Volunteer with monkeys in South Africa

Departure information

Departures can be arranged at anytime to suit you, all year round
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Volunteer travel - what's it all about

Are you looking for an adventurous trip with a purpose, or on a gap year or career break? If you want to make a difference in some of the world’s most important conservation areas - and in community projects - then volunteer trips are for you! Volunteers tend to have a sense of adventure, and come from a range of different backgrounds and from all over the world.
Edward Abbey said 'sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul'.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Volunteer with monkeys in South Africa

Environment

Our placements are designed to immerse you in a different culture, living and working with local people. There’s plenty to gain personally from this. But we make sure that local people benefit too by choosing projects that bring tangible improvements to their lives.

The importance of the project:
The centre started when its founder rescued a monkey from death and abuse and realised that help was needed for many more. It was decided to establish a centre where orphaned, abused, injured and mis-placed monkeys could be treated and rehabilitated. Now the centre is held up as an example of good practice by government bodies as well as NSPCA. It also has links with academic research organisations. However, funds are tight and charitable donations and voluntary help are crucial for its survival.

Rehabilitation process:
With scientifically based methods and techniques full rehabilitation takes about three years and happens in about 4 stages. The first stage of rehabilitation is working with the very young orphaned baby monkeys. The volunteers work tirelessly to ensure that they are regularly fed, kept warm and fully cared for. After several months of this close care, attention and dedication babies are put into the second stage of the rehabilitation program - that is where 'family groups' are formed with monkeys of different ages and sexes. Monkeys stay in this second stage until the 'new family' have about 12-20 members and all are accepted by the other members of the family. At this stage they are living in a large enclosure with natural shrubbery, but their diets continue to be subsidised with fruit, vegetables and bread. The next stage involves moving the troop into an even larger enclosure where the primates fend for themselves fully, yet under the careful eye of the centre to monitor their progress. Once the troop is fully functioning and surviving happily in stage 3, the release is planned. After the release the monkeys are monitored for at least 3-4 months to ensure that they are coping in nature and that the troop formulation remains as it was before release.

Environment:
We send out comprehensive pre-departure briefing, which includes a section on protecting the local environment. In particular we advise participants to take care with water, which is scarce in many of our destinations. We recommend they avoid unnecessary washing, using hand wash gel where they can. We also instruct them on how to dispose of waste properly, not to litter and, where possible, to avoid using plastic water bottles which are not easy to dispose of environmentally. Those going trekking are advised to keep to marked footpaths so as to prevent further erosion of the landscape.

Our company is an environmentally responsible one that operates recycling and reusing of waste products. We also offset carbon emissions in our office (gas, electricity, business mileage) and encourage all participants to offset their flight emissions via a carbon offset scheme run in conjunction with Tree Aid.

Community

Meeting local needs:
As well as helping to protect monkeys and other animals, this rehabilitation centre plays an important role in protecting the local economy. This rural area relies on its wildlife and landscape to attract tourists, as there are no big cities nearby. The centre brings visitors to the area and has created jobs for 9 local people. It also promotes local art and helps villagers to market their wares to tourists. By helping at the centre, our volunteers are ensuring its survival and allowing it to expand the number of animals it can help. They also contribute to the local economy themselves, creating jobs for domestic staff at the centre, eating locally grown produce and shopping in the town.

Cultural sensitivity:
We emphasise the importance of showing respect for local people and their customs in our briefing material. Participants will work alongside permanent staff, forming close bonds and getting an insight into real life in rural South Africa. Our policy is to send people to the developing world in small groups or individually. This minimises the environmental and social impact that the participants have on the destination and helps them to integrate into the local community.

All of our participants receive comprehensive pre-departure briefing. This covers topics on how to be culturally sensitive, how to best look after the environment when in the country and how to stay safe as well as up to date information on the political situation. They are also briefed on how to dispose of waste properly and where possible, to avoid using plastic water bottles as these are not easy to dispose of environmentally.

Reviews of Volunteer with monkeys in South Africa

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the vacations.

I am reborn! Simply the best vacation I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 04 Aug 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Being together as a family and getting to experience this with my children and Husband. Getting to be so hands on with the baboons and vervets was amazing and so rewarding, and being able to see a group being transferred into an Intro (the next phase before release) was really inspiring.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Be prepared for hard work. It's not all cuddling monkeys, but it's incredibly rewarding and you'll meet some fantastic people. Also take plenty of old clothes and warm ones too, it's really cold at night and in the mornings.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


As a rehabilitation centre this was first class, Bob and Lynne and totally dedicated to their cause and along with their team make it an unforgettable experience for everyone, you become part of their family.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Totally unforgettable. We didn't want to leave and wish that we had been there for longer. We will be going back.

Reviewed on 27 Sep 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


My time with the animals

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Make sure to take comfortable clothes that you don't mind getting dirty and/or ruined!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


I loved it, I would give it a 9/10

Reviewed on 03 Jul 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


- being so up close and personal in many ways on a daily basis with all the wildlife - baboons, vervets, bushbabies, ostriches.

- 2 day visit to Kruger National Park half way into my trip, the family do their Best to accommodate a variety of trips out within their weekly workload, priorities as fully appreciate volunteers require extra 'treats' too for all their hard work and committment.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


- be prepared to get very, very dirty, wet, smelly and, love literally being all over you for many reasons which is realistic and a natural / normal part of the daily work . However, you have to embelish that and not be afraid. You are very well supervised and mentored by expereinced staff and other volunteers to prepare you and deal with the experience throughout. The more you relax, and simply just go with the flow, the more valuable & profound the experience will be.
- the more you put in, the more you get out so fully imerse yourself into the whole role. Your time and effort is precious and priceless!
- I recommend a very open mind and ask plenty questions to the family , staff who are extremely experienced researchers, primatologists and experts in their own right. They want to continually share their knowledge, skills and educate others.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes in many ways. You learnt how and why your indvidual and group contribution is beneficial on many local, regional levels i.e. from the skills the family, staff help you aquire in understanding the specific species' behaviours, animal welfare / husbandry, rearing very young vulnerble and sick infants, the role of the 'human' in the whole rehab process which is very timely, the role of using local food resources to support the economy and new enterprises / initiatives Riverside is progressing at the Centre. It's an ongoing educative process.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Excellent. It's a very, very, special unique opportunity for anyone to embrace a very valuable volunteer role in a beautiful country working with / alongside a very welcoming, accommodating, friendly and supportive family , staff who remain very open to sharing their knowledge, skills about primate/ wildlife rehabilitation. So much is learnt additionally from being around the animals which I would encourage people to do as often as possible. Simply- 'Just be in the moment' !!!

Reviewed on 01 May 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The best part of my trip would of been meeting new and different people and the cuddles with monkeys

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Travel light and make sure you take loads of photos as it goes so quickly

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


The trip benefits everyone as they get everyone involved, and you learn alot about the monkeys natural habitat,there wants and needs.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


The best 4weeks of my life, cant wait to book my next!

Reviewed on 01 May 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The hands on experience with the little orphaned monkeys both baboons and vervets. It was really hard to leave them. I definitely want to go back again to help take care of them.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


If you love animals you'll love this volunteer work. You can't help but fall in love with them. Be ready for how difficult it is to leave them. The people working there are very nice too. The food is great. You can buy snacks or pretty much anything you forget when you go into town. Bring clothes and shoes that you're prepared to get down and dirty in. Best thing to do is take clothes you want to give away and wear them and leave them for the people that need them in South Africa. Take a flashlight and some rubber gloves.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


The place did pay local people to do laundry, clean and do heavy work around the land. So they were definitely benefiting from the place being there. Without it they would not have a job. It helped the monkeys that were orphans get taken care of, fed very well, medical care and the attention every young animal needs after suffering such a loss, injury and fitting in again with their new troops and then the final release back into the wild. Amazing work. Well done!

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


110 out of 100. The feeling you get when you are helping the helpless is great. To know these lost little ones will be able to get back out into the wild again is the best. Amazing weather too.

Reviewed on 08 Dec 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Time with other volunteers and the monkeys.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Expect to work hard. You will get dirty but the rewards are so worth while.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Supported conservation and helped provide some jobs for the local people.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


I would not say that I am reborn but it was certainly one of the best vacations I
have been on and I hope to return next year.

Reviewed on 18 Dec 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Watching the primates grow and developing special bonds with them. Also, pool time is really incredible.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


It's really full on depending on what time of year you go so be prepared to work hard!
The experience is really unique and special, but when I went there was not a lot of down time so I am glad that I organised my own trip to Kruger Park before going to the project. In less busy times of year you get some afternoons off and more excursions, but during my time (baby season) we worked hard 7 days a week. The upside to this is you get adorable babies to look after. If I could go back in time and choose to do it again I definitely would, but I am glad that I booked only 3 weeks as keeping up that intensity for longer would be difficult. Working with the animals is amazing, and I
was really sad to say goodbye to them.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Definitely. The project fills a void and without it the primates would die without their mothers.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Pretty well. I would have liked more time out and about, as you a quite isolated at the project, but it was what I expected in terms of the animals. It is hard work, but the experience cannot be gotten elsewhere.

Reviewed on 16 Sep 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


It's hard to pick just one thing. Being so hands on with the vervets and baboons was an amazing experience, as was helping to build the release site for the vervet troop that was about to be set free. The people I met were wonderful, all ages and backgrounds which meant for some interesting conversations when we were going about our work.
Cleaning cages, food prep and pool time were all part of daily 'chores' and though sometimes hard work, was great fun.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Just immerse yourself in what the trip has to offer. Take a trip to a charity shop
before you leave to buy shirts/tshirts etc as part of the fun is getting wet and dirty when cleaning and playing with the monkeys. Leaving things behind when you depart helps other volunteers. Take a pack of rubber gloves and leave behind what you don't use.
There are opportunities to leave the camp on a variety of trips but this centre is the place to be.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


We worked alongside local people and the focus of our work was taking part in everything that supported the rehabilitation the monkeys, so yes, absolutely.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


It was totally wonderful. If you are in two minds please just book it and take the
plunge! An open mind will bring the greatest satisfaction as you go about all you have to do at the centre. I went for 3 weeks and it passed in a flash. I would say 2 weeks is the absolute minimum as it takes a few days to really get into it. I would have happily extended my stay if I hadn't had to return to work.

Reviewed on 11 Sep 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The travel to the centre was wonderful (3 hours) and we got to see lots of SA on the way. I loved the wildlife and the lovely birds. I will never forget the monkeys and the beautiful countryside around the centre. My favourite part was the seed collecting as we got to learn about the local flora and what the monkeys liked to eat in the wild. I am sad that I missed the release back to the wild, as that must have been a wonderful thing to see. I will never forget my experience at Riverside and I look forward to my next volunteering experience - I plan to visit Romania to the bear sanctuary and will definitely be contacting the same operator for this.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Allow yourself a week to settle in and adjust to the huge difference from the UK. Be prepared for the cold in the winter - just because it's SA, it's still very cold and there is no such thing as central heating in the accommodation! Take lots of layers and a hot water bottle to fill at the house before going to bed. Be prepared for no shower curtains on the showers, showers open to the stars and hot water that runs out after the first few showers, so likely cold showers. Accept that you are going to be dirty and covered in monkey wee and poo for the duration. Stock up on treats on your visit to town! Let loose, forget western standards, embrace the culture and then you will really enjoy your experience.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


This volunteering experience supports the conservation of the baboon and vervet monkey species. It benefits local people who find employment at the centre. There is no food waste like there is in the UK, either for the monkeys or volunteers (you are starving after a hard days' work and you clear your plate!) and out of date food from local supermarkets is picked up for the monkeys.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


I challenged myself with the lack of "home comforts" and the hard physical work compared to my sedentary job in Pathology at home, where work is mainly sitting at a screen. I took a week to get used to the relative lack of being able to keep totally clean and hygienic, which i think we possibly tend to overdo in the UK and the cold. But when I had adjusted, I loved it and I have some wonderful memories and photos. I don't think you fully appreciate what you have done until you are home and going through your photos. I would recommend this volunteering experience to anyone of a similar mindset who cares about the planet and all the creatures that we share it with.

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