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Experience hands-on volunteering with cheetahs, baboons and many more


This project allows volunteers 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.

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 will help to care for and feed the animals on a daily basis as well as helping with maintenance work at the sanctuary. Maintenance work may include de-bushing to get rid of invasive species, digging trenches to extend water supplies to camps, and other manual activities.

Volunteers are involved in all aspects of the sanctuary work whilst here, and will help to rescue, care for, clean, feed, rehabilitate and release cheetahs, 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. For a chance to work at the release site please see our Carnivore Conservation and Research Project .

Project Summary

Focus: Big cats (including cheetah and caracals), African game and baboons.

Duration: 2 to 12 weeks

Start Dates: Mondays and Thursdays

Location: Near Windhoek, Namibia

Capacity: Average of 15

Minimum age: 18

Volunteers can partake for 2 weeks to 12 weeks, and will be split into working groups to ensure variety and equal opportunity when carrying out duties.

What follows gives you an indication of the activities that volunteers may be involved in on a typical day. Please note however that itineraries are subject to change and therefore this is only a rough guideline.
This is an example of a two week stay, which will repeat for those who stay longer.

Day1: Arrive at Windhoek Airport and transfer to Project site. The transfer is a drive of approximately 45 minutes. Spend rest of the day at the site.

Day 2-13: Rise early and eat breakfast at 7am. Meet with other volunteers and volunteer co-ordinators at 8am. Begin morning activities which are distributed on a rotational basis. There is usually a tea-break at around 10:30am. Begin a second morning activity after this, with lunch commencing at 1pm. Afternoon activities begin at 2:30pm, and run until 5:30pm when an educational talk is held. Dinner is at 6pm, and evenings are free for volunteers to spend as they please.

Last day: Transfer from site to Windhoek airport for return flight, or commence independent travel plans.

Volunteers should be prepared for the daily schedule to change at short notice to meet the needs of the project and animals. For more detailed information on the project activities, please see the ‘Duties’ section.

Throughout their time at the project, volunteers will be involved in a range of different activities. These will include:

Feeding and caring for the animals
• Volunteers are encouraged to help look after the resident baby baboons - this will almost definitely include going on walks with them and becoming a 'surrogate' mother!
• Volunteers are responsible for preparing the food, feeding the animals and maintaining the animal enclosures, preparing and feeding vegetables, fruit and mieliepap (a kind of porridge) to the baboons and farm animals (which include duiker, steenbok, sheep, goats, rabbits, foxes, ducks and chickens).
• Volunteers are also able to experience regular carnivore-feeds with lions, leopards, semi-tame and wild cheetahs, and even with rare African wild dog and hand-feed the resident meerkats, which is a truly fantastic experience.
• Volunteers are involved in the clearing out of old food and bones from animal enclosures, the cleaning of waterholes and the fixing of any damage to the animal enclosures.

Animal Time
Volunteers get to spend part of each day playing with and looking after some of the animals on the farm. These interactions include:
• Taking a walk across the beautiful veldt with the baby and junior baboons.
• Taking a walk with the gorgeous caracals - walk alongside them through the lush grass and watch as they stalk small prey.
• Spending one on one time with the semi-tame cheetahs.
• Meet the resident pack of African Wild Dogs (also known as painted dogs); one of the rarest carnivores in the whole of Africa.

Project Work
The growing sanctuary needs constant repair and building work. Project work varies depending on the priorities in the sanctuary at the time, but these can include:
• De-bushing - removing dense patches of black thorn (an invader bush) so that game on the farm can move about freely and be easily observed for research, and so that other vegetation can grow.
• Border fence patrols – check fences for gaps and holes. You may also see wild game on the drive.
• Constructing new enclosures as animals arrive – this will involve the preparation of materials, the digging of foundations and waterholes and the erecting of the actual enclosures.

Wildlife Education
Volunteers receive a daily educational talk on various topics including the proliferation of local game, species resident within the sanctuary, and the science of wildlife immobilisation.

Local School Visits
Volunteers will spend one afternoon a week working with the schoolchildren in the local school, helping to teach them English and games!

Free Time
During the project, volunteers have the weekday evenings, Saturday afternoons and Sundays to relax. Please note however that the farm animals still need to be fed on Sundays.
During their time at the sanctuary, volunteers enjoy activities such as a nature walk across the farm, swimming in the pool, playing football against the bushman workers, climbing the nearby mountain or an eco-challenge competing in groups. This is usually followed by a traditional braai (barbeque).

Optional Activities
Saturday afternoons will be free of duties and staff will usually put on a fun activity for volunteers.

A Sunday transfer into town is offered for N$150, in order to visit the nearby shopping mall to pick up supplies and have a leisurely lunch at the famous Jo's Beerhouse. Please note that places are limited and the cost of lunch and drinks is NOT included in the transfer cost.

This project directs all its efforts towards the long term rehabilitation of animals within the 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 programme. 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.

The research project fits captured big cats with a radio collar before releasing them back into the wild. This allows them to track their movements, check on their livelihoods and gain a better understanding of their ecology for future conservation.

The aim is to provide volunteers with the wonderful opportunity to experience life in the African wilderness, as well as in the knowledge that they are contributing to the conservation of this area. Volunteers are key to the success of the wildlife sanctuary, and their participation ensures the rescue, survival and rehabilitation of the animals which have found a safe home there.

What fitness level is required?
As you will be involved in all aspects of the project, including construction and maintenance of enclosures, we recommend that you come with a moderate level of fitness.

Do I need any specific skills to join the project?
No. All we ask is that you arrive with a willingness to get involved with every activity, have a respect for the wildlife and sanctuary staff with whom you’ll be working, and aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty!

What vaccinations and medications should I take with me?
The vaccinations required will depend on the medical history of each volunteer. We recommend that you consult your GP regarding your own immunisation needs. In conjunction with this, we would recommend that you check Fit for Travel’s website.

Is malaria a risk in Namibia?
There is a relatively low risk of malaria in the Windhoek area. However, it is essential that you consult your GP before making a decision about anti-malarial tablets and other preventative methods.

"I've just got home from the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary after the most amazing 2 weeks of my life! Such an experience that will leave me with a lifetime full of memories! I wish I had stayed longer! For anyone questioning going, just do it, you won't regret it!"
Helen, May 2014

"Being able to be near, feed and help look after such magnificent animals - including cheetahs, lions and baboons - was something I will never forget! What's more, you really feel as if you are benefiting the local people as well as supporting wildlife conservation. Be warned though - pack your sun cream!"
Catherine Armstrong, March 2014

"If you love wildlife conservation and Africa, as well as an open mind, then this is the project for you - The Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary is beyond words amazing! I stayed there for four weeks and am already itching to go back. They staff will answer any questions you may have with enthusiasm ( they are the most amazing people i've ever met.) You sleep a few meters away from a cheetah and can visit her when you are free, and even play with the baby baboons on breaks or hang out with the meerkat or mongoose, warthogs and the duiker. At night you can volunteer to take a baby baboon to bed to care for and keep warm ( you all should try this at least once :) ) and visit the bushmen tribe. Throughout the day, you'll be working under the hot African sun - the work is hard (it's on a rotational schedule) but completely rewarding. In the evening, you can spend you time around the camp fire or play pool...or swim in the pool. 10/10 for this sanctuary. The food is great, the people are great, there is lots of animal time, and Namibia is absolutely AMAZING!"
Stacey Feltham, March 2014

"The staff and volunteers were all lovely, and the interaction with the animals, especially the big cats (carnivore feeds and caracal walks). Everything was also really well organised, and the volunteers are really well looked after."
Pippa Perry, November 2013

"My favourite experience was hands on animal time! (caracal walk, cheetah walk, time with samira). it was lovely when we finished food prep early to go and spend some quality time with samira. I truly enjoyed driving around the farm on the game drive (even though it was raining and cold). getting to know people from all around the world. i would have loved to have stayed longer."
Kristy Eades, November 2013

"The experience is great and it is good to learn from people who are enthusiastic about conservation. The members of staff I spoke to were willing to share their knowledge and didn't seem bothered if they'd already been asked the same question several times in one week. The food quality is really good and over a two week-period the activities on offer provide a bit more of an interesting experience. Visiting Neuras was wonderful and I cannot praise Matt and Kate enough for their knowledge and enthusiasm. I learnt so much there."
Usha Gough, August 2013

"What a Great Project! I will never forget spending so much time with the animals and meeting so many new and lovely people."
Emilie B, February 2013

"I got to spend a lot of time with the animals - an experience that you wouldn't get on a normal holiday. The experience at the Carnivore conservation centre was amazing- you got to learn a lot about the Cheetahs and get really close to them..."
Gayani W, December 2012

"It seems I found the perfect place, The Namibian Wildlife sanctuary, I was there for 3 weeks and during my time I assisted in releasing Cheetahs, Leopards, Lions, Baboons and other animals back into the wild. Obviously there are a lot of animals that can’t be released due to being orphaned very young or injured in the wild, so we had to look after these intensively too. By the end of my time there I took it for granted just how close we were to such fantastic animals! I had such a great, unforgettable time: it was far better than I could have ever imagined. Everything from the staff to the other volunteers, the activities to the food, and the animals of course: everything was absolutely spot on. I would strongly recommend any one going on this particular trip. They have a brilliant set up, amazing vision and I am definitely going to go back soon."
Mike H, August 2012

"As a volunteer, be prepared to work. It takes time to care for all the animals, but you will be amply rewarded with activities like the baby baboon walk, the caracal walk, the carnivore feeding, etc… A baby giraffe was even born during my time at the project! These memories are etched in my mind forever. Thank you for an experience of a lifetime!"
Karen Fitzpatrick, June 2012

"Since I can remember I always had a passion and great love for cheetahs. Coming to The Namibian Wildlife Sanctuary has therefore provided me with the opportunity to fulfill a life-long dream. This has certainly been achieved and, more importantly, greatly exceeded. As part of my stay I have had a great opportunity to discover fully the outstanding work that is undertaken by both the staff and the wider eco-organisation."
Mark Bennett, August 2012

Getting There
Volunteers are advised to fly into Windhoek International Airport (also known as Hosea Kutako International Airport), where they will be met on arrival and transferred to the project. This transfer will take approximately 45 minutes.

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.

Visas
Volunteers joining the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary will need to apply for a work visa before travel. We will provide further information and documents for this upon booking.

Accommodation and Facilities
There are two accommodation options:
• Volunteer rooms with up to three people (of the same gender) sharing each room,
• Large tents with a bedroom and communal area to be shared by two volunteers (of the same gender or a couple).

Although we can take requests for which accommodation is preferred, we can not 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.

Accommodation Upgrades
The adjacent Lodge contains six luxurious chalets and a tranquil dining area with stunning views, a bar and a swimming pool. Volunteers can choose to upgrade their accommodation and stay at the lodge over the weekend or at the end of their stay. Lots of volunteers also take the opportunity to visit the lodge for a delicious buffet lunch on a Sunday.

What essentials should I take with me?
• Passport, travel insurance and travel documents.
• Cash and a credit/debit card.
• Camera, charger and adapter.
• Small backpack for daily use.
• Shorts, t-shirts, flip-flops and trousers.
• At least one pair of sturdy closed shoes.
• Raincoat/lightweight waterproof if travelling during the summer (November – March).
• Warm clothes and a sleeping bag if travelling during the winter season, where temperatures drop at night.
• Suncream and aftersun.
• Insect repellent.
• Flashlight.
• Toiletries and a towel.

Meals and Beverages
Three meals a day are provided during your time in the sanctuary.

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).

Tea and coffee are freely available throughout the day and other drinks and snacks can be purchased at the Sanctuary for an additional fee.

Please advise any special dietary requirements in your application form and on arrival at the project. A vegetarian option is always available.

Currency and Exchange Rates
The currency in Namibia is the Namibian Dollar, but South African Rand is also accepted. The exchange rate is around 1 NAD = 0.06 GBP, 0.1 USD, 0.07 EUR. Please note exchange rates are subject to change. For up-to-date rates, click here .

What's included in the price of the project?
• A contribution to the project itself including funding for items such as building materials, food, animal medications
• Transfers to and from the Windhoek International Airport or Windhoek City
• Full orientation and support from the project managers for the duration of your project
• Accommodation, three meals per day and tea and coffee

What's not included:
• Any flights
• Travel insurance to include cover for repatriation
• Visas
• Soft and alcoholic beverages
• Any extra activities not within the itinerary

Fast Facts
Population: Around 2.25 million
Capital City: Windhoek
Language: Official language is English. However, up until 1990 (when Namibia gained independence from South Africa), German and Afrikaans were also official languages. As a result, they are widely spoken and understood throughout the country. 49% of Namibians however also speak Oshiwambo, a tribal dialect originating from northern Namibia and neighbouring Angola.
Currency: Namibian Dollar (N$) and South African Rand (SAR).
Time Zone: GMT +2 hours.
Country Code: +264

General Information
Namibia is one of Southern Africa’s most exciting destinations. There is plenty on offer here for the intrepid traveller, and as one of the least densely populated countries in the world, you’ll be able to experience most of it with an atmosphere of calm tranquility.

With awe-inspiring scenery, an average of 300 days of sunshine per year, and some of Africa’s most prestigious national parks; it really is a country not to be missed.
Namibia is a country of extreme and often overwhelming beauty, with countless rolling expanses of breath-taking desert and grassland. It is renowned for its diverse and fascinating wildlife, boasting many populations of the African continent’s most endangered species, including the cheetah. Namibia is also home to the incredible Fish River canyon, Etosha National park and the mesmerising Sossusvlei, the highest sand dune collection in the world.

Windhoek is a truly excellent example of a contemporary, cosmopolitan city in southern Africa. With an unusually western aesthetic, the city is often a favourite with tourists as it offers comfort and familiarity, but also an astounding array of cultural interest. The city is scattered with Baroque-style churches, truly admirable for their architecture, and a few German-style castles, as present-day reminders of colonial influences.

Move further out of the city centre, and you are sure to discover a much more rustic feel to the suburbs, as the country’s agricultural industry filters into the city’s edge. This is where the vast majority of Windhoek inhabitants live, and so provides a more earthy and authentic atmosphere for tourists who venture into the neighbourhoods.

Namibia is undeniably most visited for its stunning national parks and game reserves, where a vast amount of the country’s wildlife populations can be spotted. These include Etosha, Namib-Naukluft and Skeleton Coast national parks and the renowned Daan Viljoen Game Reserve. Not only are these the best areas for witnessing the country’s cheetah, elephant and lion inhabitants, they are individually breathtaking environments for visitors to enjoy.

Should you wish to travel around before or after your time at the Namibian Wildlife Sanctuary, there is plenty to keep you occupied. Highlights include the Fish River Canyon, countless National Parks (said to have some of the best wildlife viewing anywhere in Africa), Sossusvlei (the highest sand dunes in the world), and the Skeleton Coast, where the ferocious currents of the Southern Atlantic meet the harsh desert dunes of the Kalahari.

Climate:
Due to its vast deserts, Namibia’s climate is usually very dry and hot. The small amount of rain the country experiences usually falls between December and March, thus also rendering this period the most humid. The temperature usually drops between June and August.

Average Temperature and Rainfall
Average Temperatures in Windhoek, Namibia

Basic Phrases in Afrikaans
‘Hello’- ‘Hallo’
‘Goodbye’- ‘Totsiens’
‘How are you?’- ‘Hoe is jy?’
‘Please/Thank you’- ‘Asseblief/Dankie’
‘Yes/No’ – ‘Ja/Geen’

For volunteers wishing to see a little more of Namibia before or after their project we can now offer a variety of different Safaris catered to different durations, budgets and activities.

Accommodated & camping Safaris – Budget:
10 Day Canyons, Dunes & Big Game

Accommodated Safaris- Budget:
4 Day Etosha & Swakopmund adventure
6 Day Dunes & Wildlife
7 Day Namibia Highlights
7 Day Taste of Namibia

Accommodated Safaris – Luxury:
2 day Dunes Deluxe