Living with Big Cats

For the past 5 years, I’ve always wanted to be involved with wildlife animals. Five years ago, I discovered Volunteer South Africa and would want to EVER SO BADLY volunteer with their Living With Big Cats program. This program focuses on wildlife care and rehabilitation. As a volunteer, you will assist with various projects that will improve the living conditions of rescued or injured animals such as elephants, lions, tigers, cheetahs, hyenas, and many more.

SA volunteer cheeta

What’s Included:

In this package, you will receive:

  • 3 meals daily
  • Accommodations (rooms of 2-8 people)
  • 2 Airport transfers
  • Volunteer South Africa crew t-shirt
  • Generous program donation
  • Volunteer orientation
  • 24-hour emergency support
  • Pre-departure guide

Packages start at $1,090 for 1 week and run Monday to Monday. This package does not include flights. The program is located in Hartbeespoort, North West, South Africa. To get there, you would need to fly to Johannesburg, South Africa. Flights will range from $1,100 to $1,900 depending on the airline and the dates of your travel. I would recommend that visitors should book in May because it is dry/winter season and it is the best time to spot wildlife since there is less vegetation. Even though you are heading to South Africa, don’t forget to pack warmer clothing because it will get cold in the mornings and nights from May-September.

You will have free-time and options for excursions that are additional costs. To see the Living with Big Cats weekly schedule, click here: Living with Big Cats Schedule.

SA volunteer cheetah


Featured post

Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center

My trip to Costa Rica in 2011 consisted of zip lining, beaches, and white water rafting tours, but my trip in August was a completely different scene. This past August I was lucky enough to join a team of volunteers at the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center for four weeks. The goal of the Rescue Center is “to ensure the welfare of the animals at the center and help them recover from both physical and psychological wounds that have arisen from their past suffering”. They base their services on the 3 R’s.

  1. Rescue
    a. Every animal has a different past in a sense of how they were rescued and what condition they are in when they get rescued.
  2. Rehabilitation
    a. Each animal is put into the best living condition to help them regain their health both mentally and physically
  3. Release
    a. The goal at the end of each rehabilitation process is to release the animals back into their natural habitat. Not all animals can be released due to physical conditions that will never allow them to recover completely or those who have been pets or abused by humans cannot be retrained to be wild, and therefore may not survive on their own etc.

In my first hour of arriving at the center, I had already held a baby sloth, and everyone volunteered for specific jobs that needed to be done daily at 8am, 1pm and 7pm. There were jobs such as food preparation, feeding, cleaning, and keeping the animals active whether it be making toys, or building climbing structures. The most remarkable part of my trip was teaching abused marmoset babies to climb again…. Or maybe it was getting to see an owl fly for the first time since being rescued.

I strongly recommend this volunteer trip to anyone who wants to help animals and have fun while doing it. To volunteer, you must stay for at least 1 week, and there is a $35.00 charge daily to cover your meals and accommodation. Airfare is not included. If you are interested in volunteering you can email the center at with the following information:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Arrival date
  • Departure date
  • Total days
  • How did you hear about the Costa Rica Animal Center?
  • Why do you want to volunteer?
  • What is your experience with animal welfare, animal handling or wildlife rehabilitation? (If possible, name the species)

You can also go to The Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center to find out more information. As soon as you start volunteering you’ll ask yourself “why didn’t I do this sooner?”

Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand

The African Lion Safari is located in Hamilton, ON, Canada. At this ‘wildlife preserve’  you will see parrots, vultures, camels, giraffes, elephants, lions, cheetahs, zebras, and anything else you could possibly imagine that you would see in Africa. A couple years ago, I made the mistake of going to African Lion Safari. Just because it has safari or wildlife preserve in the name, does not make the living conditions any better for the animals. Bigger cages does not mean it still isn’t classified as a Zoo.

To sum up my experience at African Lion Safari, I went early morning to watch the feeding of the lions. Although it was educational and interesting to see, the lions were still in a gated off field while we drove through in a gated off jeep. I spent the rest of the day at African Lion Safari only to watch The Elephant Show. These elephants are trained to stand on their back to legs, to speak, and to even hold a paint brush to paint a t-shirt with their trunks (t-shirts were afterwards sold for $60.00).

These elephants are captured, trained, and live in these zoo’s solely for the purpose of human entertainment. That is why I want to introduce you to The Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand. Located 160km South-West of Bangkok is Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand. This hands-on experience works with rescued elephants for an elephant refuge and education center. It accepts volunteers who have a passion for ethics and morals towards animals and would wish to learn more about them and the problems that they face. The elephants are wild and domestic (captured in the wild for tourism). The Elephant Sanctuary’s “enclosures” are natural barriers, like lakes and trees, and measure up to 7 hectares each.

Related imageImage result for wildlife friends foundation thailand


Volunteers are WELCOMED! Short term stays start at a minimum of one week, however long term stays are possible AND the longer you stay, the cheaper it gets.

One week starts at 375€ which exchanges at $545CAD. This price includes the cost of caring for the elephants, your food, and your accommodations. Accommodations are simple bungalows, with 2 or 3 beds, and a bathroom (toilet + shower). There is a large kitchen in the main cabin to make yourself breakfast or hot drinks, however lunch and dinner is supplied and cooked for you. This price does not include flights! Flights to Bangkok from Toronto can range from $1000 to $2100 depending on the time and airline that you book with. It also does not include transportation to and from the hotel. Bangkok Airport is located 200km away from The Elephant Sanctuary. The streets of Bangkok are chaotic and crowded, which cancels out renting a car. Their taxi’s are motorcycles and tuk-tuks (motorized trishaws). There are ordinary, rapid, and express trains from Bangkok to Phetchaburi.  Uber and UberX is in Thailand, and may be cheaper than a regular taxi. Bangkok’s currency is a Thai Baht. An Uber in Thailand from Bangkok to The Sanctuary will cost you around $65.00CAD, which is 1,799‎฿.

The weather in Thailand is typically hot and muggy year-round. Pack light clothing and acceptable footwear.

Before you can volunteer at The Elephant Sanctuary, you must be in good physical condition (tolerate the heat), over 18 years old, and able to speak English.

Important information:

Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand
108 Moo 6, Tha Mai Ruak, Phetchaburi 76130, Thailand

For more information, please e-mail or fill out an application: download an application



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