Volunteer at an extremely ethical predator sanctuary in the beautiful Western Cape province of South Africa home to lions, tigers, leopard, serval, caracal and jackal. Volunteers assist in areas like preparing food, animal enrichments, building and maintaining enclosures and all-around animal husbandry for captive-bred predators that have been saved from trophy hunting and canned breeding farms and are not able to be released into the wild. A project for the big cat lovers who understand that no breeding, no petting and no trading takes place with true big cat sanctuaries.
|Starting days||All year around with set starting dates for Saturday (see below)|
|Minimum Requirements||2 weeks and longer subject to visa requirements. A minimum age of 18 years old|
|Cost||£1250 for 2 weeks and £475 for each additional week|
|What is included||2 vegetarian meals a day (a self-service breakfast and a cooked lunch when at work), accommodation, meeting you at the airport, airport collection and drop-off, pre-departure support and admin, in-country staff, 24- emergency help and more.|
|What is not included||Flights, visas, travel insurance, dinners, lunches on weekends and spending money|
|Best for||Gappers, career breakers, families, post-retirement gappers, animal lovers, wildlife enthusiasts, volunteers who like to get hands-on, those with DIY skills, conservation students|
In a rural area surrounded by indigenous fauna and flora you will find this incredible ethical predator sanctuary which has become the forever home for many rescued big cats and predators providing a safe and stimulating environment and sanctuary for the rest of their natural lives. As the years have gone by the Ethical Predator Sanctuary project has grown from strength to strength with the help of volunteers with more big cats finding sanctuary and enclosures being upgraded and improved to incorporate platforms, water features and even an amazing enrichment enclosure which ensures they have the best possible life in captivity as these are all non-releasable animals that have been saved from some very negative backgrounds.
Volunteer duties may vary and may depend on certain factors such as what’s required at the time, the weather, veterinary treatment or preparing for a new animal arriving. Thursdays are excursion days and weekends are off. As you arrive on a Saturday, your introduction to the project will take place on your first Sunday.
- Caring for the amazing big cats
Caring for the animals means anything from spending time with Bella, the tiger, as she loves to go for walks, or Max the caracal who also loves to walk (of course on different sides of the fence), sit outside the animals’ enclosures just being in and feeling their presence, and they feel yours, giving them daily reassurance and distraction from being captive. We often recommend bringing a book or diary or drawing paper – whatever is suitable for the different people. You may also be involved in preparing special medication for the animals that need it. The cats’ condition is also checked daily, which you will be responsible for, and report if anything seems out of the ordinary.
- Enrichment program
You, as a volunteer, personally make enrichment for the animals, and it is all about thinking outside the box! You can make big animals out of cardboard boxes, paper mache balls or structures, make structures out of tyres, make sensory enrichment to stimulate the cats’ smells, with anything from herbs, to fruits, peanut butter, honey, etc. You can also make jumping obstacles, rolling toys and create structures where the animals must use their strength to get through/over. The sky is the limit, although everything is monitored and rules do apply with regards to safety for the animals.
- Assist with feeding
The feeding runs off a flexible schedule, and not on routine, as this is not in the best interest for the animals as in the wild, there is no routine with the eating habits of big cats. The project believes in making feeds random with both type of meat, size of portions, and times of feeding. Some days they will get a very large portion and not get food for three days, and some days a small portion early morning, small portion next day, medium portion two days later in the evening, etc. They feed as freshly as possible, so when they know a horse/cow/antelope is coming in, they try and feed that day to give them the most nutritious food possible.
- Cleaning and maintaining enclosures
Every enclosure is cleaned once to three times a week, depending on the animal and size of enclosure. Water bowls and feeding camps also need daily check-ups and the fences are checked every morning and every afternoon to make sure the electricity is working, and that all the fences are in order. When cleaning the enclosures there are always things needing to be repaired, whether fixing or upgrading the wild cat’s houses, trees, taking out weeds or alien invasive plants, planting new bushes, fixing fences, etc.
- General farm work
At the Ethical Predator Sanctuary there are many things that need to be kept maintained, so you will help daily with anything from clearing of alien vegetation, fixing of fences, building of structures, planting, making flowerbeds, fixing the tourist area, clearing of fire breaks, fixing roads, painting, making presentations and so forth. Everyone has different wishes and specialities, and we try our best to make it the most fun for you, and also let you put your “signature” on something while you are there!
- Educating visitors
Assist staff with educational visits for the public. You’ll also join some tours so that you get a proper understanding of the education they provide on big cats, and understand more about what the sanctuary is about. You may be asked to assist with day events and stalls at markets to raise awareness with the public. During the year fundraisers also take place which you may get involved in. These are normally to raise funds for a specific cause like a veterinary clinic onsite, eye surgery, animal relocation etc
To keep things as close to how things are found in the wild especially with feeding, there is no fixed schedule so the daily scheduled is varied. There will be a difference between summer and winter months due to temperature and hours of light during the day. Morning starts with a meeting where the day’s schedule is planned and set up for you. There will be plenty of breaks during the morning and afternoon projects, and flexibility for sightseeing activities in the area too- of which there are plenty of things to do!
A rough idea of a typical day on the Ethical Predator Sanctuary project:
07.00 am- Wake up, wash and get ready
07.30 am- Help yourself to breakfast with the food provided
08.00 am- Morning meeting
08.15 am- Staff morning project which could be any of the volunteer duties listed above
12.00 pm- Break for lunch with a meal provided for you
15.00 pm- Afternoon volunteer duties
18.00pm- Make your dinner
19.00pm- Relax, swim, read, contemplate on the meaning of life, listening to the lions roar…
September – 23rd
October – 7th, 21st
November – 4th, 18th
December – 2nd, 16th, 30th
Jan – 6th, 20th
Feb – 3rd, 17th
March – 2nd, 16th, 30th
April – 13th, 27th
May – 11th, 25th
June – 8th, 22nd
July – 6th, 20th
Aug – 3rd, 17th, 31st
Sep – 14th, 28th
Oct – 12th, 26th
Nov – 9th, 23rd
Dec – 7th, 21st
The Ethical Predatory Sanctuary volunteer accommodation is a newly built house which is situated 8 minutes’ drive, or 25 minutes’ walk, from the sanctuary. The house consists of 3 shared bedrooms with 3 bathrooms, a spacious and fully equipped modern kitchen and dining room for everyone to cook and enjoy dinners and games nights together, a living room area with a fire for film evenings or relaxing with a good book. Outside you will enjoy beautiful mountain views and indigenous vegetation. There is a traditional South African braai (BBQ) area, and the property is fenced off with a security gate. There is a lovely dam and large garden with space to play games, walk or sunbathe. There are other houses on the small holding where staff members live too so you will always have company. At night you may just hear the lions roaring in the distance. Linen is provided.
Vegetarian breakfasts and lunch’s are provided. Dinners are for the volunteers own expense as are lunches on weekends. Volunteers often assist preparing meals in the communal kitchen and help washing up afterwards. Once a week on a Thursday volunteers will be taken to a nearby town for shopping for extras they might need for their dinners as part of their excursion.
Airport collections and drop offs are scheduled for Saturdays ONLY from Cape Town International Airport between 10am and 2pm. On collection you will be met and then taken to your project which is a 2-hour drive away from Cape Town. On the way back from the airport to the volunteer accommodation, you will stop at the supermarket so you can buy your groceries for the week. Your next shopping trip will be Thursday so please buy enough food to keep you going until then. As a reminder, we provide food for your breakfast (DIY) and lunch (a shared meal) whenever you are at work, so you will just need to buy food for weekend lunches, dinners, snacks, alcohol and we also ask that you buy water to drink. The water on the project is safe, but it is more ‘natural’ in colour and taste than most people are used to! Tea and coffee making facilities, however if you like a particular tea or coffee, we recommend you purchase your own for your stay. If you require dairy or gluten alternatives, these are available to buy at the supermarket.
This area of the Western Cape province has so much to offer surrounded by wine farms, craft breweries, hiking trails, sea kayaking, river cruises, quad biking, zip lining, paragliding, bird watching, whale & dolphin watching, horse riding, picturesque towns, stretches of untouched coastline, scenic views and even white shark diving. It is also possible to also do a four hour round trip to Cape Agulhas, the ‘Southern Most Tip of Africa’
If wildlife, nature and beaches interest you, it is a perfect part of South Africa to volunteer in.
Ethical Predator Sanctuary volunteer feedback:
Most Memorable Moment:
It will have to be the first time I met the animals upon arrival. When I walked up to the King’s enclosure, he stood up and looked at me with his bright blue eyes. He was curious, but very serious as if he was assessing me – what a thrilling feeling!
During my last day I was taking it easy with the tasks and was hanging around doing some art for the sanctuary. That day, the meat delivery to feed animals was extremely late, so upon arrival there was only 2 people available to receive and process it. Needless to say, the processing has to be done quickly to prevent the meat from spoiling. Since I was near, I helped the staff and we managed to finish the task quickly and efficiently. It was challenging, and working with fresh meat isn’t easy for me, but I am happy that we did it and the animals could be fed in time.
What Positive Impact to Project?
I’d like to think that I contributed to the sanctuaries’ big cats wellbeing by caring for them and interacting with them in a sensible way. I’ve observed the animals, and it was very rewarding to see how they became familiar and comfortable with me. I have also contributed to decorating the project’s area by painting stomps and revamping some visitor stands.
I would love to bring up the educational side of the project here – the things I learnt about the lion breeding industry in South Africa had a great impact on me. To learn that as many as 14 000 lions are kept captive and exploited in unsuitable conditions is heart breaking. The cruel cycle of allows the owners of lion farms to make profit every step from the cub’s birth (cuddling, handling) to the end of cat’s life (canned hunting) at the expense of the lion’s happiness and health. Watching the documentary and reading ‘Cuddle me, Kill me’ has opened my eyes on how little the outside world knows about the dangers of unethical volunteering. I’m glad to become a source of information on this topic for my friends and family and hope to aid in bringing the end of this industry closer.
Anything else to add? Thank you for great opportunity and all the help with organising this trip. It’s been a pleasure and I hope to return soon in the future ❤️volunteer Kseniia Protcenko (August 2021)
Ethical, worthwhile volunteer holidays