Vervet Monkey Sanctuary

Help care for injured and orphaned vervet monkeys in South Africa. Experience hands-on conservation as you aid in the rehabilitation efforts of this widely misunderstood species.

Over 30 years ago, in a tropical garden town in northern South Africa, the plight of a single orphaned vervet monkey ignited the passion of two conservationists to change the face of local monkey conservation by creating the Vervet Monkey Sanctuary. Now home to over 500 vervets, all rescued from the clutches of human-animal conflict, laboratories, and the relentless illegal pet trade, the sanctuary dedicates all its resources to rescuing, rehabilitating and challenging misconceptions about vervet monkeys.

The sanctuary's mission extends beyond care, as it addresses the alarming decline in vervet populations due to habitat loss and human-animal conflict through educational outreach. Accredited by the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA) and the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), the sanctuary works to foster support for the species by dispelling myths and fighting the stereotypes that wrongly labelled the species as pests for many years. 

As a volunteer, you will play a crucial role in caring for the many injured and orphaned vervet monkeys that reside at the sanctuary. From food preparation and enclosure cleaning to outreach assistance and hands-on care during the orphan season, your help will extend beyond the sanctuary as you make a real difference in the world of vervet monkey conservation.

Over 30 years ago, in a tropical garden town in northern South Africa, the plight of a single orphaned vervet monkey ignited the passion of two conservationists to change the face of local monkey conservation by creating the Vervet Monkey Sanctuary. Now home to over 500 vervets, all rescued from the clutches of human-animal conflict, laboratories, and the relentless illegal pet trade, the sanctuary dedicates all its resources to rescuing, rehabilitating and challenging misconceptions about vervet monkeys.

The sanctuary's mission extends beyond care, as it addresses the alarming decline in vervet populations due to habitat loss and human-animal conflict through educational outreach. Accredited by the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA) and the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), the sanctuary works to foster support for the species by dispelling myths and fighting the stereotypes that wrongly labelled the species as pests for many years. 

As a volunteer, you will play a crucial role in caring for the many injured and orphaned vervet monkeys that reside at the sanctuary. From food preparation and enclosure cleaning to outreach assistance and hands-on care during the orphan season, your help will extend beyond the sanctuary as you make a real difference in the world of vervet monkey conservation.

Food Prep & Feeding
Preparing Food & Feeding
The 500+ vervet monkeys at the sanctuary need feeding every day, so you can expect the preparation and distribution of food to make up a large portion of your day. Alongside preparing fruits, vegetables, and leaves, you’ll head out around the grounds to collect seed pods and fruits from local trees. It's a big job with a lot of mouths to feed but playing chef and waiter to vervet troops will be a fun and rewarding experience, especially when you see the faces of the very happy customers enjoying their food platters!
Orphan Care @ Vervet Monkey Sanctuary
Orphan Vervet Care
During the baby season (Nov-Feb), many orphaned monkeys arrive at the sanctuary from traumatic circumstances. In these situations, you may be involved in hand-rearing the orphans and emotionally stabilising them, ready for their introduction to their vervet foster mothers. The baby rehabilitation process includes preparing food, bottle-feeding, and administering medicine under guidance. It is important to note that a strict no-contact policy is enforced across the sanctuary, except in this instance when it is required for the well-being of the animals.
Enclosure Cleaning @ Vervet Monkey Sanctuary
Sanctuary Upkeep
Taking care of rescued vervet monkeys, particularly the infants, can be a messy task, and although an in-house team is responsible for enclosure cleaning, volunteers will still help to keep the sanctuary clean and tidy, especially within the baby and sick bay areas where you'll spend a lot of your time.
Construction & Maintenance @ VMS
Construction & Maintenance
The construction and maintenance of monkey enclosures helps to further the sanctuary's mission. The dedication of past volunteers was monumental in building various troop enclosures, the quarantine facility, and the sickbay, and your time at the sanctuary may include contributing to various maintenance tasks in these areas but also the construction of new areas to enable the sanctuary to extend its care to more and more monkeys each year.
Observation @ Vervet Monkey Sanctuary
Observation & Monitoring
Observation and monitoring are crucial when caring for rescued and traumatised animals. Detecting injuries, stress, or signs of illness is essential, and regular monitoring provides an opportunity to report any irregularities to the staff and veterinary team as soon as possible. Volunteers will use feeding routines to conduct a comprehensive check for any signs of ill health while the monkeys are nearby. You'll also help to observe foster mother and troop integrations, ensuring that the monkeys are forming positive relationships.
Visiting Blyde River Canyon Free Time
Free Time
You can enjoy 1.5 days off each week, during which you have the option to take a complimentary ride to the nearby town of Tzaneen. Here, you can indulge in activities such as shopping, swimming in the nearby lodge pool, visiting the spa, or simply enjoying a leisurely coffee at the mall. For those staying for 4 weeks, you'll also have additional touring days where the team can help you arrange some incredible tours, including Kruger National Park, Blyde River Canyon, God's Window, and so much more. So, if you're an explorer by nature, make sure to budget for some amazing adventures!

The below is an example of a 4-week stay which is the recommended minimum duration, however, it is possible to join for 2 or 3 weeks.

Day 1 - The Adventure Begins:
You’ll be met by a project representative at the airport before transferring to the sanctuary. You’ll then have time to meet the team and get settled in before starting your volunteering adventure.
Day 2 - Orientation & Tour:
Today, you will take a tour of the sanctuary grounds and complete a full health and safety orientation during which you will learn more about your role in the coming weeks and the rules in place to protect and ensure the welfare of the monkeys.
Day 3-28 - Project Days:
These are your project days, where you'll be responsible for the wellbeing of over 500 monkeys in the sanctuary! You'll also enjoy 1.5 days of free time each week, providing the perfect opportunity to explore. For an example of a daily itinerary, please see the project guide.
Day 29 - Departure Day:
Today, you’ll say your goodbyes and transfer back to the airport for your return flight home or to continue your onward travel plans. You'll leave content with the knowledge that you have left a lasting legacy for the vervet monkeys of South Africa!

To secure a place on this project, a deposit of $245 is required at the time of booking, with the remaining balance due any time up to 60 days prior to your start date. Select a duration below to view the available start dates.

You can join this project on any day of the year, so if your preferred start date is not listed, please contact our travel team to book an alternative date.

Duration Price
Please choose a trip using the select menus to the left.
Price:


Accommodation

Volunteers stay in basic wooden cabins allocated on a twin-share basis with linens provided. Elsewhere in the designated ‘volunteer village’, there are four gas-lit warm showers, two eco-toilets, and a campfire, perfect for a night under the stars or an African braai. Additional amenities can be found in the communal cottage where most volunteers gather for the evening; these include hammocks, sofas, Wi-Fi, a small library of books, a ping-pong table, and lockers.

Accommodation Upgrade

If you are looking for more privacy during your stay, there is the option to upgrade to one of the private cabins (subject to availability) for an additional fee of $125 per week. These cabins are situated just outside the 'volunteer village' and also come with a fan, and Wi-Fi access. If you would like more information or to check availability, please get in touch and a member of the team will be happy to assist you.

Meals & Beverages

The sanctuary is unique due to its fully vegan approach, and volunteers are provided with three vegan meals per day. Each day starts with a self-serve breakfast, offering various cereals, toast, spreads, and fruit, and lunch and dinner are prepared by the onsite chef. Tea and coffee are available throughout the day, and soft/alcoholic drinks and snacks can be purchased from the onsite bar.

When is the best time to volunteer?

As this project is based at a sanctuary, there are animals here year-round, however, there are two distinct seasons to be aware of:

November – February: This is considered baby season as it is when the majority of orphaned monkeys arrive at the sanctuary. It is during these months that volunteers are often involved in the hands-on care of these baby animals in preparation for their introduction to their vervet foster mothers.

This is also the hottest time of year, with average temperatures reaching highs of around 33°C (91°F) and lows of roughly 19°C (66°F), but is also the wettest time of year, although mostly with quick thunderstorms.

March – October: During these months the sanctuary team work to integrate the juveniles with their new troops and a lot of focus is on this introduction process and monitoring their progress. 

There is also varying weather throughout this period with March to May and September to October being perhaps the most comfortable times of year to volunteer, with daytime temperatures averaging around 29°C (84°F) before dropping to roughly 13°C (55°F) in the evening, and minimal rainfall during this period.

Winter is from June to August, and daytime temperatures range between 26-28°C (78-82°F) with lows of around 11°C (52°F). This is the driest time of year and is great for wildlife viewing and other excursions.

 

Average Monthly Weather in Hoedspruit, South Africa

Getting There 

There are two main ways to get to the sanctuary; for both options, airport transfers are included in the price of the project, so it solely depends on your travel preferences:

Arrive at Hoedspruit Airport
You will need to book a flight that arrives into Hoedspruit Airport (HDS), arriving at any time on your project start date. You will then be met in the arrivals hall and take a private transfer to the sanctuary, which takes approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Arrive at Johannesburg Airport
You will need to book a flight that arrives into O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) before 8am on your project start date. A driver will meet you in the arrivals hall and transfer you to the shuttle bus station, a 1-hour drive away. At 9:45am, you will board a shuttle bus to Tzaneen, which will take approximately 4.5 hours. Once you arrive at the bus station in Tzaneen, you will be met by a project representative and be taken to the sanctuary, which will take around 25 minutes.

Visa Requirements

Most countries, including the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, and the majority of EU nations, do not require a visa to enter South Africa and are granted entry for up to 90 days upon arrival. To be allowed entry, you must have a passport with at least 2 blank pages for the immigration officials to use, and it must be valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry into the country.

If you're unsure about your specific visa requirements, we recommend contacting the South African embassy in your home country at least 2 months before your trip. It's important to note that obtaining a visa, should one be required, is your own responsibility.

Fitness & Skills

Prior experience is not required, but the project activities may involve some construction or maintenance work. Therefore, it is recommended that volunteers have a moderate level of fitness to contribute to the ongoing conservation efforts in comfort. Working with infant animals can be demanding and may involve night shifts, so volunteers will need to be flexible and dedicated to the cause. The most important thing is to arrive with a positive attitude and willingness to work as a team. 

Vaccinations

There are no specific vaccination or medical requirements needed to join this project. Any recommended vaccinations will depend on the individual medical history of each volunteer, and we advise speaking with your doctor/GP regarding your own vaccination needs. We also recommend that you take a look at the Fit for Travel website for more helpful information on how best to prepare for your experience.


Download Project Guide Image Download Project Guide

What's Included

  • Accommodation
  • Three vegan meals per day
  • Airport transfers
  • Orientation and training
  • Wi-Fi
  • A donation to the project

What's Not Included

  • Flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Visas
Where you can go
Contact Info
UK Office
The Great Traveller Ltd,
3 Dairy Yard
Star Street
Ware, Hertfordshire
SG12 7DX
United Kingdom

Opening hours:
   Mon-Fri 8:30am–5:30pm
   Sat 10am-4pm

T: +44(0) 208 885 4987