I came to South Africa originally to Kitesurf and to see some friends that I had met on recent trips whilst travelling around Europe. Whilst I had some aspirations to volunteer on this trip, I didn’t expect to come here, and truth be known, I had not really heard of canned hunting, captive breeding, and true Sanctuaries – never mind Panthera Africa!
I came here on a recommendation from a friend after speaking about ideas for volunteering, and after doing some research realized this was an organisation with good ethical practices where it is obvious where time and money spent would be put to good use.
I can honestly say it has been one of the best experiences of my time here and cannot recommend it enough if you are interested in big cats, or wanting to understand more about what happens in this industry, or just simply want to come and put your time and energy into something worthwhile.
The set up is good, a big comfortable shared house, friendly staff, and a good mix of volunteers from all over the world from all age groups, and then there is the animals themselves.
They run a no breeding, no petting, not for hunting and minimal human interaction ruling here, and provide a safe home for these animals who have been taken from other sanctuaries, and perhaps would not be able to survive in the wild.
Part of what the owners are trying to do here is spread the awareness of what can be done to help these animals, and how a business can be set up and be successfully run in this way.
The owners Cathrine and Lizaene are very knowledgeable and passionate about their project, and for saying it has only been open 9 months, it is incredible what they have achieved in such a short space of time.
The animals are amazing to see, and whilst you are not able to interact as such, you are able to sit with them through the fences, and just soak in the atmosphere of these amazing animals! To hear the lions roar in the evening as the sunsets, or witness the tigers chuffing as you walk past the enclosures is not easy to describe, other than wow!
There is a mix of Lions, Tigers, Jackals and Caracals and a Panther, and all have a story to tell. The animals all seem very happy and content, and have x2.5 the minimal required enclosure size.
Volunteers are able to become involved in a variety of work, ranging from the physical (building new shelters for the animals, repairing fences), to helping prepare food and herbs for the animals and feeding, to enrichment activities (for the animals to play with). The pace is good and there is a nice balance of things to do and time to just chill and relax or spend time near the animals. What also works well is a weekly trip out with the team to go do some fun activities away from the farm.
As an experience to help out on a genuine project I would strongly recommend it, and as an opportunity to develop an understanding and awareness of what happens in the world of these animals it is definitely worthwhile. There is so much I am taking away from the past few weeks here, and cannot thank the owners and other volunteers enough for making the experience what it is.
John – January 2016