Free (or Cheap) Volunteer Work in South Africa
We will be adding a lot more low cost volunteer projects here soon but South Africa is one of those places where it is sometimes worth splashing the cash to do something out of the ordinary working to conserve the nation’s spectacular wildlife.
Grassroots Volunteering in South Africa
The organisations listed below have either got in touch with us to add their details to this or another of our websites, or we otherwise have reason to believe they are actively looking for international volunteers and charge reasonable or no fees to join in, live and work with them:
Centre for Rehabilitation of Wildlife
A wildlife hospital that cares for up to 400 injured and orphaned wild animals and birds in Kwazulu Natal. Feeding and caring for so many animals on a daily basis is no small task, which is why CROW welcomes the skills, experience and enthusiasm of both local and international volunteers at its centre. CROW is considered to be one of the leading rehabilitation centres in South Africa. They also have a three to six month internship programme primarily open to graduates and post-graduates (but everyone is welcome) for young people to gain skills and experience in marketing, fundraising, public relations and communications.
Where: Kwazulu Natal.
Accommodation & Costs: The cost of participating in the volunteer programme is around £15 per day, covering three basic meals and accommodation in a volunteer house. Prices drop a little the longer you stay.
Drakenstein Lion Park
Drakenstein Lion Park was established in 1998 to provide lions in distress with sanctuary, where they could live in safety, free from abuse and persecution, and be treated with the compassion and respect they deserved. Volunteers have the unique opportunity to become a part of our team of dedicated animal care givers and experience the day to day running of a lion sanctuary, working for the animals but not with them. (Projects where volunteers can work with lions are in most cases primarily captive breeding operations and volunteers who work in these programmes hand rearing lion cubs are ultimately working for the captive breeding industry, the primary source of victims for the canned hunting industry).
Volunteer duties revolve mostly around preparing food for the lions, cleaning, clearing vegetation, fence and firebreak maintenance. Summer volunteers may have to do a bit of fire fighting. Volunteers should have a basic understanding of English, be at least 18 years of age and reasonably fit.
Where: Near Paarl, Western Cape province.
Accommodation & Costs: Fees work out at around £110 per week. Accommodation is shared rooms with a communal kitchen and recreation room. A short distance away are the lion and chimp enclosures, so volunteers will have the added bonus of hearing the lions roar every night.
Hostel Work Exchanges
We have seen Chintsa Beach’s Buccaneers Backpacker Hostel mentioned as a place that might welcome talented travellers helping out with treatments in their Beauty Bungalow. If these rumours turn out to be untrue the locally based VA32 could always do with volunteer help from those prepared to pay to join a project.
Writing in BootsnAll a few years ago Kathleen Schmidt told how she extended her four days to three months by doing whatever needed doing around Bomvu Paradise Backpackers in Coffee Bay. Local volunteer projects and language courses are available throughout South Africa and neighbouring countries with All Out Africa (for sizeable fees) but it may also be possible to find work with Hout Bay Backpackers who are part of the same organisation.
Help Exchange Networks in South Africa
More Volunteering in South Africa Resources
Volunteers in Africa Beware – This two page website features good, bad and ugly lists of volunteering places In Africa with the aim of helping future volunteers avoid the trap of breeding farms masquerading as conservation facilities. Part 1 covers recommended places, not just in South Africa but across the continent. Part 2 is the bad and ugly in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia. While this is a great list when we visited none of the links worked properly, probably a consequence of cutting and pasting the text direct from their Facebook community page, but the URLs are given on the page.
Voluntourism 101: How to Find a Reputable Wildlife Sanctuary in Africa – Want to make a positive impact on your next trip to Botswana or South Africa? Read on and learn how to vet voluntourism programs—and how to spot the fakes.
Other Ways to Travel or Stay for Free in South Africa
Stay for free in return for caring for local residents’ homes or pets. Join Trusted Housesitters to live rent free as a house sitter (Americans may prefer this link). You can also get a free Airbnb credit from us here.
Seeing a Different Side of South Africa – Rebecca volunteered at a small primary school in KwaZulu Natal.
* not all these volunteer experiences are with grassroots NGOs or low cost organisations
Image courtesy Centre for Rehabilitation of Wildlife