Oyster Worldwide: Volunteer in a Bear Sanctuary in Romania

Video and Photos

Volunteer at a bear sanctuary in Romania
Volunteer at a bear sanctuary in Romania
Bear sanctuary in Romania
Bear sanctuary in Romania
Volunteer with bears in Romania
Volunteer with bears in Romania
Gap year with bears
Gap year with bears
Conservation volunteering in Romania
Conservation volunteering in Romania

About

Volunteer in Eastern Europe's largest bear sanctuary where you will be assisting the staff to rehabilitate and provide a comfortable environment for rescued bears. These bears have been victims of abuse, many experiencing life in tiny enclosures or being forced to perform for tourists.

Having never been exposed to living within the realms of normal bear behaviour, climbing trees, foraging for food and hibernating through winter is completely alien to these bears.

You will aid in changing all this by helping to run the day to day chores of the sanctuary. With each bear eating up to 10kg of food a day, this is a major operation! You will prepare their food daily and help monitor rehabilitation progress, help with conservation, and assist with educational sanctuary tours.

The sanctuary is located in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, just outside the medieval city of Brasov. This is a moving and worthwhile project and a chance to really contribute to animal welfare.

Highlights
  • See over 90 bears living a life as close to the wild as possible after their tragic pasts.
  • Watch the bears climb trees, amuse themselves in the lakes, chase each other and play fight together.
  • Explore stunning Transylvania in your free time, from Dracula's Castle to the Carpathian Mountains.
  • Live in medieval Brasov with other volunteers.
  • Make a genuine contribution to animal welfare and conservation.

Questions & Answers

Reviews

97%
based on 14 reviews
  • Impact 9.3
  • Support 9.9
  • Fun 9.1
  • Value 9.3
  • Safety 9.7
Showing 1 - 14 of 14
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Jenna
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Wish I'd have stayed longer!

I really enjoyed my experience with Oyster Worldwide. I'd never booked a volunteering project on my own, so I was grateful at how friendly, welcoming and helpful the team were. They were regularly in contact and redirected me to someone who could help with booking flights when I was struggling to find a good one. I booked for a week at an animal sanctuary and thoroughly enjoyed my time there. Oyster provided airport transfers, which made the whole thing a lot less scary! I'd never been to the country before or travelled alone, so this was very reassuring.

When I arrived at my accommodation, a guide was there to greet me. He had also brought me a welcome meal, which I greatly appreciated as it was really late by the time I'd arrived, meaning there was no time for me to do any shopping. Essentials were provided in the apartment. These included: washing up liquid, toilet roll, hand wash, towels and washing powder. I thought that this was an unexpected but nice touch, as I ideally didn't want to waste money on buying these things if I was only there for a week. The accommodation was really safe, quiet and comfortable. A few other volunteers shared with me, which was nice for the social aspect. I was also given the opportunity to go visit some iconic places whilst I was there, one of which transport was provided by Oyster.

After the weekend, I began my experience at the sanctuary. Oyster arranged for a driver to pick us up and bring us back to the accommodation every day. We started work at 9am and finished around half 2 in the afternoon. One volunteer would be in charge of a phone given to us by the guide, which he used to stay in contact with us whilst we were at the sanctuary. If there was ever a problem, the guide sorted it out immediately.

Whilst I would've liked to spend more time at the sanctuary, what work we did do was rewarding and fun. The sanctuary allowed us to embark on the feeding tour too, which was amazing. We got to see a lot of what the tourists didn't, which felt special and worth every penny. My only regret is that I didn't stay longer!

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would have stayed for at least 2 weeks. I think that when you go for a week you just start to settle into a routine and then have to leave straight away almost. With 2 weeks, you get to know the animals more, become more efficient at the jobs in the sanctuary, can explore more and have more time to visit the tourist attractions.
Default avatar
Suzanne
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing Experience

I volunteered at the brown bear sanctuary in Romania for a week in May 2019. The sanctuary is set in an amazing rural location in the mountains and has a welcoming dog brigade. I was impressed with the conditions provided at the sanctuary. My most memorable highlight of the project was observing the pleasure on the bears faces as they enjoyed taking a therapeutic dip in the water.
Most of the volunteer work involves food preparation and it can be monotonous at times but it can also be fun and it is important to the bears since bears need a lot of food.
We were able to observe the bear feeding process on the last day and it was an amazing experience to watch the bears come out of the forest for the food and to see the bears enjoying the food we have prepared.
Brasov is a lovely town in a central location and the standard of accommodation provided by the project was excellent.

What was your funniest moment?
Observing brown bears taking a dip in the water and seeing the pleasure on their faces as they enjoyed the therapeutic effects of the water.
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Caoimhe
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

An amazing experience!

Getting to work with the bear sanctuary in Romania is an amazing trip that I would recommend to anyone with an interest in bears.
From start to finish this trip felt relaxed, manageable and worthwhile. I had an amazing time, made friends and came home with some incredible memories.
Oyster Worldwide were a huge part of my positive experience, I would 100% recommend them to anyone interested in volunteering abroad!

What would you improve about this program?
I couldn't fault this program :)
Response from Oyster Worldwide

Hi Caoimhe,
It's so pleasing to read your review about our bear sanctuary in Romania. Thanks for taking the time to write :)

Default avatar
Seán
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing experience

If you love animals and want to spend hours in close proximity to beautiful bears and amazing scenery then this project is perfect for you. The team at oyster are extremely helpful and accommodating making the experience the best it could have possibly been. The accommodation is amazing as it is right in the town close to so many restaurants, tourist spots and facilities. And getting to work in the sanctuary itself was a privilege.

Response from Oyster Worldwide

Hi Sean,
Thanks for your kind words, so glad you had fun with the bears :)

Default avatar
Adam
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

2 Weeks With the Amazing Bears

I spent 2 weeks working at the Libearty Bear Sanctuary in Romania and this was by far the best experience I've ever had and it exceeded my expectations in many ways.

The booking process was easy and the payments are broken down into smaller chunks. Anne is always available to answer questions and help get you prepared. I was impressed with how smooth and stress free booking with Oyster was and they provide all the info you need before you go.

On arrival in Brasov, despite being delayed by traffic, Razvan (the Romanian rep) took us out for a welcome meal where we met the other volunteers. I was in a central hotel as the apartment was full but it was comfy and clean and only 5 mins round the corner. I was very well supported from the beginning to the end of my stay. Brasov is a gorgeous place to live and is filled with good food and friendly people.

Working at the sanctuary surrounded by the bears and doggy friends in such a tranquil and beautiful setting was, for me, an absolute honour and I would go back there tomorrow if I could. If you get stuck in and help with the work, the rewards are incredible. We got to ride along with the staff during feeding time and watch the bears enjoy the food we had prepared for them, It was amazing to see them freed from their previously hellish conditions and simply enjoying themselves in the trees and ponds.

I would recommend this project to anyone who loves bears or wants to make a genuine difference. You will be well looked after and make some great new friends along the way.

Response from Oyster Worldwide

Hi Adam,
Wonderful to hear about your experience in Romania, glad you had so much fun!

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Emily
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

2 incredible months in bear country

I truly could not recommend this trip enough.
The pre-trip organisation was excellent, and I went to Romania feeling very prepared. Upon arrival, I was met by Razvan - Oyster's Romanian representative, and shown around the accommodation, which was very modern and really lovely!
Spending time at the sanctuary was a dream come true. You can really tell that your money is being spent somewhere worthwhile, and that the work that you are doing there is really making a difference.

As I said before, I couldn't recommend this trip enough.
Excellently organised, and I felt that I had experienced a lot of the local area and culture through the organised castle trips.

What would you improve about this program?
Osyter Worldwide should keep doing what they're doing! Excellent trip.
Response from Oyster Worldwide

Hi Emily,
So great to read your review and to learn how much you got from your experience volunteering with the bears, thanks for your review!

Default avatar
Simon
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Betsy my Icecream making mentor

All 80 + bears are lovely but you are bound to choose favourite. Mine was Betsy(26 year old lady rescued from Texas).
In the work I became an expert in making 2ice-cream2 for the bears ,make up of various ex supermarket dairy produce and bread. In 2 weeks and after 1000 cartons I feel confident I set a word record time for opening mascarpone cartons. Betsy watched my work at close quarters and nodded sagely at my progress. The work is fun and rewarding and you sense also valuable to the hardworking staff at the3 sanctuary.
The whole experience ran very smoothly and Razvan was a brilliant and super-supportive host.
It was great to meet and make a good friend in my co-volunteer over the 2 weeks.

What would you improve about this program?
It was all good. Perhaps hearing from the founder in person for a short time would be nice.
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Marion
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Our time at libearty

I would recommend this experience to people of all ages and background who have the desire to work and play hard whilst furthering an interest in nature and the large carnivores such as bears and wolves. It is not a holiday, but rather a taster of a lifestyle where you will give as much to a community as what you can take from it. Daily tasks at the sanctuary can be physically hard work, but there are also many opportunities to just watch, relax, and absorb your surroundings. We enjoyed ourselves so much first time round that we went back for 3 months the following year, and again the next year for a week. It was good to see at first hand the progression made at the sanctuary, and most importantly, to find the bears responding to their newly acquired enclosures and seemingly able to put behind them their years of captivity.

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Shelby
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Libearty Bear Sanctuary ♡

I arrived in Brasov on the 4th of July 2014 and was to stay for four weeks. My first weekend was relaxing but by no means is that a reflection of how many things there are to see and visit while you are in Romania. I managed to fit in visited the city of Sighisoara, Bran Castle, Rasnov Fortress, Peles Castle, I climbed 7 Ladders Canyon and took a tour of Brasov.
The beginning of a work week begins on a Monday and continues through to Friday, allowing plenty of time for fitting in all these activities on the weekends but also meaning you get to spend a lot of time with the main reason you will be travelling to Brasov, the bears.

The bear sanctuary is nothing short of amazing, a great set up, lovely staff, beautiful surroundings and at the time of my visit, 81 gorgeous bears. The bears are a mixture of characters and you have plenty of time to grow attached to them all.
Jobs vary from food preparation, painting fences, raking and helping out around the sanctuary, but also 'free time,' for wandering around and watching the bears, scattered amongst the work. Don't get me wrong sometimes the work does get very repetitive and you do get tired, but it doesn't change just how amazing the experience is and how grateful you will inevitably be by the end of it all. Don't go expecting not to get dirty, sweaty and gross because that is definitely part of the experience. If you are on food prep by yourself, like I was for my first week, I would recommend some form of music to pass the time. Once you have someone with you it is a completely different story, it is also awesome to be able to share the experience with someone else who loves the bears just as much as you do, someone that will also no doubt become you friend.

The apartment is located in a great spot, only streets from the main square and road, the local supermarket and plenty of places to visit as a tourist. Not a minutes went by that I didn't feel a hundred percent safe, comfortable or at home. With everything that is considered essential within walking distance the small completely gorgeous and picturesque section of the Brasov offers complete independence.

I will greatly miss Brasov, my temporary home, my amazing room-mates who I look forward to seeing again somewhere down the track, and the more than accommodating Razvan the Oyster Rep, who went above and beyond. These guys help to make this experience what it was and so much more, I went for the bears but I had a better time in Romania than I could ever have imagined because of the family I feel like I made and the lifelong friends I will have. A massive thanks to Oyster Worldwide for providing me with the time of my life!

What would you improve about this program?
Could not think of a single thing if I tried.
Default avatar
Penny
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My experience volunteering in Romania.

I had the most rewarding experience when volunteering within Romania at the Libearty Bear Sanctuary and also at the Millions of Friends Dog Shelter. The dedicated staff and other volunteers I met along the way made my experience even better to be able to share it with others. It was a very rewarding, positive, enjoyable and fun experience. So much- that I returned to Brasov for another few weeks of volunteering before departing Europe for Australia.

Default avatar
Estelle
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

So good I went twice!

This was a long standing ambition for me and I wasn't disappointed. I think it's fair to say that you get out as much as you're prepared to put in.
I went for 6 weeks in March/April in 2012 & 2013 so enjoyed the end of the winter season & start of the spring. Everything is organised for you from collection at the airport to daily 30 minute transfers to & from the sanctuary. The main daily task is usually preparing food for the bears, donkeys & wolves. Other tasks are dictated by the weather but for me included clearing ditches and bagging leaves to allow water flow; cleaning the on-site surgery and training suite in the main building; helping with the guided tours. You work alongside the local permanent staff, who are very friendly but certainly appreciate it if you make the effort to speak a little Romanian. The work can be dirty but that's one of the reasons I love this programme so much - it's not a glorified holiday; more roll your sleeves up and muck in! Having said that you do get plenty of time when the tasks are complete or you're awaiting a food delivery when you can explore the sanctuary (the setting is breathtaking) , observe the bears and take fantastic photos. The apartment in Brasov was ideal as not too big; the max it holds is 4 people in 2 bedrooms; it's great fun sharing with other volunteers, especially when exploring the bars/restaurants in the evenings/weekends, although I have to say I did enjoy a period when I had a room to myself. Razvan is the Romanian Oyster rep who speaks perfect English and works tirelessly to ensure you have everything you need. He took us to the supermarket to stock up on food and a few sightseeing trips at the weekend. He even helped me organise a birthday trip for my visiting sister to the Danube Delta, including hiring a car & getting a hotel to accommodate us in the 'closed' season. As I was there for quite a long time, I also took the opportunity to visit the dog shelter in Brasov, which is another worthy cause supported by the same charity.
This really is a fantastic experience; I can't wait to go back again and I hope to make it an annual event!

What would you improve about this program?
Nothing - I loved everything!
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Brooke
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Beary excellent!

Working at the Libearty sanctuary in Romania was possibly the most wonderful and exciting trips of my life. Every day just walking up to the main house we got to see many of the bears who live there. Mostly we prepared an sorted food, which left plenty of time to take some fabulous photos or just sit and observe the bears. Apart from the volunteering, there was always something to do near the flat since it was two streets over from the main road. Many afternoons were spent just strolling around and enjoying the scenery or people watching with my fellow volunteers, who I still keep in contact with. If you want to meet some amazing people and some cool bears you absolutely must take part in this program!

What would you improve about this program?
I honestly can't think of a single thing I would change.
Default avatar
Linda
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A unique programme in a beautiful place

I spent three weeks volunteering in the Zarnesti bear sanctuary and living in the apartment provided for the volunteers in nearby Brasov. It was a completely new experience for me. Although the work itself was quite repetitive (preparing the food for the bears, some work maintaining and cleaning the grounds and buildings on the site), the location was magnificent (so was the weather, in April-May) and the chance to observe dozens of bears going about their daily lives was truly unique. The staff on site were cheerful and friendly and appreciated my attempts at speaking Romanian; the volunteer coordinator in Brasov, Razvan, could not have been more helpful - and was great to have around and socialize with as well. We finished work in mid afternoon most days so there was plenty of time to explore Brasov and relax in the private area/garden outside the apartment. The only downside for me was lack of privacy - the apartment consists of two shared bedrooms and a kitchen, so there's no space indoors for quiet time, but for anyone who isn't bothered by that it was very comfortable.

What would you improve about this program?
Since my time there I understand the sanctuary has begun to give visitor tours - I would have liked the chance to do that, as a break from the very basic work which was all we did during my stay.
Default avatar
Jack
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Unique, Rewarding Experience

I spent just two weeks volunteering at the Zarnesti Bear Sanctuary near Brasov, but that incredible experience left a lasting memory. This is such a unique opportunity to spend time with these magnificent creatures, and contribute to their ongoing protection.

One of my lasting memories is of walking around the large enclosures, set within a stunning autumnal forest, and watching the brown bears pace along with me - it is a magical place, and an experience I will always remember.
I also really enjoyed living in the unit in Brasov, which is located within the walls of the beautiful medieval city.

The other great advantage of this program was the support from the Oyster team. Anne was so helpful - we talked over Skype before my program, and then she even took me out to a pub lunch when I visited the England office! And Razvan was the Romanian contact - he picked me up from Bucharest, helped with shopping and even drove me out to Bran Castle on one of the weekends. I've heard some worrying stories about big volunteering companies, so I would truly recommend Oyster as it seemed to me that they really do care about their volunteers and their programs.

If you want to do something different, if you care about the treatment of animals, and if you are not afraid of a little hard work, then you will have a great time on this program.

What would you improve about this program?
It was approaching winter in Europe when I did this program, so I was the only person volunteering at the bear sanctuary at the time. Having spent four months prior living in youth hostels I appreciated a bit of solitude, but I think it would have been nice to share the experience with some other volunteers. The Oyster team definitely made me aware of this beforehand, so maybe check with them that other people will be volunteering at the same time.