17 independent reviews for Malawi volunteering holiday

These full and frank independent reviews are from travellers who have booked directly through Responsible Travel. They are not edited by us or any of the companies we work with. Find the real story, from real travellers below.


review 2 Jul 2016

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Waking up to the monkeys chattering in the morning, hanging out with the animal carers, I went to the lake for a weekend too, which was awesome fun.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Just do it, you won't regret it! You're part of a working sanctuary, so be aware that you won't just be cuddling animals all day, but if you love wildlife then you'll want to see all the animals get back into the wild, and being a part of that process is really fulfilling.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes. I was only there for a short time and worked only on animal care in the end, by my own choice. But you really feel part of the team and the bigger picture e.g. fighting ivory trafficking which is a big story for Malawi at the moment. It seems that the charity is very well respected and making a big impact overall so I felt honoured to be a part of it.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Definitely a working holiday, but it certainly beats lying on the beach all day and lifelong memories! I shall be back!

review 24 Mar 2016

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Great from start to finish - the staff, the country, the project, the work - I was sad to leave and hope to go back. I went for the animal work which I really enjoyed but an unexpected highlight of the trip was getting out into the community to see one of their fuel briquette projects.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

I still enjoyed my short stay but go for longer if you can. They have rules on working with some of the orphans who are more sensitive and this work is reserved for longer term volunteers. You can also get involved in more of the wider charity work that way.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Absolutely. As a volunteer you tend to focus on the rescue and rehabilitation work, but it was great to hear about everything else the charity is doing and feel that you are contributing to the bigger picture.They run the only wildlife sanctuary in the country as well as the government's wildlife emergency response unit so they're doing a lot to help wild animals in need. I also learnt about all their work with the government on things like setting up a new wildlife crime investigations unit and updating the wildlife act. I only saw a bit of the education work but what I did was very encouraging, the kids loved it and the educators were really passionate.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


review 13 Oct 2014

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The first game drive in South Luangwa National Park where we saw so many animals, close up and without lots of other vehicles in pursuit.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

The stay at Lilongwe was very much oriented towards animal care. There was some opportunity to go out outreach which for me was brilliant. volunteering at the Kuti reserve seems to offer more opportunities for getting involved in the local community.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes definitely. It offered local employment, gave wild animals a sanctuary and worked to return them to the wild and the Project carried out conservation education and community education projects.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

A great experience. I got to know some local people and volunteers from different countries and I learned about animal conservation and the social/ economic situation in Malawi.

review 2 Sep 2013

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The most memorable part of the holiday has got to be the people. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly throughout my stay. You were made to feel at home as soon as you arrived which is just what you need after a long flight and arriving in a new country! The most exciting part was riding in the local buses, you get to see the city, meet local people and really immerse yourself in Malawi!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Take something warm for the winter months, it does get cold at night and first thing in the morning. A fleece hoodie and a blanket are essential kit.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Absolutely, you could really see the results of the work. Animals were being painstakingly prepared for release back into the wild. I also went on Outreach - which should be a must for every volunteer! I went to an adult education class to see first hand how the projects are helping the local community. The students were very keen to learn and were making plans for the future, once they had achieved their exams. The students were really inspiring!

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

It was such an amazing experience and one I will definitely be repeating in the near future. Itís wonderful volunteering for an organisation that is so focused on helping both animals and the local community. I could clearly see how their hard work is paying off both by the rescue and release stories and the very positive impact they have on the community by really helping those that need to gain an education. This in turn helps to create a much rosier future for both Malawi's wildlife and its people.

review 25 Sep 2012

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

It was so good to get the chance to meet so many local people and the most exciting part of the whole thing for me was helping to bring in an orphaned yellow baboon who was being sold on the street, and she was later named after me! It's so good to work closely with the animals, and bottle-feeding is nice too.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Take lots of presents for whoever you might meet: stationery and toys are good for children, and lots of sunscreen would really help the albino clinic. It might be an idea to take some earplugs so you don't get woken by the mosque, and also don't take too much white clothing- chopping fruit can get your tops a little messy! One thing I didn't realise before I went is that it's nice to go out some evenings, so might be an idea to have at least one decent outfit to wear. Make sure you take enough memory for your camera because you'll take more pictures than you think, especially if you go on safari or extra trips. Dollars are a really good currency to have while you're in Malawi and much more useful than pounds. Also, take some little things with you like bracelets, silicone bracelets or a bottle of shampoo- some of the salesmen in the craft market in town don't mind trading a bottle of shampoo for a small painting!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

The centre does everything it says it does and more- there are some really good income generation/community outreach projects which encourage locals to find alternative ways to make money.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

The best experience of my life! There's not enough words in the dictionary to explain the trip, it's what you make it, and you have to experience it for yourself to know how incredible it is. I will be returning next year!

review 19 Sep 2012

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

So many things that I can't name just one! So then, to name but a few... hearing Bella the lion's roar all the way from the volunteer house and seeing her purrs and rolls of pleasure when you visit her enclosure. Watching the monkeys playing around right outside the volunteer house door and being able to bottle feed the baby baboons (if you're lucky you may be able to look after an orphaned baby). Getting to meet and work with the animal carers, who are such a good bunch of people; making you feel totally at ease straight away. Cycling around Kuti (a community linked wildlife park where volunteers may opt to visit) with the sun rising, looking for zebra, only to find them in the volunteer house garden upon our return! Laying out on blankets by the campfire (also at Kuti) talking and looking up at the starry African skies feeling that anything is possible! Attending a chief initiation ceremony as guests in one of the surrounding villages and seeing the Gule Wamkulu dancers. The people, the sunsets, the wildlife, the way of life.....everything!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

If you're worried whether you will enjoy it or feeling hesitant, I would say just do it! Having not done this kind of holiday before I had a few moments of doubt beforehand but couldn't be more glad that I decided to go. Also, keep an open mind about everything. I ended up doing far more than I expected to be able to do in just two weeks (and by this I mean I saw far more of Malawi than I expected, not that I was worked to death!). The managers there are all friendly and flexible - they want you to enjoy it when all's said and done! Do take a couple of nice things to wear. I just took work clothes but then wished I had something better to put on when we went out. The facebook page is useful for contacting the other volunteers who will be there when you are. And remember that if you love wildlife (which you obviously do to be thinking of going) you already have common ground with everyone else there.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes. The centre employs a team of local people and operates many community outreach programmes to interact beneficially with local organisations and communities. Kuti invests profits into many surrounding community projects, including sustainable income generation and education programmes regarding sustainability and responsible use of natural resources. Both places have wildlife conservation at the heart of their projects but also aim to both involve and benefit local communities as much as possible through re-investment and education.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Deciding to do this volunteer holiday has been one of the best decisions I've ever taken. So much so that I plan to return next year but for longer! The overall experience has far surpassed my expectations and I have some memories that will stay with me forever.

review 9 Jul 2012

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The family feeling at the centre, although lots of different ages and backgrounds, it really felt like coming home from short trips away.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Be open minded, get stuck in and don't be afraid to make suggestions. It's a lovely place with lovely people and you are doing something very useful.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Very much so, but there is plenty more to do. Some of the things you get to do and see will not show results in the short term, but are a wonderful basis for the future of whole communities .

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

It was very special and I would not hesitate to go back, maybe I will see you there.

review 19 Mar 2012

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

I think the most exciting part of the stay was to meet all these amazing people, working and living in Malawi. And more precisely, my most memorable part was visiting children at an orphanage to give them a little Christmas party.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

I think it is the perfect trip to travel differently, without the tourist rush of ' I want to see as much as possible in a minimum period'. You learn to really know local life and issues, and have the opportunity to get involved in it. You really meet people and animals.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

My holiday, by bringing foreign currency to a small local foundation, in a country with foreign currency shortage, must have benefited local people.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

It was a great experience, for me a first experience of this kind of travelling, and I think I now can't go back to travel as a 'classic tourist'.

review 26 Jan 2012

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Meeting all the amazing people, working along side the animals, being involved in community projects and the range of work available.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Have in mind what kind of work you would like to do, know your strengths and make the most out of your time there.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Absolutely! Everything about this holiday benefited local people, communities and focused on education and helping the environment.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Brilliant!!

review 9 Jun 2012

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The moment when baby vervet monkey Boo was accepted by his new monkey mum i'd had the chance to care for him as surrogate mother and was part of the introductions - amazing! Attending a literacy class and joining local dancing afterwards, malawian clubbing, malawian gin, heading into town on the back of a pick-up truck and all the adventures!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

You'll make the most if it if you go prepared, but with an open mind and relaxed attitude. This is Africa, not Europe... but that's why you go! If you have the chance I would recommend a safari in Zambia and a trip to Lake Malawi, both breathtaking.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes, most definitely.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Fab, there is something for everyone here. You can work closely with the animals or do more community based work, or both. Being near the city you can enjoy a bit of malawian 'city life' if you want, or absorb yourself in nature being in the middle of the wildlife and wilderness.

review 17 Apr 2012

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The opportunity to act as foster mother to a baby baboon for a few days. He was gorgeous, so I "adopted" him and named him Bilbo Baggins - appropriate given he had big hairy hobbit feet and loved his 2nd, 3rd and 4th breakfasts! While looking after Bilbo and the other animals was hard work, it was very rewarding and given the opportunity, I will return!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Be flexible and be prepared to work hard! The animal care work is very physical so a bit of weight training beforehand is a good idea!! Seriously.....as a volunteer you get to work as a member of a team of great staff and volunteers - make the most of it. While I spent most of the time on animal care, I also had the opportunity to participate in some community activities, including a quiz involving local secondary colleges. Also allow some time to go to Lake Malawi - really gorgeous.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

I hope so. The centre is doing some great work in the local community, with limited resources and in difficult circumstances. I hope to continue to provide some support from a distance.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Excellent. Different from anything I have done before - very rewarding - I was sad to leave.

review 30 Mar 2012

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Going to the orphanage and giving the children the books, crayons and clothes I'd took over, they were so happy. All the locals who work at the centre are very helpful and hard working, the work the centre itself carries out is great for Malawi.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

I moved out of the volunteer house and in to Forresters Lodge, this was because the house was dirty. If you feel you couldn't live in the accommodation provided then book somewhere else (it is also cheaper to do this) then you can volunteer at different places in Malawi, thereís a lot of different charities out there.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes as I taught some of the workers at the centre IT & English, the children I visited got lots of books, crayons and clothes, I helped fix the playground at the centre which will benefit the children attending.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Read the operator's response here:

We were very sad to receive this review as we take all feedback very seriously and would not like anyone to have less than a fantastic experience with us. We were aware that Michelle was unhappy at the time and we went to great lengths to try and rectify any issues she had. However after speaking in great depths with Michelle she decided that in general Africa and volunteering just wasnít for her, which is a shame but this experience will not suit everyone. For the benefit of the reader we would like to address some specific points she has raised: 1) In our opinion and the vast majority of volunteers who stay here, the house is not dirty. Our accommodation is communal, and so it is up to volunteers to work together to keep their belongings tidy. We employ a maid and cleaner (on top of a cook) who all work full time at the volunteer house. However please remember we are also a working wildlife sanctuary with animal care volunteers regularly coming in and out, so it wonít be as spotless as you might expect at a hotel and if volunteers are not on top of it it has the potential to get messy Ėand please donít expect carpets, they certainly donít like the African dust! 2) On alternative accommodation: I'm afraid that volunteers are not permitted to live off site. As we are an emergency rescue facility it is important that volunteers are available day and night and are therefore close by. If volunteers were to live off site then we would also be unable to offer them security or 24hr support, and safety of our volunteers is of paramount importance to us. Nor would you want to live away from the centre, since living with the team is very much so part of the experience and waking up surrounded by wildlife, spending your evenings with the other volunteers making what is often life long friendships and being a 2 minute walk to work are essential to enjoying your time with us. However we are aware that dorm based sleeping does not suit everyone. Therefore we are in the process of building a private chalet on site for those who are less keen on shared living but would still like to join us, this will be available from June 2012. We are sad that due to personal reasons Michelle felt that living with the team was not for her but we also like to take this opportunity to point out that volunteers would not find a cheaper deal living away the centre. Michelle left the programme early to stay at Forrester Inn, which is a luxury B&B at $50 a night. We have carefully priced the programme so that volunteers are getting a great value programme that includes all accommodation, meals, airport transfers and work related transport, 24 hour in house support plus a donation to the centre to take part in the programme. So we feel that compared to similar programmes in Africa we are actually excellent value for what we offer. 3) On volunteering elsewhere: Should you decide to travel independently and volunteer with other organisations in Malawi, it is very important that you work through a reputable organisation that has a clear long term development plan for its projects like we do, and these are hard to find in Malawi. We are also the only option in Malawi, and indeed in Africa, that is a 'People and Wildlife' accredited project that works hand in hand with community groups to further conservation so it's a very unique opportunity for volunteers with an unusually large variety of work they can get involved in. For those interested in working with animals please note that we are the countryís only wildlife sanctuary, so there are no other viable alternatives for animal care work elsewhere. It is a big decision choosing where to volunteer, and we encourage volunteers to look around so if you do join us (and we hope you do!) you are satisfied that you have made the right choice. We are glad that other than the accommodation Michelle had a great time with us, and thank you Michelle for your kinds words in regards to the work that we do, the team work tirelessly under very challenging circumstances to make the project a success so we are pleased that you had enjoyed that aspect of the programme. Please note that this review does show how volunteering isnít for everyone! If youíre looking for a restful holiday by the pool then this probably isnít for you. However, if youíre enthusiastic, flexible, sociable, have a passion for wildlife and conservation and want to make a difference by rolling up your sleeves and getting stuck in, then we would love to hear from you. Also if you would like to speak directly to past volunteers then we are more than happy to pass on their contact details.

review 22 Nov 2011

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

It was a great opportunity to visit but also embrace another country and culture through a volunteer experience. A wonderful wilderness setting to live in, with the sights and sounds of wild animals close by. Really enjoyed interacting with the locals, helping with education and community projects. Sharing the experience with a number of other volunteers.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

If you are looking for an unique experience, with exposure to African animals and people then give it a go. Be prepared to embrace the opportunity. Be as clear as possible as to which volunteer activities you'd like to be involved with, and even come with some ideas.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Yes. As a volunteer I felt I helped the local people through some education programmes, and partnering with some local staff.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

A great volunteer experience, where I was able to throw myself in, and make a (small) difference to an important charity. I will look back with fond memories and hope to visit again.

review 5 Jul 2011

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Safari, arranged through the Wildlife Centre, to Zambia was fantastic! But there were many moments at the Wildlife Centre too! Night safaris, exploring wilderness trails, working with the animals, visiting schools etc.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

The more stuck in you get the more you get out of it, go the extra mile to connect with the local people and providing for the animals and its very rewarding, for them and you!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Absolutely, obviously as a People and Wildlife Centre it is incredibly dedicated to helping the animals and the environment as a priority, and then does some fantastic community work too. Very exciting to get involved in, gives a real sense of achievement working here.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Brilliant. Can't wait to go back there!! The management took very good care of everyone, the local people were so friendly and the work the centre does is really extraordinary and is constantly improving so it was amazing to be a part of it.

review 8 Jun 2011

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

For me it was experiencing a whole new culture and being able to do that while working with a great team for a great cause. I had never done any work with animals before but that wasn't a problem and I was given jobs suitable to my individual skills, there seemed to be work there for everyone! I loved working with the animal carers and getting to know the individual animals, it's fascinating to be able to work with a Leopard and a Lion but for me to monkeys are so cheeky and interesting it was great just watching them! My most memorable moment was when our Hyena was ill and I was allowed to join the vet when he was darted so we could take a better look. I have never been that close to a wild animal and I even got to hold its mouth open!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Take a set of clothes you can wear all day which you can throw away at the end of the trip! I did most of my work in one set of clothes which got painted, ripped and covered in monkey but it didn't matter. I would also recommend staying for a period of time that really allows you to immerse yourself in the wildlife centre, and Malawi as a country, and gives you time to travel around too. Expect to work hard, this is not a jolly and as a volunteer you are a representative of the centre, but you can also expect to have fun too, they are a great team! Perhaps brush up on some Chichewa, the local language, before you come out, the local staff will love you for it and will help teach you as much as possible.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Definitely, they ran education programs and clubs for local children and gave incentives for poorer children from local schools to visit and learn about animals and the environment, with help from the education team who put a lot of effort in. While I there they were implementing a program of tree planting in the local area that was very well known and was having a huge impact. I was also told that the number of wild animals, such as Vervet monkeys, being illegally sold on the side of the road had hugely decreased since there had been a crack down on this happening with the help of the centre.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Brilliant, itching to go back and do it all again!

review 23 Jul 2011

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

My trip had so many memorable moments, too many to write down here. My volunteering at Lilongwe wildlife centre was great, it was all planned well and I met some amazing people and animals of course!! Everyone works very hard for the animals and the community, it was inspiring.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

The whole trip was planned really well and all went very smoothly. When working at a wildlife centre remember a nailbrush!!!!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

The wildlife centre certainly benefits local people especially with its outreach and community programmes, like adult literacy classes and helping people set up little businesses , so enriching their lives. They also educate the local community on wildlife and environmental issues, so they can act in responsible ways.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Fabulous experience, would recommend it to anyone.

review 20 Jul 2011

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

There were many eye-openers on this holiday but one moment that has stayed with me is when I was shadowing the vet and watched him dart tranquilise a baboon who was rapidly losing weight. I helped attend to this incredible creature when it finally succumbed and getting so close to something that is usually so feral was a fabulous experience. Generally I found observing the primates, particularly the Vervet monkeys, was a fascinating experience - their habits and individual characteristics make for compelling viewing. It is wonderful to be able to immerse yourself in this truly unique and tranquil wildlife setting in the middle of the bustling, colourful city of Lilongwe.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

I would say the more time you spend here, the more you will appreciate the overall experience. Approach the holiday with an open mind, be prepared to use your initiative and contribute any skills - the centre needs all the help you can give. Obviously the centre's main goal is to provide rehabilitation to wild animals but it is open to the public and is trying to educate local communities on the work it is doing so try and get involved in that side of it as well. You will be working with animals and living in a fairly basic manner so don't forget all the essentials like head torches, anti-bacterial handwash, clothes you dont mind getting dirty, good books e.t.c. Also, if you can spare any time, do try and explore some of the rest of Malawi while you are there. It is quite simply one of the most beautiful countries i have ever been to, the people and landscapes glow with welcome - it will steal your heart.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Yes, completely, the whole thrust of the centre is to work closely with local schools and communities to raise awareness of wildlife conservation. The staff are incredible and work tirelessly to promote the centre and to accommodate new arrivals every week. I had the pleasure of seeing lots of young children gaze in wonder at the wildlife on offer here, it is vital that they learn the importance of such initiatives from an early age and to nurture real pride in what unique wildlife their country has to offer.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

It is incredibly rewarding to take this sort of holiday as opposed to flopping on a beach somewhere and working on a tan that will fade in a few weeks. It is volunteers who help keep projects like this up and running and the more you get involved and put in, the more you get out of it. It can just start as a small kernel of an idea to choose a holiday like this, and it can be intimidating when contemplating what to expect, but doing something you're a little bit afraid of will leave you feeling a huge sense of achievment. It was a completely different and special experience and, now i'm back, i am sometimes seized with a feeling of nostalgia/homesickness for Malawi...which, for me, became a home from home.

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Unedited reviews from other travellers

I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really
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