Volunteer at an ethical Big Cat sanctuary based on a beautiful wildlife reserve in the province of the Eastern Cape of South Africa assisting with the ongoing care of the big cats saved from dire captive situations many from zoos in the Ukraine. These big cats- 14 lions and a tiger- can never be released due to their backgrounds in captivityThe beauty of the Big Cat Sanctuary volunteer project is the proximity to the coast so weekends can be spent on the beach while in the week, you can assist with wildlife.

Starting daysAll year around arriving and departing on Mondays.
Minimum Requirements2 weeks and longer subject to visa requirements. A minimum age of 18 years old
Cost£850 for 2 weeks and £380 for each additional week
What is includedShared stunning glamping accommodation, meeting you at the nearest airport, airport collection and drop-off, taking you to the shops once a week so you can buy groceries, pre-departure admin and support, t-shirt, in-country staff, 24- emergency help and more.
What is not includedFlights, visas, travel insurance, spending money, food and beverages.
Best forGappers, career breakers, families, post-retirement gappers, animal lovers, nature lovers, volunteers who like to get hands-on
  • Volunteer building
  • Lion volunteer project
  • cleaning lion enclosure
  • Big Cat Sanctuary volunteer project
  • Lion pride
  • Big Cat Sanctuary volunteer project
  • tiger
  • wildlife reserve

Project Description

The Big Cat sanctuary volunteer project is at an ethical rescue centre for captive bred big cats situated on a 154ha wildlife reserve home to various free roaming wildlife which means you could have some “wild” visitors at your volunteer accommodation i.e. giraffe, zebra, vervet monkeys, kudu, impala, other various antelope species, and more. The camera traps on the reserve have revealed a hige variety of species that call the reserve their home.

The Big Cat Sanctuary volunteer project’s aims are to rescue and rehome abused and neglected captive wildlife and ensure that they can have a quality of life in a species appropriate home.  Also, to educate and raise awareness of the plight of captive animals and to rehabilitate and release any indigenous wildlife that may come into care.

At the Big Cat Sanctuary volunteer project, the animals that come into care are protected for the rest of their lives with no breeding, trading or selling of any kind. The sanctuary is their safe forever home as due to their backgrounds and being captive bred, they can never be released into the wild.

The facility is designed to be an educational opportunity for visitors and volunteers alike, and to raise awareness to the plight of big cats within captivity and in the natural world.

Work time will vary be between 5-8 hours a day depending on the needs of the facility during your time with on the project. Each day there will be a 2-hour lunch break to ensure ample time to “refuel.” During the hot summer months, the schedule may be altered to eliminate any heavy work during the hottest times of the day. You will assist at the sanctuary Monday to Friday with weekends to relax and sightsee the area.

All safety protocols will be taught on the job, as well as different techniques for animal behaviour and animal enrichment. If qualified in veterinary medicine, possible assistance with veterinary care might take place.

You may be required to assist in the preparation of the big cats’ meals, which is often cow, horse, chicken, or antelope meat. This may also include removing meat from the bone, preparing internal organs, and working with or around carcasses so volunteers must be prepared to work with meat.

As a Big Cat Sanctuary volunteer, you will be assisting in many different aspects at the Big Cat Sanctuary. You will help in:

  • Food and vitamin preparations
  • Feeding routines
  • Assisting with fundraising
  • Animal monitoring and record keeping
  • Maintaining of the animal enclosures – and maybe even assisting building new ones
  • Enclosure fence checks- normally done twice a day, first thing and last
  • Creating enrichment items – the most fun part of the project
  • Assisting in educational tours
  • Perimeter fence checking
  • Bush clearing and alien plant removal on the reserve
  • Bush walks and monitoring of free roaming wildlife
  • Assisting and/or observing veterinary procedures (should they happen during your stay)
  • Overall assisting in the day to day running of the sanctuary
  • Should there be any animal(s) in rehabilitation, volunteers may assist with morning feeding/cleaning. This is NOT guaranteed.

Volunteers do need to be fit and flexible to readily assist as working with wildlife can be very unpredictable and things can change on a day-to-day basis according to the needs of the wildlife and sanctuary as a whole.

The Big Cat Sanctuary is also a permitted to rehabilitate and release indigenous wildlife within the area. Should those opportunities arise for volunteers to assist in the rehabilitation process, it will be discussed on a “need to” basis. This opportunity is NOT guaranteed.

You will be working side by side with the team of the management of the Big Cat Sanctuary, other staff and volunteers. A real opportunity of a lifetime to work with such dedicated and ethical individuals.

  • Big Cat Sanctuary volunteer project accommodation
  • Big Cat Sanctuary volunteer project accommodation
  • Big Cat Sanctuary volunteer project accommodation
  • Big Cat Sanctuary volunteer project
  • Big Cat Sanctuary volunteer project
  • Big Cat Sanctuary volunteer project accommodation

Accommodation

The Big Cat Sanctuary volunteer project accommodation is in the form of tented accommodation on the game reserve less than a 2-minute walk to the sanctuary itself and has wonderful views over the reserve as it is on the hill surrounded by free roaming and “non dangerous” wildlife. As it is so close to the sanctuary, you can hear the lions roaring at night!

It is in the form of two new glamping tents which can each accommodate 4 volunteers. Sharing is normally done with members of the same sex unless couples, friends or a family group

Each glamping tent has its own bathroom with a toilet, shower and basin and a small kitchenette to prepare food. Outside on the deck is a dining table and a fire pit which can be used to braai (South African BBQ) too.

Food

The kitchenette in the glamping tents has a 2-plate gas stove, stove top kettle, fridge/freezer, microwave, basic cutlery and crockery.

Food is not included in the cost of the project. You will be taken grocery shopping on arrival and then again once a week “shop trips” will be done into town so volunteers can purchase food items they need.

You will also need to clean up after yourself.

Location

You will need to fly into Port Elizabeth International Airport for your collection or alternatively if visiting Cape Town, you can take a coach (bus) up to Jeffreys Bay for collection. This area of the Eastern Cape province is referred to as the “Sunshine Coast” with lovely long stretches of beautiful beaches and inland you will find many private wildlife reserves and of course the famous Addo Elephant National Park which is always worth a visit and home to hundreds of elephants and is a Big 5 reserve. The Eastern Cape is also the ancestral home of the first democratic president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela who is fondly referred to as Madiba and the home of the amaXhosa who are known for their language, isiXhosa, which is a tongue twister with many clicks.

If wildlife, nature, beaches, and cultures interest you, it is a perfect part of South Africa to volunteer in and known for the friendly locals. Please be aware that volunteering with animals can get messy so please bring suitable clothes. 

“I learned a lot about cats among experts and I fell in love again with those beautiful animals. The location is just perfect, you will sleep in a good accommodation on top of a hill and maybe wake up with antelopes or giraffes next to you”

-Solene Pra, French (January 2024)

“Thanks for your organizing and support during my trip. I can highly recommend this place for people who allow themselves to experience African nature on its own, who are able to accept unusual circumstances cause if they deal with it, they can see the real beauty behind it. Every day of those 11 weeks was different, beside the essentials of taking care feeding etc there was nothing repetitive in a meaning that you got upset or annoyed about what needs to be done and for me being so long there that work environment relationship went after 2 weeks into a familiar friendship environment where it was possible to share your own ideas about facing problems and creativity when it came to enrichment. Highly recommended”

-Daniel Stier, German (November 2022)

“I would 100% recommend this sanctuary with its values and actions respecting animal welfare and protection. Lauren, Keegan and Lionel make sure to make your stay unique in an educational and caring way. If you are already a big cat fan, you will fall in love all over again with these beauties of nature. Each one of them tells a personal story that will make you want to stay with them. I suggest you stay for a month, the ideal time to learn to deal with the environment and the cats. The work at the reserve depends on the weather and the cats. This can range from feeding to making trenches or platforms to creating enrichments. The feeding of carnivorous animals is a bit challenging, but I’ve got used to it and I don’t regret having done it. The accommodations are very good, very comfortable, on top of a hill which ensures a great view of the mountains and colourful sunsets. Sometimes the harmless animals of the reserve gather near the tents and allow you to observe them easily, from your living room chair!”

-Solenne Raulet, French (December 2022)

For more information or to book, please use the contact form or email us at info@volunteerinternationaladventures.com

If this Big Cat Sanctuary volunteer project in South Africa interests you, you may also be interested in our Ethical Predator Sanctuary volunteer project.