Garden Route Big Cats Project is an ethical rescue center for captive bred animals - mainly big cats - situated on a 154ha wildlife reserve. It is also home to various free roaming wildlife, which means you could have some “wild” visitors at your volunteer accommodation. For example: giraffe, zebra, vervet monkeys, kudu, impala, and more. Our project’s aims are to rescue and rehome abused and neglected captive animals and ensure that they have a quality of life in a species appropriate home. In addition to this, we also aim to educate and raise awareness of the plight of big cats in captivity, their wild cousins, as well as to rehabilitate and release any indigenous wildlife that may come into our care. At the Sanctuary, the animals that come to us are protected for the rest of their lives with no breeding, trading or selling of any kind, and no direct hands on interaction. The sanctuary is their safe forever home, as due to their backgrounds and being captive bred and various other reasons, they can never be released into the wild. This project is designed to be an educational opportunity for visitors and volunteers alike. 

Arrival airportPort Elizabeth International Airport
Arrival daySunday or earlier
DurationYou can volunteer with this project for 2 weeks or longer
Join project on:Monday
Age limitYou must be aged 18 years or older when you arrive.
Pre-arrival SupportOur experienced Cape Town based team are on hand with expert advice and assistance to ensure you are fully prepared for your trip to this project
Airport TransfersWe provide escorted transfers between Port Elizabeth Airport and the project
AccommodationAccommodation is in the form of glamping tents or our Teepee and is situated in the reserve
FoodAll meals are included but is prepared by yourself
OrientationYou will receive an induction and orientation within the first two days at the project
In-country supportFull support from the project team during your stay.
CertificateOn completion of your participation we will send you a special thank you to accompany your CV or resume.
VisasCitizens from most countries can arrive in South Africa and stay for up to 90 days without a Visa
FlightsPlease ask us if you need any recommendations for keeping your flight costs to a minimum.

Work hours will vary be between 4-8 hours a day, depending on the needs of the facility during your time here. Each day there will be a 1-2 hour lunch break to ensure ample time to refuel. During the hotter months, the schedule may be altered to eliminate any heavy work during the hottest times of the day. All safety protocols will be taught on the job, as well as different techniques for animal behavior and animal enrichment. You may be required to assist in the preparation of the big cats’ meals, which is often cow, horse, chicken,or antelope meat. This may also include removing meat from the bone, preparing internal organs, and working with or around carcasses - so volunteers must be prepared to work with meat.

As a volunteer, you will be helping in many different aspects at the Sanctuary & on the Reserve with:

Food and vitamin preparation,feeding routines, animal Welfare checks (twice daily)

Assisting with fundraising/markets,animal monitoring and record keeping

Maintaining of the enclosures – and maybe even helping in building new ones!,enclosure fence checks- normally done twice a day, first thing and last,creating enrichment items – the most fun part ,assisting in educational tours

Perimeter fence checking,bush clearing and alien plant removal on the reserve,bush walks and monitoring of free roaming wildlife,observing veterinary procedures (should they happen during your stay)

Overall helping in the day-to-day running of the Sanctuary & Reserve.Should there be any animal(s) in rehabilitation, volunteers may assist with feeding/cleaning.This is NOT guaranteed. Volunteers need to be flexible and ready to assist, as working with wildlife can be very unpredictable and things can change according to the needs of the animals and the Sanctuary as a whole. Each day is different! 

You will be working side by side with the management team of the Sanctuary, other staff, and volunteers. A real opportunity of a lifetime to be fully immersed in a new environment.

The volunteer accommodation is on a reserve, and is less than a 2-minute walk to the sanctuary itself. It has wonderful views as it is on a hill surrounded by free roaming wildlife. As it is so close to the sanctuary, you can hear the lions roaring at night! Accommodation is in the form of glamping tents or our Teepee which can each accommodate up to 8 volunteers. Sharing is normally done with members of the same sex - unless couples, friends or a family group are volunteering together. Each tent has its own bathroom with a toilet, shower and basin, as well as a small kitchenette to prepare food. Outside on the deck is a dining table and a fire pit which can be used to braai (South African BBQ) too. Bed linen is provided and there is electricity and running water. Wi-fi is available in limited areas of the reserve, so it is H I G H L Y advisable though to buy a South African SIM card at the airport and top up with prepaid airtime and data to be better connected. There is a washing machine onsite if water is available on the reserve, alternatively laundry can be sent into town to a laundromat for a small fee. Bedding can be washed once a week by staff if requested. Keeping your volunteer accommodation clean and tidy is the responsibility of each volunteer.


Meals are self-service with food that is provided on a weekly basis, so you will need to prepare your own breakfast, lunch, and supper - unless you take turns with other volunteers. The kitchenette in the glamping tents has a 2-plate gas stove, stove top kettle, fridge/freezer, microwave,and basic cutlery and crockery. You will need to clean up after yourself. Once a week minimum town trips will be done so volunteers can purchase any extra items they may want. Please advise us of any dietary restrictions, allergies, etc. in advance. Vegetarians can be catered for but there may be an additional fee for a vegan diet due to the high cost of vegan exclusive food. 

Your arrival and departure airport for the Sanctuary project in South Africa is Port Elizabeth International Airport (Airport code PLZ). Collection and drop off days are Mondays of each week.

Please note that Port Elizabeth is also known as Gqeberha. Please wait at arrivals to be collected and do not leave the area.

All the airports in South Africa have free Wi-Fi so please log on and let us know via WhatsApp that you have arrived, especially if your flight has landed earlier or been delayed. 



Durations & Pricing

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2 weeks - £ 692
3 weeks - £ 1038
4 weeks - £ 1384
You do not pay anything when you book. We will provide you with a detailed itinerary and quote for you to check. When you are happy with the details, you will be able to confirm your placement with a deposit of £30.

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