Volunteering in South Africa

South Africa placement details

Here’s what you need to know to plan your trip to the sanctuary.

About the Project

Come and join this peaceful project, caring for South African monkeys. Situated close to Pretoria, this monkey sanctuary is a rare opportunity to interact closely with cute, lovable monkeys. There are all sorts of different species of monkeys living in the sanctuary from the Marmosets and Tamarins to the squirrel monkey. At this small and friendly sanctuary, all volunteers will get an exciting opportunity to be involved with all aspects of the daily routine, from bottle feeding, medical care to monitoring their behaviour. The project provides a great experience that allows you to be really hands on with the overall care of the monkeys and the overall organisation of a busy animal sanctuary. Many of the monkeys are brought here after having been kept as pets and sadly can not be returned to the wild. Volunteers will fill a much needed role as there never seem to be enough hours in the day and there are always new arrivals.


Health, safety and support

How safe will I be at the sanctuary?

You will be very safe at the project, all volunteers and the sanctuary management team live together on-site. The area is a quieter rural area just outside of Pretoria, with none of the problems encountered in some of the larger South African cities.

How can I look after my health?

Unlike much of Africa, South Africa does not require malaria tablets and many of the jabs usually needed. The most common health annoyances are between November and March when the sun can be at its strongest, so take sensible precautions by covering up as you will be outside at the project more than you would on a community teaching project. Long sleeved shirts are a good idea to protect your arms when the monkeys are crawling around on you!

What level of support is provided?

An English-speaking management team live on-site and are there at all times to introduce you to the daily routine and assist you should you need it anytime. They organise the week’s rota and will assist you with any support from volunteering to arranging a doctors appointment. The local team are passionate about their work and helping you to be the same too, what they do not know about the animals in their care is not worth knowing.

Getting there

Do I need a visa?

British passport holders do not require a visa before travel to South Africa for short stays. If you hold a different passport and require a visa, we will provide you with supporting letters of introduction to assist your visa application.

Travel with others

How can I meet other volunteers before I go?

We can buddy you up with others going around the same time. You can also take a look at the Travel Buddy List and use the Facebook community:

  • Add yourself to the Buddy List to meet other volunteers, travel together or simply find a familiar face when you arrive.
  • Join the volunteer community on Facebook and like the page to receive recent pictures from projects and other interesting stories and updates.

We consider this project ideal if you…

  • Love animals and want to learn more about monkeys.
  • Love the outdoors and practical hands on work.
  • Want to be busy and involved.
  • Want to experience jaw dropping scenery and endless attractions in this amazingly diverse country.

Free Time in South Africa

Volunteers help at the sanctuary for 5 days out of 7 so there is plenty of time to fit in an activity in your free time. The local team will assist and point you in the right direction for where to go and what to do.


Kruger National Park. If your budget can stretch to a tour, squeeze one in, you won’t be disappointed!

Kruger National Park

4 days from £315

Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in the whole of Africa, covering more than 7,000 square miles, with the Big Five and with the greatest concentration of large mammals, at 147 species. If you can stretch to a visit – it is a must or you may regret it when you learn later what you missed out on!

Most visitors are on self-drives around the park staying at pre-booked accommodation at designated campsites and lodges. For visitors without a vehicle, the park offers organised tours from £600 upwards, but an independent operator can offer the same at around £315 for 4 days. Ask your coordinator how to organise.

Price for package 4 days from £315.


OV volunteer horse-riding in free time close to the sanctuary. The area is popular for horse-riding and there are many trails over easy ground.

Horse trails

Price from £18

The Pretoria region is horse country so even if you have never ridden before, why not try a gentle walk and trot amongst incredible scenery at a nature reserve close to Pretoria.

There are many stables offering rides for all abilities including moonlit rides. Wear denims and use sunscreen if riding Oct – April.

Price from just £18.

Hatfield shopping centre close to the sanctuary, a popular weekend hang out for volunteers.

Retail therapy

Bus and snack £5

If you are feeling that after your hard work with the primates you are in need of some retail therapy take a trip to Hatfield Shopping Centre in Pretoria for cafes, shops and a film at one of the Nu Metro cinemas.

Rietvlei Nature Reserve

Entrance £2.50

If you can’t stretch to visit the Kruger park, make a day trip to Rietvlei just 10  minutes drive from Pretoria with over 1600 animals including rhino, wildebeest and zebras.

Guided hikes and horse trails available. It is a popular day trip for local people as well as visitors. There is a coffee shop. Entrance is approx. £2.50 but it is best to hire a driver to take you round.

Two rescued adult Marmosets. Volunteers help create activities to keep them mentally stimulated. Without extra games they are prone to anxiety and confusion following a life as pets alongside humans.

The enclosures at the sanctuary. Practical volunteers can help to maintain and build new as the sanctuary grows.

Project resources and advice

The sanctuary has most of the basic resources that it needs. Interested volunteers may like to help with the purchase of animal food, after arrival.

What other things will I be doing at the sanctuary?

Short stay volunteers are needed to do top ups, supplements and pellets everyday. Cutting hay and digging ditches is also an essential part of the work. There have been two quite serious fires in recent dry years and ditches are the only way to prevent them affecting the sanctuary and to keep everyone and the animals safe.

Will I be able to play with and cuddle the monkeys?

There has been some difference of opinion on this question over the years! Whilst the project manager sustains the position that officially contact is not recommended, many volunteers have told us in their feedback that they were able to hold them and indeed we have photographic evidence of this. It is probable that some animals are occasionally in a position to be handled with permission, perhaps the elderly or young. If in doubt check with the project manager first rather than another volunteer, to avoid any possible negative effect on animal development!

Local facilities

The nearest city, Pretoria, has all the local facilities of any large modern city that are needed, including banks, doctors, shopping malls, cafes and other amenities.

Health when working with animals

Will I need any jabs for volunteering?

Unlike other more northern African countries the risk of disease is considerably lower. This area is not a region with malaria-carrying mosquitoes which is great news. All the animals arriving at the sanctuary are quarantined so you will not require a rabies shot before travel. For all the usual health complaints that you might have at home or whilst volunteering, there is a doctor close by and a hospital should you need the use of one, the co-ordinators will help you with a transfer. Make sure your travel insurance covers medical bills abroad, because the flu or your appendix will not wait for you to get home!

What to take

What do I need to take with me?

Strong or old dark coloured clothes that the monkeys can dribble on or tug at is a good idea. Gardening gloves might be useful together with trainers. If you are staying between May and September check the current weather forecast as it can be quite cold at night during this time. A warm sleeping bag, pyjamas and bed socks will be ideal bed companions in addition to jumpers, scarves and gloves. Most volunteers will eat out or make a trip to the shopping centre, so do bring your usual smart casual clothes with you too. Some volunteers have recommended a pair of Crocs in the winter worn with socks, not very fashionable perhaps but apparently practical. 

Not on your own

Will I be on my own?

Although some volunteers travel with friends, most travel alone. It is possible to get in contact with other volunteers before your travel, and a lot of people tend to do this. Some volunteers meet up on the Buddy List then travel together. But even if there is a gap in volunteers at some point in your stay you will always have the staff and little monkeys with you for company!


Volunteer with a rescued baby monkey.

Fast facts – Project information

Project Duration: Min 2 weeks – long stays welcome.
Location of project: Just outside Pretoria.
Arrival Airport: Johannesburg.
Activities: General day-to-day care of monkeys include, cleaning cages, feeding, cutting hay, digging fire break ditches.
Working Hours: Full time – 5 days out of 7 day week.
Getting to the project: Airport pick-up and transfer to the volunteer house is automatically arranged for all volunteers, once flights have been received.
Requirements: Minimum age 18 on arrival.

On arrival

What happens on arrival?

Once we receive your flight details a pick-up will automatically be arranged from Johannesburg, so when you land someone will be waiting at the airport for you. The co-ordinator or the regular driver will pick you up and take you directly to the sanctuary. If you are travelling from elsewhere overland we will put you in touch with the local team to organise a pick up when you get close or directions to make your own way.


Are meals provided?

Meals are self-catered. There is a shopping mall about ten minutes away by taxi, where you can buy food and supplies. Volunteers have recently been using a home delivery service in the evenings for about £2 per hot meal. Also, in the same area there is a café where many volunteers eat.

Free time

Will I have free time?

Volunteers work together on a rota because the animals require care 7 days a week. Two days are allowed per week for time out, but if there is a longer tour you would like to make, simply speak to the volunteer coordinator about taking some extra time out. There are many sights to see and experience in South Africa. These include The Lion Park, The Open Air Museum and Kruger National Park. It is also possible to arrange a horse ride through the game park. Scroll down to the free time section for options and costs.

Getting around

How will I get around on my days off?

Taxi is a quick and easy way to get around the area. To get a taxi from the Monkey Sanctuary to the nearest town would cost on average about £6 and can be shared.

Communication with home

Can I take my phone?

Unlock your phone before travel to be able to use a foreign SIM and purchase a local SIM car after arrival.

Is there a payphone I can use?

There is a public payphone close to the volunteer accommodation.

Can I email home?

There is currently an internet cafe 10 minutes drive from the sanctuary within the Savannah Centre.

Getting back to the airport

How will I get back to the airport?

The project manager will help organise this for you with their regular driver for approximately £38, or 700 South African Rand.

South Africa Project costs

What are the costs after I have registered and booked my space?

After you have booked your place the weekly costs are £175 which includes accommodation on site at the project. All volunteers purchase return flights to Johannesburg airport (airport name O.R. Tambo, airport code JNB) The airport pick up is organised for you and is payable on arrival. This is currently £38 (or 700 South African Rand). Insurance is required, most policies for a 2 week stay will cost about £30 but shop around to get the best deal. Make sure the policy covers medical bills and repatriation. You should allow between £40 and £60 per week for meals and a day out.

How and when do I need to pay for my project?

An invoice is sent by email shortly after we receive your flights and can be paid at any time up to 4 weeks before travel.

What happens after you have booked?

  • As soon as you have booked with the once-only £125 registration fee (this covers one or more projects within a year), you will receive a welcome email confirming your booking and explaining in more detail how to get organised for you trip.
  • We will Buddy you up with another volunteer going to the South Africa volunteer programme arriving around the same time so you should have a good chance to travel together if you wish to
  • You will also receive a Welcome Pack with some useful information which will include project specific advice on what to take, how to prepare and travel health recommendations

Below is an example timeline for a volunteer travelling in July 2018

At anytime : As soon as you have registered with us get return flights to Johannesburg airport for any day any time. The sanctuary operates all week so there is no preferred best day to arrive although it is a good idea to arrive during daylight hours to enjoy the views on your journey to the sanctuary. Transfer time from the airport to the sanctuary is around 50 – 60 minutes if traffic good. Skyscanner.net is the preferred search website by our volunteers to find and buy flights. If you are travelling overland from elsewhere in Africa, shortly before you travel we will put you in touch with your South Africa volunteer coordinator to arrange a suitable meeting point/pick up point.
Add yourself to the Buddy List to meet other volunteers, travel together or simply find a familiar face when you arrive.
Join the volunteer community on Facebook to see recent pictures from projects and other interesting stories and updates.
May : contact your travel nurse or travel clinic to make appointments for jabs and boosters (for more information on what is typically recommended please refer to the NHS website fitfortravel). Malaria tablets are not required for this region of South Africa. A rabies jab is not required as all animals coming into the sanctuary are quarantined before volunteers start to care for them.
June : Arrange suitable travel insurance – make sure your policy includes medical bills, an appendicitis could happen at any time and is no respecter of which country you are in!
No visa is required before travel for South Africa for UK passport holders. If you require a visa – contact us if you require letters of introduction which we can prepare for you.
As soon as you have flights to Johannesburg: Upload your flight following the link in the Welcome Pack to organise your pick up.
At anytime : pay for your project costs – we will send you an invoice by email to pay online – don’t worry we will send you a reminder if you forget! 100% of your weekly project payment goes straight to the sanctuary.
We will organise your pick up and transfer from Johannesburg airport automatically when we receive your flights.

South Africa at a glance

The Republic of South Africa (also known by other official names) is a country located at the southern tip of Africa. It borders the Atlantic and Indian oceans and Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Lesotho, an independent enclave surrounded by South African territory. South Africa has experienced a different history from other nations in Africa because of early immigration from Europe and the strategic importance of the Cape Sea Route.

Parks not to missed for jaw dropping scenery and wildlife include: Cango Caves, Kruger National Park, Blyde River canyon Reserve and Kgalagagi Transfrontier Park (semi-desert). In Jo’Burg the popular tourist destinations include: Gold Reef City Theme Park, the Apartheid Museum and Wanderers Cricket Ground. Then in Cape Town Don’t miss Robben Island the prison museum and a ride in the Table Top Mountain Cable Car.

Arts festivals: September and October (Jo’burg Jazz festival late Sep)
Climate: Hottest months are between October-February with the driest months between April-September
Time difference from UK: GMT +1hrs


South Africa has a temperate climate. The highest average temperature is 26 Celsius, with the lowest being 7.8 Celsius.

Want to know more?

If you have any questions big or small on any aspect of the monkey sanctuary project or would like to check available dates please contact us at the earliest opportunity as this project receives volunteers from all over the world and fills quickly.Alternatively complete an easy enquiry form with your contact details and we’ll be in touch asap! If you would like to help children in Africa you may like to look at our popular Ghana and Morocco programmes.

Placement at a glance

Age 18yrs+ on arrival
Volunteer options Volunteer in South Africa helping at busy monkey sanctuary with animal care and general site maintenance
Support Pre-departure helpdesk, in-country coordinating team and 24hr emergency support
Accommodation Shared dormitory on project site
Working hours 5 days out of 7
Minimum stay 2 weeks.
Project operates All year round.
When to apply As early as possible as places limited
Costs£175 per week, includes on site accommodation and local support & £125 (Registration to join OV which provides a year of volunteering without registering again)
Airport Pick-up ServiceNo need to make your own way from the airport. Our volunteer airport pick up and transfer service is available from Johannesburg airport for all volunteers approx. £35 payable on arrival.

Accommodation info

  • Shop 15 minutes Shop 15 minutes
  • Bars 15 minutes Bars 15 minutes
  • Chemist 20 minutes Chemist 20 minutes
  • Bus 5 minutes Bus 5 minutes
  • Taxis 5 minutes Taxis 5 minutes
  • Cash machine In town Cash machine In town
  • Bank in town Bank in town
  • Pay phone 15 minutes Pay phone 15 minutes
  • Internet access 20 minutes Internet access 20 minutes
  • Laundry on-site + small fee Laundry on-site + small fee

Basics, what to take?

  • Adaptor
  • Bedding and toiletries

More info

Accommodation is on-site in large mixed dormitory rooms sleeping in the summer as many as 16 (8 bunk beds) so you won’t be short for company if visiting between June and August! There is also a large, modern communal kitchen, which everyone can use.

Please note that sleeping arrangements are quite basic in order that there is more funding left to both care for and expand the sanctuary’s facilities for the animals they support. If you are looking for more dorm space and a little more privacy, a visit between October and March would be ideal.

The project manager and volunteer co-ordinator live on site.

Meet the project team

The team – South Africa

The project’s owner and support staff all live on site so help is never far away!

The benefits of your local in-country team

What is a volunteer coordinator?

Every project has a volunteer coordinator. This is the person responsible for organising your volunteering and looking after your welfare needs during your stay and they are all English speaking.

What experience do volunteer coordinators have?

All our coordinators are local people with knowledge and experience gained over many years of supporting volunteers. They have a deep knowledge of their local community, providing an invaluable source of information.

9 in 10 coordinators at our destinations have between 5 – 7 years experience and 7 in 10 of our coordinators have supported more than a thousand volunteers each (current as of August 2013).

If they don’t know where to buy Parmesan cheese when the shops are shut, no one will!

Who are volunteer coordinators?

At some destinations the volunteer coordinator will also be the manager/director of the project you are volunteering if you are based in one location. Examples of manager/coordinator projects will be Kenya-Mombasa/Peru/Cambodia/South Africa/Argentina/Uganda/India.

Some destinations require an independent volunteer coordinator because there are many projects volunteers go to. Independent coordinators will organise a variety of placements at many different projects in the local community throughout your visit. He/she will liaise with all the projects/schools/hospitals on your behalf to organise schedules for your volunteer group. Examples of volunteer programmes are: Morocco/Ghana/Tanzania/Kenya-Masai/Malawi/Mexico-Merida/Ecuador.

Thailand and Nepal offer a mix of both.

Is there only one volunteer coordinator?

Coordinators have other staff supporting them, from drivers to housekeepers, and cooks and assistant coordinators.

Support team size varies between project type and time of year. The typical size of any support team will be 5 – 7. There may also be a long stay volunteer helping out

The Uganda school project had at last count 15 local staff supporting volunteers which ranged from security to water carriers!

What do coordinators do?

Airport pick up

Your in-country coordinator will organise your pick up and make sure you get to the volunteer house as smoothly as possible. If your coordinator does not meet volunteers from the airport, their trusted regular driver will be sent to meet you.

Liaise with local projects

If you are on a mixed volunteer programme (Morocco/Ghana/Tanzania/Kenya-Masai/Malawi/Mexico-Merida/Ecuador) your coordinator will be regularly liaising with the projects you will be going to today, this week and next, organising suitable times and communicating schedules to the volunteer group.

Help organise specific placements

Coordinators will also ensure that volunteers with special preferences eg. medical/building can get involved as fully as possible in their preferred area of work.

Show you around and help you to locate things

Need a Sim card? Want to buy some paintbrushes for an art session tomorrow? Speak to your coordinator – they will advise on where, how to get there and prices.

Provide an orientation on arrival

Your coordinator or their local team will provide an orientation on arrival of what’s where and how to get started. This may take the form of a more formal meeting for all new arrivals by your coordinator or through informal advice for new arrivals from staff, long stay volunteers, handouts, information on the noticeboard as per needs dictate.

This will usually include any important cultural awareness if this may affect your stay. For example bare tummies should be covered in Ghana for example otherwise the children won’t stop giggling!

Help you when things go wrong

We are often asked what happens when things go wrong. Your local team are the experts on getting you the help you need immediately. They have seen it all before (in a nice way) and are well experienced in looking after hundreds of volunteers each year with all the usual niggles from sunburn to upset tummies. Whether you need a doctor in the night for sickness or you want to try out a new project or move bedroom or volunteer house.

If you have remembered to print off your project contact details and leave them with family (these are sent before travel to all volunteers) – your family can also contact the coordinator directly. Or they can call us and we can put them in touch.

But if you need further assistance or advice we are here to help you. Contact us straightaway and we might be able to make the niggly issues go away.

For any country related crises which may occur which would require volunteers to return home, your coordinator and their team will ensure everyone is safely escorted to the airport or Embassy as per the advice provided by each volunteer’s government together with any additional support that may be required.

Help you when you feel unwell

Coordinators are the first port of call if you think you may need medical assistance. They will organise an escort to the local clinic/hospital and make sure you are well treated. They can also contact home and will be happy to speak to parents to explain how you are. If you are volunteering alone, they may also stay with you in the hospital or request that a member of their staff and a volunteer keep you company as it can be quite daunting to be in a foreign hospital, even if it is only an infected mosquito bite!

Most health problems are minor and with a day or two’s bed rest either at the volunteer house or the local hospital and plenty of water, most volunteers are back to their normal selves again.

While on the subject of hospitals – make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance to cover local medical bills and repatriation. In developing countries and where medical care is mostly private, it is not uncommon to be admitted into a private room for something which would be treated as an out-patient back home. Without insurance, hospital fees can be as much as £200 per day.

For doctors appointments when you only need a prescription, your coordinator will help you to locate the nearest doctor/clinic. For these it is often easier to pay on the spot and not claim on the insurance. Expect to pay approx. £5 – £15 per consultation and £5 – £20 for basic medication.

Organise excursions

Your coordinator knows all the best trips and best prices which volunteers over the years have participated on and recommended. If the options are not posted on a notice board ask your coordinator what is available and how to book. Typical prices across all destinations as a very rough guide: £30 – £40 for a day’s activity, £200 – £400 for a trek/budget safari for 3 – 5 days. Most volunteers go together in a group for more fun and get discounts. Additional trip discounts for volunteers are available in Ghana and Tanzania.

Return transfer back to the airport

Your coordinator can organise the return trip back to the airport for you, simply ask a few days before your flight. This is not automatically organised as many volunteers will have made friends and may leave the project a day or two earlier to sightsee before flying home, want to go shopping right up to the last minute or forget that the transfer was booked and have already jumped in a taxi!

Placement map

Call us today on 01603 280702

Image gallery

South Africa specific questions

Do I need experience?
No experience is required, just a positive ‘can-do’ approach to supporting the project’s work. Volunteers studying veterinary medicine will be offered every opportunity to make use of their knowledge and skills either on site or with the regular visits to the local vet.

What will I be doing?
There are two main areas of work : everyday care of the primates (food and clearing out) and stimulation activities (the fun part!). In addition volunteers may be involved with repairing of enclosures and building new ones. During or just before the dry season volunteers also help to repair or dig bush fire boundaries, these are essential in this part of South Africa.

Will I be met on arrival?
All volunteers are met at the airport in Johannesburg on arrival and taken door to door to the sanctuary. Transfer time is approx 1 hour.

Will I be on my own?
Very difficult to be on your own as all the volunteers live together with the staff on site and this is a popular project throughout the year. For maximum company, arrive June to September.

Are meals provided?
This is a self catering project with a communal kitchen for volunteers to use. There is a supermarket within a 20 minute walk (or 5 min by taxi) or meals can be delivered in the evening for approx. £2.

What do I need to take?
Rough, old clothes are ideal for working with the primates, they can get a bit dribbly and their little claws can catch on your clothes when you are having a cuddle! A smart outfit for going out in the evening is also a good idea. A visit to the Kruger National Park is a popular excursion so you may want to bring malaria tablets and safari-suitable clothing. (Malaria tablets are not needed if staying at the project and local area).

Where will I be staying?
Volunteers all live on site together.

Is South Africa safe?
The location of the project is in a very safe peaceful area, far enough away from the hustle of Johannesburg.

Do I need a visa for South Africa?
UK/European passport holders do not require visas to enter South Africa for stays up to 90 days.

Are there fixed arrival dates?
Volunteers can arrive on any day at any time. An airport pick up from Johannesburg will be organise for you. For comfort we recommend arriving in the daytime. Flights tend to arrive at either 10 am, 3pm or midnight. Kenya Airways often has the fastest route via Mombasa (12 hours) arriving in the morning search on skyscanner.net for more.

Will I be placed with friends?
Everyone stays at the project so friends are all together.

Will I need jabs for South Africa?
You will need less than for other countries in Africa and malaria tablets are only needed if you plan to add on a visit to the Kruger National Park in your free time. Please see the Welcome Pack for more.

Is there mobile/ internet access?
Signal is pretty good, unlock your phone before travel and buy a South African sim card. Internet available locally.
A laundry service is available for approximately £1 per Kilo.

Should I take cash or cards?
We recommend taking a Visa card if possible and cash. Money can be wired to South Africa using an instant money transfer service like Western Union.

How will I get back to the airport?
Your coordinator can help organise your journey back to the airport, simply call them a few days before your flight.

Contact us for specific questions

We are always happy to answer any questions you may have. We pride ourselves in the vast knowledge of our projects and are always willing to share. Give us a call for a quick chat on 01603 280702  or email [email protected] to get the answers you need!

Latest reviews

Average Review Rating: from 1 reviews.

South Africa volunteer

Volunteer Reviews her time in South Africa

My Volunteer Experience in South Africa So I arrived to start my new position as a volunteer in South Africa, having been picked up at Pretoria airport by the sanctuary manager, blissfully unaware of what the week was going to entail. There were six other volunteers working on a shift system when I arrived. The plan o...

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