Family Volunteering with monkeys and baboons in South Africa
Travel to the South African bush with your family to work with orphaned and mistreated monkeys and baboons. Get stuck in and hands-on with baby primates in a prestigious primate rehabilitation centre, helping them on a journey back to life in the wild.
Dates: All year round for 14 days. Shorter durations may be possible.
Suitability: You know your children best, but we would suggest a minimum age of 8 for this project. You need to be prepared for basic living conditions, happy to get very mucky and up for a very different experience.
How do you feel about getting plenty of monkey hugs, acting as surrogate parents to baby primates and becoming a human climbing frame? If the answer to these three questions is positive, this could be the best family adventure that you are likely to take. Not only will you learn where the phrase “cheeky monkey” comes from but you will receive endless monkey hugs in this exceptionally friendly and life-changing rehabilitation centre in the African bush.
Located in the lush African bush, your family will escape city life. Your family will easily become integrated in this volunteer community, run by an energetic couple who are passionate about the monkeys and baboons they work with- there are even a few dogs and a tortoise to count as part of your wider group!
Well regarded in the conservation community, the centre has received special accreditation from the government. It is known for the exceptional standard of care given to the monkeys (as well as to the volunteers!) and for having undertaken many successful releases into the wild.
What will we be doing each day?
Day to day tasks will be based on the needs of the monkeys, and as such you need to be flexible and willing to get stuck in. Days off aren’t really a part of this project, as the monkeys need care day in day out, so you should plan any relaxing elements to your trip before or after your time here.
This project is very hands on, so you do need to be comfortable with the idea of having seven or eight monkeys and baboons around the centre on your head, in your arms or clutching your feet. You need to be prepared to get very mucky (yep, they will poo and wee on you!), live in basic African accommodation and be happy to be part of a wider team. Actual tasks that you and your family can expect to help in, though, are as follows:
- Feeding baby monkeys and baboons
- Cleaning out the enclosures (probably with a monkey or two hoping for a hug at the same time!)
- Preparing food for the adult monkeys and baboons
- Taking the young monkeys and baboons down to the swimming pool to bathe
- Helping to prepare for current and future releases
- Planting and picking fruit and vegetables for the monkeys from the centre’s own garden
- Helping with the food collection forays at local farms- a fantastic way to see the surrounding area
- Caring for the various quarantined adult monkeys
This work is critical for the centre, as it means that more monkeys in distress can be cared for.
Where will we be based?
Based in the north east of South Africa, you and your family will get to experience rural South Africa at its best! South Africa is world-famous for its stunning scenery and the diversity of its wildlife. You will be staying close to the western edge of Kruger National park, home of the Big 5 and the best wildlife reserve in the country. A family safari at the end of your volunteering might be a nice way to round off your family’s volunteering adventure.
Accommodation and Food
Accommodation is set a few hundred metres from the monkeys and has outdoor space and a fire to sit around with a cool beer or glass of South African wine. There are limited numbers of family cabins, and we will do our best to accommodate you in one of these – we would recommend booking early to guarantee this. The outdoor showers offer a view of the Milky Way through the trees – something which just adds to the rustic nature of this project. There is a pool on site however this is not always in use due to drought and expense – when it is in use, the primates love a dip!
The food is excellent and plentiful, and dinner at 6pm is an event to look forward to after an outdoor shower and a drink. Breakfast and dinner are provided, and volunteers are welcome to breads and spreads and leftovers for lunch – although most people choose to buy lunch items to supplement this too. There is a pleasant veranda to sit on after dinner where volunteers play games and feed the babies.
When should I book?
Whilst late-availability is possible, we would advise booking as soon as you can to guarantee your ideal dates. Our projects are very popular and spaces can fill up several months in advance, especially for the months of June to September.
Fancy taking a safari after volunteering?
We are excited to offer our monkey volunteers the opportunity to explore the Kruger National Park either before or after their time on the project – although we would recommend after. To find out more about the tour, see our Kruger Safari page.
- Both adults and children will become important members of a welcoming volunteer community committed to the rehabilitation of mischievous monkeys.
- Create unforgettable memories for all the family as everyone gets stuck in to feeding, interacting and playing with these primates.
- Get plenty of monkey hugs as you make a genuine difference to their lives – without the work of volunteers, the rehabilitation time is much greater, and fewer monkeys can be cared for.
- Expose your family to a very different way of life as you experience living in the lush South African bush, surrounded by its stunning scenery and wonderful wildlife.
Whyshould I do this?
Families have really enjoyed contributing to something which ultimately allows monkeys and baboons to be released back to the wild. It is a great opportunity to learn more about animal welfare, conservation and rehabilitation, and to become an important part of the rehabilitation process. You will get very hands-on in this mission, and children love to interact with the young primates.
A returned volunteer, aged 9, has given us her thoughts on why this was such a fantastic project.
Fly into Phalaborwa airport (PHW). You will be collected from the airport and driven to the project site, approximately 90 minutes. Arrival day is a Monday, however this can be flexible if necessary.
Paul and Lynnette have been involved in primate rehabilitation since 1994 and set up the centre to help get monkeys back to the wild. They treat you as part of the family. They have welcomed over 1000 volunteers over the years, and many keep coming back for more!
What is provided
- Before booking: Dedicated period of time on the phone or in person to discuss the project, answer any questions that you might have and find out more about you
- Access to your personal ‘My Oyster’ account – our online portal where you can find out much more about the programme and manage your booking.
- Pre-departure information covering medical, safety and project advice
- Advice on visa requirements – South African immigration requires that minors travelling with parents have certain documents with them
- Help and advice from our UK office before departure and whilst away
- Pre-arranged voluntary work at the rehabilitation centre with accommodation
- Met and greeted warmly at Phalaborwa airport and transfer to accommodation
- Accommodation with bathing facilities, lounge, BBQ and internet access
- Breakfast and dinner
- Return transfer to the airport
- Oyster will prepare you thoroughly before you leave and support you while you are out there.
- ATOL financial protection (if Oyster books your flight)
- Transport to town on a weekly basis
- Oyster Worldwide volunteer t-shirt
On your return:
- Welcome home pack
- Certificate of Recognition (on request)
- References (on request)
What do I need
- Flights to Phalaborwa (PHW) via Johannesburg. There is a bus from Johannesburg, but this takes about 5 hours. Oyster can book your flights
- Each member of the family will need a passport valid for a minimum of 30 days after your return date
- Insurance for the entire family (covering your project time and any planned independent travel)
- Cost of changing your return flight date if you need to
- Independent travel costs
- Any additional costs such as trips, snacks, entertainment and lunches (allow £40 per week per person, depending on lifestyle)
- All home country travel costs
- No visa is necessary for under 90 days from UK and most western European countries
- The rehabilitation centre is not directly in a malaria area but precautions are suggested. Please consult a family doctor in good time about this and other inoculations needed