Wildlife Orphanage in South Africa

Care for orphaned animals whilst aiding the education of underprivileged children in South Africa.

The Wildlife Orphanage in South Africa is a project with a simple mission: to educate the country’s underprivileged youth by using animals as ambassadors. Founded in 2006, the project has taken in thousands of in-need animals, many of which have been provided with a permanent home after becoming injured and being unable to be released back into the wild. It is these animals which, after being shown compassion by the project team, are able to inspire members of the local community to care more about the environment – and as a volunteer, you will be at the very heart of these efforts.

While South Africa is a beautiful destination, it does unfortunately struggle with major issues such as wildlife crime and poor education. The country has a large proportion of underprivileged children, which often results in the dramatic overcrowding of classrooms. In turn, poor education leads to a lack of understanding of important topics such as wildlife conservation, and eventually, this lack of knowledge can have serious implications on the surrounding ecosystems. Fortunately, the Wildlife Orphanage in South Africa has devised a way to tackle these issues: by connecting the education of young children to the welfare of the animals on-site!

As a volunteer, you will lead small classes of children as you educate them on subjects such as English, maths and social issues. The main focus of the weekly curriculum, however, will be on animal conservation efforts – a topic which will be aided by the adorable animals themselves. By introducing the school children to the animals and showing them how to feed and care for them, it is hoped that the children will learn compassion for wildlife, taking all that they’ve learnt and applying it to their daily lives. This is a meaningful, inspiring project with the potential to make lasting change in the region, as well as to provide you with memories to last a lifetime.

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Lauren Mackinnon


Every Monday, a new group of 8 children are welcomed into the bush school where they spend the next few days learning about conservation as well as other important social issues. As a volunteer, you will play a vital role in educating these children as well as helping to take care of the animals here. Activities whilst on the project include:

Teaching School Childrenat the Wildlife Orphanage in South Africa
Teaching School Children Every Monday, a new group of children will be welcomed at the wildlife orphanage in order to learn about important topics, such as wildlife conservation, social issues, English and maths. You will help to educate the children, making sure to adjust your teaching style to suit their differing abilities. This small group of approximately 8 children are taught throughout the week, and it is hoped that this intimate method of teaching will allow them to excel in their education.
Outreach Campaigning
Outreach Campaigning If you volunteer during a time when the children are sitting their exams, you will instead spend three days per week visiting other schools in the region in order to teach those who may not have had the opportunity to visit the orphanage. The children at these schools tend to be in their final year of primary school, and you will help to educate them through a series of lessons and fun games!
Working With The Animalsat the Wildlife Orphanage in South Africa
Working With The Animals The project takes in a number of animals that are found throughout the region, and those which are too injured or habituated to be released back into the wild will require care at the orphanage for the rest of their lives. You will help to feed and monitor the animals, and where appropriate, you will introduce the children to them too! By leading by example and showing the children how to be compassionate towards the animals, it is hoped that you will instil in them a greater respect for their local wildlife.
Volunteers Building an Enclosureat the Wildlife Orphanage in South Africa
Maintenance & Construction As the orphanage is home to a number of animals (and more could be taken in at any time), the need for maintenance and construction is important. therefore, you will help to support the project’s efforts by taking part in the construction of new camps or enclosures, the general maintenance of structures, and the painting of buildings located throughout the site. This is a great opportunity to improve on your teamworking skills, as together you’re sure to make light, fun work of this activity!
Ziplining at the Blyde River Canyon
Free Time Your weekends are free to spend at leisure and you are welcome to spend your time unwinding by the pool at the project site. If, however, you’d prefer some time away from the orphanage, you may wish to head out on an excursion! From a game drive in Kruger National Park to ziplining at the Blyde River Canyon, there are a number of activities in the region that you can enjoy. Please be aware, however, additional excursions are not included, so you will need to budget accordingly.


Please note, this project usually runs in blocks of two weeks, so if you choose to stay for a longer duration, the itinerary will repeat itself fortnightly.

Day 1 - The Adventure Begins: Upon your arrival into Hoedspruit (either by plane or shuttle bus), you will be met by one of the project facilitators and transferred to the wildlife orphanage. Here, you will take the time to meet your fellow volunteers and the project team before settling into your accommodation.
Day 2 - Induction: Today you will be given a tour of the orphanage, and will also be introduced to some of the animals which reside here, such as a mob of meerkats, and a caracal! Later, you will receive an induction to the project, where your responsibilities and experiences will be outlined for you. Depending on time, you may also take part in your first volunteer activity before the end of the day.
Day 3-14 - Project Days: These are your project days, during which you will work with both the children and the animals at the orphanage. Your activities typically take place between 7am and 4:30pm, though the children do remain on site all week and will likely want to spend as much time with you as possible! From playing educational games to watching a movie or even dancing around the bonfire, the children may remain in your company until around 9pm, when you can spend the rest of the evening at leisure.
Day 15 - Final Day: After saying goodbye to the children, the animals and the project team, you will make your way back to Hoedspruit Airport to continue with your independent travel plans or to catch your flight home. If you are flying from Johannesburg, the project team will instead drop you off in Hoedspruit town, where you will take a bus to the airport.

Start Dates & Prices

To secure a place on this project, a deposit of $245 is required at the time of booking. The remaining balance is due 60 days before your start date.

Flexible Payment Options: If you select a start date more than 3 months in advance, we offer convenient payment plans, allowing you to pay off your balance in instalments.

Select a duration below to see the available start dates and book your place today!

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

Payment breakdown



Throughout your time on the project, you will share a rondavel (round chalet) with up to four other volunteers. If you are volunteering with friends, as a family or as a couple, the project will be happy to accommodate you in your own chalet, depending on availability.

The chalets are rustic yet comfortable, with western-style toilets and hot-water showers. There is no mains electricity on-site, though lighting and power are provided by solar energy and a generator. Elsewhere, you will have access to an outdoor living area and a swimming pool, which you are welcome to use during your free time.

Meals & Beverages

Three meals per day will be provided for you on this project, with all options being served in a buffet style. Options may vary from international favourites (such as spaghetti, pizza and burgers) to local dishes, and most dietary requirements can be catered for. Unfortunately, the project is unable to offer gluten-free options as these food items are rather expensive and hard to come by in South Africa. Therefore, if you require this, please bring your own food items with you.

Project Details

When Is The Best Time To Volunteer?

As this project takes place at a wildlife orphanage, you will be able to see animals here all year round, meaning there is no ‘best’ time to volunteer when it comes to the wildlife. That said, the weather may dictate when you would prefer to participate.

Spring (Early September-November) – also known as ‘baby season’, spring not only sees the arrival of heavy rains but welcomes new life into the region! Spring is a crucial time, as while the cooling rains offer a sense of relief (temperatures can reach as high as 32°C/89°F), this is also the peak time in which animals are orphaned or abandoned. This means that all hands are on deck to ensure that any animals found in need will receive the help they require, so if you would like to lend your assistance at a vital time for animal intakes, a springtime placement may be for you!

Summer (Early December-late February) – this is the hottest part of the year, with average temperatures reaching highs of around 33°C (91°F) and lows of roughly 19°C (66°F). This is also the wettest time of year, though you can mostly expect quick thunderstorms which vanish by the afternoon. We therefore recommend bringing a combination of light and waterproof clothing.

Autumn (Early March-late May) – this is perhaps the most comfortable time of year in which to volunteer, as temperatures average at around 29°C (84°F) during the day before dropping to roughly 13°C (55°F) in the evening. There is minimal rain during this period, making it a great time to spend outdoors with the children and animals!

Winter (Early June-late August) – just like autumn, winter is a comfortable time to volunteer at the project, with temperatures ranging between 26-28°C (78-82°F) in the day with lows of around 11°C (52°F). This is also the driest time of year to volunteer, and could also be a great time to head out on some additional excursions!

Average Monthly Weather in Hoedspruit, South Africa

Getting There

You will need to arrive into Hoedspruit on your start date, where you will be met by a member of the team and transferred to the project site. The easiest way to reach Hoedspruit is by air, and there are daily flights via Johannesburg or Cape Town into Hoedspruit Airport (HDS). The transfer from the airport to the project site takes approximately 1 hour and you need to arrive between 11am – 3pm to take this.

An alternative option to reach Hoedspruit is by shuttle bus from Johannesburg. The shuttle bus departs Johannesburg Airport at 6:45am, so you would need to arrive the day before your start date and spend an additional night in a hotel close to the airport. The cost for this is ZAR985 (approximately $63) and it takes 5 hours to reach Hoedspruit.

Getting Back

You will be transferred back to Hoedspruit on your final day, leaving the project site at 8:30am and arriving at approximately 9:45am. If you are flying out, you will be dropped off at the airport, so please ensure your flight departs no earlier than 11:30am, as you will need to have plenty of time to check-in and go through airport security.

If you are taking the shuttle bus, you will be dropped off at the Rockfig Centre and the bus departs from here at 11:30am.

Visa Requirements

Citizens of most countries (including the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and most of those within the EU) do not need to obtain a visa to enter South Africa and are granted entry for up to 90 days upon arrival. You will, however, need at least 2 blank pages in your passport for the immigration officials to use and your passport must be valid for a period of at least 6 months from your date of entry into the country.

If you are unsure of your individual visa requirements, we recommend speaking to the South African embassy in your own country at least 2 months prior to travel. Please note that visas are your own responsibility.

Fitness & Skills

You do not need more than a moderate level of fitness to take part in the activities here, however, there are regular walks to be taken and you must be able to keep up with the energetic children! Similarly, there may be an element of construction or maintenance work which takes place during your time on the project, therefore, we recommend that all volunteers have a moderate level of fitness in order to contribute to the project’s ongoing efforts. No prior building, teaching or animal care experience is necessary – all we ask is that you arrive with a willingness to take part and that you are passionate about the project’s ethos!


The vaccinations required will depend upon your individual medical history. Therefore, we recommend that you consult with your GP/Doctor regarding your own vaccination needs to ensure you are fully protected and prepared to travel. In conjunction with this, we would also recommend that you check Fit for Travel's website for more helpful information regarding this.


Wildlife Orphanage in South Africa - Project Video 23
Experience the Wildlife Orphanage in South Africa

See what it's like to teach abroad at the Wildlife Orphanage in South Africa. Through education, you can have an impact on the future of wildlife conservation and give local children an experience they will never forget!

Wildlife Orphanage in South Africa - Review Video 23
Volunteers share their love for wildlife with local children

Volunteers Lya, Clémentine and José share how you could influence the future of wildlife conservation through teaching at the Wildlife Orphanage in South Africa. Find out what it is like to volunteer and how your knowledge can benefit the lives of local children.

Wildlife Orphanage in South Africa - Interview with Michelle
How the bush school and orphanage began

Co-founder Michelle Merrifield speaks about the origin of the project and how sharing a passion for wildlife with her husband Ian, evolved into a life-changing venture in the world of education and conservation.

Wildlife Orphanage in South Africa - Weekend Activities
Weekend Activities in Hoedspruit

With weekends free for you to spend as you wish, discover just some of the incredible activities you could get up to. From ziplining through the Letaba River Gorge to experiencing a game drive in the world-famous Kruger National Park, Hoedspruit has something for everyone.


Bella Warren, 2018

My favourite part was the friendships I made.

Julia Rasti, 2017

It was full on teaching which I was naive about! it was incredible.

Catherine Hodgkinson, 2017

Preparing an enrichment activity for the meerkats and carrying it out with them is something I'll always remember!

Download Project Guide Image Download Project Guide

What's Included

  • Accommodation
  • Three meals per day
  • Airport transfers
  • Laundry and housekeeping (except on Sundays)
  • A donation to the project

What's Not Included

  • Flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Visas