Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary

NAMIBIA

Namibia

2 - 12 weeks

Monday / Thursday

15 - 50 people

Age 17+

From $1,125

Namibia

2 - 12 weeks

Mon / Thurs

Mon / Thurs

15 - 50 people

Max 50

Age 17+

From $1,125

What's the project about?

The Namibia wildlife sanctuary was established in 2005 to protect and improve the lives of Namibia’s animals, and work towards an Africa where humans and wildlife can thrive together. The 8,000 acre sanctuary and wildlife reserve provides a safe forever home for orphaned and injured animals, with a focus on rescue, rehabilitation and long term care. Residents include leopard, cheetah, African wild dog, primates, antelopes and a variety of other large and small, wild and domestic animals.

How will I be contributing?

This wildlife sanctuary programme relies on volunteers to support local staff in all aspects of animal care, enriching the lives of the long-term residents, and working on rehabilitation strategies for those destined for release. Volunteers are responsible for daily food preparation and feeding, habitat enrichment, orphan care and health checks. Volunteers also collect research data on rehabilitated animals, monitor released animals and undertake game counts within the reserve.

What makes this project ethical?

The sanctuary has strong ethics regarding captive animal welfare: large carnivores are not handled, and no breeding of carnivores is allowed, in accordance with Namibian law. Carnivores ear-marked for release have limited human contact, to avoid habituation that could threaten a successful release. Animals finding a permanent home at the sanctuary are provided with enrichment activities crucial to their emotional and physical well-being and, where possible, animals are released into suitable natural habitats.

Project gallery

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Project information

“Returning the wild to the wild”

The project’s mission is to conserve the land, culture and wildlife of Namibia, support species affected by ever-shrinking habitats and protect those threatened by the human-wildlife conflict. The sanctuary provides a safe haven for orphaned, injured and conflict animals and the project also works towards human-wildlife conflict mitigation through conservation and research projects throughout Namibia.

The vision of the organisation is to use responsible conservation tourism to support their community and wildlife projects.

The wildlife sanctuary always aims to release rescued animals back into the wild, where it is safe and sustainable to do so. Their mantra of ‘returning the wildlife to the wild’ is the backbone of their carnivore conservation project – Namibia already being home to large populations of wild cheetah and leopard. Orphaned, abandoned and injured animals are raised with compassion and dedication and their natural needs are always considered.

Volunteers support the project’s goal of providing environments where natural behaviours are nurtured.

The founding organisation was set up in 2003 to support the health and well-being of the ancient yet marginalised San Bushmen of Namibia, through the opening of a clinic in an impoverished rural San community. This unified approach to conservation continues through job creation opportunities for the San people in tourist facilities, and educational support through the project’s community schools programme.

In 2005 the sanctuary was founded on the outskirts of Windhoek, with a lodge also built on the property. The main aim was to combine wildlife conservation with job creation – providing jobs for the San bushmen and and a home for conflict animals. The sanctuary is home to meerkats, mongooses, and dassies, through to large carnivores including leopard, lion, cheetah and wild dog – with a range of furry, hooved and feathered creatures in between.

Turn your holiday into an adventure! Get your hands dirty and get involved with a massive range of activities, working with a number of small and large African animals.

This project gets deep into the heart of volunteers, with many returning time and time again, or even becoming staff and never really leaving.

Wildlife volunteers are critical to the work the sanctuary is doing, and enable the long term care of the animals and their future rehabilitation or release. This is an incredible opportunity to get hands-on with African animals and assist in their ongoing care. Sanctuary volunteers are involved with a diverse variety of tasks, which can include some or all of the following activities:

Animal care:

Volunteers are critical to the daily care and feeding of animals in rehabilitation or permanent care:

  • Assist with daily food collection, preparation and feeding, encompassing herbivores, carnivores and omnivores
  • Cleaning and maintaining enclosures
  • Raise baby and juvenile animals, from bottle feeding (often through the night), to baboon bush walks, troop reintroduction and eventual release
  • Work with a range of species including zebra, ostrich, owls, raptors and bush babies, plus a range of domestic animals and birds

Behaviour enrichment:

An important volunteer role is to enrich the lives of animals unable to be released, and ensure they are able to enjoy as natural a life as possible.

  • Experience the joy of accompany primates (and usually a few other special guests!) on bush walks, stimulating them to explore their natural habitat, forage, play in water, jump and interact as a group
  • Build toys, platforms, playgrounds and other enrichment facilities
  • Become part of the troop as you engage and interact with young monkeys and baboons
  • Work with animals who are not current candidates for release due to mental or physical issues

Activities around the reserve:

  • Monitor free-roaming animals within the 8,000 acre reserve (on foot, by vehicle and on horseback)
  • Undertake game counts on food and on horseback
  • Analysing camera traps and GPS data
  • Track animals fitted with GPS monitoring systems (including snakes!)

Horse riding

Border patrols, fence monitoring, game counts and animal monitoring are often done on horseback, so there is plenty of opportunity to get into the saddle and explore the beautiful Namibian bush.

Community outreach:

Volunteers can choose to get involved at the sanctuary’s local San Bushmen primary school, where culture and conservation come together. The school students are the children of the families who live and work at on the reserve. After Grade 3 (age 9), the children are sponsored to attend mainstream primary school in Windhoek.

  • Help the teachers with new activities such as crafts, music and dance
  • Help in the playground and with sports and games
  • Help with maintenance and cleaning around the school
  • Go with the children as they attend the San skills academy, to learn stories and ancient Bushmen skills

If you have a passion for education and children and would like to participate in the school programme for some or all of your stay, please let us know. There is a 2 week minimum participation at the school.

Large Carnivore Conservation and Research Programme – add-on

The Foundation has two carnivore research sites in the beautiful Namibian desert which focus on carnivore monitoring, particularly of cheetah and hyena. Volunteers have a unique opportunity to visit one or both of these sites during your time in Namibia. At both projects you will monitor the large carnivores in the area, helping to mitigate the human-wildlife conflict.

You will get field experience and be involved in all aspects of the permanent research programme, including:

  • Capture mark release
  • Radio telemetry tracking
  • Game counts
  • Camera trapping
  • Mapping the terrain and environment (lots of hiking in vast landscapes!)
  • Cheetah feeding
  • Night drives and camp-outs

Click for more details of our Carnivore Conservation Programme, and see the Rates and Dates tab for combination pricing details.

There are three accommodation options at the sanctuary. Volunteer rooms take three-four people sharing (same sex); large tents with a living and bedroom area can be shared by up to two people (same sex or couples); or bush tents which sleep two-three people (same sex or a couple). The rooms are basic but the (single) beds are comfortable with bedding provided.

Showers and toilet facilities are communal and hot water is supplied by solar power, so is sometimes restricted to certain times of day. There is electricity at the sanctuary but power cuts do occur and can be prolonged during rainy season. There are power sockets for charging items in the communal areas – plug sockets are type M so you will need to bring an adaptor. There is a laundry service provided, but we suggest you also bring a small packet of detergent to wash underwear.

Three meals a day are provided on a self-service basis. Vegetarian options are available and dietary requirements can be accommodated – please let us know before you arrive! Water, tea and coffee is freely available throughout the day and snacks, alcoholic and fizzy drinks can be purchased from the bar.

There is no WiFi available at the sanctuary, however you can purchase a local MTC SIM card and buy data bundles for Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and emails, to enable you to keep up to date with the outside world. Don’t forget to unlock your phone before you leave home.

I was also really pleasantly surprised by the food. I’m a vegetarian and brought jars of peanut butter and dozens of protein bars assuming I wouldn’t have much to eat. To my surprise, they had vegetarian meat at many dinners. I never went hungry.

When can I volunteer?

Arrivals at the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary are Mondays and Thursdays, although arrivals outside of these days are possible upon payment of a transfer supplement. The project is open year-round.

2019 project pricing:

2 weeks: $1,125
3 weeks: $1,625
4 weeks: $2,150
5 weeks: $2,675
6 weeks: $3,175
7 weeks: $3,675
8 weeks: $4,125
9 weeks: $4,525
10 weeks: $4,895
11 weeks: $5,275
12 weeks: $5,650

All prices are in USD.
Off day transfers are an additional $50.

What’s included in the cost?

  • Project contribution: this goes directly to our project partner, and provides funding to ensure the programme can continue to meet its goals. For this project it will cover things like staff costs, equipment purchases, maintenance of buildings, equipment and vehicles, veterinary fees, animal feed, fencing, funding for community projects etc
  • Accommodation and three meals per day
  • Return airport transfers
  • Laundry and housekeeping
  • Volunteer uniform (three t-shirts per volunteer)
  • Comprehensive orientation and supervision
  • Practical instruction by experienced staff members
  • Equipment and materials required to do your work

What’s not included?

  • Flights or travel to Windhoek, Namibia
  • Visa fees (all volunteers must apply for a work permit 6-8 weeks prior to your project start date). The visa cost is paid separately and is around N$1,580.
  • Travel insurance (compulsory)
  • Personal expenses such as souvenirs, drinks from the bar, snacks
  • Pre and / or post programme accommodation (if required)
  • Additional excursions
  • Local SIM card and data / airtime bundles (optional)
  • Administration fee ($40)

View our booking terms and conditions.

Combination projects 

We highly recommend combining your wildlife sanctuary programme with time at the project’s Large Carnivore Conservation project, where you will get to experience life in Namibia’s vast desert region. Participate in conservation work being done to secure the future of Namibia’s wild large carnivores. Help with the monitoring and tracking of released cheetah and leopard and collared hyena and explore the world’s oldest desert.

Combination project pricing 2019:

1 week Sanctuary / 1 week Carnivore Conservation: $1,195
1 week Sanctuary / 2 weeks Carnivore Conservation: $1,795
2 weeks Sanctuary / 1 week Carnivore Conservation: $1,695
2 weeks Sanctuary / 2 weeks Carnivore Conservation: $2,295

Longer durations are available, please enquire for pricing.

Click for more details of the Large Carnivore Conservation Programme.

Who should volunteer on this project?

This programme is a wonderful experience for volunteers of all ages, where you can experience Africa is a safe environment, work hard and see the impact that your contribution is having. Volunteers come from all backgrounds and nationalities, with varied animal and wildlife experience – from none to experienced vets. What all volunteers have in common is a love of wildlife and a passion for helping Africa’s threatened animals.

You should be able to communicate reasonably well in spoken English.

How old do I need to be?

The minimum volunteering age for solo travellers is 17 years and six months – you must turn 18 within 6 months of your volunteer date. There is no upper age limit, but for volunteers aged over 65, we do require your medical form to be signed by a doctor.

How many people will there be?

Depending on the season, volunteer numbers can range from 15 to 50. June, July and August are the busiest months.

When can I join?

Volunteers should aim to arrive and depart on a Monday or a Thursday, although start dates can be flexible depending on availability and the payment of a transfer supplement. The project is open year-round.

When is the best time to come?

Namibia experiences on average around 300 days of sunshine a year, with hot summers and mild winters (with cold nighttime temperatures).
The dry season runs from May – September, where daytime temperatures are a pleasant 18-25 degrees. Night time temperatures plummet, sometimes falling to below freezing. Pack warm clothes, lots of layers and a sleeping bag!
The summer season from October – April consists of hot days, ranging from 25 to over 40 degrees, and cooler nights. From November to March, Namibia has its ‘rainy’ season, being blessed with sporadic rainfall and spectacular thunderstorms.

Do I get some time off?

The volunteer schedule is on a rotational basis, to ensure every volunteer gets to experience as many of the activities as possible. Volunteers work from Monday to Friday from around 8am to 5pm, with a short break in the morning and a longer break over lunch. On Saturdays, there is a morning activity and a non-work related afternoon activity. On Sundays, a small team will participate in morning food prep, and a different team in the afternoon, so you will always have half day off. Town trips to Windhoek (a one hour drive) are possible to join on Sundays.

We highly recommend taking a guided or self-drive tour to some of Namibia’s best landmarks, either before or after your volunteer programme. Car hire and tours are very affordable and there is lots to see – from the unique salt pans of Etosha National Park, the magnificent sand dunes at Sossusvlei, or Namibia’s adventure town of Swakopmund. See the Namibia Tours section of our website.

How long can I volunteer for?

The minimum project length is two weeks, and the maximum stay is three months.

How much spending money should I bring?

We recommend allowing $100 per week in USD to cover personal expenses such as drinks, souvenirs, snacks, tips and internet usage. There are ATM machines at the airport and we suggest you withdraw cash there for your time at the sanctuary. The currency of Namibia is the Namibian Dollar (N$), but the South African Rand (ZAR) is also accepted on a 1 to 1 basis.

Do I need a visa?

All volunteers need to obtain a work visa prior to arrival. Once you have booked your place, we will send you a visa application form and instructions on completion. If you are from the UK or Germany, you can use the Namibian embassy in either London or Berlin to process your visa. Nationals of other countries should use the project’s visa agency in Windhoek to process the application as many embassies do not issue the correct visa. You should allow 6-8 weeks to process.

It is your responsibility to check your visa eligibility prior to arrival.

What animals will I encounter?

The sanctuary is home to large carnivores, including lions, leopards, cheetah, wild dogs, caracals; primates including vervet monkeys and baboons; a host of birds including peacocks, vultures, owls and eagles; antelopes (oryx, duiker, springbok and kudu); small mammals such as meerkats, polecats, genets and warthogs, and lots of farmyard and domestic animals. The reserve in which the sanctuary is based is also home to free-roaming game including giraffe, zebra, kudu, hartebeest and jackal.

What vaccinations do I need?

Please consult your GP or travel clinic for detailed medical advice. All volunteers should make sure their Tetanus, Polio and Hepatitis A and B are up to date. A rabies vaccination is recommended. You must bring your vaccination certificate with you!
Malaria – the sanctuary and carnivore research project sites are regarded as a low-risk malaria areas, but please consult your GP for guidance.
Please visit this UK government website for more details.

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