiative with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife located on the edge of Lake Kazuni. Our elephant and primate release research is based here, and students are encouraged to join us and conduct their own projects using the Institute as a base.


Our research placements in Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve focus primarily on elephants as this is the largest population in northern Malawi. Vwaza’s elephant population is regionally important as it forms a transboundary link to priority populations in the Luangwa-Zambezi Valley. Information collected through the Institute is fed directly to park management – which means if you sign up for a placement you will make a direct difference in the protection and conservation of Malawi’s wildlife.

Field work is intensive and requires early starts, long days and plenty of patience! Activities include camera trapping, primate surveys and individual elephant identification, which requires long periods of observation and photographing. You’ll experience some truly unique moments as you spend hours observing one of Africa’s most iconic species. For students, there will be plenty of time for data collection on independent projects and those undertaking research placements will have an opportunity experience a wide array of research.

Our field work generally runs for five and a half days a week. Participants will occasionally have down time between morning and afternoon sessions, although our work is unpredictable and may result in full days in the field. In the evenings, however, there will be an opportunity to watch the beautiful sunsets across Lake Kazuni followed by sitting around the fire and listening to the sounds of the bush.

No. of weeks23456789101112
Research volunteer£1,370£1,775£2,235£2,575£2,885£3,180£3,450£3,705£3,930£4,150£4,350


This immersive experience will allow you to learn first-hand about the various conservation/research techniques and initiatives that are critical to protecting Africa’s wildlife. This includes learning how to survey elephant behaviour and the importance of monitoring in creating an adaptive park management strategy. By the end of your stay, you will be skilled in African mammal identification, camera trapping, data entry and well versed in the use of CyberTracker software for data collection.


The research camp is located on the edge of Lake Kazuni, close to the main gate. Placement participants stay in shared safari tents. There is a large kitchen and outdoor dining and lounge areas. Ablutions are long-drop toilets and bucket showers. Water is provided daily from a borehole near camp and heated when needed. The research camp is powered by solar, so we recommend limiting the number of devices that require charging. While there is no WiFi available, there is 3G coverage at camp, and our staff will help you to get data for your cellular device so you can contact home.


Three vegetarian meals a day are provided. Cooking and cleaning duties are shared communally. Our team can cater for any dietary requirement that is mentioned prior to arrival. 


Activities vary based on time of year, project needs and park requirements. For these reasons, placement participants are not guaranteed to take part in all activities. If there is a specific activity you are looking to take part in, or skill you’d like to learn, we encourage you to contact us and discuss what is possible in your given time frame.

  • Camera trapping
  • Developing identification kits for elephants
  • Camera trap database management
  • Diet assessment using dung surveys
  • Primate surveys
  • Data entry and GIS mapping