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Plan My Gap Year

Monkey Rehabilitation Helper

Pretoria Central, South Africa show on map

This programme provides a unique experience to interact with primates and develop understandings as to why the sanctuary is so important to the recovery of the monkeys.

The Programme

Traditionally and culturally it is common practise for primates to be hand reared in South Africa and kept as domestic pets from only a few days old onwards. However, the lasting effects this domesticating process has on the primates is not very well understood or indeed managed well. Once domesticated hand reared primates develop and their behaviours can change quite dramatically and are often prone to becoming more aggressive, confused and agitated; with the reasons that underpin this, which are often not understood by the owners. The results of these challenging behaviours that the primates exhibit were traditionally quite sombre. Primates would then become neglected, passed on to unwitting new owners or even euthanized.

The underlying reasons behind the developments of such challenging behaviours for hand reared primates is due to isolation from other primates who exist in a natural living environment. Once primates are isolated they become growingly confused and as a consequence attack the people around them.

After months of research by the sanctuary founder into primates being kept as pets and hand reared across South Africa and learning the scale of the effects this had, the primate sanctuary was established in 1996 to counteract the results of primate neglect and to provide a culture of education across South African people who engaged in hand rearing of primates that previously ceased to exist.

Around 90 per cent of the monkeys are willingly given up by the owners as they become aware of the problems the monkeys become for them as they get older. The ultimate goal is to educate the people to stop the primates entering the pet trade altogether and instead recognition of them as the wild animals that they are.

The goal of the sanctuary is to provide a safe place for all these vulnerable monkeys to come to and interact. The sanctuary was the first of its kind and has always maintained an ethos of protecting primates from visitors/tourism as the project is not open to public to give the primates peace and quiet for as close to a normal life as possible and to enable natural behaviours for the monkeys.

Ultimately the levels of damage done from hand rearing and the issues generated because of this means unfortunately the monkeys are too vulnerable and too disturbed and not mentally developed enough to return to the wild. With volunteer support and a strong and stable structure at the sanctuary, the project aims to give these primates as much as their wildlife back as possible through spacious enclosures, well managed routines and thorough care and attention processes.

What started with just a few marmosets from the local area at the project, has spiralled into a sanctuary of many monkey species from across the globe and a volunteer network to support the passionate project founders work. The systems at the project are designed to ensure safe working practises for volunteers and long-term volunteers are in place to lead and delegate the day to day activitie.


Your Contribution

Volunteers play a key role in the protection and wellbeing of the primates. Not only do the Programme Fees play a key role in the maintenance and upkeep of the project financially, but the following are all key aspects of the volunteer role to enabling such environment:


With anywhere from 50 to 100 plus primates at one time; preparing and delivering food to the monkeys really is quite the operation. From buying the food at the local markets, to cutting and prepping for all the meals to then delivering each specific meal type from the kitchen to each enclosure; volunteers are integral to keeping the monkeys well fed! Porridge, fresh fruit and marshmallows are just a few popular delicacies! What better way to finish a morning feed by taking in the South African sunrise?

Cleaning and Maintenance

With 45 enclosures on site; keeping them well maintained is crucial to ensuring hygiene and wellbeing for the primates. This includes sweeping the floors, removing weeds, bleaching the surfaces and adhering to any wear and tear across the enclosures. Our longer-term volunteers are on hand to ensure the primates are distanced from you at this time to allow for a deep clean! Volunteers may also get involved with the building of new enclosures, too.


Naturally for a variety of circumstances there is frequent times where primates require medicines to return to good health. The dispensing, delivering and recording of the medicines and updates on the primate’s health conditions is down the volunteers. The primates can often be wise and put off by the smells or the taste of the medicine and you will learn different methods along the way on how to get around this!


After a few days at the project you will soon be on first name terms and making friends with all the primates at the sanctuary! Observing and recording behaviours, actions and the day to day routines of the primates allows for good monitoring of trends and early identification of any health changes or problems that might be occurring for each primate. Getting to know the different monkey personalities across the different species is a great experience!

Introduction and Socialisation

The introduction of primates to enclosures or socialisation of primates across enclosures can be a very delicate process. When these situations occur, volunteers will often spend long periods of time observing and monitoring how these disturbed monkeys and their vulnerable natures settle into their new environment, the behaviours they display and escalating trends and data where appropriate for any follow ups that may be required.

Monkey Interaction

This is definitely one of the highlights of the week. Usually a weekly opportunity, volunteers get a chance to get up close and personal with monkeys that are safe enough to have close up human interaction. A full briefing takes place before volunteers enter the enclosure, but this really is a great experience to interact with the monkeys, feed them some snacks and also get some great photos, too!

Baby Monkey Assistance

Sometimes baby monkeys can arrive at the sanctuary who need almost 24/7 TLC in the early stages of their life. Volunteers assist in this process to ensure that after a few weeks the monkey is in a strong enough position to integrate with other monkeys. Part of this will see you attend ‘monkey school’ alongside the baby monkeys as they learn in small parts to have interaction with the slightly older kindergarten monkeys.

Details on Arrival

The programme starts on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month.

You should book your flights to Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport (airport code JNB) on the selected Sunday start date. You will be met at the airport by one of our local staff or an appointed driver who will be holding a named sign. They will take you to your accommodation where you will spend the rest of your day at leisure.

The programme ends on the Saturday of your final week.

Free-time activities

You’ll have plenty of opportunity to travel during your time with PMGY. In fact, we encourage you to travel during your free time. All of our programmes have been designed so that you have weekends off. This gives you the opportunity to explore the local area or even travel further afield within your host country. Our local coordinators will provide you with all the travel tips you need to help you plan any independent adventures.

Furthermore, you’re going to meet so many new people during your time with PMGY that you’ll definitely meet some travel buddies along the way!

Before booking your flights we recommend that you look into travel opportunities within the relevant country either side of your volunteering placement. It is always great to spend some time travelling and seeing more of the country you wish to volunteer in. If you do plan to travel extensively please factor this into your flight itinerary, as we only encourage travel during weekends while you’re volunteering as you have made a commitment to the project.


Program Requirements

In order to join the program you need to be at least 18 years old on the program start date. There might be exemptions if you can provide the permission of your legal guardian(s) or if your are accompanied by your parents.
Language Skills
You need to speak English (intermediate level)
Criminal Background Check
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
You should also be physically fit, as volunteering overseas can be quite strenuous. If you have any medical/mental health conditions that may affect your participation overseas then these must be declared to us during your online application.
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday

Suitable for


Included Services

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Our services are free of charge!
All program fees are charged directly by Plan My Gap Year.

Before your journey

Profound consulting and ongoing support (free)
Plan My Gap Year (your host organization) provides consulting and is keen to answer all your questions. Once you reserved your spot, you will receive the contact details of your volunteer project.
Online preparation course (optional, from $49)
Prepare yourself and become a confident and well informed traveler. Global Travel Academy takes you on a journey before you leave home, helping you to become one of the world's greatest travelers. Our trusted partner for online learning offers courses in "International Volunteering", "Travel Health & Safety" and "Travel Safety Abroad".

On-site services

Services by Plan My Gap Year
  • Accommodation
  • Airport pickup
  • In-country orientation
  • 24 hour in-country support
  • 24 hour UK-based support
  • Comprehensive volunteer handbook
  • Live pre-departure webinars
  • Certificate of completion
Airport Pickup at O.R. Tambo International Airport

The transfer time from the airport to the project site is around 45 minutes.


During your time with PMGY you will live in our volunteer accommodation which is around a 40 minute taxibus from the centre of Pretoria where you will find restaurants, malls, convenience stores and ATMs. You’ll be living with other volunteers from around the world, so you’ll make plenty of friends along the way.

The accommodation is basic but comfortable. Each room has either single or bunk beds with up to 8 people per room in mixed rooms. Volunteers are provided with bedding and are advised to bring some warm clothes as temperatures can drop through the night. Mosquito nets can be provided on request and a washing machine is available. You are also welcome to bring your own mats if you want some extra comfort.

Bathrooms are shared, have a shower and western style toilet. The water is hot but this can also be intermittent.

We encourage you to bring some small padlocks for your suitcase and/or store any valuables with our local team in their private area. There will also be fridge space available for volunteers to store any items they need to keep chilled. Volunteers are advised to note that cupboard space is not readily available within the bedrooms.

There are communal areas across the accommodation where volunteers can relax and socialize both indoors and outdoors. A swimming pool is also located within walking distance from the accommodation which volunteers have access to.

The volunteer accommodation is located right next to where our local team live and on the same site to where we run the project. Although volunteers have their own private space there is still the security of living next to our local team and volunteer co-ordinators who can assist you if need be. It is also a great way to learn more about the history and developments of the primate rescue programme at all times of the day!

Please note that the accommodation volunteers live in also has dogs and cats on site.

During our busiest months (June to September) you may be placed at alternative accommodation. This could be a nearby guesthouse or one of our summer Volunteer Houses.

Meals are not included in the volunteer Programme Fees and as such operate in a self-catering format. There is a kitchen with cooking facilities including ovens and hobs for volunteers to prepare meals as well as fridge and cupboard space for storage purposes.

Usually volunteers will travel a couple times a week on average to a nearby supermarket to buy food supplies and snacks. If you fancy eating out Pretoria offers a vibrant arena to facilitate this with many malls and western restaurants to choose from around 30 minutes from the accommodation.

Internet Access
Sorry, no access at the project site
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees. Food, snacks or beverages are at extra costs.
Flight Tickets
The nearest airport is O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) in Johannesburg. We assist you to find cheap flights to South Africa.
Travel Insurance
Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for South Africa provides security and is a plus to have.
If you are intending to volunteer in South Africa you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for South Africa.
Costs (Prices in USD)
1 week (min. stay)
2 weeks
3 weeks
4 weeks
6 weeks
8 weeks
10 weeks
12 weeks (max. stay)
Average fees

You can volunteer at the project site in Pretoria Central/South Africa between 1 week and 12 weeks. Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. Plan My Gap Year will let you know about the final price during your application process.
Crowdfunding Service
Generally, volunteering abroad involves certain costs. In case you need financial support, we will assist you to fundraise your volunteer program in South Africa.
Deposit (15%)
The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.
Final Payment (85%)
Your final payment will be agreed with Plan My Gap Year during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.
  Africa Southern Africa South Africa  Pretoria Central, N/a

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