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Oudtshoorn is in ‘The Little Karoo’ (Klein Karoo) at the base of the majestic Swartberg Mountains in the Western Cape. It is a small, but beautiful tourist-oriented town with a semi-arid climate and sunny days. Oudtshoorn is considered the Ostrich Capital of the world because it has more ostriches than anywhere else. It is also the ideal location for these large, flightless birds because of the dry climate and lucerne (protein-rich animal feed) farming.
Established in 1977, this ranch was South Africa’s first crocodile show farm. A decade later, it was sold and transformed into a leading conservation and tourist education center. While the ranch continues to house a modest crocodilian population, it has actively shifted focus towards endangered species, particularly big cats.
The privately owned ranch and wildlife sanctuary is home to over 90 species of animals and reptiles and is one of the largest cheetah breeding centers in the world. The ranch’s staff work diligently to care for several endangered ambassador animals. In doing so, they have created a platform for conservation through education to encourage public awareness of the plights of various species, as well as environmental issues. This has earned them a WAZA (World Association of Zoos & Aquariums) institutional membership. It is one of only six institutions in Africa to become a member of this esteemed association. The ranch has also developed several successful breeding programs and is currently one of only four institutions on the continent to receive accreditation from PAAZA (African Association of Zoos and Aquaria).
If you are passionate about wild animals and want to make a difference in their lives, then this is project is for you! You will work with several endangered species, from white tigers and cheetahs to ring-tailed lemurs and meerkats.
This volunteer project will offer you a fascinating wildlife experience while you learn about the facility’s conservation efforts. You will also gain insight and knowledge into the ranch’s endangered species and breeding programs.
Some of your tasks may include:
Orientation: A host will meet you at George, either at the airport or at your bus stop. From George, you will be taken to Oudtshoorn (approximately 45 minutes away) for your orientation. Upon arrival, you will be shown around your new accommodation and then you will be taken on a brief tour of the area. On the tour, you will do essential shopping, if needed. Afterwards, you will have time to relax and adjust to your new accommodation for the rest of the day.
The following morning, your host will give you an introduction to the ranch and its environment, as well as run through the duties, expectations and house rules. This will also be the time for the coordinators to answer questions you may have. That morning you will be taken to the Ranch where you will be given a complete tour of the facilities and breeding centers. You will also be introduced to the directors, managers, curators and staff with whom you will be working.
Typical day: You will work Monday to Friday from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM. Morning duties will include cleaning exhibits and night houses, followed by teatime. Afterwards, you will help prepare enrichment activities to stimulate all the animals. Then you will have lunch and spend the rest of your time giving out the enrichment toys to the animals while helping to take notes on their progress. There may be some maintenance work to assist with as well. After 16:30 you can explore around, go to town which is just a short drive / Uber away, hang out with the volunteers, rest, go for a run, there are many options.
Important note: Regardless of your dietary preferences, you may be required to help prepare the big cats’ meals, which is usually donkey or horse meat. This can also involve removing meat from the bone and working with or near the carcasses.
Internet: Wi-Fi is available for use at the lodge.
Laundry: There is a washing machine, ironing board and iron available for you to use for free.
Accommodations: Volunteers will stay in shared rooms in a luxurious lodge that contains a garden, pool and barbecue area, en suite accommodation, underfloor heating in winter, entertainment area, DSTV and Wi-Fi access. There are two house cats living in the lodge.
Food: Basic breakfast ingredients are supplied at the lodge, and basic pantry items, such as tea, coffee, sugar, herbs & spices, fruit, cereal, milk and bread, spreads and sauces. Lunch is provided during your placement from the Ranch’s restaurant and dinner is prepared for you by the lodge manager. Weekend meals are not included. Please note: if you have allergies or special dietary needs, let us know upon registration. Vegans can be catered for.
The Ranch is about a five-minute walk from your lodge. It will take you about 10 minutes to walk to a local shop and approximately 30 minutes to walk to most places in town, including supermarkets, shops, restaurants and pubs.
Oudtshoorn is a relaxed town, but there are several restaurants and pubs, if you are looking for a night out. Oudtshoorn is safe at night and you can walk the 30-minute route to town. During March and April of each year, a well-known, week long Afrikaans arts festival is held. The town really comes alive, with the streets blocked off for market stalls, shows, bands and plenty of entertainment that thousands of people come to enjoy each year.
This program offers optional tours on weekends of the surrounding attractions, such as bungee jumping, shark cage diving, zip lining, horse back safaris, game drives, elephant experiences and whale watching.
You will also visit the world famous Cango Caves, known for their spectacular rock formations. And Oudtshoorn isn’t called the Ostrich Capital of the world for nothing! There are also Ostrich farms located 10 kilometers south of Oudtshoorn, where experienced guides will teach you all about ostrich farming.
Please note: tours are subject to change and depend on availability and time of year.