Volunteering in South Africa – Memorable Animal Encounters

Posted by: Laurel

My husband and I just spent two weeks volunteering at the African Wildlife Ranch program in South Africa. Overall, it was an enjoyable experience and there is some great hands on time with various animals.

When we arrived at the airport we took a taxi to the Ranch for about $40 USD. Upon arrival the rest of the group had just returned from work for the day and was lounging around the house. Most of the kids were between 18 and 21 years old. There was a woman from the UK who was about 50 as well. My husband and I are 27. We had a pretty nice room with a double bed and our own bathroom (which we paid extra for).

Your day will start at 8:00am when you need to be at the Ranch. You will be assigned something to do in the morning and then come back for a break at 10:00am. You will either continue working on your earlier project or be given something new. You will meet back at noon for lunch. The zoo has a little restaurant and every day you pre order what you’d like to have for lunch.

After lunch you will be given something new to do for the remainder of the day. At 4:00 you will head back to your house to relax for the afternoon. During the day, your house mother will cook dinner and it will be ready when you return. We would heat it up sometime between 6 and 7 and all eat together as a group. In the evenings we would watch movies or read etc.

After a brief orientation on your first day of work you will head over to the Ranch. One of the things that the zoo offers to the public is animal encounters. There are lemurs, adult cheetahs, cheetah cubs, and cervil cats which people could interact with. It consisted of a brief visit and two animal handlers for each encounter. You could sit next to the animal or pat it’s head while someone took a photo.

Some of the jobs around the ranch were the following…
1. Animal Kitchen – chop and prep fruits and veggies for various zoo animals
2. The Blat – cut and prepare meat for the big cats (lions, tigers, cheetahs).
3. Enrichment – make some kind of stimulating toy out of rope, paper mache, blood or animal hoofs & tails. These help to give the animals something to do, play with, exercise or stimulate their minds.
4. Greystone – this is the preserve, closed to the public, where they have most of the cheetahs and do the breeding. Work over here might consist of planting bushes or tress, cutting down invasive cactuses, checking the fences, and feeding.

On the weekends you can request to do a certain excursion or sign up for something someone else has already arranged to do. We went to see the Cango Caves, an Ostrich Farm, had a spa day and did a quad drive. Some of the others did sky diving and shark cage diving.

All in all the African Wildlife Ranch was a really good experience. The most important thing to keep in mind for this trip is to have patience. Things move at a different pace there but it is outweighed by the fun things you get to do.