Experience hands-on volunteering with cheetahs, baboons, big cats and much more!
This project offers you the chance to travel and work as a volunteer at the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary with cheetahs, lions and other big cats. Much of Namibia is certified 'cheetah country,' and is home to one third of the world's entire cheetah population. With 95% of cheetahs living outside protected areas and on farmland, they are sadly often killed by landowners who regard them as a threat to their livestock.
About the project
The sanctuary itself is situated in a natural savannah paradise with riverine vegetation, lush grass plains and magnificent mountain views. The sanctuary currently provides a safe refuge for orphaned and injured wildlife as well as those that have had to be relocated away from local farms as they are seen as 'problem carnivores,' and can often be killed as a result.
Volunteers are key to the success of the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary. Whilst on the project you will be involved in all aspects of the sanctuary work including cheetah conservation, and will also help to rescue, care for, clean, feed and rehabilitate, leopards, lions, African wild dogs, caracals, baboons, and zebras. The sanctuary always aims to release as many animals as possible into safe conservation areas away from farmland. These animals are taken to one of the release sites to be reintroduced to the wild as soon as they can be to avoid too much human familiarity. Since opening in 2008, 40 carnivores have been released, and the number is always growing. These re-located carnivores are then monitored via tracking collars and GPS in order to assess their welfare within the new regions in which they have been released.
This project directs all its efforts towards the long term rehabilitation of animals within the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary. Sadly, not all of the animals housed here are able to be released back into the wild, as many are orphaned and have been hand raised and therefore have become too used to captivity. Not only do volunteers help make these animals' lives as good as possible, but they may also get the rare opportunity to work alongside the big cat experts and Bushman trackers in the conservation research program. This involves the monitoring and tracking of a number of leopard and cheetah within the local area, taking part in game counts for data collection, or preparing for new arrivals into the sanctuary.
This project is perfectly suited to those looking to engage in hands on conservation work at an ever growing wildlife sanctuary, and if you chose to become a Namibia volunteer, you will not only be creating lifelong memories for yourself, but for the animals too.
Prior to Arrival
In order to volunteer in Africa at the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary you will need to apply for a work visa before travel. We will provide further information and documents for this upon booking. We can also put you in touch with an agent in Namibia who can organise this for you.
You will need to fly into Windhoek International Airport (also known as Hosea Kutako International Airport) on your project start day between 7am - 5pm. There are several daily flights here from the South Africa hub cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town, as well as daily flights from a range of international destinations.
Upon arrival into Windhoek Airport you will be met by a project representative in the arrivals hall and transferred to the project site. The transfer is a drive of approximately 45 minutes. Once at the sanctuary you will settle in to your accommodation and spend rest of the day at the site meeting with other volunteers and volunteer coordinators before joining an orientation talk.
On your typical working days you will work from approximately 8 am to 4 or 5 pm and have the evenings off. As the animals need to be fed and cared for during the weekends as well, you will also work on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Typical day tasks include all aspects of the sanctuary work, like help to rescue, care for, clean, feed and rehabilitate cheetahs, leopards, lions, African wild dogs, caracals, baboons, and zebras. You will have the opportunity to take part in most if not all of the below activities on a rotational basis. There may also be additional activities that you can get involved with once at the sanctuary.
This, as you can imagine, is one of the most important activities at the sanctuary. You will be responsible for preparing the food for and feeding all of the animals each day. Fruit, vegetables, meat, food leftovers (anything that can be recycled here will be!), miele pap (a kind of porridge), and milk formula for the little ones are used to feed the baboons and farm animals.
Volunteers are also able to experience carnivore-feeds with lions, leopards, semi-tame and wild cheetahs, and even with rare African wild dogs. You will also get to hand-feed the resident meerkats, which is a truly fantastic experience.Volunteers are also able to experience carnivore-feeds with lions, leopards, semi-tame and wild cheetahs, and even with rare African wild dogs. You will also get to hand-feed the resident meerkats, which is a truly fantastic experience.
As there are a large number of baby baboons resident at the centre you will be encouraged to help look after them, this will almost definitely include taking a walk across the beautiful veldt with the baby and junior baboons, an activity which is often a highlight for many volunteers. As part of the project you may also be needed to help feed them.
This is often volunteers' favourite activity. You will get to spend part of each day playing with and looking after some of the animals on the farm. These interactions include one on one time with the semi-tame cheetah cubs (only when there are cubs needing care, this cannot be guaranteed) along with many other animals.
The growing sanctuary needs constant repair and building work. Volunteers may be required to help with these tasks which include: constructing new enclosures as animals arrive, border fence patrols and de-bushing to remove invasive alien plant species.
Clever Cubs School
On the site of the sanctuary is the Clever Cubs School. This is here to help educate the children of the local San tribe as well as some of the children whose parents work at the sanctuary. Volunteers will spend one afternoon a week working with the schoolchildren in the Clever Cubs school, helping to teach them English and games!
Stay in the watch tower for the night and watch the sunrise over the sanctuary grounds. volunteers will sleep in shifts, or can try and stay up together playing a wild game of eye spy!
Game Count by Horseback
This new activity offers you the chance to ride horses to do a game count of animals in the area. Animals that are usually skittish around vehicles allow the horses to get a lot closer, and it is a much more economically friendly way of getting the job done! (This activity will not run between 25th July and 5th September due to the horses needing their vaccinations).
A typical day at our Wildlife Sanctuary
7:00 am: Breakfast
8:00 am: Meeting with fellow volunteers and coordinators
8:30 am: Morning activities, distributed on a rotational basis
1:00 pm: Lunch break
2:30 pm: Afternoon activities
5:00 pm: Work is finished
6:00 pm: Dinner
After fond farewells on your last day with us, you will be transferred from the project site to Windhoek airport for your return flight, or to commence your independent travel plans.
Whilst on the project, you have the weekday evenings and Saturday and Sunday afternoons to relax (please note however that the animals still need to be fed on the weekends). This time can be spent enjoying activities such as a nature walk, swimming, playing football against the bushman workers, or an eco-challenge competing in groups. This is usually followed by a traditional braai (barbeque).
There are also some very special trips that we offer for an additional charge:
Ancient San Skills
Visit the San people and learn some of their ancient skills! (N$250 - £12.50) Nobody knows and understands the vast and dry southern African landscape better than the San people. Their expertise in understanding animals, plants and spoors is second to none. This activity is dependent upon enough volunteers wanting to participate and availability during busy periods.
Neuras Conservation and Research Site OR Kanaan Conservation and Research Site
For an additional £70 you can swap one of your weeks at The Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary for a week exploring a mountainous area of Namibia (Saturday-Saturday) or the Namibian desert!
African Wild Dog & Elephant Monitoring at Mangetti
If you want to make your trip to Namibia even more unique and special, then you can add a week at the Mangetti Research Site for just £70. Here you will take part in crucial elephant and African wild dog monitoring to help observe the behaviour of the animals and to note any patterns in their movements, group composition, and even mating habits. Through tracking and monitoring these animals, one of the aims is to be able to change the perception of local farmers who see them as a threat to their livelihood. Elephants are known to raid crops and African wild dogs pose a threat to the livestock on farms, so by working with the farmers to raise awareness of best practice when dealing with these animals you will help to make a difference. A weeks stay at Mangetti is a great way to see a side of Namibia which very few others have had the chance to.
On your project start day between 7am - 5pm, where you will be met on arrival and transferred to the project. This transfer will take approximately 45 minutes.
There are 2 accommodation options, volunteer rooms with up to two people (of the same gender) sharing and large tents with a bedroom and communal area to be shared by 2 volunteers (of the same gender or a couple). Although we can take requests for which accommodation is preferred, we cannot guarantee this selection as this will be subject to availability.
Showers and toilet facilities are communal and hot water is supplied by solar energy, therefore please be aware that it is sometimes restricted.
We also have 6 luxury chalets and a tranquil dining area with stunning views, a bar and a swimming pool. You can choose to upgrade your accommodation and stay at the lodge over the weekend or at the end of your stay.
Three meals a day are provided at the sanctuary with tea and coffee freely available throughout the day. Breakfast includes toast and cereal, lunch includes pasta, wraps, burgers or stir-frys, and evening dinners include meat, fish, vegetables, rice, potatoes and pasta. On weekends there is often a braai (barbecue). A vegetarian option is also always available. Other drinks and snacks can be purchased at the Sanctuary for an additional fee including alcoholic beverages. Lots of volunteers also take the opportunity to visit the lodge for a delicious buffet lunch on a Sunday.