Read what our volunteers say about their time volunteering
“Working with the primates is such an amazing experience. It was very different to how I thought it would be in such a good way. The main thing that took me by surprise is how different all the monkeys are, they all have unique personalities and they stand out loud and clear within a matter of days. Even though it took me a few days to adjust to the environment and being in a new country, once I settled in it was great to experience such a different culture to the UK.
What did you find most rewarding?
Simply being able to help out an organisation that gives everything it has to the welfare of their monkeys, not only with my donation but with my time working.
What did you find most challenging?
Adjusting to the environment of the accommodation and the temperature in the evenings took my by surprise.
What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
If going in the winter season, don't think "its South Africa, it can't be that cold" because once the sun goes down I had my hot water bottle and blanket out every night.
Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?
I chose pod volunteer because a friend of mine did one back in January and she recommended”
“I volunteered here for 2 weeks recently and i thoroughly enjoyed my time spent here. I learned alot about monkeys and life in south Africa. It was amazing to get the chance to work so closely with the monkeys. The other volunteers were very helpful and there was always something to help with. You work 5 days and get 2 days off during the week aswell. Elliot the baby who was 2 weeks when i arrived was such a cutie and was being cared for by the volunteers!. i enjoyed monkey time with the squirrels and Thimone. My faves were Shapken Louie Charlotte Maitai Celeste, and many others!.
You do get downtime 2 days during the week so you get days off to organise trips! There are many trips to choose between. I went to the Rhino and lion park, Bird park, Dinokeng which is a reserve and they were all great value and were all great experiences!.
The volunteer house is basic but its south africa and its an unreal experience overall. You really do learn alot and get to immerge yourself in real rural south Africa.
What did you find most rewarding?
Being with the monkeys and helping to make a difference
What did you find most challenging?
The early mornings!
What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement?
Bring a mosquito repellant and sleeping bag or hot water bottle as nights are cold.
Were there any parts of the placement which you would like to see changed?
The volunteer house could be improved but the monkeys are and should be the priority
Why did you choose Pod Volunteer?
Got lots of information before my trip and for good value
Would you recommend Pod Volunteer? Yes”
“I thoroughly enjoyed my two weeks at the International Primate Centre! This was the first time travelling abroad on my own, so upon my arrival and the first couple of days of been there I did find it over whelming. All of the other volunteers were very friendly and I soon settled in. As a short term volunteer you generally work along side a long term volunteer (primate carer), sometimes as early as 4am for morning feed. You make sure all the primates at the centre get fed, chopping fruit/veg and topping up their food bowls throughout the day. Cleaning the enclosures and providing enrichment for the primates are also jobs that you are involved in.
You get to also have 'monkey time' once a week, allowing you to spend an hour with the more friendlier primates. This I really enjoyed and got to take some great pictures. During my time here I had a few days off from volunteering, I managed to go on two difference game reserves and visited the Cultural Village. If you are only there for a short period, I would defiantly recommend the Dinokeng Game Reserve! Don't worry about the day trips, the sanctuary work closely with Bosveld Tours who also do the airport runs and take you to the supermarket so it all felt very safe.
What did you find most rewarding? Volunteering at the rescue centre as a whole was rewarding.
What did you find most challenging? Planning ahead for the week/two weeks for what food you needed. The volunteers generally all go together to the supermarket every two weeks so it is best to plan what you need for meals.
What advice would you give to others who are considering this placement? The money the sanctuary gets all goes towards the care of the primates, so don't go expecting to be living in luxury, the accommodation is very basic. I found this over whelming at first but soon settled in and got use to it. I took my own sleeping bag, and felt much more comfortable with this! So if you can, take something you find a luxury which may help you settle in.
Why did you choose Pod Volunteer? This was my first time travelling so it helped knowing that I had the support if needed.
Would you recommend Pod Volunteer? Yes”
“Initially, I was very nervous about starting the project, but I'm now putting that down to having never been abroad by myself and not knowing entirely what to expect when I got there. Everyone at the Monkey Rescue was incredibly welcoming and friendly from the first moment I met them! I loved every second I spent at the project, and although there was a fair amount of cleaning involved, you still have the opportunity to spend a lot of time with the monkeys. Every short termer gets monkey time on a Thursday afternoon, in which you get the opportunity to go in an enclosure with a select few of the monkeys. Thursday afternoons were always my favourite!!! I'm so glad that I chose this project to get involved with, it's such a rewarding project and I loved getting to know all the primates, especially when you can experience their different personalities and the way they react to everything.
What was typical day at the project? Depending on what you're put down to do each day, your duties could start at 4.30am with morning feed. A normal day starts at 9.00am with the long termer your working with that day, you feed the monkeys and clean their enclosures in the mornings and after another feed in the afternoon, you would do any ongoing jobs that needed doing, including enrichment for the primates.
What did you find most rewarding? As I was at the project for such a long period of time, I was able to get to know the animals and all the other volunteers extremely well. However, I found the most rewarding aspect of my trip to be getting to know the animals, as this meant they trusted me and in some cases were excited to see me when I would work with them each day.”
“I had never done anything like this before, but now I can't imagine planning a big vacation without some element of service in it. Volunteering was fun and rewarding. The work was not too strenuous and the hours were reasonable. I loved getting to know the different monkeys and learning about their various personalities, temperaments and needs. It was great to be working outdoors and the country was absolutely gorgeous. I felt completely appreciated and valued, by the head of the project as well as the volunteer coordinator and other staff there. For learning about and helping the animals, getting outdoors and being physical, and meeting new people from around the world, I could not imagine a better first volunteer experience.
What was a typical day at the project? Start work at 9am to feed the animals, then make the rounds to give them supplements. Off for lunch between 12 and 2. More feeding and maintaining and cleaning their enclosures until 4:30-5. One day a week you'd have to get up for morning feed at 4am or cleaning bowls at 6pm. All in all, very reasonable workload.
What did you find most rewarding? Interacting with the monkeys - when they would take food or supplements from you they could be very gentle. Or not, which kept things interesting (it's always safe as long as you follow the rules). Learning about their different needs and personalities.
What did you find most challenging? I haven't lived in a communal setting for 30 years, so that was the most challenging, but not anywhere near as big of an adjustment as I had feared. Everyone was so friendly and warm and it was always ok to either be with the group or by oneself.
What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Have fun and wear sunscreen.
Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It adds such a different dimension to travel. Meeting people when you are working alongside with them is much different from meeting fellow tourists or those who work in the tourism industry. It is rewarding and a great change of pace. You see a different side of the country than you would otherwise.
Why did you choose Pod? Having the liaison through Pod was comforting, especially for my first volunteer experience. Their assistance was wonderful throughout
Would you recommend Pod to your friends? Yes”
“My time at the Monkey Rescue project was great. All the people were really friendly and easy to get along with and helping out with all aspects of the monkeys was really interesting and rewarding. I would definitely recommend at least a month placement if you can. Even at a month I didn't feel like it was enough time and I was really sad to be leaving.
What was a typical day at the project? On a day to day basis you can be doing anything from chopping up food to cleaning enclosures, giving supplements to the monkeys and enrichment (Making new things for the monkeys to play with, climb on, etc.).
What did you find most rewarding? I found interacting with all the different monkeys really rewarding. They all have such different personalities and getting to know them was a lot of fun.
What did you find most challenging? Coming from Canada I’m not used to constant heat so working outside in the heat all the time was pretty tough sometimes. I can't think of anything major to be improved on. It was a nice cozy place to stay and everyone was really helpful while I was there.
What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Be prepared to get dirty. The work isn't extremely demanding but can get pretty messy sometimes.
Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It is a good way to experience another country by giving back and you have a completely different experience to just travelling.
Why did you choose Pod? The reviews from other people that had gone through Pod were really positive.”
“I had an amazing time in South Africa, especially being able to interact so closely with monkeys. There were many excursions to choose from on the days off, such as visiting Kruger Park, Horseback riding and walking with lions, which was an unforgettable adventure. There is also a nearby pub with a pool where we often enjoyed our days off or evenings out. The pub owners are adorable and make wonderful food.
What was a typical day at the project? Feeding the monkeys, doing enrichments, chopping fruits, doing dishes and cleaning the enclosures.
What did you find most rewarding? Interact so closely with the monkeys and other animals.
What did you find most challenging? Sharing bedroom with many other people, but it wasn`t too bad.
What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Be open minded.
Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? We only live once and doing something completely different than ordinary life is something you will never forget.
Why did you choose Pod? They were well organized and it felt secure.”
“This really was the best time of my life, everything about it was far better than expected. The people were so welcoming; there is a real sense of team spirit and of being part of something really valuable. I got to spend so much time with the monkeys; enough to start to get to know their individual personalities and for them to recognise me.
What did you find most rewarding? Feeling part of the team.
What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Go for as long as you can and worry about home/speak to people from home as little as possible - just throw yourself into the life there.
Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? You learn so much about yourself and how others respond to you. You get to meet people of all ages, nationalities and professions, and spend time with animals and in cultures that you would never get to experience at home.”
“I had the most fantastic experience at the Monkey Rescue project. When I arrived it was overwhelming but by day 2 you make friends and settle into the daily routine. The monkeys themselves are a delight to be around and a pleasure to care for. The experience of South Africa overall was incredible. There is ample opportunity for you to explore with Chris and Manie next door more than willing to take you to wherever you need to go (they run the taxi service and bar next door). Tours are well advertised and you are allowed 2 days off a week to visit many of the attractions with other volunteers.
If you fancy any food at night you can pop next door and have a meal. There is not one bad meal on the menu and it is really cheap so allow for it in your budget. I was there for 8 weeks and I can honestly say that this was not long enough. Make sure you go for a decent length of time as a fortnight is just not enough time to appreciate what South Africa and the sanctuary has to offer. If you want to get away from modern day society this is the perfect place for you to ignore reality and to absorb yourself in a new challenge and lifestyle. You will slip into a very basic way of life very quickly and will not want to leave. It was the best summer I have ever had and I would love to go back.
Please describe a typical day at the project? Around once a week you would have morning feed and a small house clean at 5am (You can return to bed after this). Days start at 9am and the rota will tell you what section you are on and any particular tasks that need doing. There will always be a long termer there to help if you are stuck or need a job. There is always something that needs done. You will work until 12pm and lunch is 2 hours so you can relax with the other volunteers and see the monkeys. Work starts again at 2pm until 4pm where everyone feeds pellets to the monkeys. This will last until 4:30 depending on how many volunteers there are. Around once a week you will have bowl collection at 5:50 until about 6:15 then you will be free to chill.
What did you find most rewarding? Being able to see the monkeys’ progress over a period of time and how they change was incredible and knowing that you played even a small part of that is amazing. It's lovely to see monkeys recognise you and trust you when you are feeding them or grooming them. They have let you into their world.
What did you find most challenging? The very first day was challenging just as it was a totally new experience and it was far away from what anyone is used to. The most challenging thing for me I reckon was actually leaving after my time there. People come and go all the time but when it is your turn to go it is very difficult to not realise how attached you become to the place. It becomes your home completely in the time you spend there.
What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Pack appropriately. I was there during African winter months and my onesie kept me much warmer than normal pyjamas. If you don't have a onesie, a sleeping bag will keep you warm. It really does get cold during the night. Get away from technology. Embrace not having the internet and you can really appreciate what is around you. Be ready to meet lots of new people from around the world and experience the African culture. It's incredible.
Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Do not miss out on seeing how beautiful South Africa actually is. Nature and wildlife is stunning in this part of the world and now that I have seen it, I would urge anyone to experience it for themselves. It is cliched but you will learn a lot about yourself while you are out there so if you are a bit lost in modern day life, sign up as it is the perfect place to think about what you want to do.
Why did you choose Pod? The effort from Pod is of a very high standard. There was no problem in asking them questions as they would be quick to respond. Pod have a massive amount of projects to offer and are extremely reliable if you have any queries or reservations they are happy to set your mind at ease. Sorting flights and insurance was very easy as they recommended companies for you if you needed them.”
“I had a wonderful experience at the Monkey Rescue project; I have had an incredible, amazing experience which has enriched my life.
It was more than I expected and very rewarding. I met some lovely people and was able to go on some amazing excursions. The close contact with the monkeys was amazing and helping to create enrichment activities for them was a pleasure. Even though I have left there is a part of me that still remains there and it’s a great feeling knowing what I did was very worthwhile.
What was a typical day at the project? There are many jobs to do: topping up the monkeys food bowls, cleaning the enclosures, building new enclosures. One of the most rewarding things to do was hand feeding pellets to the monkeys, it enabled close contact and an opportunity to get to know them and watch them closely.
What advice would you give others considering doing this placement? Go and enjoy the experience. Volunteering broadens the mind, and gives you the opportunity to see how others live and experience different cultures.
Why did you choose Pod? It gave me the confidence to travel abroad and do voluntary work in a safe way.”
“It was an amazing experience, I'm really glad to go there. I would like be there still. I had a really good time in the monkey centre, it was like a dream. My time there was really awesome.
The monkey rescue centre is an amazing place where you will find incredible experiences and really good friends.
What was a typical day at the project? Breakfast at 8, work 9 to 11:30, lunch, work again at 13:30 to 16:00, and after that relax time with really good people.
What did you find most rewarding? People I meet there
What did you find most challenging? Wake up early in the mornings
What advice would you give to others considering doing this project? They should consider taking a sleeping bag for the cold nights in winter
Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Because it's an amazing experience the won't never forget
Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! Because it's a really serious and efficient company. Thank you for everything.”
“The time I spent at the Primate Rescue was completely rewarding. The staff were extremely welcoming and I made so many new friends with my fellow volunteers!
The monkeys are gorgeous and rather rapidly you bond with them. Monkey day is where you can interact completely with certain primates (my favourite part). You also get 2 days off per week - so allow in your budget some excursions. The horseback safari and playing with lions was an incredible experience!
What was a typical day at the project? Each day was different - we would check what was on the roster. But typical duties were feeding the monkeys, cleaning their cages, preparing and giving them their medication/supplements, working on enrichments, washing their bowls. The day is finished quite early - about 3.30-4pm so plenty of time to get to know the other volunteers, play games, read books, visit the monkeys etc.
What did you find most rewarding? Meeting all the volunteers, swapping life stories about why we opted this over regular travelling. Getting to know the monkeys and finding out how each one found its way to the sanctuary. Some had heart-breaking stories but then it was a joy to see how happy the animals had become from living at the sanctuary.
What did you find most challenging? Currently there is no WIFI or TV (which I actually relished) so bring your laptop if you want the choice to watch movies in your downtime. I found it was safe to travel with mine. If you go in winter bring plenty of warm clothes as they evenings and mornings are freezing!
What advice would you give to others considering doing this project? This was an incredible placement, I thoroughly recommend it.
Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Travelling the world and yet being able to give back at the same time is the ultimate experience.
Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes! I had already done a placement with Pod previously.”
“The entire experience from beginning to end was flawless. The support and communication from Pod was excellent and they were quick to reply to my emails and were happy answer all of my queries, big or small. The placement itself was brilliant, just be prepared to work and share your accommodation with others! Can't wait to go back.
What a fantastic experience! I had the absolute best time and can’t wait to return. I met some amazing people and learned so much. They offered me the opportunity to remain as a long term volunteer too which is so appealing right now – sitting back in my city office is such a let-down after being surrounded by monkey noises and fresh air for 2 weeks!
I booked my placement and with not that much time to organise everything, but Pod were fantastic and answered all my questions about sorting the visa and even what clothes to pack! If you are going to SA during the winter season, I would definitely advise people to take a sleeping bag with you, they provide bedding and even a hot water bottle if you ask, but the extra warmth is very welcome. If you are allergic to cats or dogs this may not be for you as we were living in close quarters with both.
I was shown around by Sue (the owner) who knows every detail about every single primate, the work they are doing there and trying to achieve is superb. The first priority is the animals, they take special care to ensure all of them get the care, observation and attention they need. You get two days off a week and can go on trips with the other volunteers to places like the lion and rhino park and play with the cubs, go on a game drive and see all the big five, go to a craft market about 45mins drive away, or just chill out by next door's pool and take some time to relax (It belongs to Astrid who helps do the airport transfers). Astrid does a wonderful chicken salad or other food if you have a spare R15 to spend and fancy something different from the normal lunches.
During the working day, chores are arranged by a rota system and they range from chopping fruit outside while topping up your tan, cutting grass, painting, cooking, washing up, making and feeding the primates their supplements, observing a primate who might be a bit poorly and loads more. The long term volunteers are always on hand to ask any questions you might have and are brilliant to learn from. Overall, I couldn't be happier with the experience and didn't want to come home, I'll definitely be going back.
What was a typical day at the project? Each day is different, you always get one day that’s got more to do than in the rest but so does everyone else. There are a few categories of job that you are assigned to.
Morning feed - This is a 05:30am start and involved ensuring that all the primates get the first feed of the day with one or two others, then doing some washing up in the monkey kitchen, this is usually done by about 07:00-07:30am and you get to see the beautiful sunrise.
Cleaning/Enrichment/Obs - This is such a varied task, you could be doing anything from checking the enclosures to make sure they are all in tact with no damage, making new play things/bed boxes to go in the enclosures to keep the primates entertained, cleaning the enclosures, cutting the grass, observing a sick/recovering primate and everything in between.
Supplements - All the primates need a particular blend of medicine/powders/drops/vitamins to make sure they are healthy. For this you have to follow the detailed folder in the monkey kitchen and make up all the supplements under the instruction of a long termer then feed them to all the primates (this happens twice a day).
Chopping - Simply chopping fruit and veg and distributing into food bowls! There're loads of mouths to feed so this takes all morning! Bowls - This is at the end of the day and is just making sure all the food bowls are taken out of the enclosures and making sure that all the primates are in the right sections of their enclosures.
Wash-up - This is just the house wash-up after breakfast, lunch or dinner. Thursdays is when you do the weekly house clean and get to go into some of the enclosures to spend some time with the primates, there's a list of them who you can go in with and get some good pictures to take home with you. You also get 2 days off a week
What did you find most rewarding? Learning about the primates and noticing the differences in their personalities! It was amazing to know that you have bonded with one and they are happy to see you by their behaviour or the noises they make. Everybody comes away with a favourite or two.
What did you find most challenging? I didn't! Sometimes the mornings and evenings were cold but this didn't really bother me. Sharing a dorm with 10 others did present some challenges but didn't take long to adjust to and sometime you just have to go with the flow!
What advice would you give to others considering doing this project? Pack the right clothes, a sleeping bag, head torch and some moisturiser! Be prepared to muck in and get the work done, team work is best as it all gets done so much faster and leaves more time at the end of the day. Pack comfortable shoes! The good shop is a about 35mins walk (one way) so doing that in flip flops isn't that comfortable. If you have any bit of old clothing you don't want any more, take it with you and you can donate it while you're there to either people locally or make something out of it to put in the enclosures as entertainment for them.
If you can fundraise anything extra before you go, do it - they are desperately trying to develop heating systems for the primates, improve enclosures and build extra outhouses on the property for showers and toilets etc. They really could use the cash.
Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? It is such a rewarding experience and you get a unique perspective by volunteering. You get to help such a worthwhile project, meet loads of interesting characters and have some amazing pictures and stories to tell when you get home.
Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes, the site seemed professional and everybody I spoke to was really helpful. The same project was running on other sites but Pod delivered the best package and information.”
“The placement was incredible. I made some friends and experiences I will never forget, and Pod did a wonderful job at helping me plan for it. I plan on returning to the sanctuary in a few years to stay as a long termer.
The primate sanctuary was amazing. In the two months that I was there I completely fell in love with South Africa, the monkeys I worked with, and the other volunteers. The living situations may turn off a few people, but I loved it. If you keep a positive attitude then this can be one of the best experiences of your life, I know it was for me. I made some amazing friends and I plan on returning to the sanctuary in the future, hopefully as a long termer if possible. I would definitely recommend this project to anyone willing to put in a hard day’s work to help improve these beautiful monkeys’ lives.
What was a typical day at the project? Wake up, eat breakfast, chop food for the monkey bowls or prepare supplements that you then hand feed to the monkeys, wash a few dishes if that's what you're on that day, lunch, more supplements, some cleaning and enclosure enrichment while spending time with the monkeys, pellets which you hand feed to the monkeys, and then relaxing the rest of the night.
What did you find most rewarding? Watching your relationship grow with the monkeys. They are all so sweet and I loved observing the monkeys personalities and behavioural patterns.
What did you find most challenging? The heat did occasionally get to me, but it was never too bad. Otherwise I enjoyed my time there too much to ever really have a negative thought.
What advice would you give to others considering doing this project? Prepare yourself for the living conditions. They definitely are not horrible, and if you don't mind dirt and insects then you will be fine. Also be sure to bring insect repellent - those mosquitoes get pretty bad at night, and bring a head torch and lots of light clothing you don't mind getting dirty!
Why do you think others should volunteer abroad? Because it gives you the opportunity to meet and see beautiful people and places. Everyone needs to have a cultural experience.
Why did you choose Pod and would you recommend us to others? Yes, after spending weeks searching for placements and programs, Pod seemed the most trustworthy, and it definitely was.”
"I travelled to South Africa because I knew it would be an experience that would allow me to combine my interest and love of animals with an opportunity to broaden my horizons. Not knowing much about primates in particular, I was soon enthralled by all their past's and I am glad to have been able to help care for them in any way possible. Sue and the volunteers welcomed me into the South African community, I had the chance to meet and hear other volunteers experiences and enjoyed visiting Pretoria with my new friends in our leisure time! The only thing I regret is not volunteering here for longer, I would like to thank Sue, Pod and the volunteers for a fabulous experience; I definitely hope to visit the project in the future to see how Sue and the primates are progressing and also take the opportunity to explore South Africa more deeply with its vast array of nature.
What did you find most rewarding? Building monkey swings and hanging them up in the enclosure for a family of monkeys who were all very excited at the prospect of monkey toys - it's rewarding to see the work of us volunteers making the monkeys happy after their previous lives of neglect.
Make sure you like/love and can live with all animals because there are also 5 dogs, 4cats who live in the house and 2 roosters and possibly others in the future. Make sure you are able to handle lack of communication with friends/family back home because it is not always possible to have computer access although there is mobile signal. Be willing and open to making new friends and trying, visiting new things and places.
I chose Pod because the website was presentable and reputable; the staff were very informative, friendly and responsive to any queries. I would recommend you to friends/family."
“I have visited the project on three different occasions, making my time there six months in total so far. I couldn’t have picked a better place to volunteer at, or a better person to volunteer for. My time has gained me many friends, human and monkey alike. I will definitely be guaranteeing a fourth visit in the future, if not many more after that!”
“I've had an amazing three weeks. I knew very little about monkeys when l arrived but Sue and the rest of the volunteers taught me so much. Everyone is so welcoming that l felt relaxed straight away. It's been really rewarding to work so closely with the monkeys and see how your work genuinely improves their lives. I've fallen in love with all the monkeys and plan to come back and visit them in the future. Thank you Sue and the project for a special experience.”
“I've been volunteering for 7 months and have enjoyed every moment of my stay. I came here with a love for primates, but knowing little about their daily care and behaviour. The knowledge I've gained working hands-on with the monkeys and have learned from Sue is invaluable. The sanctuary is a place for any animal lover. It's really amazing what people with a common interest can join together and do. I can't wait to come back again and see the progress - and revisit the many monkeys I've formed relationships with and will miss dearly!”