Johannesburg, South Africa
My three weeks volunteering in South Africa at the Lion Park were unforgettable! The close animal interaction was truly unbelievable!!!
A typical day for the volunteers could include preparing food for the younger cubs and meerkats, collecting tickets from guests, guiding school groups around the park, going on game drives, packaging and selling giraffe food, or simply just spending time with the animals. The atmosphere was very relaxed and flexible.
The staff encouraged the volunteers to get involved in anything that interested them. Most days the volunteers would have two or three shifts at most which left a lot of free time – which of course was spent with the animals!
I thoroughly enjoyed going in the meerkat enclosure and just sitting with them. They are very inquisitive and love to crawl and dig around you. Of course the lion cubs were the highlight for everyone!
During my time there the lion cub ages ranged from 3 weeks up to 6 months. It was an incredible experience to have them actually get to know you – and you them – over the weeks. They all have different personalities and temperaments just like us!
The giraffes were also a constant source of entertainment for the volunteers. They are VERY friendly and even spend the nights at the camp where the volunteers stay. It is an amazing sight to wake up and walk out of your tent to a giraffe just wandering around. It was also quite entertaining to watch the poor guys that have to wrangle them back into their large enclosure every morning!
The volunteer program also included time away from the park with some great excursions to other parks and a safari! My favorite of the excursions was walking around with elephants at a nearby sanctuary.
The living arrangements at The Lion Park exceeded my expectations. There were multiple areas around camp where the volunteers could hang out after their shifts for the day. The other volunteers that I met during my time at The Lion Park were most definitely one of the main highlights of my trip! I miss them (and the animals) already. As far as life around camp goes…the project provides breakfast and lunch at the café during business hours, but dinner was usually prepared by the volunteers in a small kitchen at the camp. We were taken shopping once per week to buy any food or supplies that we needed for dinner and such. The tents themselves were very spacious and well maintained.
I miss waking up to lions roaring and watching the zebras, springbok, impalas, and ostrich (and giraffes!) roam the area that bordered the volunteer camp. Truly a beautiful sight and an unforgettable experience! I hope to go back someday!