Cheetah Centre - Volunteer Reviews

SOUTH AFRICA

Read what our volunteers say about their time volunteering

Georgia - 2016

"Everything I received from Pod was excellent, I had no concerns what so ever.

The project is one of the most welcoming facilities I have ever visited. Estelle and Hardus instantly make you feel at home with their friendly attitude and the induction presented by them provides you with many essential snippets of information that helps to further understand the beautiful animals which you have the opportunity to work with. From birds to squirrels, small cats to big cats, the variety of the centre allows people the opportunity to meet and interact with animals that they have never known to exist. Personally I fell in love with Leyla (lips are sealed regarding her species, you'll discover her wonder yourself) and felt a special connection whenever I got a chance to chat with Tigger the serval. It's a place that I hope to return to one day, and I feel it is a wonderful escape from the mediocrity of everyday life back home.

What did you find most rewarding? Spending time with Pablo and seeing how the longer that people spent with him the better his mood became. It was great to see how friendly he became. Grooming Tigger wasn't also a personal reward as I felt I had helped him substantially due to his inability to completely groom himself. The slaughter was also a fun and educational component.

What did you find most challenging? The early morning were incredibly difficult for me, needing to be ready before 6am some morning was a little unexpected and quite a large adjustment.

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement? If you love cats and other small critters then this is the perfect place to go. The staff are incredible and all of the animals are fascinating. It is something you definitely won't regret.

Were there any parts of the placement which you would like to see changed? A more formal introduction into some of the duties would be appreciated for clarity reasons.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? The website looked professional and was surplus with information about all the projects on offer.

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer? Yes"

Blake - 2016

“When I first started looking at doing a volunteering project...this one really stood out to me. I wanted to do something at a smaller organization where the connection with the people and animals could be more intimate...and that is exactly what I got.

I was really nervous about doing this project. For me this was all about a "leave your comfort zone" experience. I cried when I got to the airport nervous about homesickness and anticipating how much I would miss my dog, haha.

Upon arriving to the cheetah project, everything subsided. The people who run the project are absolutely amazing. They care so much about their animals and truly care that you have a great experience and know what you are doing...they care that you leave having learned so many new things.

I couldn't recommend this project any more than I have been. It was by far the best thing I have ever done in my life. I made so many new friends, connected with animals that most people wont even have the pleasure of seeing in their lives and learned so many new things I will bring with me for the rest of my life. I will absolutely be going back to this project. It was 100% absolutely amazing.

What did you find most rewarding? The connection made with the animals and the people at the project.

What did you find most challenging? The slaughter (preperation of horse meat).

What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement? Go with an open mind...and be prepared to get dirty. But there is a lot of down time! So make friends, bring books

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? Had many options and good reviews

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer? Yes”

Joanne - 2015

“If there were a way I could clone myself, and allow one part of me to be a permanent part of the Cheetah Reintroduction project, while another part could come home and visit other places, I would do it instantly. The richness of the experience is multi-layered, and frankly, hard to express with mere words.

Coming from just outside a city on the east coast of the USA, I'm pretty isolated from the intensity of the circle of life. I know it conceptually, of course, but I got to live it, participate in it, and appreciate each moment of my own life with a new kind of reverence. It's not just the cheetahs, though they are extraordinary, it's the stories and personalities of each animal - each being - that contributes to the cycle of the project. This includes the rats, the bunnies, the horses, the birds, the other cats, and of course, the people.

What did you find most rewarding? The connections - with myself, with the Estelle, Hardus, and Annick, and with some of the specific residents of the Cheetah project. In particular, my time with Shaka, Pablo, Ullula, the newest owl...even the enclosure of many small bunnies...looking into the eyes of some of these creatures... hearing/feeling the purr... reading aloud to Pablo... all of these were about connections to me.

I also give to give a plug for Hardus' outstanding cooking. That was a real treat! Each night he cooked, it was delicious and made with love and pride for his work.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Shoes: bring sturdy and comfortable boots/shoes for walking (great for the afternoons) bring rain boots for the morning duties - because you will get wet. flip flops or tevas are good for off times or walking around the house

Ask Hardus to do a braii, and have everyone share the cost of the food, so you can try lots of different things. Then, be sure to keep Hardus company while he slaves over the cooking pit, because you'll hear great stories!

Approach this whole experience as though you know absolutely nothing. It leaves a lot more room for learning new things, and for me, it allowed me to accept whatever instructions I was given as "the way," because while you're there, there is a way that they've learned works best. It's not that they aren't open to new ideas, but give yourself the space to be open to everything as a brand new experience, even if you've done some of these things before.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Broaden your perspective on yourself and the world. Once opened, it can't go back to the way it was.”

Angela - 2015

“My 3 weeks at the Cheetah Project was absolutely amazing! We met all the animals and could pet the two tame cheetahs at the project just after arrival. At the very next day we already were involved with the whole feeding procedure and daily duties. I had great fellow volunteers from all over the world.

What was a typical day at the project? Three days a week we had a Cheetah-Run at 6.30am. The other days we started at 7.30 with feeding/cleaning the rats and rabbits. After that we fed the servals. Then was breakfast. At 10.00 we started with the work around the facility. Cleaning, raking, overhaul enclosures until lunch. While I was there, we had a heat wave so we usually didn't work at the afternoon, because it was really too hot. So we could go for a swim in the Vaal River, read a book while sitting next to a Cheetah in the shade in his enclosure, or just relax with the fellow volunteers. At 5.00pm was feeding time for the servals, the caracal and of course the cheetahs.

What did you find most rewarding? The Cheetah-Time was amazing. Sitting there, stoking these wonderful animals while they are lying next to you (or on top of you) and are purring like a lawnmower.

What did you find most challenging? First time touching the meat with bare hands I was a little hesitating. But you get used to it so quickly (or wear latex gloves). And the first time getting all alone into one of the hungry cheetahs enclosures with their dinner in my hands.”

Clare - 2015

“I really enjoyed my time at the Cheetah Reintroduction project. I learnt a lot about the animals and will definitely volunteer again. Estelle and Hardus are very knowledgeable and are truly the animal whisperers of South Africa.

What did you find most rewarding? I found being able to feed cheetahs and servals the most rewarding and just the general experience of being there.

What did you find most challenging? Horse slaughter day was definitely the most challenging for me. Being a horse lover I found it tough. But understood that this needed to happen for the welfare and conservation of the cheetahs and small wild cats. It's the circle of life.

Were there any aspects of the placement which you would like to see improved? No, I don't think there was anything to improve in terms of anything wrong etc. Overall they are looking to expand and improve the reserve over the next few years and I would love to go back and see the progress.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? I would give anyone travelling on this trip the advice of. Please read the brochure which pod sends you. It has all the information you need to know. Other than that, go with an open mind about what you will see and do there and this way you will enjoy your time with animals and at the reserve. Be prepared for your thoughts and approaches to be different when you get home too. I look at the world differently now.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It's such an rewarding feeling and the stories, pictures and memories you will have will last you a lifetime.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? I chose pod volunteer because they provided the most information and gave me a clear picture of what a trip like this would look like

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer to your friends? Yes”

Diogo - 2015

“It was a great experience. I'd do it again, and again and again.

What is a typical day at the project? Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Lots of projects have amazing goals, which I'd say everyone concerned with the wildlife sustainability look forward to. Most of them can't succeed without a working force. Most of them don't have money to buy that working force. So it's important that people volunteer on these projects so that it becomes possible to achieve those goals.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer and would you recommend us to others? Yes! It was a reliable company, with reasonable prices.”

Daisy - 2015

“I had an amazing time in South Africa. The people I met me worked with were wonderful and the opportunity to work with the cheetahs was an amazing one I will never forget.

How would you describe a typical day volunteering at the Cheetah Reintroduction project in South Africa? Up early, rats, mice, rabbits and servals all fed and watered. Then breakfast for me before any jobs that were needed to be done completed by lunch time. Then lunch and the afternoon spent with the cats before feeding time at 4pm and dinner for me and chilled evening to follow.

What did you find most rewarding? Working with the cheetahs.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Prepare for being the only volunteer!

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Amazing opportunity to travel and see the world in a different light.

Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? Recommended by university.

Would you recommend Pod Volunteer to your friends? Yes”

Bonnie - 2015

“What is a typical day at the project? We would wake up and do the morning chores & feeding and then have breakfast before continuing on with the chores for the day. We would finish work around 12 and then have a break until dinner feeding time.

What did you find most rewarding? Spending quality time with the cats and other animals and building relationships with them.

What did you find most challenging? Leaving the project!

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Stay at least 2 weeks and definitely go on the Kruger trip if possible.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It's a great experience and a wonderful way to travel and see a country for what it really is.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! Good online reviews & great communication from Pod staff."

Garnett - 2014

“The Cheetah Reintroduction project is a great project. The animals are fantastic. The Kruger trip was amazing; everything was organized for us, all we had to do was show up, sit in a bus and look for some amazing animals. The volunteer coordinator on location was also wonderful. Due to the small size of the project it was easy to bond and become good friends with the other volunteers. I loved being able to sit with the cheetahs and relax, let them lick you and purr. Overall it was an amazing experience.

What did you find most rewarding? Spending time with the cheetahs and seeing how they start to trust you more and more.

What did you find most challenging? It was really hot when I was there, and we would be working out in the sun for 3-4 hours at a time, so that was usually exhausting.

What advice would you give to others considering this project? This is a great experience, but be prepared that there isn't much to do during your down time, days off, etc. Take advantage of times when you can sit with the cheetahs! It's amazing.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It's a life changing experience. Even for a short amount of time. It gives you perspective!

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! Because Pod has a very good reputation, and as my first time traveling abroad alone, I needed to know that everything was safe.”

Saffron - 2014

“I'm having a great time with the cheetahs, just getting into the routine!

What did you find most rewarding? Slowly getting to know each cheetah’s personality and earning their trust was an amazing feeling.

What did you find most challenging? The most challenging aspect for me would have been trying to wield a pick axe, but in all honesty I didn't find many aspects challenging and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.

What advice would you give to others considering this project? If going in winter (around mid-July especially) pack warm as the nights and mornings are very very cold! Keep an open mind when it comes I slaughter day it really isn't as bad as it sounds. And enjoy every second of your time there!

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? For the experience, it's not something everyone has the opportunity to do so if you can do it you really should as it is so rewarding! I have made several friends for life from all over the world and done things I could only have dreamed of doing (like taking a serval for a walk or giving a cheetah a belly rub)!!

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! I chose Pod because they had an amazingly helpful team who got my projects organised perfectly and have been able to answer any questions promptly.”

Katharine - 2014

“It was great getting to work hands on with the cheetahs. There are not a lot of places in the USA that provide experiences like that, so it was truly amazing. I am a big fan of big cats and getting to work with them and spend time with them was fabulous.

How’s life at the project? It is going good!! The people are wonderful and the cats are amazing as well.

What did you find most rewarding? Having the cheetah cubs recognize you after the first few times with them.

What did you find most challenging? Having to wake up and be ready by 8 am everyday.

What advice would you give to others considering this project? If you are going in winter bring warm hats and gloves, there are very few bugs in the winter as well so that was nice, don't be afraid to get blood on your hands, you can drink their tap water, and never let a cheetah walk behind you.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It is a good opportunity to view how other countries do things and what their way of life is.”

Rebecca & Gary – 2013

“We had a fantastic time on this project, and wish we could have stayed for longer. The cheetahs are such beautiful creatures to be around and watch. The location is remote, but this helps to give it quite a tranquil feel, especially down by the river with the amazing views at sunset. We were very well looked after by Estelle and Hardus. Would also definitely recommend the Kruger trip.

What did you find most rewarding? Watching the cheetahs in the cheetah run was great, and being around them for cheetah time was lovely. Feeding time was also fun.

What did you find most challenging? The slaughter, but you have to remember that you are looking after carnivores.

What advice would you give to others considering this project? Take a decent camera.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? To challenge yourself and do something different outside of normal daily life.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! They are efficient and informative, and also offered the ideal short term project.”

Neil - 2013

“The cheetah reintroduction project was a wonderful experience, and I can't speak highly enough of it. I had an amazing 4 weeks, all the staff and other volunteers were brilliant and helped make my stay fantastic.

What did you find most rewarding? Spending time with the cats was something that I found the most rewarding of the planned day to day activities, the trip to the Kruger Park was an experience I will never forget, and spending time at day break on the banks of the Vaal river before work commenced is something I would recommend every volunteer does. It is a really peaceful time of the day as all the birds are beginning to wake up, it does mean getting up at 5.30 but it’s worth it.

What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Do it, it's a fantastic opportunity to get close to a beautiful big cat that is close to extinction, you may not get an opportunity like this again in your lifetime.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? You'll have an amazing time make new friends across continents, and most importantly in my case I feel I may have been able to help with the reintroduction of the cheetah."

Federica - 2013

“Volunteering is definitely something I would recommend to anyone, I will never forget my time there and since I came back home, three weeks ago, I’m thinking  where-when-how I could leave and make another similar experience somewhere else around the world  

How’s life at the project? Here's wonderful, everyone's ok, the place is so beautiful and cheetahs are lovely.

Thanks to you and everyone at Pod, I've had a very amazing time and I definitely think I will do something similar in the future, maybe next year."

Corinne - 2013

“It's a great project where you can get lot of experience working with big cats. You get so much information about the cheetah and their life in wilderness. Cheetah time allows you to stroke those amazing animals. It's an unforgettable experience!!! People working at the centre are very friendly and aim to make you feel comfortable during your stay there.

What did you find most rewarding? Being able to stroke and cuddle the cheetahs and the serval Tiggi.

What did you find most challenging? Feeding the bones at Sundays and the dead chicks to the small cats.

What advice would you give to others considering this project? Take a lot of warm clothes for the winter period. It's really cold in the mornings and during the nights.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It's a unique experience that you have done at least once in your life!

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! It seemed to be a very good organized and serious company to make the placements at projects. Experience showed us that our assumption was correct.”

Elaine - 2013

“A wonderful project where you get to spend a lot of time with the cheetahs, as well as with the smaller cats there - 2 servals, 1 caracal and 2 domestic housecats.

Kruger was amazing!  We were so lucky, as we got to see the Big 5 and so much more!  I also feel that as a group, we really got to bond during this time.

Estelle is amazing in her approach to the project in all aspects - from the volunteers to the cats that are there.  A true inspiration!

What did you find most rewarding? Spending time with the cats.

What advice would you give to others considering this project? Make sure you can deal with the fact that you are dealing with predators, and that they need to eat meat. You will more than likely have to deal with other dead animals in your time there, from horses to chicks to bunnies and birds.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Meeting people from different countries is interesting, and to experience another country's culture, languages and heritage is a good tool in being able to understand the world better.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! This is the second time I worked through Pod, and both times, I have had excellent, helpful service. They are thorough in every way, and always get straight back to you with any queries and/or concerns you may have.”

Ludovic - 2013

“Everything was really great, the staff was really like a family, coming so close with the cheetahs was unique.

I enjoyed every moment, I can't say anything negative, it was just really really good and great!!

I had the opportunity to spend my holiday in a charming cheetah centre where I learned a lot about wildlife and nature.

I had the chance to meet foreign people, they became friends. We made visits with the staff who cared for us during my whole stay. Hardus was a very good cook, wow.., Charl was very funny and young from mind, everywhere we went, fun for sure! Estelle always asking if everybody was feeling ok, a real mum if you ask me.

The staff gave us also the responsibility to respect the wild animals, and in return, we received so much love from the cheetahs, servals and more (the housecats).

I was a little bit scared to visit Kruger Park, just because it was in the middle of nowhere, and I didn't know what I could expect. But again, the staff were so careful, there was no place for me to feel uncomfortable. My favorite cheetah was Nala. She was so nice, so lovely!

I turned back home with a lot of good memories, with a good feeling from the family Kemp, who are doing so much for the cheetahs and the volunteers.

Maybe strange to say, but I never missed my family or friends in Belgium, just because of the warm welcome and the so-well caring of everybody during my stay.

My turn to thank you, to give me the chance to do this kind of volunteer work Erin!”

Victoria – 2013

I have not enjoyed something so much for such a long time. I loved every minute of it. The people, country, and cheetahs were all incredible and I'm so glad that I was able to experience it.

. Everything was amazing and rewarding! I originally wanted to go on the project to go out of my comfort zone and push myself to do something completely different. A month later I would say that working with wild animals would be an amazing and rewarding career choice or hobby that I would like to pursue.

I never thought it would be possible to develop such strong connections with the cheetahs at the centre. I loved how throughout the month of June I was able to get to know each cheetah and learn so much about them. Each one has a distinct personality and getting to see that was a rewarding experience. Working directly with the cheetahs was the experience of a lifetime, but along with that I got to meet so many different people and learn about their cultures. I fell in love with the cheetahs of course, but also South Africa, and the overall experience. It went incredibly fast, I wish more than anything that I could still be there. I am so grateful for the opportunity and would love to go back in a few years.

If there is anyone considering going I would highly recommend it. You will learn so much about South Africa, yourself, others, and the wildlife there. It was the experience of a lifetime and every minute I was there I will cherish for the rest of my life.

What did you find most rewarding? Cheetah time was such a rewarding experience. Spending time with them is great, but it's building relationships with them that is the most special part. There is no way to describe the feeling you get when your favourite cheetah comes up to you to lick you or lay on your lap. It's unique and something I still can't quite get over. It feel weird to say that every day for a month I got to spend almost 2 hours with cheetahs, but it happened and it was the best experience I could've asked for.

What did you find most challenging? I'm not entirely sure what the most difficult part was for me. Slaughter was something that I was worried about the first two weeks that I was there, but once the time came it didn't bother me at all, in fact it was almost satisfying to cut chunks of meat and realize that I just did that. I think that part of immersing yourself in another world is looking at challenges and turning them into a growing experience. For me, slaughter was a way of pushing myself and once I did it, it didn't even phase me.

What advice would you give to others considering this project? Go for it. Don't anticipate what will happen, just jump right in and remember to take it all in. You will not regret going.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? While volunteering abroad I was able to learn a lot about myself. I'm only 19 and for that reason I don't really know who I am or what I want to do with my life yet. Going half way across the world not knowing much about what I was doing was exhilarating. I learned to push my own boundaries, which also helped me to understand other cultures and what they value. I now am obsessed with cheetahs and will do what I can to help them be reintroduced into the wild because I've realized how important that is. I think that if others got even half the experience I did then they would come away with learning and unique experiences."

Angela and Phil – 2013

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Cheetah Reintroduction Project. Interacting with the cheetahs and the small cats was amazing and a real privilege - they are such beautiful creatures. The other volunteers were lovely and we made a great team. Even got to do my first sky-dive on my day off - what better place than Africa!!!

It's definitely changed the way I will use my annual leave from now on – I’ve always been someone who has needed to do something and have never been able to sunbathe whilst reading a book and I couldn't fault it - it was fabulous and even my husband, who was slightly nervous as he's never travelled, has been bitten by the bug and is raring to go on our next adventure.  I'm currently showing anyone who is willling to look, my zillions of photos (as well as recommending to everyone who'll listen to give it a go) - ha ha!

What is a typical day at the project? Wake up at 0615. Walk up to cheetah enclosures and poopa scoop and change water. Back to house and poopa scoop and change water for small cats (servals and caracal) Run cheetah on Tuesday and Thursdays. Breakfast till 0945. Various tasks up to 1230, including cleaning of enclosures, clearing of debris from phase II enclosures, cleaning kitchen and slaughter-house. Lunch 1230 - 2. Two hours of "cheetah time" where you get to sit in the cheetah enclosures and have them lay on your lap and purr - aaahhhhh!!!! 1600 - prepare food and distribute, wash bowls and clean kitchen. Back to house for the evening, spending time doing what you want - I liked to take "Tigger" the serval for a walk and go down to the river before it got dark. The river is gorgeous and SO relaxing - if I could bottle the feeling, I'd make a fortune.

What did you find most rewarding? Spending time with the cheetahs and the small cats.

What did you find most challenging? I was taken out of my comfort zone with the horse slaughter and butchery and picking up the day-old chicks for killing for the small cats, but realise that it is necessary and therefore dealt with it and got on with it.

What advice would you give to others considering this project? Be prepared for the butchery - everything else is great!

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It gives you a chance to help to make a difference and also to see a country as it really is and not from a tourist perspective.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! Because they are very well organised and doing a wonderful thing. I wanted to thank you SO MUCH for your support - I didn't feel lost at any point - Pod are a great organisation and I've loved every second (apart from the horse slaughter, but who would!!!) and want to go on the Cambodian Bear Rescue either next year or the year after.”

Saana – 2013

“I can really recommend this project for everyone who wants to make a difference and work hands-on with these amazing and beautiful animals. The location is beautiful and the staff are really nice, I felt welcome and comfortable right away. I would recommend attending the Kruger trip too if possible; it was an amazing and educating experience! Meeting new people and learning about the South African culture, nature and the animals was great.

I had the best two weeks of my life there! It was truly worth it. I loved the cheetahs and now I am really looking forward to going to South Africa again some day! It couldn't have been more perfect.

What did you find most rewarding? Spending a lot of time with the cheetahs, learning about them and in the same time knowing that it is important work. The trip to Kruger and The Elephant sanctuary were unforgettable and educational too. You really get to work and interact with the animals which definitely was the best part.

What did you find most challenging? The slaughtering was a bit unnerving at first but if you prepare yourself mentally and have an open mind it isn't that bad at all. Take it as an unforgettable and unique experience!

What advice would you give to others considering this project? Leave with an open mind and positive attitude, it will help you through anything. Don't be too nervous about leaving your comfort zone, once you're out you'll get to experience great things!

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? You get a lot of confidence especially if you travel alone. You get to meet interesting people from different cultures and hearing and seeing how things are outside your country will open your eyes. Volunteering gives you more insight than a vacation and is very educational too.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! I was impressed about the number of projects they had and the website really gave me a good impression on their ethics and morals."

Tiana - 2013

“How are you enjoying your time at the project? Having the time of my life here. Everything is going really well. I'm having a wonderful time with the cheetahs.

Participating in this project was the best decision I ever have and ever will make and I definitely look forward to returning! There are no words to describe how wonderful it was to be able to interact so closely with these beautiful animals. As well, all of the people I was privileged to meet and work with during my time at the cheetah centre were incredible! Welcoming, friendly; I felt like I was leaving my family when the time came to leave. And on top of that they were very knowledgeable about the cheetahs, other wildlife, and all of Africa in general, I learned so much from them! I already miss everything about this project and hope to return in the near future!

What did you find most challenging? Leaving! Haha, but seriously I was pretty nervous when it came time for slaughter. It wasn't as bad as I expected and by the end of it we were all having a grand time. But everyone considering this project should prepare themselves for this because they MUST participate in slaughter.

What advice would you give to others considering this project? Go into with an open mind and remember that even though there are a few cheetahs that are quite friendly, most won't like you and that's okay. These are large wild cats not house cats; it is not okay to treat or expect them to behave like house cats.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? You can't even imagine the new type of experience you get from travelling somewhere until you actually experience it.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! Recommended to me by a friend."

Robert - 2012

“How are you enjoying your time at the project? From the first afternoon we have had great contact with the cheetahs, and loads of hands on experience. Didn't think I would be sitting with a cheetah purring on my knee on the second day. The weather has been good, but today it started to snow, yes SNOW in South Africa. Estelle took the group to the elephant center today, so we have also been up close cuddling elephants.

This is the first volunteer project I have been on, but after talking with other people I met on the project I could not have found better. Estelle and Leante made us all feel very welcome; I could not believe I would be sitting with a cheetah on my knee two hours after reaching the center. We had so much time with hands on experience. All I can say it is an experience not to be missed.

What did you find most rewarding? Helping to make a small difference for these amazing animals.

What advice would you give to others considering this project? Stay for a long as you can, it’s more than a holiday.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! Looked good on the internet, and after talking with other volunteers I made the best choice, I will never forget my trip and hope one day soon to return.”

Paul - 2012

“Well arrived here with an open mind on what to expect and have nothing but been pleased with what I have experienced seen and done. The friendliness of everybody here has been great. Especially Leante and Dane (They asked for a special mention and paid me)!!

Within a couple of hours of been here the new volunteers were shown around and met the cheetahs even though the staff where on free time. Over the following 2 weeks I have interacted, fed, run, cleaned houses, stroked and most of all learnt a lot more about these wonderful and quite beautiful animals. Each cheetah has its own character and it’s great just getting to know each personality. Not sure I’ve come away with a favourite but Finley stands out.

Over days off we had visits to Boskoppie and bush walks we enabled us to have interaction with Lions and Tigers and get up close to Lions, Tigers, Giraffe, Zebra, Eland, Blesbok, Springbok, Black and Blue Wildebeest, Red Hartebeest plus others. Even just wonder down to the river to see water monitors and rock dassie.

So not only does the project help you to work closely with cheetahs and help save these wonderful animals, but you get to see a whole host of wildlife just on your doorstep.”

Geoff - 2011

“How are you enjoying your time at the project? Have to say ... this has to have been the best experience of my life so far !! It really has been like a dream ... but unfortunately time to "wake up " is soon approaching !!

Quite an amazing experience and something I will not forget for some time to come! Although there were some tough times ... The more positive events out-numbered them and many times there was much laughter. All people at the project were warm and genuine and most importantly quite clearly dedicated to their purpose (caring for the wonderful cheetahs) as well as supporting us. Leaving the project was hard and difficult and I am missing all the cheetahs, the staff and friends that I have made there and sincerely hope to return to volunteer again next year! Thank you so much for this wonderful time.

What was a typical day at the project? Early start (6 am) for a coffee then off to do morning duties. After breakfast a typical day would include maintenance of enclosures and general clearing of the two sites. After lunch is time to get close to the cheetahs and play with the cubs. Late afternoon involved preparing the cheetahs’ food and feeding them and then back to base to chat and share our thoughts about the day before preparing our own dinner, relaxing and preparing for yet another full and eventful day. Never a dull moment!!

What did you find most rewarding? Getting close to adult cheetahs, learning more about them and understanding their personalities! Being able to play with the cubs is something I will cherish for a long to come and look forward to seeing them when they are older.

What did you find most challenging? Butchering the horses was not pleasant, but made easier by the professional way it was presented and by the staff who did all the nasty bits

What advice would you give to others considering this project? Go with an open mind, good sense of humour and enjoy. Make the most of your time there as time goes too quickly.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? An experience that once you decide to take you will never regret”

Ariane - 2011

“I really enjoyed my time at the project and could not fault any person or aspect there at all. I met some amazing people and was surprised at how much each and every one of these people meant to me when it came to saying goodbye! For an experience of a lifetime; the project more than lived up to any expectations!!

What was a typical day at the project? A typical day at the centre consisted of morning routines such as cleaning the enclosures and refilling the water bowls, some mornings would also include a run for one or two cheetahs. After this time came breakfast and a variation of tasks such as slaughter or phase 2 area production and lunch. The afternoons always consisted of cheetah time which we spent with both the adult cheetahs and the cubs where we were able to take plenty of photos, ask questions and carry out any research we may have needed. Feeding time for the cheetahs consisted of preparing the meat and weighing out the correct amounts for each individual and recording the times in which the feed was provided and finished.

What did you find most rewarding? The most rewarding part of the project I found was feeling so accepted by both the staff and the cheetahs at the centre and being privileged to work to closely with both. What advice would you give to others considering this project? Definitely take a chance as the memories from the experience is one which you will carry with you forever and will never regret."

Kim - 2011

“This project was amazing - certainly the most enjoyable/rewarding experience of my life so far. The cheetahs are beautiful and the staff are amazing - you get all the support you need and have so much fun! Even slaughter can be made fun which is something I never thought I would say (although it’s not for the squeamish!!) I was lucky that the project had three new cubs and spending time with them was fantastic. I couldn't have asked for a better experience - was gutted when I had to come home. I definitely want to go back to Africa next year -  I think I have the bug now.

What did you find most rewarding? Spending time with the cheetahs was amazing - it's something that most people never get the chance to do and certainly something I won't forget.

What advice would you give to others considering this project? Make sure you are prepared for slaughter.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It's an experience of a lifetime - you get immersed in a different way of life, meet new people, make new friends and it's hugely rewarding. Far better than a normal holiday!

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? I would definitely recommend Pod to other people. I am hugely grateful for all your help before I went and for organising the placement.”

Roland – 2011

“How is life at the project? I love this place ... all's good.  Great team locally (Estelle, Juanita and Lu-Marie), great house mates ... The cheetah and other cats (serval, caracal, genet) are wonderful ... this is definitely the trip of a life time that I knew it would be.  It's great to be involved with this Project!  I feel quite privileged, on all sorts of levels ...

The Cheetah Reintroduction Project is well thought through and provides the volunteers ample opportunity to get up close and personal with the 'Ambassador Cats'. Daily "Cheetah Time" was a real delight. It was a privilege for me to be involved with this project, to do something that was rewarding for me whilst at the same time enriching the lives of the cheetah. The balance between 'work' (non-arduous) and free time is about right. There were sufficient activities to do on your day's off, or if you just want to kick back and chillax - then you won't beat down by the Vaal Rocks.

What did you find most rewarding? Spending time with the three Cheetah cubs (who were one month old when I arrived), and the baby Serval that was found on a neighbouring farm and given the Owners of the Centre during my stay.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? I came across Pod and this Project via an Internet search. I would definitely recommend Pod to others. The pre-trip Volunteering Guide was very informative, and covered all the stuff that you needed to know.”

Jo – 2011

“The entire experience was AMAZING I loved the people, the place, everything ... I will be travelling back in the next couple of years as I know I will need a cheetah fix.

This trip was one of the most amazing, eye opening and wonderful experiences of my life. I have met amazing people, experienced beautiful scenery and had the chance to work with wonderful animals and take home not only happy memories but information about Cheetah, and African conservation in general. What did you find most rewarding? Being with the cheetah

What did you find most challenging? Learning everything in a short space of time

What advice would you give to others considering this project? Be ready to work, to become completely absorbed into the centre’s work and message. Be willing to get to know new people, especially ones from different cultures and backgrounds.

Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Because it allows you to grow both intellectually and in your personality. You get a whole new outlook on life, one which allows you to look out from you safety box and see the world clearer.

Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Pod seemed professional and friendly and they were, I would recommend them to others.”

Liz - 2010

Volunteering gives you more access to the people, culture, and community of that country than vacationing does. The locals even appreciate what you are doing and love to offer any help or getting to know you.

I would definitely recommend Pod because they definitely want to make sure your experience is going well and will deal with any problems you are having as soon as possible. They take your concerns seriously to make sure you have the best experience possible."

Cally – 2010

"I loved the hands on experience you get with the cheetahs, being able to notice their different characteristics and behaviour. Just being involved in the work to look after them was a joy. There is nothing I didn’t enjoy and I don’t think anything should be changed. The programme is very good as it is."

Matt – 2010

"The cheetahs are amazing and so well looked after, you really feel that the project, and this in turn your own impact is helping such a magnificent animal. Also the Kruger trip was an excellent part of this experience, the chance to see animals in their natural environment is phenomenal and is topped off by the hugely rewarding Moholoholo tour which really brings home the enormity of the impact humans and animals have on our world."

AWARDS AND ACCREDITATIONS

  • Tourism Concern
  • Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust
  • Right Tourism
  • DOFE
  • theguardian
  • the independent
  • Sunday Times
  • Year Out Group
  • Best Volunteering Organisation
  • Wall Street Journal