African Dawn

African Dawn

Why choose African Dawn?

African Dawn Wildlife Sanctuary and Endangered Species Breeding Centre set in the heart of a lush valley. Situated between Jeffrey's Bay and Port Elizabeth lies African Dawn a truly beautiful bird and wildlife sanctuary, featuring a endangered cat breeding program and rehabilitation centre for wild animals and birds.


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Yes, I recommend this program

best experience of my life :)

I stayed at African dawn for one month in January this year. words could not describe how much of an amazing time I had. as soon as I arrived I felt at home :) surrounded by all the different species of animals and also made to feel extremely welcome and part of a family as soon as I arrived. your daily routine would usually be set up for you and that included preparing food for the animals, feeding the animals, making sure all the enclosures were clean, tidy and free from any escape routes! repair of the enclosures were sometimes needed. you got to spend a lot of time with the animals and learn and experience something new every day about different species, the way they live, the stories of how they have come about to be at the sanctuary and what the staff have done to help nurse these animals back to full health. sometimes you even get to feed the babies! :) it is very interesting as you get to learn what different species eat and how they would live and survive in the wild
The staff at African dawn are fantastic! they spend all there time dedicated to looking after these animals and make sure you are made to feel welcome all times. I felt at home and part of a family :) every day they will cook an amazing home cooked meal which there was always plenty to go around! my favourite was definitely the brais that percy and ali cooked :)
on your days off, which you get two a week, there is plenty to see and do, whether you go for a lovely walk on the game farm and see all the animals ( its always a challenge trying to find the giraffes!) enjoying relaxing at African dawn and spending time with the animals, or you can go on organised trips which African dawn will arrange for you. the best experience I enjoyed was the addo/schiota safari day, it was out of this world! there is plenty to do from black water tubing, the bungee jump!, the elephant sanctuary, shopping trips into the towns, surfing at Jefferies bay, horse riding and more!
my time at african dawn was the best experience of my life, I really did not want to leave, one month is not long enough to spend here and I will surely be returning here again in the near future :)

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Yes, I recommend this program

The perfect place to volunteer!

My wife and I have voluteered at African Dawn 3 times now, and we're already planning our 4th visit!
This really is the perfect place to volunteer, wether it's your 1st time as a volunteer worker or something you've done many times before. Be you young or old (from teenagers to pensioners we have met many volunteers from all walks of life who have become completely enchanted by this place).

Why? Well, where to begin:

1. The Experience - This really is the best way that I can imagine of experiencing beautiful South Africa. Working hands on with beautiful animals on a daily basis. Making friends with like minded people. Having free time to explore what else the country has to offer. It really is an adventure that will stay with you for life, and leave you hungry for more.

2. The Animals - African Dawn literally offers you a hands-on oppurtunity to work with some of South Africa's most beautiful animals. You will actually interact with Cheeaths, Servals, Monkeys, Duikers, Wallabies, plus hundreds of the most beautiful Birds that you have ever seen. You will get to help with feeding, cleaning, and general cuddling and interaction with these animals and more. You will become close, and get to know their individual personalities, from the cheeky and playful to the utterly adorable.
It is also worth remembering that African Dawn is a sanctuary, not a zoo. Many of these animals have come from poor backgrounds, or are recovering from bad injuries. Here the animals welfare is 100% the priority. It is incredible seeing how each and every animal is so well cared for, and knowing that you have played a part in helping them gives you an amazing feeling like no other!

3. The Staff - The owners and the managers of African Dawn literally do not stop working all day to make sure that everyone is happy. From caring for all of the animals, to making sure that every volunteer is as comfortable and happy as possible. From offering tourist advice to booking excursions to preparing a delicious home made meal every night, you will not find a place where you are made to feel more welcome.
When we 1st volunteered my wife was terribly homesick at first as she had never been away for so long. But the kindness and caring nature of the staff made her feel so at home that we both had an amazing time, and have returned several times since!

4. The Location - African Dawn really is in the perfect location to explore the best of what South Africa has to offer. The sanctuary itself is in a beautiful country setting, that really gives you the beautiful scenery of rural Africa (a daily walk accross the Game Park to see the Zebras, Antelope and Giraffes grazing is highly reccommended). But is also only a short and inexpensive taxi ride away from Jeffreys Bay, which offers beautiful beaches, a selection of shops, and many great bars and restaraunts.
On your days off this part of South Africa also offers the oppurtunity to go on Safari, walk with and ride Elephants, jump from the world's highest Bungee Bridge, visit the huge shopping centres of Port Elizabeth, go Skydiving, walk with Cheetahs plus much much more. Once again the staff at African Dawn will help with organising any activites that you may be interested in, to make sure that you get the most out of your adventure!

5. The Volunteers - This really is the best way to meet people from all over the world, of all ages, and make some of the best friends you'll ever have. From working together, helping to care for animals and build enclosures, to sitting around a fire together at night. We have met some of the most amazing people, and made some of our best friends at African Dawn.

I really can't reccommend this place enough. Basically if you want to make the most out of South Africa, work with some incredible animals, and have the most amazing time of your life, this is the place to do it!!!

What would you improve about this program?
I would never leave.
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Yes, I recommend this program

The experience of a lifetime!

Where to start! My stay at African Dawn was the experience of a lifetime and I was 19 at the time when I went to stay. I had always wanted to travel because I love to: challenge myself, experience new things, meet new people from lots of different places and backgrounds and from a young age watching animal planet I had always said that I'd love to go out and do something involved with animals! I have done all of these things while at African Dawn! It was an amazing opportunity which I was lucky enough to have, I feel that while travelling I have found more confidence and maturity that I believe I didn’t have before I started and I believe I found it at African Dawn.
While at African Dawn a normal day starts with waking up and heading to the Prep room in the main building. Plates of food for the animals are already set up and waiting, (If you are on morning prep you come up earlier and help the managers set up the plates) you will already of been assigned a route and you will be with a more experienced volunteer who will teach you the routes and show you the animals you will be feeding. Therefore you get to learn about the animals and what they eat. I thought this was fascinating as all the animals, I found (especially with the birds) all have their own little personalities which you get to learn about when you do the routes! So you go along and give fresh food and water and check the animals are all okay! When you get back all the dishes are taken to chicken dishes and the prep room is cleaned, after that it’s breakfast time! After breakfast is finished, about 9 o’clock! Everyone gathers and the daily jobs list gets read, you can volunteer for any of the jobs that you want to do (for your first week or two you will get put with a more experienced volunteer and they will show you how to do the jobs on the jobs list, if they don’t know or you don’t you can always ask the managers because they are more than happy to help)! Then there are chicken dishes which means all the animal food dishes need to be cleaned, sounds a bit yuck but you always have a laugh, this gets done twice a day after both feeding routes, there is a rota so that it gets evenly shared out so you don’t need to keep doing it! Usually after the first 2 weeks or so you get the chance to teach people the routes and pass on your knowledge!
Then if you finish all of your jobs you can help the others. There is usually a bit of free time before lunch, after lunch the feeding routes are started again at 2pm, this time everyone works together to set up the prep room and depending on your route you will have various different tasks such as chipping apples, cutting meat, making jam bread, etc. Everyone then sets out on their feeding route and when it is complete, the dishes are taken to chicken dishes and the prep room is then cleaned.
Unless you have any PM jobs (such as seed dish bring in or aviary water) you are usually finished for the day, so you can spend your time with the animals or relaxing, sun bathing, playing cards, listening to music or whatever you want to do! A lot of people go jogging on the game farm as there is a game farm with zebras, giraffes and a few other animals on the back of the lodges! It’s a good fun walk! Then dinner time is about 6, I’m a really fussy eater and I thought the food I was always extremely yummy, all the managers are great cooks! Also they can cater if you are vegan or vegetarian!
The lodges are very basic, which was what I was expecting but they have comfy mattresses, good powerful shower’s and it is a good communal space for all the volunteers. There is an old barn type building which is used as entertainment room, it has lots of sofa’s and a TV with loads of DVD’s, so it’s a good way to spend the nights! You can also play loads of games in here and there is a space for a camp fire just outside, which is always good fun! While you are out in Jeffery’s Bay there is also a hostel where you can stay on your days off!
Then other days you have project days to mix it up a bit and project days mean that you help out doing various tasks that need doing around the park, it can be a hard graft but personally I found this very rewarding as I helped build new enclosures and plant trees for the animals! To stand back and see it nearly all finished was amazing! You also get 2 days off a week, in which I have done some fantastic activities! I have done a sky dive, a bungee jump, horse riding along the beach, elephant back riding and a trunk in hand walk and I have also walked a cheetah on a lead or really, it took me for a walk! These are memories that I will cherish forever and will never forget, I wouldn’t have experienced all these amazing things if I hadn’t of came to South Africa on my trip! The trips are very easy to book and the managers help you organise these, they help you sort the transport with a man called Clinton (who I think is the best taxi driver in South Africa!) he has been working with the sanctuary for a long time and provides taxi services for the volunteers, he also has another taxi driver who works with him and they are a great team as I always felt safe in their company!
One of my favourite experiences was just before I left I got to go into the enclosure with some of the cheetah’s they have at the sanctuary! It was amazing to be stood next to the fastest land animal and surreal when it licks your arm and it’s like wet sand paper, it was amazing!
Personally the only thing I would of done differently was that I came through a company rather than direct with the African Dawn website, I would of researched more and maybe would of come directly because I think I would of saved myself a fortune, but it was the first time I’ve been away from home for longer than 2 weeks and 2 months is a lot longer, so I’ll know for next time! And I most definitely hope there will be a next time because I would love to go back soon and see how much everything has changed and grown and see how all the animals are!
Can’t thank African Dawn enough for all the experiences it has given me and can’t say enough how much the managers do a fantastic job, I have had so many brilliant opportunities and fun memories so I would most definitely recommend it to all of my friends, I have met so many fantastic people at African Dawn that I want to stay friends with for life, as for me I’ve got the travel bug now and I want to travel to as many places as I can, better get saving haha!

What would you improve about this program?
I would of liked to spend more time with the big cats!
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Yes, I recommend this program

African Dawn a paradise for animals and volunteers

African Dawn is with no doubt one of the most wonderful places I've been in my life. It stole my heart and that's way I have not only been there once but came back not even one year after I was back in Germany. Both of the times have definitely been one of the best decision of my life. I love looking at all these wonderful picuters and just think that I can't believe that I've actually been in that wonderful place and did all the things I was able to do.
One of the best things was that I really felt like a volunteer who's acutally helping someone. African Dawn is such a wonderful place where so much good work is done and where people actually take care for so many animals. Everyone who's helping there as a volunteer can be proud to be a little part of the big African Dawn family. I can say that I am a little proud. When I came back it was like coming back home because I felt so welcome there, both times. Not only I met so many new true friends of all ages and from all over the world but also the managers try to do everything to make everybody feel welcome and be happy. Allthough they have a lot of work to do they will always take care of every volunteer. They plan great trips for you, too which you'll still talk about when you're old. You can jump out of a plane or from the highest bungee jump bridge in the world or enjoy a wonderful safari.
Also I love the contact we had to the animals. I fell in love with so many different species of animals especially with the once I never thought I'd like. Birds! Never thought I'd love them. But also I never had the opportunity to be so close to them like I was in African Dawn. Sometimes I just can't believe how many of those animals I could cuddle with. I cuddled a Ground Squirrel everyday and it was my job! How awesome is that? And for the cheap money you pay I imagined a less luxtuary accomodation. I loved the cute little hut I stayed in and watching zebras standing at our fence. Or when I'm going for a run spotting some giraffes. And the food we get... Hm I loved it! I've been to other volunteering projects and I can tell that's damn good food you cook for so many volunteers.
All in all African Dawn is indeed a little paradise to me and I will always try to come back when I get the opportunity. I can just recommend it to everybody. It was truly an experience I will never forget. I also kind of carry it with me everyday on my skin and of course in my heart.

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Yes, I recommend this program

"Home is where your heart is!"

Home is where your heart is, they say. Does that mean I’ve got more than one home now? One thing I know for sure. I lost part of my heart to African Dawn. Not only to the people I met there, but also to the animals and to the place itself.

To be honest. When I first arrived in 2014, I was quite sceptic. There seemed to be so many birds. (Until my time at African Dawn I’ve never been a bird lover.) Then I discovered the servals. God, are those animals lovely. Just like big house cats they love to play. Or try to show the monkeys your selfie cameras. They enjoy looking at themselves way too much if you ask me. Did you ever get the chance to play with baby servals? I had this chance during the last few weeks and believe me if I say: I’ve seen many cute things, but those little kittens beat every single thing. (Of course they can't always have babies at African Dawn!)
What surprises me most? I miss many of the birds along with all the other animals! As you know, I’ve never been a bird lover. Soon I had to find out, that - just as humans - birds have different personalities. They like different things; they act and react different. Even among humans there are those you can’t get along with. But you also get a good few you love. It’s the same with the birds. Take your time to get to know them. My love is Sam, an umbrella cockatoo. He comes to sit on your arm to get some cuddles and sometimes he starts dancing if you put music on. (Sounds crazy I know. Maybe that is why he lives in the "mad house".) I miss my big boy.
The accommodation might be basic, yes. But that’s great. Finally you have to talk to people again! Instead of spending your time staring at your laptop or your phone screen, you can join the bunch of lovely volunteers playing cards, watching a movie, chatting, laughing, … (My tip: Ask the managers to take you out to the lagoon for a barbecue. It’s so beautiful down there!) For those of you who need internet, like I do – sending photos home and making friends jealous is amazing: Get yourself a local sim card. It’s easy to get, it’s cheap and connection is great.

“Nothing is permanent, nothing is ever and change is the only constant.
But we must embrace change because without it none of us would ever have met,
And goodbye tears means your life has changed in some beautiful way.” – African Dawn

African Dawn can change you if you let it. Definitely worth a travel or two … or even three. I hope to be able to come back one day.

See you at African Dawn!


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Tracy Rowlinson

Tracy Rowlinson is from Manchester, England and is currently studying a Masters in humanitarianism and conflict response. After working at African Dawn, she travelled through Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia (before returning to the sanctuary for 2 more weeks!) Her trip to Africa inspired her to do more travel, and spent many summers working at children's summer camps in the USA, and lived in Paris briefly. She hopes to return to Africa very soon.

Morning: We would usually start work at 7am, so everyone would start waking up at 6:30/6:45. There was no need to worry about appearances, so we didn't need much time. There is a list of jobs that need doing, and what animals need feeding and who eats what, and there is usually an inside team, preparing the food, and an outside team, distributing all the food to the animals. Straight away, the inside team will start chopping apples (so many apples!) and getting the food ready, whilst the outside team will collect all the food plates from the aviaries and enclosures, and clean them and return them to the prep room.

Depending on how many volunteers there are, the morning feed can take 2-3 hours. We would usually finish around 9:30, have breakfast together, and then have a meeting with Percy and Ali to discuss the day's tasks. Around 10am, everyone would then set off to do their assigned tasks, which could involve anything from painting a new enclosure, picking up new animals, building enclosures, attending to animals in the clinic, walking the fences in the game park to make sure there are no holes etc. You might be helping in the restaurant, or doing the grocery shopping! The tasks are very varied, and you can choose what you want to do.

Afternoon: Lunch would be around 1pm, and is usually sandwiches. Everyone eats together, relaxes, watch TV, read a book, and just rest after a busy morning. After lunch, there are a couple of hours left to finish off whatever project you were doing in the morning. Around 2:30pm, everyone meets back in the prep room and does the afternoon feed. This is usually finished around 4pm, which is when everyone finishes work. Then everyone races to get in the shower! You will probably be quite dirty by this point!

Evening: Around 6:30pm, everyone has dinner together, and in the evening you are free to do what you want. You might go for an evening game park walk, play a game of cards, watch tv, sit around a campfire, or just hang out. I don't remember ever being bored!

Highlights: Just being at African Dawn is a highlight - I have so many happy memories of my time there, and have made so many friends from the experience. A particular highlight was being part of a team that turned a junk yard into an enclosure for buck. It was a lot of hard work but between about 4 of us we cleared away all the rubbish, built a fence, and planted trees. A few days after we had finished, a baby buck was brought to the sanctuary and had a lovely new home!