Wildlife Sanctuary Volunteer In South Africa
I arrived in the evening on a Sunday night and was picked up from the airport and driven to the Sanctuary. Led into the kitchen, I was greeted by all the ravenous volunteers eating lovely home cooked Lasagne made by the staff! I was introduced to the owner of the Sanctuary who said 'welcome to the mad house!' which I soon realised was a very apt description! I felt at home within minutes, as I joined the other volunteers to eat our dinners, and exchanged stories about what they had already experienced in the sanctuary. Exhausted and excited, I headed off to bed where I was to sleep in my own private room, in the quaint wooden huts at the bottom of the park. Awaking to a chorus of hundreds of different bird songs, I was happy to see the sanctuary in the light of the lovely hot sunshine! At 7:30 we start the food rounds, which was a great way for me to have my first tour around, if I remember correctly I was on the Wallaby Route! On this route I got my first introduction to some of the beautiful birds rescued and re-homed, like the blue cranes and flamingos, and then taken to the Wallaby enclosure, where they hopped towards us, gently taking the bread we brought for them out of our hands!
After the morning food route is done, it's time for our breakfast, where we were also given the different tasks of the day. Everyone giggled when they heard that I was put on 'chicken dishes' (a lovely welcome to the sanctuary which consists of washing all the animals plates from their dinner the night before!) and then other tasks such as raking the macaws cage, filling up the water in the main aviary, giving the emu's a bath, or (my absolutely favourite) kitten duty!! Then once you've finished your tasks you are free to hang out in the sun, wander around the park, spend some time with the serval cats, hang out with Graham the squirrel (he is very feisty but has no teeth!), stare at Steve the crocodile trying to catch a glimpse of him moving (a very rare phenomenon!) playing with Marge the resident Ostrich, pose for pictures with the squirrel monkeys or meet Indie the Cheetah! Lunch is served at about 1:30, and then once you've eaten its time for another food route! After this you are usually free to do what you like, but there are some afternoon tasks such as another bout of chicken dishes, and clinic duty, where you'll check on any injured animals that are being treating. Then dinner is served at 6 and after that people either go to bed, as it is a rather tiring day, or hang out in the entertainment room watching a film, have a few drinks, play a board game or cards! Then the next day you start all over again!
Every day at the sanctuary varies, so you have to be ready for any new comers who may be injured and need care and attention, any baby animals that need looking after, or even a release of an animal that has been successfully rehabilitated and ready to go back to the wild. You'll always become attached to one animal, and everyone's is always different! Mine was Shakira the Serval kitten who I sat and played with everyday!
It's not particularly hard work, but you'll be kept busy as much or as little as you want!
You get two free days a week, and you can pick whether you want them put together or spaced out. The sanctuary is only a 30 minute drive from Jeffreys Bay, so usually people head into town to use the internet, go for dinner, lay on the beach, go surfing etc. But you can also go a bit further a field, and do a sky dive, a bungy jump, zip lining in a forest, horse riding on the beach, shark cage diving, visit an elephant sanctuary, a monkey sanctuary, and loads more!
The sanctuary relies almost solely on the support it gets from the volunteers. It doesn't receive much money from visitors, and there are so many animals, that without the volunteers there wouldn't be enough time in the day to look after. The people who run it are such wonderful people, they are caring and loving to all the animals, and they make the experience so much more special because you know you are supporting a great cause!