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South Africa - Wildlife Sanctuary

Live among some of Africa's spectacular wildlife while working on a team expedition to complete projects that better life on the sanctuary. See the immediate benefits of your volunteer work while getting up close and personal with the zebras, cheetahs, elephants, and many more animals that have found a safe haven at the sanctuary.



Fast Facts

Location of ProjectHartebeespoort, South Africa
Project LengthMin 2 weeks - Max 12 weeks (Minimum stay is technically 16 days - 2 day orientation + 2 weeks volunteering)
Arrival AirportJohannesburg International Airport
Volunteer WorkConstruction, wildlife care, maintenance
Age18 - 30
Program Schedule 2-day orientation is Wed-Fri; Volunteer work begins on Mon.

What's Included

AccommodationShared room in volunteer house
FoodThree meals a day
SupportLocal in-country team and 24hr emergency support
Airport TransfersIncluded on arrival and departure day
Pre-Departure Kit Full project details will be sent following registration
Orientation All necessary training and introductions provided upon arrival
Insurance Comprehensive travel health insurance with volunteer abroad coverage

What's Not Included

Flights, personal expenses, and visa (if required)


The Wildlife Sanctuary is approximately 45 minutes from Johannesburg in the Hartebeespoort area. The small town is situated between the Magaliesberg Mountains and Hartebeespoort Dam, providing a breathtaking mountainous landscape. Hartebeespoort is situated close to the sanctuary and is a great place to explore with a fantastic selection of adventure and activities. Johannesburg itself is a vibrant metropolis, known for its unique street entrepreneurial culture.


About the Project

The sanctuary serves as a safe haven for orphaned or injured animals that would otherwise not be able to survive on their own. They take in a variety of animals, including elephants, lions, tigers, cheetahs, spotted hyenas, white lions, and hippos, as well as free-range game, such as giraffes, wildebeest, zebras, warthogs, impalas, waterbucks, and the red hartebeest. Though the goal is to rehabilitate the animals for re-release into the wild, this is not always possible. 


Arrival and Orientation 

Prior to your volunteering, you'll participate in a two-day orientation in Johannesburg. This orientation is a time for volunteers to meet and get acquainted with each other and the project staff prior to going to their projects. You'll also be taken on a tour of the city that includes sites like the Nelson Mandela Bridge, Telkum Tower, and Constitutional Hill.

Please note that the tour is flexible and may change according to the group’s interests for the day. This is your personal tour of the city with our local guide and aims to show you the best sites and places for the day.

Note: The orientation is required and is not a part of the 2 weeks designated for volunteer work. Therefore, the minimum stay is 16 days for the 2 week option, 24 days for 3 weeks, and so on. All prices include orientation.


Volunteer Work and Contribution

As a volunteer, you will split your time between ongoing construction and maintenance projects, and hands-on care for the animals at the sanctuary. Some of the ongoing projects you may be involved in include:  

Fire Breaks: Many species such as the tortoises, dung beetles, and chameleons, become victims of fires that break out on the sanctuary's land. Firebreaks are put in place to protect the sanctuary and control fire spread.

Enclosure Construction:  Help renovate, maintain, or construct new enclosures. 

General Maintenance: You'll be assisting with anti-poaching fence patrols that involve guided walks along the perimeter of the park to ensure that the fencing in intact. You'll also get a chance to help clear alien vegetation, assist with anti-erosion control, and other maintenance projects on the sanctuary grounds.

Animal Life Improvement Project: Volunteers can help improve the lives of the sanctuary's inhabitants by doing day-to-day cleaning, feeding and walking, painting the sanctuary's facilities, and building new enclosures and swimming pools for some of the animals. 

A typical day: You'll begin your day early with breakfast, followed by your morning project, which could be assisting with alien vegetation, cleaning out animal enclosures, or going on an elephant walk. After lunch, you'll start your afternoon project, such as the Animal Life Improvement Project or going on a game drive. After dinner you'll have time to relax and hang out with the other volunteers. 

Please Note: Due to the dynamic nature of working with animals, GoEco cannot guarantee that you will have the opportunity to interact hands-on with the animal residents at the sanctuary. Interactions are based on the availability, safety and well-being of the ambassador animals, and will be at the sole discretion of the local team.


Living Arrangements

Accommodations: You will stay at the volunteer house on the sanctuary grounds where you will share a same-sex room with 2 to 8 volunteers. There is a common kitchen, lounge, and a great patio for relaxing and watching the wildlife roam right outside the front door. 

Food: You will receive three meals a day. Breakfast and lunch are self-serve and include cereals, fruit, yogurts, toast, spreads, breads, and deli meat. A hot meal is served every night and is often a traditional South African BBQ (braai), a stew, or a casserole, along with fresh vegetables and meat.

Laundry: Laundry services are available for a small fee. 

Internet: WiFi is available for a small fee.


Travel Highlights

South Africa is a beautiful country with plenty to offer tourists. Kruger National Park is a must-see for every visitor, while the beaches of the Wild Coast offer plenty of peace and serenity. You're also free to explore the busy beaches of Cape Town, its townships and lively nightlife. Elephant lovers shouldn’t miss a trip to Addo Elephant National Park and wine enthusiasts should consider driving along the wine route to experience some amazing wineries.

The sanctuary also offers an array of tours, game drives, elephant walks, hiking excursions at an additional cost


Minimum Requirements

  • Basic English
  • Good physical fitness
  • Motivation to work with animals


Please Note: All of the stories on this page are written by volunteer alumni and reflect their personal experiences at the project. When reading these testimonials, please keep in mind that each experience is different due to the dynamic nature of working with animals. GoEco therefore cannot guarantee that you will have the opportunity to interact hands-on with the animal residents at the sanctuary. Interactions are based on the availability, safety and well-being of the ambassador animals, and will be at the sole discretion of the local team.

Here's an excerpt of Britney's experience:

  "Never having been out of the country, I had worries and therefore researched EVERYTHING, from the conservation to the hostel in Johannesburg and everything in-between. Everything went off without a hitch. The orientation in Joburg was a blast! I felt very safe at the hostel; the staff was warm and accommodating. There were 13 volunteers the week I started, four went to a different project and nine went to the same as me. We are all still in contact!"

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog!


Here's an excerpt of Ali's experience:

  "I was very surprised by one aspect of the trip; the friendships I made in such a short amount of time. I never knew it was possible to become so close with a group of people so quickly. I became friends with people from all over the world and learned so much about their countries and cultures, while also teaching about mine."

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog!


Here's an excerpt of Cierra's experience:



"We started each day with our morning chores, followed by an amazing South African breakfast. We would have a mix of work to do in the field and cleaning of enclosures during the day before and after lunch. Following dinner, we had the rest of the day to ourselves to socialize with the other volunteers. The staff were always planning events and activities for us to participate in during the downtime, such as Africa Night and play movies filmed right there on the sanctuary."
Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog!


Here's an excerpt of Samantha's experience:



"Everyone always asks me to tell about my adventure but the only words I can get out are 'It was a truly amazing, once in a lifetime trip.' Waking up in the morning or in the middle of the night hearing the lions roaring truly made me feel like I was dreaming. I played with the 4 month old leopard cub like I would play with one of my kittens at home."
Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog!


Here's an excerpt of Alessandro's experience:


"They soon took me for a tour of the farm and the animals and I soon understand I was not going to forget my three weeks easily. Everything surmounted my expectations. There was always something new to do, starting from simply chopping wood for the fire to walking with the lions or building a pool for the elephants (which was really fun!)"

Read the rest of his story on the GoEco blog


Here's an excerpt of Matilda's experience:


"Working with the lions, tigers and the elephants was probably my favorite. Everyone that works on the project are all so caring and nice. I have never met people so passionate about their job. They also make sure that you have the best possible photo that you can have with the animals."

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog


Here's an excerpt of Aleksandra's experience:


"There are many unforgettable moments and things I got to do there, also we had many opportunities to go on to different excursions especially during the weekends – we went to crock city (a reptile house), visited a proper African village, ate amazing African food and watched a dance show."

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog


Here's an excerpt of Kenzie's experience:


"I did not think I was going to get to get up close and personal with so many of the beautiful creatures. There was definitely a lot of manual labor involved in this volunteer project such as cleaning up after the animals, building a new enclosure for the tiger cubs, and picking up trash around the farm. Although it was a lot of work it was such a rewarding feeling knowing you are helping better the lives of such fascinating animals."

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog


Here's an excerpt of Zyna's experience:


"Monday was called "Sh*t Day." This means that the whole day you were cleaning animal enclosures and after lunch you removed all the poop/shit of the week to another place. The other days were always a surprise. Sometimes you had to work but sometimes you did cool activities like a game drive or go to the training camp."

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog!


Here's an excerpt of Kellie's experience:


"Every day here at Wildlife Sanctuary was different but each day was just as exciting as the next because there can always be surprises. For example, one night in the middle of the night it started to rain. I did not think anything about until I got woken up suddenly and was asked to help put the baby ostriches in the bar. As it turns out, baby ostriches do not handle cold temperature."

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog!


Here's an excerpt of Jacob's experience:


"The animals in the park were amazing, I’ve never seen so many friendly ‘wild’ animals in my life.  Jack the zebra loves attention as well as the two mongoose and two cervals. There’s also four hippos you have to keep an eye out for and a few giraffes you’ll see wandering past every now and again. I’m not even saying the half of it either!  The elephants were my favourite,  so beautifully friendly and but also so amazing to watch when going on the elephant walks."

Read the rest of his story on the GoEco blog!


Here's an excerpt of Sol's experience:



"South Africa, you were my deepest dream, my biggest life lesson, my Neverland… you stole my heart, you changed my life and most of all, you offered me the most beautiful experience."

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog!


Here's an excerpt of Jessie's experience:

  "The Wildlife Sanctuary really opened my eyes, I was able to meet so many different people and learn about their different cultures as well. I want to thank GoEco one more time for allowing me to have this amazing opportunity. I will definitely remember volunteering in South Africa for the rest of my life!"  
Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog!

Here's an excerpt of Reanna's experience:

  "At this project you will get up close and personal with most of the African mega-fauna. These are beautiful, enchanting animals. I remember blowing into the mother elephant’s trunk so that she would remember me – they say that an elephant will never forget your scent... I remember being in awe of the might of the grown lions as they growled over haunches of meat!"

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog!

Check out our Volunteer Blog at blog.goeco.org to read experiences written by GoEco volunteers from all over the world!

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