By now you may have realised that we are little bit obsessed with volunteering abroad, with Volunteer Southern Africa’s Living With Cheetah project being our fourth volunteering experience in the past year.
During our time in South Africa we simply had to squeeze in as many projects that involved animals as possible, I mean when else would we see these wild animals so close?
Cheetahs are on the vulnerable endangered list and even more so are the king cheetahs. These big cats are slowly dying out and humans are needing to intervene to assist in the breeding process. A large amount of zoos around the world are taking cheetahs out of the wild to not much success.
These wild animals placed in zoos are not used to being kept in captivity so their lifespan drops. This is why people, such as Ann van Dyk, create projects with a goal of increasing the population of cheetahs by getting zoos to instead adopt their cheetahs from her (who are born and bred in captivity) so that their life span increases and cheetahs are not taken from the wild.
Living With Cheetahs Project
Arrival day is generally on a Monday so on your second day you will receive a feeding tour that shows you the cheetahs (including the king cheetah and wild dogs), the area of the project and the fun bit – viewing the feeding of the animals.
Your main task at the project is to cut up and prepare meat for the cheetahs. On most days from around 8am till about 5pm you will be in the meat room, so just a warning if you are squeamish. During our week of volunteering we went on one feeding task in which we had the opportunity to feed the animals and see the breeding camps (and the cute baby cubs). A couple of tasks were also delegated to us throughout the week involving maintenance of the property.
The highlight of our week would have to of been the tour day when we saw the running of the cheetahs (seriously it has to be seen to believed) as we could not comprehend how an animal can run so fast! This day also involved being able to get up close and pet their ambassador cheetah Zulu.
Not All Volunteer Projects Are Created Equal
Here at Flying The Nest we always want to give our readers our 100% honest opinion on places and activities we experience. Unfortunately we felt that the Living with Cheetah program was not what we were looking for in a volunteer project. The program itself is excellent in the way they look after and care for their cheetahs, we are looking at this purely from the volunteering side of things. With little animal interaction and having pretty much only one task all day, every day (cutting up meat) – it simply was not for us.
At the Living with Cheetah project you are working with wild animals and the majority of them won’t let you near their cage without hissing (cubs included). From a conservation point of view this is excellent as these animals should be kept wild, however from a volunteering point of view, many people fly across the globe to finally interact with these animals and at this project it’s not the case.
If you are after a volunteer project that is focused on conserving the animals with next to no interaction and mostly preparing meat – then this is the project for you! If you are looking for a project where you are surrounded by animals, with plenty of interaction, but still a lot of hard and rewarding work we highly recommend you check out our experience with the Living with Big Cats program.
Living with Cheetahs Conservation: What to expect
- Located in the Limpopo provence, this project is accessible from Johannesburg.
- Animal interaction is very limited here.
- Your main task is to cut up and prepare meat for the cheetahs.
- Quad biking/ATV riding is only on a Sunday, so if you are staying one week you may miss out on this activity.
- The weekly outing is a quick trip to Zebula Golf Estate where you can relax and order a breakfast buffet.
- Once a week you go out and watch an incredible African sunset as you eat dinner amongst the animals – we saw a family giraffes.
- You get three meals a day and they do cater for dietary requirements. You also get a braii (BBQ) at the managers house once a week – oh and he has way too many pugs to play with.
- WiFi is available but is slow (this is the middle of SA) and limited to 6pm-6am (so not during breakfast, lunch or dinner). We suggest buying a local sim card at the airport before heading in.
Organising Volunteering Abroad
This was our second project with Volunteer Southern Africa and we will continue to use then for our African volunteer projects. The ease of being picked up from the airport to their survival pack of a volunteer shirt, international plugs, some cheeky local alcohol and more was a lovely added touch.
We found that most of the volunteers we encountered were solo travellers, many travelling abroad for the first time, this is why we highly recommend going through an expert as they can tell you what to do and where to go based on your time frame, interests and favourite animals. Also if things do go south they are just a phone call away and more than happy to talk you through what’s going on. It’s nice to have that security when you are in a new country.
As always, we have our camera out and ready to film our entire experience at these volunteer projects. If you want to see exactly what we got up to each day and what’s it like to volunteer at a cheetah project, check out our daily vlogs below.
Day 1: Living With Cheetahs in Southern Africa
Day 2: Highly Endangered King Cheetah
Day 3: This is why you can’t outrun a cheetah
Day 4: Relocating Sick Cheetahs
Day 5: Stuck in the middle of Africa
You can book volunteer experience in South Africa for $1090USD per person, per week.
Have you ever volunteered abroad? We would love to read about your experience below.
Thank you to Volunteer Southern Africa for allowing us to experience this incredible volunteer project in South Africa. Our opinion is, as always, our own.
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