Veterinary experience in South Africa
Immerse yourself in the life of a vet on a Big 5 game reserve, shadowing a vet and other wildlife specialists getting hands-on in basic care. Get to grips with checking on the health and well being of the animals, all whilst living in the heart of a lush reserve home to hundreds of species of animals. This experience is fantastic for those looking to learn more about living and working on a game reserve in a veterinary capacity.
Hands-on veterinary experience in the wilds of Africa
Get into the heart of Africa and work with some of the continent’s most renowned mammals on a lush game reserve. Work closely with the part-time reserve vet and wildlife experts as they work to ensure the health and well-being of the animals in their care. If you are looking to gain veterinary experience or put your skills into practice, this veterinary experience is a fantastic way to acquire a highly practical knowledge base.
This programme has been designed to give participants plenty of practical experience, often backed up with useful theoretical knowledge. Most of the knowledge acquired on this programme is learned “on the job” however lectures are arranged to gain a deeper insight into certain issues surrounding veterinary work with wild animals.
How does it work?
This experience is divided into two main areas of work, reflecting the set-up of the reserve and the role of the vet. It is important to remember that the reserve is a dynamic and changing environment, and as such it is important to understand that there are not always animals in need of direct veterinary intervention.
Direct veterinary activities
The reserve comprises three main sections: the wild reserve, the rehabilitation area and the domestic animals centre. Participants will assist with checking the health of animals in these areas to ensure their continued well-being. This can include domestic and wild animals which are part of a rescue and rehabilitation programme; young cubs that are being hand reared for rehabilitation or even farm animals which are suffering from disease or illness.
The tasks at hand all depend on the specific cases at the time, however you should be able to work on a diverse variety of cases. None of these can be guaranteed, however they are often carried out:
- Assisting with minor operations or application of antibiotics
- Application of boosters and vitamin supplements
- Checking of gums and eye sockets on predators for signs of anaemia and jaundice.
- Monitoring of behavioural characteristics of animals in the rehabilitation programme
- Monitoring of the well-being of animals for signs of ill health, parasites or wounds
- Treatment of animals for external and internal parasites and wounds
- Darting of animals with antibiotics when necessary for wounds or possible pneumonia
- The basic utilisation of the dart gun on a target, when necessary
- Autopsy on fresh dead animals for parasites
- Autopsy on cows brought in for feeding to determine cause of death, when possible
- GPS of lion kills found
These activities will be done with one of our on-site experts in the field such as the vet, predator experts, elephant experts and game rangers. You will work directly with a variety of experts who excel in their individual fields, dramatically broadening your experience and giving you a greater understanding of the importance of veterinary science on a game reserve. Please note that the vet is at the reserve 2 – 3 days each week, and at other times you will be working with other specifically trained experts.
Indirect veterinary activities
In addition to the direct veterinary tasks, participants will also immerse themselves in the greater day to day routine of conservation and wildlife management on the game reserve. Participants work alongside the Big 5 participants in a variety of other reserve projects, which can include:
- lion tracking and monitoring
- helping out with the predator breeding programmme
- game counts
- game captures
- game drives
- fence patrol
- removal of alien vegetation in and around the reserve
- planting of natural species
- wilderness trail walks and patrols
These tasks are all carried out with the welfare of the animals of the reserve in mind, and will be completed working alongside experienced wildlife professionals keen to teach you all about the animals and the processes here.
This progamme is ideal for those who are taking a gap year before going to study veterinary medicine at university, who are looking to get some veterinary experience during holidays or who are changing career paths to go into veterinary medicine. Anybody is more than welcome to participate in this programme, however it is important to note that the level of knowledge would also determine the extent of the work possible.
Your programme will keep you busy at the reserve from Monday to Friday, with weekends free for relaxation and exploring. At the weekend many participants choose to head in to Port Elizabeth to enjoy the sea, surf and sand, as well as to use it as a base from which to explore the area. Accommodation is provided whilst in Port Elizabeth for no extra charge, although you will need to budget for food. Alternatively, you are more than welcome to remain at the reserve to enjoy the fantastic facilities there and simply relax.
Accommodation and Food
Your accommodation is on site, right at the heart of the reserve, so your day starts with beautiful views out over the prairie. The accommodation is probably amongst the most luxurious that Oyster offers. It has large comfortable dormitory-style rooms to be shared with others. There are large lounges and outdoor areas to relax, so you will likely find that your bed is just a place to lay your head at the end of the day.
There is internet access at the main lodge. Swimming pools, tennis courts and other leisure facilities are all at your disposal, so there isn’t a moment to get bored here.
We provide you with three delicious meals a day, so you don’t even need to worry about cooking. The food is varied, with an African/ Asian feel to it. However there are plenty of western options too.
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.
Want to go travelling afterwards?
We can arrange a week-long Garden Route tour after some of the sports coaching sessions. Follow the link to find out more about the Garden Route Tour.
- Understand more about the life of a vet on a game reserve.
- Gain hands-on practical and theoretical experience in both veterinary practice and animal care.
- Live in the heart of a Big 5 game reserve, surrounded by some of the world’s most renowned mammals, and spectacular scenery.
- Make the most of exploring South Africa with weekend trips into Port Elizabeth – a great base for visiting the Garden Route and surrounding area.
- Enhance your CV or resume with the excellent experience that you gain.
Whyshould I do this?
This is a great opportunity for anyone looking for some practical and theoretical veterinary experience. You will be working with both wild and domestic animals, opening you up to a great many issues with which vets here must face on a daily basis. You will also gain a thorough insight into animal care, animal management and conservation. If that’s not enough, you will be working closely with some of the world’s most exciting mammals, gaining an experience which is difficult to come by elsewhere in the world!
You will fly in to Port Elizabeth (PLZ) on any Monday of the year to join the veterinary experience programme. Here you will be met and transported up to the reserve. It’s about an hour’s drive out of Port Elizabeth to reach the reserve.
You will be supported throughout your programme by the vet and the game rangers, all of who work closely with you on this programme. They are passionate about their work, and look forward to getting you involved with it too!
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
- Advice on visa requirements
- Help and advice from our UK office before departure and whilst away
- Pre-arranged veterinary and voluntary work at the reserve with accommodation.
- Met and greeted warmly at Port Elizabeth airport with scheduled transfer to your accommodation.
- Thorough briefing and introduction to veterinary medicine on a game reserve
- A programme designed to immerse you in all aspects of veterinary care and animal care on the reserve
- Return to Port Elizabeth at the end of your stay
- Accommodation with bathing facilities, lounge and BBQ
- Games room on site with table football, air hockey, darts and table tennis
- Access to outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts and even a cricket pitch
- Internet access at the main lodge
- Excellent food full board
- 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 Port Elizabeth on a weekly basis. Accommodation there is also included
- 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
- Flights to Port Elizabeth, arriving on a Monday before 3pm. Oyster can book your flights
- A passport valid for a minimum of 30 days after you return
- Insurance covering your placement time and any planned independent travel, we can introduce you to a policy
- Cost of changing your return flight date if you need to
- Independent travel costs
- Any additional costs such as trips, snacks, entertainment (allow approximately £20 per week depending on lifestyle)
- Food budget when away from the reserve at weekends (approx £30 – £50)
- All home country travel costs (to airport and interview if face-to-face)
- No visa is necessary for under 90 days from UK and most western European countries