"It was an overwhelmingly positive experience"
Matt Hogan, volunteered for 6 weeks
During my stay I was mostly involved in the physical aspect of food collection, waste disposal, structure maintenance and some small construction projects. As a group we would routinely feed the animals and give them enrichment – objects, attention and playtime.
It was very well organised for a small project. The layout is very professional, I think the enclosures exceed international standards by far. Every morning we would have meetings to discuss the daily tasks. There was always something to do, but if you weren’t feeling well or otherwise couldn’t engage there was never any pressure to do something you didn’t want to.
The site was previously a farm/homestead which sits in the middle of the property. It is easy to access and the accommodation is fantastic. Everyone gets a bed and there’s enough to do on site and in the house to keep you entertained both during the day and at night. It’s a bit of a drive from Cape Town but there will be a staff member there to collect you if needed, or you can find your own way there. The house has everything you need and is self contained. The owners give you a tour and orientation pack to get you used to the operations of the project.
It was an overwhelmingly positive experience. The staff are very friendly and sympathetic to any personal issues you might be experiencing. They are always up for a good time and are willing to share what they have. There’s a few restraints nearby and other activities you can do in nearby towns during down time. It’s a safe area (despite being surrounded by big cats) and very cheap to buy your weekly groceries.
I would 100% recommend the project, not just because of the care that they show for the animals but also what they show for the volunteers. It was a great experience.
"You can genuinely see the happiness radiating from the animals"
Celine Collier, volunteered for 4 weeks
I worked directly with the staff and was welcomed into their daily work routines. There were several volunteer projects for both the big cats such as enrichment, where we create natural “toys” for the cats to explore in order to stimulate natural wild activities. As well as creative projects where each volunteer was able to “leave their mark” at the sanctuary by creating a painted tree stump to dedicate to the place. The activities ranged from water bowls, cleaning, feeding, enrichment, fence checks, animal time and general labor such as elimination of alien plants and planting of trees and shrubs for the cats.
The programme was very well organized. There were two volunteer co-coordinators and daily morning meetings to ensure everyone is kept in the loop and up to date. Support was given whenever needed, and much time was spent with staff. The project site was about 1.5 hours away from Cape Town, but pick up and drop off directly from the airport arrivals was provided both ways. Orientation began with a tour of the entire sanctuary, with the background stories of all the cats. Then all tasks were gone over and we began the next morning.
I could go on and on about the wonderful things about the Big Cat Programme. The owners are the most caring and genuine people I have met in my whole life. They bring you into their paradise and allow you to feel like you are part of their family, and actively making a change and creating a beautiful and peaceful life for their cats. You can genuinely see the happiness radiating from the animals there, and the treatment of the animals is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Animal time, where you can sit with the lions, tigers, caracals, jackals or leopard is given whenever the volunteer wants. There is a ton of choice in the activities and work the volunteer would like to do and the accommodation is wonderful. The animals there change every volunteers life and soul. Every person I have come across that has worked there has been a changed person, and finds their true passion to make change when they leave.
The accommodation was beautiful and comfortable. The rooms were large, clean and well kept. Each had a private washroom, a walk out double door to a patio as well as a pool. The food was some of the best that I have had home cooked, everything made was also whole and good for you. All amenities were included and the place was very very comfortable. I would recommend the program to anyone who was looking to make a change, that loves animals or anyone who needs to find themselves. I have never done anything better in my life.