If you’re tired of your typical holiday routine and you happen to find yourself in a more giving mood, then a volunteering holiday could be the perfect solution. There are literally thousands of organisations that rely on volunteers to help them treat orphaned animals, protect endangered ones, or uplift disadvantaged communities. Unfortunately, becoming a volunteer tends to come with a fairly large price tag. And while many of these organisations need donations just as much as they need willing hands, not all of us can fork out thousands or rands for one week of worthwhile holiday.
So here are our top 10 (more affordable) volunteering opportunities around the country.
Founded by Louis Fourie, this tour company turned permaculture and community-projects centre relies heavily on volunteers to help out with everything from working in the organic gardens, making bricks, playing sports with the local youth and helping children with their gardening projects.
And what better place to do it than along the beautiful Wild Coast, at the Magwa Falls, where you can learn about and interact with the rural Xhosa communities while staying in an absolutely breathtaking environment?
Volunteers are invited to stay for as short or as long as they like and Louis is even open to giving discount to South Africans. You’ll be staying in a house with the other volunteers where your lifestyle will be simple and nature-based, sharing rooms and facilities and truly getting to know your surroundings and the locals.
Wildlife ACT does very important work relating to conservation, like implementing anti-poaching technologies in the field and finding effective equipment for monitoring animals. They also assist in reintroducing certain species in the wild as well as community outreach, conservation education and economic development.
Volunteers are invited to be part of a professional conservation team and physically work in the field to make a difference in African conservation. And all you need is a passion for conservation and be reasonably fit.
Volunteers are invited from all over the world to join the team in Zululand and you’ll be provided with accommodation and food at the reserve.
SANCCOB – The South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds
Probably one of South Africa’s favourite places to volunteer, SANCCOB is a non-profit, sea bird rehabilitation centre based in Cape Town. Their aim is to conserve and protect South Africa’s sea birds, especially those that are under threat. They also have a very active education programme to inform future generations about the necessity of preserving these precious animals.
Volunteers are needed to scrub pens, prepare meals for the chicks, hold and feed penguins and help in the intensive care clinic. Your level of responsibility increases the longer you stay as SANCCOB staff members are happy to teach interested and committed volunteers as much as they want to know.
South Africans are invited to volunteer for free, as long as you’re a permanent resident and you have your own accommodation and transport.
This popular attraction along the Garden Route rehabilitates and frees previously captured animals and is now home to a wide range of primates – all happily living in a wide open forested area. Expect to see Capuchin Monkeys, Owl Monkeys, Bush Babys, French Lemur and many other beautiful creatures.
Volunteer duties usually involve taking visitors on walking tours, working in the curio store and assisting with the birds at Birds of Eden as well as the primates. If you’re skilled in photography, grant writing, journalism or if you can speak more than one language, you can also apply for a more specialised volunteering holiday.
Volunteers stay in the shared volunteer house and if you’re a South African citizen, you’ll pay for nothing more than your food and transport to and from Monkeyland.
Daktari Bush School and Wildlife Orphanage
To combine community and wildlife volunteering, a working holiday at Daktari in the Limpopo Province comes highly recommended. This registered NGO believes that educating the local children about the environment and its wild animals is just as important as conserving the animals.
Every week, a new group of children arrive at the bush school and you as volunteer will divide your day with the kids between teaching them basic Grade 8 subjects, educating them about their wildlife heritage and taking them with you to feed the animals and check their health and water supply.
Volunteesr stay on the premises and arrive on Saturdays, staying anywhere between one week and three months. Daktari is open to granting discount to South Africans, as they know how expensive a volunteering holiday can become.
Volunteering South Africa
If you’ve ever been to the KKNK (Klein Karoo National Arts Festival) and you’ve had a group of kids sing Afrikaans hits to you in exchange for small change, then you have an idea about the amount of uncared for and homeless children there are around Oudshoorn. The Backpacker’s Paradise offers a free volunteering project where you can get involved at the St. Luigi Care Centre in the Bridgton Township – provided you pay to stay at the backpacker’s.
The centre is divided into four sections as to provide after school care to different age groups, supply a safety house for vulnerable children as well as a treatment centre for malnourished children. Volunteers get involved in any of these areas – wherever help is needed.
The Backpacker’s Paradise is a comfortable and social place and it’s very affordable. Enjoy the typical backpacker’s lifestyle of communal kitchen, dorm rooms and interesting new friends while having the chance to give back to the community.
HFHSA – Habitat for Humanities South Africa
Raising funds and building homes in less privileged communities around South Africa, HFHSA is involved in 34 communities around the country, including Gauteng, Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Western Cape. They also have active community, youth, corporate and church programmes running across the country.
If you’re keen to get your hands dirty, then you’ll love working side-by-side with a new home-owner and members from the community to construct a little house for them on an empty plot. Don’t worry about taking lunch as the Mama’s are known for supplying delicious, hearty meals and tea- and lunchtimes usually turn into a colourful, noisy, intercultural affair.
If you feel like taking a break from mixing cement or laying bricks, there will always be a group of boys with a soccer ball or girls with a skipping rope who would love it if you join them in a round.
South Africa Volunteers
Situated in Port St Johns, along the Wild Coast, these folks are committed to empowering the minds of the members of the community and manage many projects to get involved with. From teaching life skills and how to plant and care for your own crop, to providing a shelter for street children and teaching primary school, they’re truly committed to uplifting this community.
Volunteers can get involved in any of the projects and centres, depending on their interest or level of experience. Anyone with a willingness to learn can apply for the programme and volunteers can stay for however long they’re able to commit.
CARE – Centre for Animal Rehabilitation and Education
If you find yourself close to Phalaborwa for a holiday, you can take the opportunity to assist in the rehabilitation of the indigenous Chacma baboons of South Africa. Most of the animals here are babies who have been orphaned or abandoned and they’ll be released back into the wild once they’re strong and old enough. The few who can’t be rereleased live at the sanctuary and the centre provides a comfortable and safe home for them.
Volunteers at the centre are involved with daily routine tasks, with the main focus being on the babies. You’ll prepare food, clean enclosures, play with them, observe their behaviour and wash their blankets and soft toys.
Locals only have to commit to a minimum of two weeks and the money you pay goes toward your accommodation and meals. A friendly email might even bring about a discount if you’re a South African citizen.
WWOOF at Simonskloof
Short for Willing Workers on Organic Farms, WWOOFing is a global phenomena where people can work on an organic farm anywhere in world, learn all about the how’s and why’s of organic farming and receive accommodation and food in return. Of course there’s nothing stopping you from finding a local farm to do the same.
Simonskloof is a down-to-earth mountain retreat, 50km outside of Montagu, in the beautiful Langeberg Mountains and they haven’t used any chemicals on the farm for over 20 years. Your work can involved anything from cleaning rooms and helping out in the kitchen to doing renovations and hiking trail maintenance.
Stay in a cosy caravan in the camping site and make friends from South Africa and all over the world. Altough experience in any of the above fields is a plus, a willing-to-learn-attitude, a sense of humour and enthusiasm are really the only requirements.
Read more about international WWOOF opportunities at www.wwoof.org.
Although the park started out as a breeding centre for Lory birds, it is now a safe haven for many bird species as well as big cats, small cats, primates and even tortoises. Situated in Midrand, the main objective of the park is to educate children about the rehabilitation of the environment in an engaging and stimulating place.
As volunteer, you’ll be very much involved with handling and caring for the animals and you might have the chance to help raise some of the newborn animals as well. Volunteers are also expected to help educated the visiting children and assist in the general operations of the facility.
Although international applicants are charged for volunteering, locals can lend a hand for free, as long as you have your own accommodation and transport.
If you could take a volunteering holiday anywhere in the world, where would you go? Tell us in the comment box below.