The dream of volunteering abroad in Africa with lions, cheetahs and wild cats sits atop many a travellers bucket lists. This enriching and life changing experience can leave a mark on you and is a travel style we will always recommend.
Last year we travelled abroad for a full year and when we decided on what to do in our final week, we knew it had to be something special and memorable before catching our return flight home. We traded-in partying it up in Vegas to celebrate this momentous achievement by getting sunburnt and exhausted by volunteering wild animals in Africa with GoEco… and we wouldn’t change our decision for the world!
Wild Cat Conservation: What To Expect
We are happy to report that if you are looking for a sanctuary that includes a lot of animal interaction, this is the project for you. Alongside our wildlife volunteering in Costa Rica no project since then has come close to letting you experience a variety of animals in this proximity.
Okay enough about the animal interaction, now what about the work? Remember you are here to volunteer, your hands need to get dirty at some point. The project work hours are split in two with a 2-3 hour break in between (the African heat is too hot during midday to even think about work).
There are three main morning activities that are rotated throughout the week.
First Task: Preparing meat and feeding animals. This certainly is the highlight of all the activities you do as you get to witness these incredible beasts rip into their meals. It’s so fascinating watching the prides’ rank structure as the alpha males eat first followed by everyone else. Note: if you don’t want to prepare the meat you can find an alternative task before feeding.
Second Task: Refilling water bowls & cleaning enclosures. Imagine the amount of water you would go through if you were out in the heat all day, now picture how the animals must feel. Alongside refilling their water supply you are also tasked with cleaning the enclosures. This is the perfect activity to sneak some extra time in with the animals.
Third Task: House cleaning & maintenance. Yes we understand that cleaning up after your fellow volunteers, doing dishes and mopping the floors, isn’t why you came to Africa. It’s a task we all have to do and at least you get to rest your skin from the belting heat for one morning.
The tasks in the afternoon are decided on the day and can range from building enclosures, repairing enclosures or expanding the sanctuary. We were informed at the beginning of the week that each days afternoon task would be different and we can report back that this happened just about every single day.
On the weekend the sanctuary is open to the public to come and tour/interact with the animals. These days you are instructed to work and explain to the visitors about the different animals and conservation efforts. Besides the tours you are given the rest of your weekend off to spend relaxing by the pool, or chilling with the cheetahs.
What Wild Cats/Animals Will I Encounter?
The Wild Cat Sanctuary really holds up to its name. It wouldn’t be doing the place justice if it was called a lion or cheetah sanctuary due to the variety of wild cats. These are some of the wild cats and other animals you can expect to see:
- Teenage lions
- Two prides of lions and lionesses
- A white lioness (she is absolutely beautiful)
- Cheetahs (one teenage) both wild and domesticated
- African wild cat
- Bat-eared foxes
- and a super cute Jack Russel!
Quick Notes You Need to Know
- Preparing meat is a rotational activity, however the friendly staff are more than happy to give you an alternative task if you are squeamish.
- They do cater for all dietary requirements, however as vegetarians we did find their alternatives to be quite lacking in nutritional substance, we recommend purchasing some foods prior to your arrival.
- You are able to interact with the animals (including baby lions and cheetahs) every single day throughout your free time.
- There are both wild and domesticated animals – depending on where they rescued thew animal from.
- There is an option to pay extra for a more private room otherwise it is hostel arrangements in the standard price.
- Prior to your arrival you pay a food/activity kitty of around $100AUD per week. This is so everyone is not splitting the bill when going out on restaurant night.
- There is WiFi available to purchase for R100 per person (about $10AUD). The WiFi isn’t the greatest near your rooms so we recommend purchasing a sim card from the airport before your transfer.
- Speaking of airport transfers, the drive from Johannesburg out to Kimberly is around 6 hours plus an additional 2 hours to get to the project. If you have the additional money we recommend flying directly to Kimberly, but if you don’t mind the transfer time leave as is.
Planning Your Volunteer Experience Abroad
By now we think we are quite the experts on volunteering abroad with the completion of five different projects across two continents. However, we still think that planning future volunteer projects will always be through an agency.
If you are like the majority of solo travellers who opt to undertake the unforgettable experience of volunteering abroad you really should look at teaming up with a company like GoEco. From assisting you in picking which project will suit you to getting to your airport transfer on time, they are there to help you and make you feel comfortable.
Arriving at our fifth animal volunteer project you would think we would be over it all and content with our volunteering experience abroad. This certainly is not true and we will continue to do more volunteer projects across the globe. At the end of our week we had created unforgettable memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.
I think by now you know we film our lives every single day which means you can see exactly what we got up to at the Wild Cat Sanctuary. Spoilers, one of the days a baby lion tried to eat me! Check out the full experience below and make sure you subscribe to keep up to date with what we get up to as we travel across the globe!
Day 1: Nothing Beats Volunteering With Animals
Day 2: The Most Loveable African Cat!
Day 3: Attacked By A Baby Lion
Day 4: Why Won’t The Animals Love Me? 🙁
Day 5: Heat Wave In Africa!
Day 6: She Turns It Down
Day 7: Can We Keep Him?
Day 8: Restaurant Birthday Prank!!
You can book your volunteer experience in South Africa for $1,110USD per person, for two weeks.
Have you ever volunteered abroad? We would love to read about your experience below.
Thank you to Go Eco for allowing us to experience this incredible volunteer project in South Africa. Our opinion is, as always, our own.
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