A guide to wildlife voluntary projects in South Africa

by Jules on May 17, 2012

Some of my favourite memories from my time spent travelling involve getting up close and personal with wildlife. From riding a camel in the Indian desert and clinging to the back of an elephant in Thailand to snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef and spotting whales and dolphins, you can’t put a price on enjoying such experiences – as well as capturing all of the action.

Another great way to feel at one with nature is volunteering abroad – and I can think of no better place to do this than on a wildlife project in South Africa. Imagine getting the chance to see the Big Five – the lion, African elephant, rhino, leopard and Cape buffalo, as well as knowing you’re doing something to help protect them.

If this sounds like something you’d like to consider, keep reading to discover some of the best projects to volunteer on.

Monkey rehabilitation

Monkeys are some of the most interesting creatures in South Africa, especially when they start to show off and mimic humans! Head to Tzaneen to the north of Johannesburg and you can give your time and effort to its monkey sanctuary. You’ll be working with the furry and very cute Vervet monkeys – and if you time your trip to take place between November and February then this is the baby season. While it’s obviously amazing to see these beautiful creatures up close, it will involve very early mornings – although I think this is something well worth getting out of bed for!

Some of your duties will include maintaining the centre, writing newsletter articles, rehabilitating monkeys that were once pets, caring for those animals that have been orphaned and preparing their meals.

Caring for lion cubs

Posing with lion cubs for your photo album will certainly make for some different snapshots compared with the usual sunsets and scenery. Choosing a trip to a wildlife sanctuary close to Sandton in the Gauteng Province will enable you to not only look after cubs, but also giraffes, hyenas, cheetahs and other creatures. You’ll get stuck into tasks such as preparing the meals for the baby animals, cleaning out enclosures and helping feed the giraffes. What better way to give back to the country you’re travelling in than by helping protect the animals that draw so many visitors to it?

You’ll be well placed to enjoy a safari at the Pilanesburg National Centre, where you can keep your eyes peeled for the Big Five and enjoy a picnic.

Monitor game

Another adventure holiday I think looks fantastic is volunteering at a game reserve near Port Elizabeth. As well as having the chance to look after tigers, elephants and lions in its sanctuary, you’ll monitor the reserve’s game and help look after the land. In order to do this, you’ll be tasked with getting rid of foreign plant species and replacing them with local types, along with repairing fences, clearing bush and landscaping.

If you’re lucky enough to get the chance to care for these animals one day, you can be look after elephants and bottle-feed lion cubs. Waking up in a stunning part of the world with a new experience ahead of you each day sounds like a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Hopefully one of these trips has caught your eye – which one do you think you’d be interested in heading on?

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