Volunteer at Africa's top rhino sanctuary

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About

This might just be your last chance to see rhinos in the wild.

Poachers are currently killing over 1,000 animals a year. Unless something changes, wild rhinos will be all but wiped out in Africa over the next ten years.

By volunteering at Care for Wild Africa, you’ll get hands-on in the fight to save the rhino. From treating injured animals to bottle-feeding orphaned calves, you’ll help care for animals that have been orphaned, injured or harmed by poachers. You'll also get an unrivalled insight into their behaviour and individual personalities. All while learning about wildlife care from some of Africa’s leading conservation experts.

The gates to this world-renowned sanctuary are closed to tourists. That means the only way to discover the inspiring work that goes on inside is by volunteering. We hope you'll get the chance - before it’s too late.

Highlights
  • Go behind the scenes at Africa's leading rhino centre.
  • Tourists aren't admitted - this is real conservation.
  • Work with hippo, lions, meerkats, antelope and birds too.
  • Excellent location close to cities but surrounded by wilderness.
  • Accredited by the National Parks board of South Africa.

Related Programs

Questions & Answers

Reviews

8.94 Rating
based on 16 reviews
  • Impact 8.6
  • Support 9
  • Fun 8.1
  • Value 8.6
  • Safety 8.7
Showing 1 - 8 of 16
Default avatar
Katharina
6/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Care for Wild Volunteering

For the volunteer work at Care for Wild I have mixed emotions and cannot fully recommend it to just everybody. I will go into more detail in the following.

Volunteer Work: One works for about 8 hours a day, which mainly includes hard physical work (cleaning the bomas and haying) while the rhinos are in another area. If you have any problems with knees, back, hay fever or dust allergy, probably best not to go there because you‘ll be confronted with it all the time. It’s hard work, so one should know that beforehand. Staff jokingly calls volunteers slaves and honestly that‘s what it feels like sometimes.

Interaction with Rhinos: One gets to bottlefeed rhino babies through a fence 2-3 times a day for about 5 minutes and that’s about all the rhino interaction that one gets. There is no time to just watch the rhinos, or even pet or play with them. This is definitely in the best interest for the rhino! However, pictures on Instagram and Facebook are very misleading as one can see staff members petting and playing with them. But as a volunteer the only interaction one gets is during the 5 minutes when feeding the babies through the fence. There is only little time to observate the rhinos behavior. Again, I completely understand why it has to be that way but the marketing on Instagram is misleading and should maybe be improved, as well as the wording on the website about the volunteer work.Sometimes staff will take you on game drives for about one hour after work, which is very nice and rewards you for the hard work.

Accommodation: Very basic and tiny cabins for 3-4 people (about 6m^2) with bunk beds. Showers are full of mould and there’s quite a few spiders and bugs in the room. One can hear every word the neighbors say as well so definitely bring ear plugs. At night it got down to 7 degrees (September) and that’s the temperature we had in our rooms as well. Most people caught a slight flu because it was so cold and we only had ice cold water in the shower for about one week, which has been fixed after contacting someone from ACE who got CFW staff to fix the issue.
The place puts an emphasis on the rhinos rather than on volunteers which is definitely the right way, however I just try to give new volunteers a better insight before they arrive.

Food: Good food is provided three times a day. It’s usually meat and a side for every meal. If you want less meat and some veggies instead you should opt for the vegetarian option beforehand. Water is provided as well.

Management of volunteers onsite: Staff is really nice but they‘re not trained to manage people. When it gets down to pick things that the volunteers want to do, the one that screams the loudest gets to do the best things. This encourages competition and also bullying. The staff doesn’t really care about those things/ or doesn’t know what to do about it, but that’s probably because they‘re busy with other things. There should be someone who really looks out to distribute things equally amongst volunteers and also encourages a positive vibe within the group.
I found it very disappointing that one half of the group was able to experience the release of rhinos into the wild, where others didn’t even know about it. There was a trip planned for half of the group and staff was told to keep quiet about the release of the rhinos, which has been planned for a long time beforehand. Afterwards people bragged about what they experienced and made a show out of it. This was very upsetting and frustrating for the other half of the group, who wasn't fortunate enough to experience this. It should be either that all volunteers get the chance to experience major events or none of them!

Further, staff should take more care about people bullying and spreading negative energy, rather than just watching it happen.

Management though ACE: The manager is really nice and tries their best to meet everyone’s needs. Two people wanted to leave care for wild earlier than planned and it was no problem at all.

To sum up, if you want to donate to CFW then do it because it’s for a great cause and they definitely need the funds. If you want to volunteer there, maybe take above mentioned aspects into consideration.

What would you improve about this program?
Clear information beforehand what the work will be about (Cleaning) and that there will only be little interaction with the animals. Better management of the volunteers so that everyone gets to experience the same things.
Response from African Conservation Experience

Dear Katharina,

We at African Conservation Experience greatly appreciate all feedback that we receive.

We pride ourselves on the high level of in-country support that we provide all of our travellers with and thank you for acknowledging this. Our Rhino ratings tab is as you say an indication of the level of physical work that a project requires and as you mentioned the Care for wild rhino sanctuary is indeed a genuine working project that provides volunteers with the opportunity to be part of the team as opposed to being a spectator. The projects focus is 100% on rehabilitating the rhinos orphans coming into the centre back into the wild which is incredibly rewarding. We regret that it was not clear to you that we see, and between ourselves, refer to the volunteers as the unsung heroes of Care For Wild Rhino Sanctuary. We have taken your feedback seriously and have discussed this with our team. We want to thank you for your hard work and we'd love to see you back, possibly at our Phinda project. :)

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

Predator and Elephant Study in Botswana

Traveling with ACE to the Okavango Delta in Botswana was an amazing experience. I traveled to Concession 43 in June 2017 to work on a elephant and predator study, which included several days stay on an island in the Okavango.

While there we worked with local researchers to measure abundance of a variety of game on the concession. This included lion, leopard, gemsbok, roan, wild dog, and many other species. During my stay we saw several hundred elephant, something that is now impossible throughout most of Africa.

The typical days were variable, and usually included several hours of game drives to conduct line transects to collect data for use in a multi-year survey of the area. This trips can be rough at times, as the trails are unkept and the temperature changes dramatically throughout the day.

The team I worked with was excellent, and ACE's expedition staff is second-to-none. The staff is highly experienced in conservation work and knowledgeable of the region. Planning the trip and arriving on location was easy, as their office staff was helpful every step of the process.

I highly recommend traveling with ACE to the region. The trip was unlike any other, and a valuable experience for conservationists and adventurers alike.

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

AMAZING ANIMAL EXPERIENCES

I am an older person, now 57 years, and have been 3 times and will be returning in March and again in January 2015.
I have read the reviews and decided to do mine as well.
At home, in Australia, I am a wildlife carer so go over there with certain standards in mind of how animals in care should be treated and with Petronel as Commander-in-Chief, I absolutely love working with her and for her! The animals are her main concern and she is very generous with her knowledge and the sharing of that knowledge and my sometimes endless questions about animals I am helping care for. It is definitely a learning experience, you must ask the questions and observe the animals and no matter how many times I go, there is always plenty to learn from Petronel and her two co-ordinators, Angelique and Sam.
I am surprised by someone's comments regarding the lack of respect by them to us as I found them both to be very helpful and could ask them anything and an answer would come back to me, not necessarily right there and then, but within a reasonable time frame, as they both always have a lot on their plates with the animals in care, jobs to be done not to mention looking after all those volunteers.
My day's are very busy, which is what I want and the purpose of me going over there. Each team has their animals to care for, which involves cleaning out cages, feeding and monitoring each animal in care. Any problem is reported to the co-ordinators and they will get back to you on those problems. All three, Petronel, Angelique and Sam, are extremely approachable with any issue I have ever brought up and listen to what is said before answering my concerns or questions.
My spare time is usually spent redoing cages for animals in care or preparing newly built cages for animals to go into, which is hard work but extremely rewarding to know you have made a better home for an animal that deserves it!
Another thing that surprised me was comments about animals coming in and not being released, white lions was one that was mentioned. When animals come into care, Petronel does not choose which ones she wants, they are coming to her because they are orphaned, injured or needing a better place to be. The animals need to be in top condition and a certain age to be released and they cannot be released without certain protocol. There are a number of regulations and redtape that must be done in order to release an animal back to the wild and not all animals are that easy to release back to the wild. White lions would be one of those as they only come from certain small populations, so you cannot be releasing them in parks where they don't exist to begin with and you also have to be extremely knowledgeable about what populations do exist otherwise new animals coming in will be killed by territorial animals already in place. A lot must be considered to release an animal into the wild and it is not a decision to rush into as Petronel has brought an animal back to good condition, with our help, and wishes that animal to have a long-term future! Always ask anything you wish to know regarding animals, and please do not make assumptions about what is being done. Animals I have cared for in the past, have certainly been released back into Game Reserves.
If you have a love of wildlife, then this is one place I highly recommend as each time I return, I have so many amazing experiences and to know that I have helped animals get into a better place is a very rewarding experience. I learn a lot, as I ask a lot and with the small staff that Petronel has, they have never shown me anything other than friendliness and a great attitude for a busy working day and lending a hand wherever and whenever it is required! We have regular lectures on given subjects or I have requested a subject that interests me as well. You can learn so much by sitting and observing an animal and you will never get to see their different behaviours in the wild like you do watching them at Khulula Wild Care.
I am also going to mention the ACE representative for Khulula as Martin has been specifically mentioned in previous reviews. I have had some communications with him over transfers and minor matters and he was always polite and punctual with his responses. On this last visit, I saw for myself how exceptional he was when a young 18 year old volunteer had serious medical problems and Martin came from Johannesburg and helped this young female through hospital trauma and surgery in what was I would have thought, well above his job description! He made what was a very difficult time for her, as easy as possible as he handled all those details that her family would have had they been here and she was visited very regularly by Khulula staff to ensure her time in hospital prior to surgery and post surgery went as well as it could. At no time did I ever hear staff complain of this extra burden, they seemed to think it was part of their daily programme and the volunteer even came back to rest before flying home and backed up what I was seeing from all involved, Petronel and staff and of course, Martin!
I was not really involved with the social/fun side and that was my choice. Certainly my other 3 team members on my last visit, were a fantastic group of young women, and they were hard workers and they had a lot of fun working and playing, and that was something I enjoyed as I like being able to love my work, and listening to them talk, dance and sing away the working day, made me love my time at Khulula even more than usual - so thanks to Kerry, Alex and Lauren!

What would you improve about this program?
This is correct and if I could change one thing, it would be that volunteers that came here had a good attitude, came to work and have fun, do what needs to be done, help each other - on your own team or whoever needs help and show respect to all the staff and other volunteers!
Default avatar
Kristen
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

An African Dream

I had always wanted to travel abroad while I was in college but it wasn't until I had graduated that I made this dream a reality. I spent two weeks at Khulula Care for Wild and it was fantastic, I wish I could have stayed a lot longer. It was definitely not all fun and games, there was a fair amount of work, but it was a very informative and rewarding experience. Between cleaning rhino pens, to bottle feeding a variety of youngsters, playing with the resident animals, and a variety of other activities there was never a dull moment.

There was also an educational part of the trip. Other than just learning information about the various species as you cared for them, there were lectures by the staff and field trips onto the reservation to learn about the local ecosystem. You also get chances to go into town and see attractions in the local area. Most volunteers get the opportunity to go on a safari in near-by Kruger National Park, which was a big highlight.

The staff are all friendly and always willing to help. Even the staff "behind the scenes" that helped me book the program and such were great. You are met at the airport and taken care of every step of the way, I was never worried about getting lost or feeling alone. The food is also great, you are responsible for your own snacks and drinks, but the staff provide 3 meals a day and they were always delicious. The sleeping quarters are great as well.

What would you improve about this program?
I would stay longer. I was there for 2 weeks and I had a blast, but I feel like a longer stay would have allowed me to do more.
Default avatar
Amanda
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Khulula (Care For Wild) is life changing

Care for Wild will always have a special place in my heart. The people and the animals and the place were so wonderful. Angelique (animal coordinator) and Petronel (owner) were incredible and so inspirational. Myself, the staff and the other volunteers became like a family together and if I had the money, I would go back. All the time. I had never experienced more fun and hard work in all my life. I fell in love with rhinos of all creatures (they're the best!!) and learned so much about animal rehabilitation.
It is a smaller and more intimate setting which I enjoyed, and it is a TRUE rehab center as they release animals as often as they can. While I was there they did a few soft releases on some bush babies and owls. The following weeks after I left they released Didi, a beautiful rhino, and a handful of lion cubs.
Care For Wild is such a beautiful place that will strengthen your passion for wildlife and give you one of the best experiences of your life. I am so blessed to have been, and still am a part of the CFW family and I would recommend it to anyone to volunteer here!

Default avatar
Hannah
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Unforgettable, but not perfect!

Care for Wild is doing much needed conservation work when it comes to Rhinos. Rhino calves that have been orphaned by poachers killing their mothers need a place to take care of them and this is definitely it. Care for Wild has mastered rhino rehab, and this is very important and rewarding work that will change your life! They is so much that Petronel can teach you about saving wildlife. She is amazing at her job.

However I do have issues with other rehabilitation done on site. They are not very upfront with volunteers about the reality of predator rehab. Those lovely white lion cubs you cuddle and go on walks with will never be release back into the wild. Simply because there is no wild to release them in. The only option for lions are private reserves and game farms. It was never made clear, or I could never be sure where the lions would be released to. Game farms of course use lions for canned hunting. Perhaps this has changed with the new facility, maybe they hope to keep the lions on site. I hope so. Either way, Care for Wild should educate their volunteers about predator rehab.

I also didn't like the serval/caracal breeding done. It's one thing to take in orphans, but another to breed kittens and then interfere and make them unreleasable.

I know they are in an relocation/expansion process right now and I have seen photos of much larger rhino bomas which makes me very happy!
I hope they are also providing larger flight cages for the birds of prey. The cages at the old castle didn't allow for much active flight that birds need to maintain flight muscles.

The volunteer co-ordinators could use some training in how to be professional with their volunteers. The volunteers are only there to help. They've travelled to South Africa to donate their time and money to help rehabilitate. I don't believe the co-ordinator always appreciated that fact.

If you choose to this program, go there knowing what it is and that you won't get to release any animals. But you can still help provide a necessary service to wildlife. Especially saving a species like the white rhino.

One P.S. really more of a question. I see they have a hippo babe at the centre now. I have concerns with this. Hippos are dangerous creatures. Most hand raised hippos end up killing their handlers. I know with out a doubt that they will limit the volunteers interactions with eMMa when she becomes a dangerous size(like they do with rhinos). However I know it will be difficult for the co-ordinators to start staying out of her boma once such a strong bond is formed. Please be safe everyone!

What would you improve about this program?
More upfront education for volunteers.

More respect for volunteers from co-ordinators.
Default avatar
Ali
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Cant wait to go back

I went in 2010 for a month on my own straight out of school. It was one of the most amazing experiences in my life! I loved every part of it! Everyone there was amazing and I made life long friends.
I have plans to return and to stay for as long as I can as soon as I get the money and my act together!
If you are considering volunteering....volunteer here you wont regret it!

Words cannot describe how much the place means to me and the life long memories I have and I cannot wait to come back!

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

The Best Experience

I went to Care For Wild this summer not knowing what to expect but from the moment I arrived I knew that 2 weeks would never be enough! The staff are enthusiastic, well organised, fun and knowledgeable and it is clear that the animals are the most important things.

The site has everything you need for an amazing experience, the setting is stunning, the animal enclosures are specially built and the accommodation is comfortable and cosy.

There is a daily routine and the tasks are well structured and organised to make sure that all of the animals receive the specialist that they require. However, you never know what new animals could arrive while you're there.

Overall I felt extremely well looked after, Care For Wild was like one great big family and I can't wait to go back and as soon as possible. There is no other place where you can get so close to these amazing animals and make a real difference to their care as part of a close and friendly team. you will never regret this amazing experience.