Fancy a cuddle and a bath with a lion?
It's not as scary as it sounds, we promise! Our friends at the lion centre in South Africa offer a range of activities to get you involved in the everyday activities around the running of the centre. Life down at the lion centre is laid back, full of hungry mouths to feed, enclosures to clean and even lions to swim with (weather permitting!). It's not all about the rural and quiet life though, you are within easy reach of the amazing Pilanesberg Game reserve, cultural village and also a casino! Talk about getting the best of both worlds!
- Swim with lions at the centre - have a swimming race!
- Make friends with the giraffes leaning over your shoulder at breakfast, demanding a share of your food
- Interact with the charming cheetahs at the centre!
What's not included
Day 1 – Arrive into Johannesburg International Airport (airport code JNB)
Today you will be met at the airport and taken directly to the lion centre outside Johannesburg. You’ll need to arrive in before 4.15pm so that you have time to go food shopping for all your supplies needed for your stay. The journey from the airport to the lion park should take around 45 minutes. You'll also be taken on a food shopping trip to buy any groceries that you need.
The orientation next morning at around 8.30am will take you through what it’s going to be like at your project, 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 get stuck into your project!
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, give us a call for more information.
Day 2 – It's lion cub time!
Your first day at the lion centre will be all about settling in and getting to know how things work. You’ll get to know the staff at the centre, figure out the rota and start learning your activities. You’ll learn how to prepare food for the cute baby animals in the nursery, as well as in the evening for the larger cubs. The centre works on a system whereby you are either stationed in the nursery for 3 days and then you swap and clean enclosures for three days. This way you can get to grips with the work but you are also given a variety in what you do each morning. You will also help clean out cub enclosures in the mornings; share shifts at the giraffe feeding station, the gate to the game drive and at the entrance to cub world.
Days 3 - 13 - Getting stuck in
As you start to get the hang of life at the park you can spend time learning about South Africa from the centre staff; expect to learn lots about the animals you are working with as well as how the park is run. You’ll get to wear a staff t-shirt , 2 of these shirts will be provided on arrival by your volunteer co ordinator. We ask that all volunteers wear these shirts while working at the centre so you are easily identifiable by members of the public that may require your assistance. You will get to interact with the lions and the visitors to the centre – the best of both worlds! We say the more you put in, the more you’ll get out of this experience!
Day 14 – It's safari time!
We are so jealous - today you will head off for your amazing safari at the Pilanesburg National Park where you will have a chance to spot the Big 5 in the wild. The park is about 2 hours from Johannesburg and is set in the crater of a long extinct volcano and covers an area of approximately 55,000 hectares. If you’re lucky you might even get a glimpse of the hippos taking their late afternoon bath! Don't forget your binoculars and your camera! This will be an experience you'll never forget...
Day 15 – Your last day
If you are staying for two weeks then today is the day that you say goodbye to all your new friends and head to the airport for your flight home or on to your next big adventure! We'd advise that you book a flight home for late afternoon so that you don't have to rush around for a morning flight.
The cost of the transfer to the airport is not included but our friendly staff are on hand to help advise you! Just ask your volunteer co ordinator if you need help to you arrange a transfer for you and they will be happy to help!
Days 16 to 21 - Extra Week - lucky you...
If you have booked to stay for 3 weeks then you will have the next week working with these amazing animals and getting the most out of your time at the project. You will be working Thursday to Wednesday.
Day 22 - Last day
Sadly your last day at the centre has arrived and you will be saying goodbye to all your friends before heading off to the airport for your flight home or for new onwards destinations. The cost of the transfer to the airport is not included so don`t forget to have a chat with the volunteer co ordinator to help you arrange a transfer for you and they will be happy to help!
We'd advise you to book a late afternoon flight to avoid an early morning rush back to the airport - take your time to say your goodbyes! You're going to miss this place so much!
What does the project do?
Our exciting lion centre has created an environment as close to a natural habitat as possible, where the animals may live, be respected and appreciated. They also work to breed the endangered white lions in captivity and to train certain animals for use in movies and adverts. The centre also keeps various other predators such as hyenas, wild dogs, and jackals.
What’s the project like?
The lion centre is approximately 208 hectares, so it’s pretty big! It’s situated in a rural location but has a constant stream of visitors as it is featured in many guide books - and you'll be able to say that you've lived and worked here! The centre is open to the public and visitors can play with baby lion cubs as well as drive through the adult lion enclosures. We don't want to say too much, but we've seen some pretty famous celebrities visit the park too! Shakira, Rod Stewart and Arsene Wenger to name a few...we obviously can't guarantee any celebrity visits though while you are there though..shame.
Why does the project need volunteers?
With so many mouths to feed and with such a big centre, there is a lot of maintenance and management to uphold. Lion cubs alone are demanding and need to be fed every few hours in their first few months! As a volunteer you will assist the staff with daily tasks to help make sure everything runs smoothly. You’ll also bring fresh enthusiasm to the team, which is always appreciated.
Outgoing volunteers with a passion for animals, as well as people, will get the most out of their time at the park, since a lot of the work involves interacting with the public. The more proactive you are, the more you will get out of this experience!
Activities and schedule
You normally work for 12 days at the lion park, from roughly 8am to 5pm (6pm on weekends). You will of course get breaks during the day!
A normal day might see you cleaning cub enclosures and helping in the nursery in the morning, a 2 hour shift at the giraffe station, then the front gate and finally helping with the evening feed at the end of the day before you fall in to bed!
What we love most about this project is that you can swim with the lions (obviously weather permitting) and also interact with the cheetahs at the centre! You'll remember these moments for years to come!
We ask you to be prepared for the fact that you will sometimes be asked to help cut up meat for the feedings and also to help with basic maintenance duties such as weeding. Everything that happens is with the animal's welfare in mind! If there is also something that you would particularly like to get involved in, then please do have a chat with the volunteer co ordinator stationed at the park and they will do their best to accommodate your request.
Project resources and advice
You'll find everything that you need at this project so there’s no need to bring anything along from home.
Please note that you will be asked to sign a form clearing the lion park of any responsibility for injuries that may be incurred at the park. This does NOT affect your insurance cover.
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?
We just love the accommodation you have here! The accommodation is within a secure camp area, a short walk away from the main lion park. You will be staying in spacious luxury safari-style tents which have 4 single beds inside, with lovely mattresses and electricity. The tents have windows and a small porch in front where you can sit and watch the wild game enjoy their dinner.
In your tent you have bedside tables, a lamp and a small heater for the colder nights. All of your bedding is washed and changed by the cleaning staff. The bathrooms are located a few metres away and have powerful, hot water showers. The kitchen is fully equipped and even has a washing machine! There is also a fire pit and BBQ area where you can relax in the evenings. There is also a safe in the main office for you to keep your passport and cash in.
Your stay at the lion park will be on a self-catering basis and we would recommend you budget roughly ZAR 800 per week to cover your food at the camp. You’ll be taken shopping for provisions on your arrival into South Africa and you’ll have full access to the large kitchen at the lion park. Food is also available at the centre restaurant (until 5pm) if you aren’t in the mood to cook - you'll even get a staff discount! It's also possible to go out for dinner in the evenings - restaurants are just a short taxi ride away but we'll also organise a shuttle bus for you!
The Lion Park does have mosquitoes but malaria is not prevalent in the area so a net is not a necessity. However, it is a good idea to bring one if you plan on going travelling afterwards.
There is no access to a phone at the Lion Park but you can easily access both in town. You might also like to bring your mobile phone with you, but we'd advise checking with your provider that you will have coverage and possibly buying an international SIM card. Electricity is available at both accommodations but shouldn’t be relied on in case of powercuts!
There is however access to internet at the lion park, the cost of which is approximately R200 for two weeks. There's also a TV with satellite to keep you connected to the world back home - not that you'll be missing home at all.
Things to bring from home
- Clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty and scratched, comfortable khaki is preferable
- Comfortable walking shoes are essential, and you should also pack a raincoat and some sun block
- Head torch
- Books, cards and music players to entertain yourself in the evening
- Bedding is supplied in all your accommodation so you don’t need to bring this with you. However, you will need to bring a towel
- Bring warmer clothes if you're travelling during the cooler season (June to August) as it does get chilly in the evenings!
Where is the accommodation?
Whilst at the lion park your accommodation will be on site. Both your accommodation and project are located in Fourways, a short drive from shopping malls, super markets, restaurants and even a casino!
In your free time there is also plenty to do. You can visit the Lesedi Cultural Village for a guided tour of South African tribal villages. The Montecasino, built like a real Italian village, is close by and filled with a casino, bars, shops and restaurants, which make it a great place to spend an evening - just don't take all your spending money out with you!
How far is it from my project?
The accommodation is on-site, so you'll be waking up to the sounds of the wildlife! Excellent wake up call!
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. More
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. More
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. More
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. More
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. More
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 Big Giving initiative 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.
The intangible benefits
Volunteering through a company like i to i has a lot of intangible benefits to developing overseas communities and the individual projects that we work with. To find out more about our placements. click here
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 email@example.com
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 your 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.