Volunteering with animals travel guide


When you travel halfway across the world to spend your days cleaning enclosures, feeding animals, constructing pathways and shovelling the proverbial, you have to love it. And the love is big. Big enough for animal welfare organisations to build sanctuaries to house injured, neglected, orphaned or abused animals. Indeed, the people who run these sanctuaries or wildlife centres are the dons of do-gooders and you will be helping them in their everyday tasks.
This isnít adventurous work. You wonít be traipsing into the jungle for days to monitor elephants or lion. This is the quotidian care work that is all about the animals. Itís less about destinations and more about rehabilitations. You will be like nurses, travelling to be vital cogs in the healing process but often doing thankless tasks in the process. Be it with monkeys in South Africa, or bears in Romania or orangutan in Borneo. Feeling the love yet? Then please read more of our volunteering with animals travel guide.



Go on a volunteering with animals holiday ifÖ

Ö you really love animals.
Ö working with animals and conservation runs in the family. Many of the trips welcome children.
Ö you like to muck in, muck out, dig in, shovel out. These projects have an equal share of messy and magical moments.
Ö you are happy to rough it. Staying in sanctuary bungalows or lodges with communal living is the norm.

Donít go on a volunteering with animals holiday if...

Ö you would rather be at the beach. The project work comes first. The norm is one day off a week, with work going on dawn until dusk.
Ö you want to cuddle or pet animals. Many of the projects are hands off and work towards rewilding the animals, not habituate them Ė though there are a couple of exceptions.
Ö you donít like being sociable on your travels. You will be working and living with human animals too! And itís all about the team effort.
Ö there are plenty of *hitty aspects to this job. Mainly shovelling it. If that makes you feel nauseous, volunteering with animals isnít for you.
If you'd like to chat about volunteering with animals or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help. - Rosy & team.
01273 823 700




These volunteering projects are all about contributing to ongoing work with an organisation that has usually scrimped and saved, begged and borrowed to sustain itself. For them it is all about the animals, community participation and doing their utmost to create change when it comes to wildlife and animal care. And so it is all hands on deck. Depending on the project, you will be working at least five hours a day, and sometimes more. These are not organisations that mistreat humans, however. They just know that there are animal lovers the world over who are more than happy to pay a fee to work with animals, while also supporting an important conservation or rehabilitation effort.
You will be sent a clear itinerary of the working day before you sign on the dotted line. When working on horse rehabilitation in South Africa, for example, the working day is from 7am Ė 5pm working five days out of seven. You will be mucking out, grooming, dipping and feeding and then, of course, riding. On beaches. In the Eastern Cape. You see, there are good bits too. When working with elephants in Thailand, your day starts at 6am and finishes at 5pm, with one day off per week. Although there are plenty of break and siesta times. Similarly, in Borneo, working with orangutans, itís an 8-5 day where, as well as feeding the animals, you may be mixing concrete for enclosure foundations or building small bridges to help release them into the wild. But always with a siesta in the hottest and most humid part of the day.


When working with low budget, donation-led organisations, you can throw any notion of luxury out of the window. Volunteers are always well cared for, of course, but think hostel rather than hotel. Communal rather than individual. Frugality over luxury. Ideally your accommodation is as close to the project as possible as days will start early. When living on site, it also adds to the conservation camaraderie of it all. When caring for orangutan and other primates in Borneo, for example, you stay in volunteer lodging at a wildlife centre, with three to four people in a house and you all cook together using a stipend given at the beginning of the week. In contrast, when volunteering with bears in Romania, you stay in the heart of medieval town of Brasov, surrounded by mountains. And when volunteering with monkeys in South Africa, accommodation is in woodland dorms and cabins, close to the centre but also to Kruger National Park for your day off. There is a pool, however, for this one. And, if you go turtle monitoring, you will have locally owned beach huts to stay in and the best pool you could wish for: the ocean.


You arenít signing up for lifelong servitude. You are simply contributing to important animal projects, and of course it is normal that you are going to want to play a little too: on your day off, at the beginning or end of the trip or Ė if you have energy left Ė in the evenings. Although most people are dead on their feet by nightfall on these trips and are happy to hang out by the campfire, play cards or chill in a hammock. But just to give you a few ideas of fun to be had, in South Africa for example, you will not only be riding the horses along the Eastern Capeís beaches, but also have some time off to enjoy your own beach time, go whale or dolphin watching or learn to surf. In Borneo, you can head to the coast at Kuching, or explore the national parks. In Namibia, a safari or sand boarding are not to be missed, and in Sri Lanka, there are always rainforests to be explored. Good volunteering organisations will know the destination really well, and will help advise you on any extras that you hope to tie onto your trip.


Dietary needs will be catered for, but donít expect a vast menu to choose from on volunteering with animals holidays. Using local, good value ingredients, there tends to be a one-size-fits-all approach to cuisine. Big hearty stews, curries, plenty of water, coffee and tea, and snacks will be supplied. Sometimes you have to take part in the shopping expeditions, and maybe even help cook from time to time. In volunteering organisations, there are few kitchens that will refuse help, so if you fancy making everyone a cake one day, you will get a lot of brownie points. Always pack a recipe.
Photo credits: [Helpdesk: Peeraput Chareeaun] [Work - horses in the Eastern Cape: South African Tourism] [Play - Sri Lanka: David Leo Veksler] [Eat - Thai food: EvaSwensen]
Written by Catherine Mack
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Photo credits: [Page banner: Madeleine Deaton]