South Africa Monkey Sanctuary
2-12 weeks from $1,188
- Help care for and nurse injured monkeys back to health
- Carry out research and assist on animal releases
- Work with a dedicated team of expert animal carers
- Make friends for life on this unforgettable experience
- Take part in some fantastic optional activities, and go on safari at Kruger National Park
- Become part of the team, which is more like a family, and have the best time
Prepare to have your heart stolen when you visit the cheeky residents and inspiring team at our monkey rehabilitation centre in beautiful South Africa. An unforgettable experience, you’ll get to help with every aspect of animal care when you join this programme, from building enclosures and caring for injured animals and taking the troops out for walks – although they’d probably rather just climb onto you while you do all the legwork! You’ll be given proper training by the passionate and devoted team, so you’ll be well-equipped for giving all the animals at the centre the care and attention they need to be successfully released back into the wild.
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Download more trip information and detailed itinerary
Purpose and Aim of the Project
The rehabilitation centre was established in 1994 after realising a need for (and distinct lack of) care facilities for injured and abandoned vervet monkeys and other primates. It is one of the few centres that is approved by the NSPCA in South Africa. Over the years, the centre has taken in a huge number of animal residents, often turning up on their doorstep as unwanted pets, having lost their appeal to their owners as they’ve grown from cute fluffy babies into wild adult animals, and others are found injured or orphaned in the wild. The centre aims to care for and nurse all of its residents back to full health, with a highly regarded rehabilitation programme to reintroduce them to their natural surroundings in the wild, which they have successfully done countless times.
To date, 19 troops of rehabilitated vervet monkeys and 2 troops of rehabilitated baboons have been released. Releasing troops can take up to 3 years as it takes time to nurture the animals back to health, create a troop and find a site where the team are 100% sure the troops will be safe from poachers.
What to expect at the project
This is a fantastic programme to join whether you’re looking to work in animal care in the future, have an interest in conservation, or just really love animals! You’ll be given full training, to give you a good understanding of each species’ needs and to ensure you’re equipped to care for the animals safely. Previous volunteers have said they’ve found the experience life-changing, and many have gone back to the project, having enjoyed it so much first time around. You’ll make lifelong friends, and work with some incredibly inspiring people.
Depending on the time you get to the centre, you’ll be introduced to the fantastic team and founders, as well as your fellow volunteers and a few of the cheeky residents.
The team are all expert animal carers, and have been doing this work for a long time, so you’ll learn lots about the animals and South Africa. There are some excellent optional excursions organised for volunteer groups, and you’ll get to explore the best bits of your beautiful surroundings in your own time.
A typical day at the project
Looking after the animals is a round-the-clock job, so check with the team to find out when and where they need you most. You could be asked to do a number of tasks, which typically include:
- morning and afternoon feeds that involve unloading and preparing food before delivering crates of food to the enclosures and monitoring their food intake
- scrubbing and disinfecting enclosures to prevent illness
- working in the clinic and observing animal surgery
- helping to care for injured animals
- harvesting crops and indigenous plants to supplement the animals’ diets
- carrying out important research and data collection to help inform future care and release
- taking the monkeys on walks to the river to help prepare them for life in the wild
- building and repairing enclosures
There aren’t specific set hours for work, and everyone is expected to help out as and when required, come rain or shine, but you will have plenty of time to relax – and although the workload is plentiful, it’s fun and you’ll spend your days with other volunteers, the team at the centre, and of course adorably cheeky monkeys and other animals. Typically, Saturdays and Sundays are seen as rest days (as long as the animals have been fed), and are earmarked for fun and excursions. You’ll be able to head into town a couple of times during the week, and on Fridays the group usually heads off to the local pub for dinner (this is optional and not included in the cost of your trip).
Outside of your volunteering hours, you have the opportunity to explore the local area. The project staff can help you book trips and excursions locally at an extra cost.
- Return airport transfers
- All accommodation
- Three meals each day
- Weekly traditional South African braai (BBQ)
- Learn how to make traditional South African potjie
- Animal care training
- Animal feeding
- 24/7 emergency support
- Optional activities
You’ll be staying in very basic dorm-style volunteer huts set within the grounds of the rehabilitation centre with up to eight other volunteers – do bear in mind that the centre is out in the African bush, so facilities are pretty basic, and there will be wildlife on site other than those the centre is caring for at the time. The huts are usually split between sexes, but sometimes small groups prefer to share just one hut and all be together. If you’re travelling as a couple, separate accommodation can be arranged (subject to availability). Bedding and mosquito nets are provided but you’ll need to bring your own towel. Flush toilets and outdoor shower facilities are on site (but not always with hot running water – but cold showers are really refreshing when it’s hot!). Electricity runs throughout the site, so you’ll be able to charge phones and tablets – provided you bring a South African adaptor with you! Wifi is available between certain hours of the day, the laundry service can be used on certain days at a cost of 20R/£1.25 per load, and valuables can be kept in your locker so please ensure you bring a padlock with you.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner is provided each day and generally consists of toast, cereal, juice and coffee(with eggs, bacon, muffins, and yoghurt on occasion) for breakfast, various ingredients for you to make your own sandwiches at lunchtime, and prepared meals in the evening that include pasta, rice, meat, and vegetable dishes. On Fridays the team usually drives to the local pub and restaurant for dinner (which isn’t included in the cost of your trip), although if you prefer you can stay at the centre and use the kitchen facilities to make your own food. On Saturdays you’ll get to enjoy a traditional South African braai (BBQ) around the fire with meat, pap, and sheba, and on Sundays you’ll get to learn to make your own South African potjie. Do let us know if you have any dietary requirements when booking – there are plenty of delicious options for veggies and vegans, and the team can cater for gluten-free diets and other dietary needs as long as you let us know ahead of your trip.
You’ll need to arrange flights to Phalaborwa Airport, also known as Hendrik Van Eck Airport (PHW) to arrive on the first day of your trip. Our friendly local team will meet you at the airport to drive you to your accommodation at the project.
Please note, at present Phalaborwa airport is currently closed and therefore you should fly into Hoedspruit Airport instead. The local team will still collect you from Hoedspruit airport if you land there instead of Phalaborwa.
The minimum age for this trip is 18.
UK nationals don’t require a visa to enter South Africa for stays of up to 3 months. You should ensure that your passport will still be in date for six months after your return. All visa information is subject to change and you should consult the nearest High Commission or Embassy for the most up to date information.
Do I Need To Have Experience Working With Animals?
Nope! You’ll receive all the training you need at the rehabilitation centre; all we ask is that you’re fit and healthy and have a passion for animals.
How Many Volunteers Will Be At The Project At The Same Time As Me?
Group sizes vary, but on average there are usually 10-20 volunteers at the project, with a maximum capacity of 45 during the busiest periods.
Do I Need Shots/inoculations?
We’re not qualified to offer you medical advice, so it’s a good idea to visit your GP well ahead of time to find out what inoculations you might need. Remember to tell them which countries/regions you’re travelling to and the sorts of activities you’ll be taking part in – particularly when caring for animals. You’ll also need to make sure you have enough of any prescribed medication to see you through the duration of your trip.
How Much Spending Money Should I Bring With Me?
You won’t need much spending money with you on this programme, but do remember to budget for any optional activities or excursions you’d like to go on while you’re in South Africa, and bring some money for trips into town and to the markets. Around 1000R/£60 per week should be plenty, and there are ATMs available in town, so don’t carry large amounts of money around with you.
What Optional Activities/excursions Are Available?
Depending on weather and based on a minimum of four participants taking part in the activities, you’ll have the option to. Trips and prices do change from time-to-time, so please think of this list as a guide rather than a scheduled itinerary. You can get up to date information from the team at the project. Visit the biggest Baobab in the world – a mighty tree with a circumference of 46m 250R-400R/£16-£25. Visit a local cheetah project 180R/£11. Take a heart-stopping ride on the big swing over a 65m gorge drop 285R/£18. Go on a magical safari experience at Kruger National Park (with overnight stay) 3050R/£186. Microlight flight (priced locally).
Does The Rehabilitation Centre Take Donations?
If you’d like to contribute more than just your time, the centre is always in need of specific items, which you can bring with you or get while you’re in South Africa, if you like. Here are some suggestions of bits they’re always in need of: nappies (premature size), baby bottles (normal shape 125ml or 250ml), baby teats or puppy teats, bottle brushes, unused towels, heavy-duty rubber kitchen gloves, hand brushes, pens and notepads.
Due to Covid-19, many of our partners and suppliers across the globe are putting in place new procedures and policies regarding health and safety in response to the outbreak. These new measures will adapt and change as the state of travel evolves, and the policies and procedures will vary depending on each trip. Some changes that you may experience on our trips are:
Updated safety & hygiene procedures
Health and safety measures will be adapted by our partners and suppliers, dependent on local laws and restrictions.
Different transport & accommodation
You may find yourself on transport or in accommodation that would not typically be used, such as hostels that are more secluded, or on more private transport. This may vary by trip, or even by individual departure dates.
Most trips include a meeting on arrival with the guide or local team to discuss the trip, and this is an opportunity for you to ask any questions. You should arrive in time to attend these briefings.
Emergency support 24/7
We have a UK based 24/7 emergency phone line if you have a genuine urgent matter that you need attending.
Knowledgeable & Trained Staff
We can help answer any questions or concerns you may have before you depart. Whilst travelling the guide or local team on our trips are there to help, and to ensure the smooth running of our trips.
Should you require medical assistance whilst travelling, the local team or guide will be able to help you get to a point of care. Medical facilities and standards can vary across the glove, so you should ensure you have adequate travel insurance in place.
Varying group sizes
To begin with, many trips will run with amended group sizes, so you may find smaller groups than would be typical. This may vary by trip, or even by individual departure dates.
Whilst there may be changes on our trips, it is vital that you make travelling safer for yourself, your travel companions, the local staff and guides, and the people of the country you are visiting. You should follow all local laws and restrictions, and follow the guidance of the local team. In addition, you can help make travel safer by bringing and using your own face coverings/masks and hand sanitiser, social distance where appropriate, wash your hands frequently, and cover your face when coughing or sneezing.