Volunteer Testimonials   |  Vervet Monkey Project Photos

COVID Recovery Note: We are currently not able to accept applications for this project. We recommend the Greater Kruger Conservation Project as an excellent alternative for ethical wildlife volunteering.

Volunteer with a wonderful non-profit primate sanctuary near Kruger National Park and help to care for more than 500 vervet monkeys that are part of the centre's rehabilitation programme.

You will work with monkeys or on projects such as building or painting to benefit the monkeys & have time off to visit local waterfalls, rivers, or other sites of interest. At the sanctuary you will also participate in a variety of tasks depending on the time of year, from feeding orphaned babies to constructing new enclosures. This is an ideal project for anyone who has ever dreamed of working with primates.

Volunteer duties are varied and can include collecting & cleaning baby bottles, making baby formula, cleaning and preparing bowls of fruit & vegetables for the monkeys, washing monkey blankets, monitoring monkeys in enclosures, working in the sickbay area, occasional cooking, washing food bowls and collecting seed pods for monkeys.

In addition, volunteers will also help with the building of new enclosures for monkeys. Construction involves building, painting, sanding, welding, fence-building, knot-tying, firebreaks & invader species eradication. Sometimes you might be asked to cut grass & prepare thatch bundles for construction, or to letter & paint signs for enclosures. Work can be hard under the african sun but very rewarding.

To join this project you will need to be in good physical condition and aged 18 years or older by the time you arrive. Good social skills are an advantage and a willingness to help where needed is vital as you will be part of a large team of staff and volunteers. Personal characteristics like commitment, flexibility and the ability to use your initiative will also be key. To ensure effective communication between all team members, a good understanding of the English language is also required.

If you are interested in joining this project for 6 months to a year, please let us know as there are a limited number of opportunities for volunteers for getting more involved in troop integrations and other long-term projects at the sanctuary.

Arrival AirportJohannesburg (JNB)
Arrival DaySunday or earlier
Join Project OnMonday
DurationYou can volunteer with the Vervet Monkey Rehabilitation Project for 2 weeks or more
Volunteering HoursVariable hours, 6 days each week
Main ActivitiesPreparing food for monkeys, hands-on care, monitoring, cleaning and assisting with rehabilitations
Fly Home OnFriday or later
Minimum AgeYou must be aged 18 years or older when you arrive
AvailabilityAvailable dates for each duration are shown on the top-right of this page with the option to select from several currencies.
Pre-arrival SupportOur experienced team is on hand to ensure you are fully prepared for your trip to South Africa
Airport TransferWe provide an escorted transfer from Johannesburg Airport to your pre-project accommodation
AccommodationFor your first night (Sunday night) you will stay at Brown Sugar Backpackers in Johannesburg. At the project you will stay in the volunteer village in a very basic wooden cabin with a maximum of 2 sharing
FoodAll your meals are included during your stay at the Vervet Monkey Rehabilitation Project. All meals are vegan based.
TransportReturn transfers between Johannesburg and the Vervet Monkey Rehabilitation Project are provided
OrientationOn your first day at the Vevet Monkey Rehabilitation Project you will have a full orientation
Wi-FiFree Wi-Fi at Brown Sugar & the Vervet Monkey Rehabilitation Centre
In-country SupportOur volunteer coordinators are available 24/7 for emergencies, and are on hand to help you make the most of your stay
CertificateOn completion of your placement we will send you a special thank you certificate 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. Please refer to our FAQ section for more details if you are unsure
FlightsPlease refer to our FAQ section for recommendations about keeping your flight costs to a minimum
InsuranceWe have partnered with World Nomads Insurance to give you access to great value insurance for volunteers. Please check out our Insurance page under the FAQ tab for more details.

Volunteer Testimonials   |  Vervet Monkey Project Photos

Life at the sanctuary is well structured with a varied routine and lots of interesting things to do.

Depending on the season, your week days will generally begin between 6am - 8am and end at 4.30pm - 7pm. A new rota is prepared every evening so you will be able to see what you will be doing the following day. 

Weekend duties generally start at 7am and finish at 12 or 1pm, with a 6am start or earlier in baby season.

Some of the duties you can expect to be involved in include:

  • Collecting, chopping and delivering food for monkeys
  • Cooking vegan meals at weekends for volunteers
  • Hands-on care-giving of baby monkeys (baby season only), helping in our sickbay
  • Monitoring and report writing of monkeys around the sanctuary
  • Cleaning monkey cages, washing feed bowls & plates and cleaning blankets
  • Assisting with introductions and rehabilitation of new monkeys
  • Assisting with basic medical practices and administering medications
  • Clearing vegetation for fire breaks and looking after the volunteer village
  • Assisting with education outreach programs
  • Participating in fundraising and contributing to newsletters. We can also use graphic design skills.

During the baby season (November to February) there is a possibility that you will work with baby monkeys, nearly all orphaned and traumatised. We introduce them to foster mothers ensuring each baby is stabilised, healthy and able to drink from a bottle when handling them.

During the juvenile season (March to October), you may be able to see juniors being integrated into a troop within our rehabilitation programme or participate in other integrations.

Baby rehabilitation involves volunteers handling or observing the babies in their outdoor playpen, mixing up bottles of milk, preparing foods and administering medicine if required. You will feed and monitor them throughout the day, constantly checking their progress. Be aware that these babies will defecate and urinate on you quite happily - this is unavoidable, so old clothes are recommended. You must remember the vervet monkeys are wild animals so expect a few ‘nips’ whilst they play!

You will also be helping to rehabilitate vervet monkeys into viable troops for release into protected reserves, integrating them back into their natural environment

Main Feed: Each and every day, volunteers and staff prepare bowls of food to feed over 500 vervets in the rehabilitation programme. You will cut, wash and share out the fruit and vegetables equally before distributing the food bowls to the vervets. Seed pods and fruits are also picked from our indigenous trees on a regular basis.

Monitoring: This is a crucial and important job as you will monitor and observe each monkey within the sanctuary, checking for any injuries, stress or sickness - reporting information back to 'base' to ensure the vervets are in the best of health. This task is done daily, and you will usually have a 2 or 3 day shift rotation whilst monitoring to provide continuity of observation.

Your evenings will either be spent quietly at the village or up at the cottage where volunteers can socialise and get to know one another.

Although you will be on call 24hrs a day, the project team will only call you for an emergency if they have no other alternative.

You will get 1 day off each week, and provided all duties are covered over weekends you will have a Saturday or Sunday afternoon off too.

On your day off you will be provided with a lift into town to purchase supplies, swim in the nearby lodge pool or relax with a coffee in the mall.

If you are volunteering for 4 weeks or more you will be given an additional day off each week for touring. Volunteers often save these days up and use them for a visit to nearby Kruger National Park. See the Useful Info section for more ideas for your spare time.

Volunteer Testimonials   |  Vervet Monkey Project Photos

Pre-Project accommodation (For your first Sunday night):

As one of Johannesburg's best backpackers, Brown Sugar has a great range of facilities and is well positioned in the Observatory suburb of Johannesburg to provide the perfect place for you to relax and unwind after your journey to South Africa.

If you arrive before Sunday, we can add as many extra nights at Brown Sugar as you need.

While you’re at Brown Sugar you can enjoy all of the facilities below. Whether you’re having a dip in the pool, or booking an adventurous activity at the Travel Desk, you will find that Brown Sugar have plenty to keep you busy:

  • Dormitory accommodation with all bedding and linen provided
  • Self-service breakfast is included with cereals, egg, cheese, ham, toast, jams, milk, yoghurt, fruit, tea, coffee & juice
  • Free Wi-fi and an internet cafe with laptops for the use of guests
  • A fully equipped shared kitchen with fridge/freezers for storing your groceries
  • All bedding including linen, duvet and pillows (linen is changed every four days)
  • Self service laundry
  • Lots of showers and toilets
  • A travel desk for booking tours and activities
  • A pool area with sunloungers and a BBQ
  • A large bar with Satellite TV, a pool table, and an outdoor balcony area with seating and BBQ facilities
  • Lockable storage for your valuables (please bring your own padlock for this)
  • CCTV Security and controlled gate access
  • A night manager
  • The lodge is cleaned daily and rooms are also serviced daily.

At the Vervet Monkey Rehabilitation Project:

You will stay at the volunteer village and sleep in a very basic wooden cabin, usually with 1 other volunteer. We provide a storage box, mattress, table, pillow and sheets, though no other bedding so you will need to bring a sleeping bag.

There is no electricity in the village but accessories can be charged at the cottage. We advise bringing a chargeable camping light to light up your cabin at night for reading. The volunteer village houses a warm, gas-heated shower, eco-toilet (composting toilet), washing sink, and a campfire, which is great for an evening under the stars or a traditional braai (South African barbecue).

A laundry service is provided free from Monday to Friday.

Meals during your time with the project

Volunteers are provided with a healthy and varied vegan diet at the sanctuary which includes lasagne, veggie burgers & chips, shepherds pie, sausages and mash, vegetable stir frys and many more.

Cereals, tea, coffee, soya milk, sugar, toast, spreads, fruit and seeds are provided for breakfast at the cottage and you can help yourself to tea, coffee, bread, peanut butter, marmite, jam, fruit etc during your mid-morning coffee break.

Your lunches and dinners are prepared for you during the week, Monday to Friday. Over the weekends volunteers prepare their own lunches and take it in turns to prepare communal dinners, often making use of the recipes provided.

Volunteer Testimonials   |  Vervet Monkey Project Photos

The Vervet Monkey Rehabilitation Project is located near the town of Tzaneen in Limpopo Province.

Your arrival airport is Johannesburg (JNB)

  • We have arrival dates for this project on most Sundays throughout the year.
  • You can also arrive earlier if you prefer. We can easily add extra nights to your stay, before and/or after your placement.
  • If you arrive before Sunday, you will have time to enjoy some local attractions - perhaps take a tour of Soweto, grab dinner in China Town, and maybe include a visit to the Apartheid Museum. The friendly team at Brown Sugar can help you with these any many other activity and tour options
  • You can book your arrival flight to land at Johannesburg International Airport at any time of day.
  • One of our team will be at the airport to give you a warm welcome. We will also escort you to Brown Sugar Backpackers.
  • On Monday morning you will travel approximately 6 hours by air-conditioned coach to join the project.

Volunteer Testimonials   |  Vervet Monkey Project Photos

Ideas for your free time

Kruger National Park is only an hour's drive away, and there are many other interesting and beautiful sights to see in the area. Volunteers are encouraged to take time off to go on safari, and to experience the wonders of South African wildlife. Volunteers often get together to go on a 3 or 4 day trip to Kruger National Park, and to visit sights around Kruger like the Blyde River Canyon, Mac-Mac Falls, Berlin Waterfall, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, God’s Window and more.

Other interesting sights include:

  • Debengeni Falls, a sacred river steeped in ancient magic
  • Modjadji Cycad Forest has cycads that have been growing since the dinosaur age. This unique plant species only appears in this forest where the Modjadji Rain Queen resides
  • Sapeko Tea Garden is a must to visit - their delicious food comes with a spectacular view
  • Communing with the biggest Baobab tree is a worthwhile experience
  • Quad biking and other activities are also available at Mogoebaskloof.

If you are interested in going with a tour guide who will collect you from the volunteer village, please speak to Dave or Josie and they will advise you of availability any costs, and can book one for you.

Extra outings are often organised over weekends with basic petrol costs shared between any volunteers that would like to join the trip.

Durations & Pricing

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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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