• South Africa
2 to 12 weeks

Program Details

Age Min.


Starting Price
Price Details
Includes airport transfers, accommodation, 2 home-cooked meals per day (vegetarians are catered for), regular trips into town and all training.
What's Included
Accommodation Airport Transfers Meals Wifi
What's Not Included
Airfare Some Meals Travel Insurance Visa
Feb 01, 2021
Jan 18, 2020
55 travelers are looking at this program

About Program

Become part of a lifesaving journey for young monkeys and baboons in South Africa. Rescue, nurture and rehabilitate injured and orphaned primate babies, helping these young to become strong and part of a family, ready for release to the wild.

This project is very hands-on, requiring volunteers to be bottle feeding the babies, watching over them as they play and helping with basic veterinary and care needs. You will certainly see where the phrase “cheeky monkey” comes from here!

Each day you will be helping with the food preparation, feeding, watering and cleaning of enclosures for the baby monkeys and baboons. Cleaning has never been so fun with three monkeys and two baboons dangling from your arms, head and waist! These creatures are very contact driven, and you will find you will probably have more hugs here than ever else in your life!

You will be living at the rehabilitation centre alongside the 400 monkeys and baboons (and other volunteers!).

Video and Photos

Program Highlights

  • Get more monkey hugs than you could ever imagine on this inspiring monkey and baboon rehabilitation project.
  • Help to bottle feed baby monkeys and become a human climbing frame as they play.
  • Work hard to prepare food and clean the monkey enclosures, all with the reward that one day these primates will be released back to the wild.
  • Make a genuine contribution in monkey conservation, helping to release primates back to the wild after injury.
  • Explore the area of South Africa close to the Kruger National Park - you might even get to see the Big 5!

Related Programs

Program Reviews

4.91 Rating
based on 11 reviews
  • 5 rating 90.91%
  • 4 rating 9.09%
  • 3 rating 0%
  • 2 rating 0%
  • 1 rating 0%
  • Impact 4.9
  • Support 5
  • Fun 4.75
  • Value 4.85
  • Safety 4.45
Showing 1 - 8 of 11 reviews
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Volunteering at Riverside

This experience was absolutely life changing. I realized exactly what the baboons and vervet monkey took to just survive. The owners , Bob Nd Lynne, I cannot day enough. Even though very demanding ( at times did not think I could make it, but it was so rewarding and I learned strength I never knew I had. The poverty and government are devastating and the fact I felt I made a difference changed my life. I met friends I will keep for life and actually plan on going back next year. If it wasn’t for. Anne Smellie with Oyster I would not have had this experience. Thank you for all.

What would you improve about this program?
At least one day off as volunteers get burned out and then we are not help to anyone much less the monkeys. Changing jobs daily because it becomes monotonous and boring.
52 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

An incredible experience

Booking my trip to South Africa with Oyster Worldwide was the best way to go. I am 19 years old and had never travelled alone before, especially not to the other side of the world! And so, understandably, my parents were quite concerned for my safety and I was also very nervous about navigating through a completely foreign place. However, thanks to Oyster I actually didn't feel alone. Every aspect of my trip was organised, and no matter how silly or irrelevant the question may have seemed, Oyster (Georgie in particular!) gave me a thorough answer in no time at all. Even when Georgie was away I did not have to wait as one of her colleagues handled my problems. During the booking and planning of my trip and also during my time in South Africa, Oyster was only ever a phone call or email away. I am extremely grateful to Georgie and everyone at Oyster Worldwide for helping me to have the most incredible experience volunteering in South Africa.

The actual experience in South Africa was once in a lifetime. It was very hard work, but there wasn't a second where I wasn't willing to do it. Although I was tired, hot, sweaty and sometimes doing tasks that aren't particularly exciting (for example, washing hundreds of mangos!) I never felt like I didn't want to do the work. This was for many reasons, firstly the people who you are surrounded by are all lovely - this includes the owners, the staff there and the other volunteers. Also, the work is so rewarding. I would wash mangos for the rest of my life if it meant I could see just one monkey or baboon go through the incredible rehabilitation process that this project provides. Watching primates who have been so poorly treated in life just completely come out of their shells and interact with other monkeys is an amazing sight to see. It's so rewarding to literally see the difference you are making to these animals' lives. Nothing is as beautiful as this.

If you are considering taking part in this project then please do, the monkeys and baboons are so deserving of all of the help that volunteers provide.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
I had the rare opportunity to go into one of the semi-wild baboon enclosures and see first hand how the rehabilitation process actually works. Every day you are working with younger baboons, from newborns to two or three years old, however, these baboons were around four or five. This meant that not only were they much bigger, but they were also further along in the rehabilitation process and so have little to no human interaction. Although they were still friendly to you if you were friendly to them, the contrast in their behaviour from the younger baboons which have more human contact was clear to see. This was terrifying, but also so incredible to see. One day the baby baboons who lost their mothers and troops in such tragic circumstances will be living a life like these bigger baboons - in the wild where they belong.
51 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Monkey adventure

The Riverside monkey sanctuary is a truly life changing experience that will stay with me for ever, not just because of my time with the amazing monkeys but also because of the life long friends I have made and the people I have met. It truly is an amazing experience and time with the monkeys and learning about them, caring for them is something you'll keep with you for life. The people are lovely the animals are amazing and I really would recommend to anyone to that if they love animals and aren't afraid of hard work that they should definitely go.

What would you improve about this program?
It can't.
55 people found this review helpful.
Response from Oyster Worldwide

We're so glad that this was a life changing experience for you! :)

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

South Africa Primate Rehabilitation - Amazing

With excellent communication, Oyster was very good in making me ready to go. There were all sorts of documents and items that I needed to take with me and before my departure, Oyster had ensured I had all of this. I felt comfortable and ready to go. I was put at ease as any questions I had were answered. Whilst the trip through oyster was quite expensive, the help provided before, during and after my trip over all areas/ topics was very much worth it. A couple of information points could do with updating though. Thank you!
South Africa
I spent three weeks volunteering in South Africa at a monkey and baboon rehabilitation centre. Working from 6:30/7 to 4 each day under the hot South African sun was by all means hard work but also one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The people I met there and the time I got to spend with the primates was priceless, making amazing connections with both people and primates alike. The centre relies on the work of the volunteers and does so much to help these great animals. The owners have an inspiring passion towards the project and I hope to return to the project again one day as it truly was an experience I’ll never forget.

What would you improve about this program?
Update on information regarding the centre.
55 people found this review helpful.
Response from Oyster Worldwide

We're glad you enjoyed yourself Ed!

Read my full story
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

A most awesome adventure!

I can 100% say this was one of the best trips I have ever done, and I did it as a single traveler. But not once did I feel home sick or an outsider! Lynne and Bob are fantastic people and treat all the volunteers as family. I was there for three weeks, the work is hard but you don't resent it as it's rewarding and there is such excellent team sprit among the volunteers the time disappears so swiftly! And getting to spend time with the monkeys is truly a wonderful experience. They are so full of energy and are brilliantly mental, intelegent and loving. There is also opportunity for some down time! I really have to recommend the safari trip to Kruger national park. South Africa is so beautiful you have to take every opportunity to explore its scenery and its unique wildlife. And I honestly believe this trip offers you the best kind of holiday experience wether you are a single traveler, a couple or part of a group.

52 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Such an Amazing time!!

Going to Riverside was the first time I had ever went away myself to do anything like this so I was pretty nervous but as soon as I arrived at Riverside I automatically felt ease and in 100% in a family environment. So I would say it is a great project for people going away themselves for the first time.
Getting to spend time with the animals was the greatest experience of my life! There is honestly no words to describe how amazing it is to spend every day caring for them and knowing you are making a difference to their lives. While I was there, there was a release so it really did enforce the difference you were making.
Listening to Bob and Lynne talking about their lives is something I dont think I could ever get bored of listening too. They really are amazing people!!

What would you improve about this program?
The only thing that I could say that would improve this project is the lighting going down to the dorms and in the shower areas. But I am scared of the dark and I know there probably isn't much that can be done about this.
51 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program


My time at riverside was amazing! From the moment I got there I felt welcomed into the riverside family. I wasn't just welcomed by humans either; a baby samango monkey popped out of a volunteers top to greet us. Within the first hour of being there I had held the samango and been jumped and climbed on by the baby baboons. One even fell asleep in my top. That feeling is just indescribable!! From then on it was just hands on everyday. There isn't a day you aren't surrounded by primates. There is a lot of cleaning and work involved but it doesn't feel like work as you are surrounded by new friends. The whole experience is very rewarding. One thing I do advice is to completely immerse yourself in the lifestyle. Don't worry about getting dirty; there isn't time to be stressed or worried. Just enjoy it!

49 people found this review helpful.
Yes, I recommend this program

A Home Away From Home

Travelling to riverside was probably one of the most incredible things I have done in my life (even better than trekking the anna purna circuit in Nepal), I could not recommend this highly enough. Having said that though, you will need a love of wildlife if you go to this place. You'll be regularly getting down and dirty, having your hair pulled, and having dirty baboon hands placed where baboon hands should not be, but the best part is that although by the end of the day you look worse than you've ever looked before, you will love every single second of it.

So if you're interested i can give you a little insight..

You'll start the morning early (yes those dreaded words) but its so amazing to wake up to the sounds of the almost wild baboons who are in an enclosure right by the volunteer dorms. I even woke up an hour early to watch them and enjoy some peace before the busy day began. You can indulge yourself in a morning chat and a quick tea or coffee before you get to work. If you can call it that. Who would call feeding a baby baboon with a bottle of milk work?? I would happily be up at any time of the day for that. Afterwards you will have to put in a little bit of effort as its either time to clean the cages or prepare the food. And yes, if there is no shortage of the fresh fruit and veggies then the owners have no problem with you having some bananas, papayas, oranges, or even cabbage! Trust me, you will never have had fruit quite as good as there.

After breakfast its time for a general tidy up of the area, even some harvesting to collect wild plants (look out for Marula fruit) so that the monkeys can start to learn what they can forage for in the wild. This is also time to finish off any chores that need doing, and again the babies will need feeding once more! After lunch it tends to be more of a chill out time, depending on what projects are going on. This is the time when the volunteers are asked to monitor certain monkeys or baboons, or they take the baboons down to the pool to run around and climb. Don't be afraid to jump in the pool, the baboons love a good swim and your clothes will probably be dirty anyway.

From 4 in the afternoon its your time, you can take a shower (you should take a shower), use the wifi, read a book or play cards with other volunteers. Alternatively if you haven't had enough of the monkeys you can go and chill in the cage with them for a bit longer. Just make sure you have clean clothes for dinner!

I need a new paragraph for dinner because Lynne does fantastically with that one. All sorts of foods are provided. Breakfast and lunch are similar every day, but dinner is something new all the time. Saturday night is braii night which is a south african barbecue (although they'll kill me for calling it a barbecue) which is great if you like meat - they do also provide veggie options. Lynne also makes other south african dishes, but i have no idea how to spell them, so be prepared to get to know about south Africa a little bit more. Ask anything you want and you'll be sure that Bob and Lynne (the owners) will give you some insight, they have so many stories that they are always happy to share.

You may be on baby duty, which means you'll need to do the evening feed for the babies and bring their boxes down to your dorms at night! The volunteers tend to play cards and have a couple of drinks, its all very social. Some people even sneak off for a midnight swim. But generally everyone is in bed by 10, ready to wake up early again the next day.

Hmmmm.... the only thing left that I haven't said is some advice:

-Dont take any clothes that you care about, they will get dirty. And the washing is good, but it is still south africa so items of clothing may get a little damaged.

- Take an old towel that you dont care about (or a couple). You can donate them to the baboons once you're done there and you have space in your bags for souvenirs.

- Take as much money as you can (best on a travel card, and maybe a spare card). It's a one in a lifetime opportunity and you don't wanna miss out on the trips like kruger.

- Bring something from your country, there are so many different people, it'll be a great conversation starter.

I'll stop talking now, but i'm always happy to talk about the place I love! Can't wait to go back for a few months in the summer.

What would you improve about this program?
Honestly I couldn't think of any improvements, its a great place if you want to escape all this technology we get so hooked up in and see the real world.
50 people found this review helpful.

Questions & Answers

They serve both vegetarian and vegan food. If you just let them know when you are signing up to the programme they can sort out food requirements with you.

I checked their website and they have no upper age limit! Here's the link to get more of your questions answered: http://www.oysterworldwide.com/contact/faq/