The South Africa Wildlife Sanctuary
Based near Cape Town this project is unique! Not only does this amazing project rescue, rehabilitate and release when possible, but they have three orphaned (now full grown) elephants which had to be raised by humans so are very friendly.
Experience a range of wildlife - both free roaming and in care. The types of animals at the Sanctuary will vary from month to month depending on what has been rescued but some animals have a home for life here - if they were not able to be released.
The South Africa Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the most stunning location - looking out towards amazing mountains and overlooking a huge dam (with hippos) and African bushveld.
About the Wildlife Sanctuary
The animals at the sanctuary arrive in need of rescue, rehabilitation and sometimes permanent captive care. In an Africa where humans and wildlife sometimes struggle to co-exist peacefully, this sanctuary provides a haven and second chance for animals in need. Volunteers come from all backgrounds and nationalities, with varied familiarity of animals and wildlife, from absolutely no experience, to those with a professional background in veterinary or conservation science.
What the volunteers do have in common is a love of wildlife and a passion for aiding in the conservation and care of Africa’s diverse species.
As a volunteer you will provide an important resource in caring for and feeding the animals on a daily basis, as well as helping to maintain and develop the program. As a Sanctuary volunteer you should be ready to be actively involved in the day-to-day activities which support the program.
The goal of the sanctuary is to release animals whenever possible so that they may be free to live a natural life in the wild. However, sometimes an animal comes to us that cannot be released for various reasons such as habituation to humans which would put the animal at risk if released or an extensive injury. Our aim is to provide a lifelong home for these animals.
Because they release and/or relocate whenever possible, the animals at the sanctuary will vary at any given time, but may include carnivores such as Jackal, Lions and Caracals; birds such as Peacocks and birds of prey; antelope such as Oryx (gemsbok), Springbok, Nyala, Grey Rhee buck and kudu; small mammals such as Meerkats, Rock dassies, Mongoose, Genets and Bush pigs as well as a host of other species and farm animals.
Activities at The Wildlife Sanctuary
Activities are carried out in a rotational group system to ensure that everybody gets exposed to the variety of experiences available.
Possible tasks as a Wildlife Conservation Volunteer include:
- Preparing food and feeding the wildlife.
- Cleaning and maintaining enclosures.
- Providing enrichment to the animals in the form of interaction, walks in the bush or implementation of special activities for them.
- Providing intensive care for juvenile wildlife including overnight care for some animals.
- Physical labour such as building new facilities.
- Research which may include the monitoring of free-ranging animals in the area, analysing camera traps and GPS data.
- Time in the environment such as tracking & monitoring a variety of animals species (and sometimes snakes!) on or near property and game counts in the bush.
- Assisting with the various projects that arise at the sanctuary
Food Preparation & Enclosure Cleaning
A vital part of the day-to-day running of the program involves preparing food for and feeding the animals as well as cleaning and maintaining the animals’ enclosures and housing. This can be a very messy but satisfying part of your day, as you’re ensuring the nutritional needs of each animal are met while also checking up on their health and happiness while cleaning their enclosures. You’ll be handling fruits, vegetables, meats and lucerne-based meal among other things to help prepare the meals needed for all of the animals.
The time spent feeding our carnivores are a very important and always enjoyable part of your day. During this activity you will get to see and possibly assist in the feeding of our lions. This coordinator-led activity is also the best time for you to take pictures of our amazing animals. You will also learn about the animals’ backgrounds, interesting facts and the reason why the animals are at the Sanctuary including the difficulties faced in trying to manage the human-wildlife conflict.
You will get the chance to interact hands-on with the Sanctuary's three “Gentle Giants” (Elephants) on this program. They were orphaned in Kruger when their parents were poached so had to be hand reared by humans - and so are very friendly. They have a life at the Sanctuary to roam freely and interact with other animals and humans - which they love. You'll get to walk with them around the reserve and have your photo taken while hand feeding them.
Depending on the needs and types of animals at the time of your arrival, sometimes our youngest animals need to be “babysat” and provided extra attention while other animals require quiet observation and company. With orphaned and injured animals arriving throughout the year, you never know who may be in need of some extra tender loving care!
It is always important to remember that, while some animals are approachable, they are all wild animals at heart and thus it is important to always respect their boundaries. It is therefore essential to listen to any staff members accompanying you and who will provide you with the best practices for interactions.
Hands-on Project Work
Project work at the sanctuary varies depending on the needs of the project, and is a large and vital part of your time there. Project work can range from easy and fun jobs to heavier labour that involves work with tools, lifting and more.
Some of the projects completed in the past with the assistance of our volunteers included:
- Digging waterholes for enclosures
- Making and decorating new toys for the Elephant enclosure
- Digging holes and putting up fences for enclosures
- Painting enclosures
- Fence Patrolling
Research is a vital part of the work in this program, and the Sanctuary offer you a chance to be a part of it through a variety of activities. Setting camera traps, analysing the data, and conducting game counts are common activities for the research group. The information gathered on game counts and from camera traps helps staff and owners to understand the health, movement and behaviour of our animals at the sanctuary and is also a great way to see the whole reserve. The research team will also guide you in the tracking of animals.
Weekends at the Sanctuary usually involves a Saturday activity that can vary from paintball, a nature walk through the reserve, “boere sport” competition, volleyball or challenges and quizzes. You will also be able to enjoy the activities in the surrounding area such as Zip lining, Cango Caves, Ostrich Farm and Wine Tasting at Karusa Wine Cellars.
Evenings involve a braai and time to socialise and relax together. On Sundays you may have the option to visit Oudtshoorn or spend some time at the Sanctuary's luxury lodge for the day.
More about the three orphaned elephants!
These elephants have not been taken from the wild for captivity. The three elephants were orphaned when the adults were devastatingly poached in Kruger. The elephants come from circumstances that if the sanctuary did not intervene they would not be alive today. The sanctuary did not choose this life for them but they chose to give them the best possible life within their means with the best possible love and care. They have in fact given them a much better life and saved their lives, protecting them from poachers and predators.
They were so small and still needed milk to survive. The handler raised them and fed them 36 litres of milk each, every 4 hours!!.
They are now in an excellent condition and roam freely on the 3000ha reserve for most of the day. The only animal friendly interaction between human and these elephants daily are purely of educational nature.
Visitors and volunteers are informed of the relationship between handler and the elephants, the difference between the African and Asian elephant, etc. In South Africa they do not use traditional Asian Elephant training methods. The elephants do not undergo any form of abuse or cruelty and are trained instead using positive reinforcement which strengthens bonds and relationships with elephant and handler.
Wildlife at the Sanctuary
At the moment there is 3 lions, 3 hippo, 2 Rhino, 25 giraffe, 7 zebra, 7 buffalos, 150 springboks, 35 eland, about 10 koedoes (they jump the fences), and 15 meerkats.
All together there is 23 animal species at the Sanctuary.
The weather at the Sanctuary
The area has a semi-desert climate, with very hot summers and very cold winters and temperatures tending to drop at night. On average, the wildlife sanctuary area receives about 300 days of sunshine per year.
- Summer is from October to April, where temperatures can reach 45C and plummet at night to below 0 degrees so bring a fleece or extra clothing.
- Average daily temperatures range from 20C to 34C.
- Rainfall usually occurs between April and August.
- Winter is from May to August with wonderful warm days which are contrasted by very cold nights, when temperatures often drop to below freezing so please bring warm clothing and a sleeping bag.
- Average temperatures range from -2°C to 25°C.
Accommodation and Meals
- The accommodation at the program are large volunteer tents with up to four people (same gender) sharing each room (same gender or a couple).
- The rooms and tents are basic but the single beds are comfortable with bedding provided (duvets and pillows).
- Showers and toilet facilities are on-suite and hot water is supplied by gas geysers.
- Power sockets for electrical items are available in each tent and in the communal area.
- Three meals are provided by the volunteers with assistants of a staff member
- Breakfast includes toast and cereal
- Lunch includes pasta, wraps, burgers or stir-fry
- Evening Dinners include meat, fish and vegetables with rice, potatoes or pasta.
- On weekends there is often a braai (BBQ).
Please advise us of any special dietary requirements at the time of booking.
Facilities and Services
There is a small shop at the main office which offers a variety of chocolate, crisps, snacks bars, cigarettes as well as a range of general merchandise. The shop is generally open from 17:00 until 18:00 daily and accepts cash only (South African Rand).
There is also a clothing and curio range available for purchase in the Lodge reception area. Cash and Credit Card are accepted at the lodge for clothing, add-ons (such as an evening, lunch or activities at the luxurious Game lodge) and excursions (such as Sunday town trips and Safari tours).
It’s time to get away from it all! Due to the costs incurred, internet is only available at the main lodge for emergency use only. If you are able to go into the local town on the optional Sunday trip, you will be able to pay to access the internet from an internet café there.
What's included and what's not?
- Transfer from the local airport on Tuesdays and Thursdays
- Transfer to the local airport on your departure day
- Breakfast, lunch and dinner
- Tea and coffee
- Arrival orientation
- Full support and assistance from your programme coordinator
What you need to budget for
- Flights and Insurance (we can help arrange these)
- Visa application costs (we can help you with this)
- Any souvenirs, gifts, clothing, merchandise etc
- Drinks and snacks
- Optional extra activities