Work behind the scenes at an
ethical big cat sanctuary
One of just seven true sanctuaries in South Africa
South Africa big cat sanctuary
This is your chance to work behind the scenes at a true conservation big cat sanctuary that is currently home to many rescued lions, tigers, leopards, jackals and caracals. This unique and exhilarating experience will allow you to be fully involved in all aspects of the sanctuary where you will be able to get up close with some of the worlds most iconic animals.
The project provides a prosperous and protected future for the big cats and gives them the opportunity to live the lifes they deserve. Being a true non-profit sanctuary that is both ethical and sustainable, there is no cub petting, breeding or trading that takes place.
The main goal of the sanctuary is to be an educational platform where awareness is created about conditions big cats face in captivity, and how animal welfare and enrichment play a vital role in giving them the best captive life possible. Educating the public on the issues with the canned hunting industry and breeding farms is in itself an enormous challenge.
This amazing programme aims to become the first ‘green’ big cat sanctuary in South Africa and is solely run on solar energy. Within the 40 hectares of paradise, there is a beautiful home for both the animals and volunteers and plenty of large trees, natural springs and a 360-degree view of the mountains.
You will be given the opportunity to be involved in all of the daily operations and be behind the scenes where you can learn what it takes to run the sanctuary. A normal day will consist of a morning meeting where you will go through the day’s schedule around 8am. You will then be out within the sanctuary until around 6pm – stopping for lunch of course!
Not only will you make great connections and bonds with the big cats, but also lasting relationships and many happy memories with the staff and fellow volunteers. At the end of a hard days work, you can all sit around the bonfire with a cold drink watching the famous African sunset talking over stories and dreams.
Hear a lion roaring up close, get love and recognition from a leopard, experience the loud ‘chuffing’ of a tiger and see these previously rescued cats appreciate the toys and enrichment you provide.
Accommodation & meals
Accommodation & meals
During your stay on the programme you will become part of the family where you will be able to enjoy the modern, yet cosy home. The volunteer accommodation is situated in the middle of the property where you will be mesmerised by the spectacular mountain views and feel at peace with nature as you listen to the lions roar.
You will be sharing a room with 1 other volunteer in one of the spacious and comfortable 3 bedrooms, all of which have en-suites. If you are brave enough, there may be the option of sometimes sleeping under the African stars in one of the two hammocks!
There is a fully equipped kitchen where everyone is able to cook and then sit down and enjoy in the large dinning room. The big living room is ideal to sit down and relax while watching a film, reading a book or playing games.
Outside there is swimming pool where you can cool down during the hot summer days, a nice garden to sunbath and a traditional South African braii (BBQ)
The accommodation is close to the Overberg area where there are many activities on offer! These include kayaking, shark cage diving, whale watching, river cruises, paragliding and much more!
There is Wifi throughout the accommodation that can be purchased for a small fee. There is also a safe in each bedroom where you can store any valuables.
You will be provided with breakfast and lunch during the week, while you will be responsible for catering for your own dinner. You will be able to cook a nice homemade meal in the fully equipped kitchen or using the traditional South Africa braii (BBQ) and will be taken on a weekly shopping trip. If you prefer, you can eat out in one of many restaurants that are only a short drive away.
You can expect some of the following meals:
Breakfast – Toast, Cereals, eggs, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, milk
Lunch – Burritos, carrot soup, lasagne, curry, lentil and butternut bake, burgers
We are able to cater for the majority of dietary requirements, however there is an additional charge of roughly £12 per week for the extra ingredients.
All of the below prices exclude the £149 registration fee. The total price payable is the below price + £149, as will be confirmed in the application process. To find out exactly what's included as part of fees, please click the What's Included box on the programme page.
The fees you pay go towards the structure and support put in place in order to provide you with an organised and safe environment in which to volunteer. The programme fee goes directly to our local team in South Africa and is used towards the following:
- Airport transfers
- Breakfast and lunch
- Transport to Projects
- In-country orientation
- 24-hour in-country support
The registration fee that you pay to confirm your place on the volunteer programme is retained by our team in the United Kingdom. This fee is used towards the following:
- 24-hour UK based emergency support
- Unlimited telephone and email support
- A comprehensive volunteer handbook
- Assistance with all aspects of your trip
- 100% financial protection
- Regular programme inspections
- Certificate of completion
What's not included
There are still some parts of your trip that will need to be funded by yourself, these include:
- Flights to Cape town (£450- £800)
- Meals not included (£40 p/w)
- Travel insurance (£18 per week)
- Airport transfers ( £35 e/w)
- Visa (£0)
- Criminal background check (£25)
- Spending money (estimated at £50 - £100 per week)
Frequently asked questions
Frequently asked questions
What are the requirements to join?
We welcome all volunteers from any background, religion and nationality, as long as you have no criminal convictions and are able to supply a clean criminal background check. In order to join the programme you need to be at least 18 years old on the programme start date.
Individuals need to have a good level / understanding of English but it dose not need to be your first language. As some programmes can be quite strenuous, we recommend that you should be physically fit.
What date should I arrive and leave?
You should arrive to Cape Town Airport (CPT) on your selected start date, being any Saturday. You need to ensure that you have landed and are ready to be picked up no later than 2pm. You will be met by one of our local team members who will be holding a named sign and will then transport you to the project site.
On the last day of your programme you will be taken back to Cape Town Airport. The fee is included within the programme costs.
Are there any age restrictions for solo travellers?
The only age restriction in place is that you have to be at least 18 years old before your programme start date. Anyone over this age is welcome. Generally the average age range for our programmes is 18 - 25, although this is by no means definitive and we regularly have volunteers of all ages.
What is the minimum age for travelling with my family?
If you are travelling with family and at least one member is aged 18 years old or over, then we welcome anyone from 16 years and up.
When should I apply for the programme?
You can apply for this programme at anytime, however we advise all volunteers to apply as soon as possible to have the best chances of securing your placement on your selected dates.
Generally speaking, you need to book at least 60 days before your programme start date, although if you are wanting to apply after this, please contact us and we will do our best.
What duration would you recommend?
On gaining feedback, we believe 4 weeks is the ideal time to get settled in and really involved in the placement. This also allows you to make the most of free time and explore the local areas and participate in any activities.
Can I volunteer if I live outside of the UK?
Yes of course. We welcome volunteers from around the world, no matter how far away from the programmes you are.
The majority of volunteers that we host, come from the UK, US, Canada and Australia.
Can I go with my friend / partner?
You can travel and volunteer with friends, family and / or your partner.
If you are wanting to request to stay in the same accommodation please outline this in the special requirements section within the application form.
Is it safe to travel to these destinations?
We regularly visit and participate in each and every one of the programmes we offer to rigorously check all aspects of the project and accommodation are safe and that all procedures are being followed. These include but are not limited to checking the living conditions within the volunteer accommodations, checking the neighbourhoods you’ll be staying in, tasting the food you’ll be eating and going on any weekend trips recommended by us or our local team.
We monitor the stability of all of our volunteer destinations on a daily basis and have constant contact with our overseas teams to ensure that our volunteers are safe.
All volunteers will receive a comprehensive volunteer handbook when you choose to join us on one of our programmes. This detailed document addresses a large range of issues such as health, safety, visas, as well as going into details about local cultures and traditions.
When you arrive in-country, you will be given a safety briefing during your orientation that will cover things like emergency procedures, how to use local transport and any cultural differences.
Our in-country team are on hand to help with any issues or to answer any questions and please do not forget that our UK office is available 24/7 in case of any rare emergencies.
While we can never guarantee your volunteer experience will be 100% trouble free, we have taken all of the necessary precautions to minimise all risks and to ensure the programme is as safe as possible.
Before You Depart
When do I pay?
To confirm and guarantee your placement on one of our programmes, you need to pay the registration fee of £149 within 7 days of receiving confirmation that your application was successful. The remaining balance is then due to less than 60 days prior to your programme start date.
Payments can be done all at once or be spread out over several months and can be paid via BACS (bank transfer). We do accept additional payments methods, such as debit and credit cards, although there may be additional fees.
Do I need any vaccinations and / or malaria tablets?
As we are not trained medical experts we cannot tell you exactly what vaccinations or other medication you may need for your trip. You will need to consult with your local doctors or travel clinic.
You can also find additional information on the NHS Fit For Travel website.
How do I arrange my flights?
All flights need to be booked by you, although we can point you in the right direction on where you may be able to find the best prices.
Before booking any flights, we strongly recommend that you wait to have confirmation that your application was successful.
How do I arrange my travel insurance?
We have teamed up with Endsleigh to create an affordable and comprehensive travel insurance policy that is suitable for all of the programmes we offer. You will receive information about this policy along with your volunteer handbook.
If you decide to purchase your travel insurance from an alternative provider, please ensure it covers you for everything you will be doing. Adequate travel insurance must be in place no less than 60 days before your programme start date. Without proof of this insurance, we will not be able to accept you onto the programme.
When will I receive my volunteer handbook?
You will receive a welcome email from us as soon as you have paid the registration fee and your placement has been confirmed. The welcome email will include the volunteer handbook that provides a wealth of information that will help you better understand all aspects of your upcoming trip as well as details about our insurance policy.
Please note, that all material is sent via email and hard copies cannot be sent.
On Your Trip
Can I arrange a private room?
The majority of our accommodation only offers shared rooms that are usually same-sex. However, if you would prefer a private room please let us know and we will at least try for you.
Can you cater for my dietary requirements?
We will try are best to cater for any dietary requirements. When you submit your application please include any required details within the dietary section and we will liaise with our local coordinators.
Are there any public holidays that would effect the project?
Although we try to be as clear as possible of all holidays that effect project availability, due to the nature of some countries, holidays can often be sporadic or prone to change.
If such a holiday falls when you are on your placement, this is generally a good time to experience unique festivities where you can join in with the locals.
What is the dress code at the projects?
We ask that all volunteers take the approach of a smart and responsible image during your time in the communities and on projects. It is best to also take some older clothes that you don't mind getting dirty.
Generally, it is best to avoid tight and very short clothing and anything that may have offensive slogans on it. Its recommended that you take some nicer clothes for weekends or any free time you may have.
We do not wish to impose strict regulations, however we do ask that you respect the local culture and do your best to adhere to the clothing guidelines within the volunteer handbook.
How much spending money will I need?
For general expenses and some travelling, you should find that £50 - £100 per week is sufficient. However, this can vary greatly depending on the amount of activities or trips you do and if you are eating out during the week.
Will I be able to travel whilst on the programme?
There should be plenty of time to travel while on your placement and we actively encourage that you do! The local coordinators will be able to give you lots of travel tips and provide any help needed for your independent adventure.