Volunteer with Bears in Romania
Help protect and conserve the world’s most beloved animal in Eastern Europe’s largest bear sanctuary. These abused bears have been given a new start in life and you can play a vital part in their rehabilitation. Enjoy seeing the bears frolic in their newfound freedom, and get busy taking care of their basic needs in this tranquil haven.
Bears have had a tough time of it in Romania. For years, they have been hunted as trophies, forced to dance in the streets for strangers, made to cycle around circuses and beg outside hotels. Kept in cramped conditions and regularly abused by their owners, these bears are now being rescued and brought to Eastern Europe’s largest bear sanctuary, just outside Brasov.
The sanctuary was opened in 2006, and Oyster volunteers have been part of these rescued bears’ recoveries ever since. The sanctuary is now home to over 70 bears, providing them with a green and peaceful haven in which to live, in a setting as close to the wild as possible.
Working closely with the full time staff at the sanctuary, volunteers become part of this ongoing rescue story to bring more bears to safety. Each day you will be out and about, helping to prepare food and do other tasks around the sanctuary. No day is the same – but the one thing that you can be sure of is the bears.
What will I be doing?
The sanctuary is located in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, just outside the medieval city of Brasov. These mountain ranges are one of Europe’s last really wild places, providing a home to both brown bears and wolves. The sanctuary enjoys stunning views out over the mountains, its wooded hills providing the perfect haven for these rescued bears.
Your day at the sanctuary starts with a wander through the woodlands past the large and wild enclosures that have become these bears’ homes. This is the perfect opportunity to see the bears playing, climbing trees, swimming and even having a good back scratch against the trees. Arriving at the main sanctuary building you are given your tasks, which vary depending on the bears and their needs when you are there. You should expect to be outdoors and getting pretty stuck in to the sanctuary life!
Typical tasks at the sanctuary include:
- Food preparation – this will be your main task as bears need to eat up to 10kg per day to stay healthy – that’s a lot of food! Prepare to get mucky!
- Watching the bear feeding process – a real highlight is to see the bears coming out of the undergrowth to get the best bits!
- Bear watching – it is important to keep an eye on how the newest bears are coping, and how quickly they are adapting to their new surroundings. You also have the time to simply enjoy watching the bears in their natural habitat from a treetop viewing platform – this is amazing, especially at feeding time!
- Sanctuary tours – there are various educational groups that visit the sanctuary, and volunteers can help to educate them about animal welfare
- Sanctuary conservation work – sometimes there can be some basic maintenance work required, such as raking leaves, gathering hay for quarantine, clearing undergrowth etc
The great thing about this project is that it really gets you close to the bears in a natural environment, in a way that is positive for the bears. Getting involved in the running of the sanctuary really opens your eyes to the wider implications of animal welfare, and the importance of making sure that people understand its significance.
Accommodation and Food
You will be based in Brasov, living in a comfortable, central apartment that Oyster rents for you and your fellow volunteers. You should expect to share a room with at least one other volunteer. The apartment is set at the foot of the towering Mount Tampa and is just a few minutes walk to the centre of the town and all amenities.
The apartment provides a comfortable home for you during your stay in Brasov. There is wifi available for use, as well as televisions and books at your disposal. The fully equipped kitchen means that you can cook with fellow volunteers, or treat yourself to dinner out in the evening.
We believe that living in relative comfort is important and should help you unwind when you are working hard in the fresh air all day.
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.
- Work in Eastern Europe’s largest bear sanctuary, as you help these lovable animals to rehabilitate and re-enter life in the wild.
- Become part of an important protection programme, as you work alongside full-time staff to promote the bears’ welfare.
- Enjoy getting up close to the bears and spending time with them in a beautiful natural location.
- Live in a stunning mountain location in the lively medieval city of Brasov.
- Explore the surrounding mountains, Dracula’s castle, hilltop fortresses and other Romanian cities on your weekends.
- Meet like-minded people and make great, even lifelong, friends.
Whyshould I do this?
There is almost too much to say about this project in this short space. It is a life-changing experience, both for the bears and for volunteers. Working up at the bear sanctuary in the peaceful, green woodland with over 70 bears around is a great leveller. Learning about their tragic pasts and the amazing journeys they have taken to get where they are today is not only moving, but really brings home the important work that you are doing.
In addition to the volunteering, Romania is a beautiful country with mountains, castles and friendly people. It is a must for animal and wildlife lovers.
You will fly to Bucharest airport (OTP). You will be collected from your flight and driven through the beautiful scenery to Brasov, approximately 2-3 hours drive from Bucharest. Once there, Razvan will help you to settle you into your apartment, before giving you a thorough orientation.
Your return transport to the airport is also included and arranged for you.
A perfect English speaker and probably the most dynamic person you will ever meet, Razvan has run our Romania programmes since 2003. A veteran rep – he has dealt with over 400 volunteers so far – he always goes way beyond his Oyster job description, organising wonderful trips (to Dracula’s castle and the Black Sea among others) for participants. He is personally involved in the fundraising and awareness building of the bear sanctuary, even getting dressed up as a bear on one occasion!
It doesn’t matter if you’re a short or long-term volunteer, you still get full support from Razvan, who aims to ensure that you have a happy and productive time in Romania.
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 briefing
- Placement information covering work issues and placement advice
- Help and advice from our UK office before and after departure
- Airport welcome and pick up
- Return transfer to the airport at the end of your stay
- Comfortable central accommodation with all bills included
- Free wifi at the accommodation
- Assistance and support from our representative whilst on your placement including regular social ‘meet ups’
- Daily return transport to the sanctuary
- Thorough orientation and basic Romanian language guide
- Donation to project and contribution to Oyster’s adopted bear, Max
- Excludes food (approx. £20 – £30 per week)
- A book about the sanctuary, its history and of course the bears
- Two weekend half-day trips are arranged by Razvan (transport costs covered only). Please note that those staying for one week only will go on one trip only (to be decided upon arrival):
- Trip 1: Dracula’s Castle
- Trip 2: Peles Castle
- EU VAT at 17.5% on UK cost elements
- Oyster Worldwide volunteer t-shirt
- Oyster luggage tag
On your return:
- Welcome home pack
- Certificate of Recognition (on request)
- References (on request)
What do I need
- A passport valid for the duration of your stay
- Insurance (we can recommend a specific policy)
- Flights to Bucharest. We can help you organise these
- Cost of changing your return flight date if you need to
- All home country travel costs
- Independent travel costs whilst in Romania and on the organised trips
- Provide your own lunch, water and hot drink (in a flask) at the sanctuary
- Cost of food and going out (£25-£50 per week dependent on lifestyle)