Want to spend your days looking after and playing with lion cubs?
At this wildlife reserve and lion breeding centre in South Africa you will be spending your days looking after incredibly cute lion cubs as well as helping out on a whole range of duties throughout the reserve. Set in a stunning location the reserve is home to a number of lion cubs - and their older brothers and sisters, mums and dads! - and after spending time here we're certain you won't want to go home. What we can guarantee is that you'll fall in love with these incredible animals.
- Feeding and caring for lion cubs
- Helping to look after other the animals at the reserve
- Living in and enjoying life an incredible wildlife reserve
- Participating in game drives on the reserve
What's not included
Day 1 (Monday) – Arrive into Johannesburg Airport (airport code JNB)
Today you will be met at the airport and taken straight to our backpacker’s hostel in Pretoria. You’ll need to arrive in before 4.15pm so that you’re all ready for the orientation which kicks off at 5pm. The journey from the airport to Pretoria should take around 45 minutes. The orientation is a crucial part of settling in to life in South Africa and will take you through what it’s going to be like at your project, do’s and don’ts, how to stay safe and it’s your prime opportunity to ask any burning questions that you haven’t yet had answered. After the orientation you’ll have dinner prepared for you and have some time to relax and prepare before your first day at the project tomorrow.
If you aren’t able to arrange a flight to get you into Johannesburg before 4.15pm then we’d recommend you fly in a day early. We can arrange an early airport pick-up for you including one night’s accommodation, please give us a call for more information.
Day 2 (Tuesday) – Introductions at your project
The following morning you will be taken from Pretoria to Brits where you will be based. The project is 1-2 hours drive away, around 70km north of Johannesburg. The project and accommodation are on the same site so you won’t be late for work! Take time to get to know everyone and settle in, because this is your home for the rest of your stay.
Your first full day will be all about settling in at the reserve and getting to know how things operate, but it’s fairly laid back overall. The staff at the reserve are always happy to answer any questions that you might have.
You will have an amazing experience here including hands on feeding and caring for the lion cubs. However, don't forget that the animal enclosures will also need to be kept in good order, so expect to get dirty! General maintenance of the enclosures and facilities will also be one of your roles around the park.
Days 3 to 7 (Wednesday to Sunday) – Keep up the good work
Now you’re a fully fledged member of the team, you can aim to be on duty from around 7am to 4pm daily. You’ll be up with the birds in the morning but the afternoons are normally yours to relax by the pool on the reserve. You will sometimes be asked to work until 7pm as the cubs need constant attentiion…it’s hard work, but someone has to do it.
This project is quite laid back and structured with you in mind. Part of this experience is what you put in, but it’s also about what you want to get out of it.
Time off is arranged in country and is flexible. You will be able to take 1/2 days off on the weekends after the cubs have been fed. These days are your valuable time off to rest and explore. You probably won’t want to move away from the swimming pool at your accommodation but if you can tear yourself away, take time to explore the surrounding area. Around Brits there is a cheetah centre, crocodile farm, cultural village and plenty of curio shops to browse, so you won’t be bored!
- Caring for the small cubs: stimulating, bathing and feeding the cubs, as well as extensive interacting with guests and tourists on 'cub team' day.
- Larger cubs: meat allocation, weighing and cubing meat and keeping record of all milk/meat consumed daily.
- Ranger team: Collecting vegetables, chickens, carcasses from local farmers and feeding the large and mature lions.
- Mending and painting fences.
- Raking and cleaning lion enclosures.
- Clearing and maintenance of farm needs
- Preparing food for the animals (handling meat).
Your remaining weeks will be filled with caring for the cubs, cutting up meat for the bigger cats and any other activities needed by the project. Days off will be arranged according to the needs of the project but you can just ask if you want to take specific time off.
Your Last Day (Monday)
At the end of your project a member of the team will transfer you back to Pretoria Backpackers, the team can also arrange for you to be transfered onwards to Johannesburg airport for a local fee so please arrange this with them in country. Please ensure that you allow sufficient time for checking in when booking your onward flight, usually we advise to make sure that your flight departs after 5pm.
What does the project do?
The centre currently has over 100 lions including some cubs as well as other predators and game that you will be helping to look after. It’s involved in lion research, breeding and conservation and has been featured in documentaries by National Geographic and Aquavision among others. The centre is also involved in educating young people and is also open to members of the public wanting to learn more about wildlife and spend time in this stunning location.
The main source of income for this project is through eco-tourism which in turn helps the ongoing research to be carried out. The project works directly with the Univerity of Pretoria and together they are at the forefront of white lion research; they are the only facility worldwide that practices principles of ethical breeding as part of their white lion breeding programme. They have also participated in research on Lion AIDS and TB in lions and have hosted several film crews for documentaries from around the world. More recently the project has also launched a cheetah breeding programme with particular emphasis on ethical breeding. An exciting fertility research project on big cats is presently being undertaken at the project, with several prominent researchers and professors from South Africa and Europe involved. This project is working to strengthen the gene pool, as inbreeding within the lion population is becoming a big problem, making lions susceptible to disease and viruses. Crossbreeding white lions with brown lions creates a much stronger gene pool and increases the lions chances of survival.
The project is endorsed by the Veterinary Faculty at the University of Pretoria at Onderstepoort, the Zodiac Animal Clinic and Old Chapel Veterinary Clinic in Pretoria. There are also site inspections carried out by the Department of Nature Conservation at least twice a year to ensure that all animals are well looked after.
When the big cats grow up many of them will remain as part of the ongoing research projects; some are kept for breeding and others are released into enclosures. Any animals that are passed on will be to reputable reserves where checks have been carried out the make sure they have a good new home.
What’s the project like?
This is the perfect environment for anyone with a love of lions and other stunning African wildlife. The centre is home to around 100 lions plus cheetah, tigers, hyena, caracal, serval, civets as well as many impala, blesbuck, kudu, zebra, eland, giraffe, waterbuck, ostrich, warthog, gnu, red hartebeest the list just goes on! This results in a wonderful opportunity for hands-on experience with the lion cubs as well as a huge range of other activities on the reserve, this trip really is a once in a lifetime experience. As well as the work at the reserve, there are also great opportunities for horse-back safaris and visits to other reserves nearby at weekends and days off. All told this is a fantastic South African wildlife experience that will stay with you forever.
Why does the project need volunteers?
This project is based on a stunning wildlife reserve and is involved in white lion research and conservation. One of its main aims is to learn more about the endangered white lions and to participate in the preservation of these stunning animals. The lions, cubs and other animals all need a huge amount of care and attention and this is where you come in!
During your time at the reserve you will be working hand in hand with the rangers to ensure that all the wildlife in the reserve are fed and looked after and that the reserve itself is well maintained. Everyone at the reserve is committed not only to the welfare and research of these wonderful animals but also to ensuring that you have the opportunity to learn more about the lions, the challenges facing them and how the reserve operates - an incredible opportunity for everyone.
Activities and schedule
Your working hours are flexible but will typically be from 7am to 4pm with occasional work until 7pm looking after the cubs. Time off can be arranged with the project and you will not be made to do something you do not want to do so please let the team know. There will also be the possibility to take 1/2 days on the weekends after the cubs have been fed. You will generally get 1.5 days off per week.
You will be helping to raise the cubs - feeding them and caring for them – along with making sure that all the other wildlife and facilities at the reserve are well looked after and maintained (including cutting up meat for the larger cats). Don’t forget that you may also be involved in cleaning out the enclosures and will probably get dirty in the process! The rangers are keen to pass on their knowledge and experience and you will have the opportunity to learn as much as you want. The way in which the centre runs is to work with you to find out where your interests lie!
Project resources and advice
You will find all resources that you need at this project so there’s no need to bring anything along from home. If you do have a specific interest in a field that you’d like to get involved in at the project please let us know.
Make sure you bring some gloves with you and you will need to wear durable clothes such as jeans, khakis or combats that you do not mind getting dirty. The same goes for footwear!
Please note that the weather can become quite cold during the months of May to September, please remember to bring some warm clothes with you.
What type of accommodation will I be in?
You will be staying in ‘rondavel’ style huts on site at the centre which are on a shared two or three person basis. The rondavels are well equipped and have modern amenities such as hot running water, showers and Western style toilets. There are two swimming pools on site along with a lounge with television and a beautiful garden for you to relax in during the afternoons.
Whilst staying on the reserve in Brits, all meals are included and prepared for you - it’s all good hearty South African fare. You will need to make sure you work hard to burn off all the great food you'll be eating!
The bathroom facilities include hot water, shower and western style toilets. Valuables can be locked up in your room or in the office safe. You don’t need to bring bedding with you as this is provided and a mosquito net is optional. You will need to bring a towel for the pool! Don’t worry about packing weeks and weeks worth of clothing as there are laundry facilities available.
There is a local town around 30 minutes away so if you need to stay in touch with family or friends from home, then telephone and internet facilities are nearby. There is WIFI available after 16H30 from the office, at request.
Things to bring from home
- A strong pair of gloves (such as gardening gloves, or rubber gloves) for handling chickens etc when working with the ranger team.
- If you are travelling to the project between May and September please ensure that you bring some warm clothes (i.e. a fleece and a sweater). Although the days are usually bright and sunny, nights and early mornings can get very cold
- Please bring your own swimming towel
- Finally don't forget some books, board games and cards for relaxing in the evenings
- A good quality torch to be utlised in the evenings when walking to and from your rooms.
Where is the accommodation?
You’ll be leaving your daily commute behind as the project and accommodation are both on the same reserve. The reserve is based about 20km from Brits in the North West Province
How far is it from my project?
On site! You’ll be able to hear the roaring of the lions from your accommodation or as you relax in the pool – bliss!
What you get
What exactly do i to i Volunteering provide?
It may seem like a strange concept to pay for your volunteer experience. You'd be right if you think you shouldn't and the truth is you actually don't! Your placement is free; it's the benefits around it that you pay for. It's important to note that i to i Volunteering is a travel company and not a charity. We provide a professional travel service. We are responsible for finding and assessing worthwhile projects across the world, preparing you for the volunteering experience and supporting you whilst you're there.
Project sourcing and assessment
We work with hundreds of locally run partner projects around the world and are constantly sourcing new opportunities. We visit all projects to check that they are worthwhile and legitimate and we also conduct a thorough safety assessment before we'll send volunteers there.
Almost everyone who works for i to i Volunteering has traveled extensively or worked overseas. This means we're a goldmine of information; we're always available to offer support and guidance before, during and after your trip.
Thorough project briefing materials
Once you book on to a project you'll receive an online account that contains loads of general information about volunteering, about your chosen country and how to have fun and stay safe. We'll also give you advice on visas and inoculations.
It can be pretty daunting arriving in a different country for the first time - especially after a long flight! If you arrive on your project start date, there'll be a welcoming face at the airport to pick you up and take you to your accommodation.
Soon after you arrive you will attend a thorough orientation with our in-country team. This is to cover important safety and security information. You'll also get some tips about sight-seeing options for your time off and maybe even learn some of the local lingo!
Accommodation and meals
Accommodation is included with all projects and meals are even included with some. We only use locally-owned and operated accommodation so that part of your placement fee is filtering back into the local economy. Most projects offer homestay, guesthouse or shared volunteer houses as standard accommodation, but some offer the chance to upgrade to a more comfortable living standard.
Local in-country coordinators
Your in-country team will arrange a pick-up for you at the airport and will conduct your orientation upon arrival. All coordination teams are English speaking and are locals of your destination country. They won't be at your project every day, but will be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week if you need them.
24/7 emergency support
Aside from the local support from your in-country team you'll be given access to a 24/7 emergency phone line manned by our response team in case any problem should arise while you're overseas. We also hire crisis management professionals to be on hand in case of a situation that requires additional expert support.
The safety and security of our volunteers is paramount. For this reason we provide ongoing crisis management and emergency response training to our local teams around the world. We also fly in our in-country coordinators to the UK regularly for thorough training to help them offer the best safety to the thousands of volunteers they support each year.
Supporting our projects
We don't fund our projects directly from the project fee that you pay us. Instead we choose to support a number of projects through our Helping Hands Foundation to provide resources to those projects that really need it.
Recruiting people like you
We make no secrets of the fact that part of your placement fee is reinvested in to recruiting volunteers just like you! The volunteers recruited in one week will typically deliver over 2000 man-days of service. The difference this makes to projects overseas is immeasurable. Many of our overseas projects rely on assistance from international volunteers, so it's necessary for us to put together brochures and websites to find the people who can support them. This recruitment process is vital to ensure programs have a constant stream of reliable volunteers.
Please note: You may be the only volunteer at your chosen project at any one time. If you have any questions about this, please feel free to contact us.
What we will do after you've booked:
- Once booked on you will instantly receive a welcome email confirming your booking with access to your online account
- Community Development and Teaching customers will be requested to complete a police check (where relevant)
- We will contact you if we require anything else e.g. CV/resume for some projects, doctors note for medical conditions etc.
- We will prepare for your trip and you will receive all information required to prepare yourself in your online account
- We will ask you to complete personal information and pay your final balance if they are still due when required
- We are available for any questions you may have on firstname.lastname@example.org
What you need to do after booking your place with us:
- Book your flights
- Arrange suitable travel insurance
- Fill out your personal details through your online account
- Complete your police check if requested
- Make final payment at least 90 days before you go
- Make sure you have a visa for your trip if it's needed
- Visit a nurse or travel clinic for advice on inoculations and malaria prevention
- Read all details and prepare as much as you can for your trip
- Take contact details of the in country team and where you're going in your hand luggage - just in case!
- Get on the plane!
Flights & insurance
It's important that you get adequate travel insurance for your i to i Volunteering experience and as many of you will be working this often means standard policies won’t work. The good news is that no matter where you're coming from we have already found a policy to suit you.
The best time to get your insurance is when you book your project as this means you can get a fully tailored policy exclusive to i to i Volunteering, just ask your consultant for further details at the time of booking.
For prices, policies and key facts click here
As with insurance we advise you get these booked as early as possible to avoid high prices and to make sure you arrive on the right day. The i to i Volunteering team is right up to date with the best deals no matter where you’re flying from; their insider knowledge could save you some time and money.